Friday, 30 March 2007

Aqua Vitae

I drove to the river today. I have been reading about how in very dry times, farmers in Minden, Marburg and Tallegalla would go to the Bremer River to get water. Farmers on the other side of the scrub in Lowood and surrounding areas could easily get to the Brisbane River which at that point is narrow but deep and constant even in spite of having been comprehensively dammed at Wivenhoe and subsequently had a great deal of irrigation water pumped out of it. None of this would have existed in earlier times but the supply is there.

On the other hand, the Bremer River is not impressive in these dry times. I will have to find out the exact dates for droughts in the late 1800s. There are certainly many accounts of people getting water from the river. I settled into my air-conditioned car, drove along a dirt road then onto the main sealed road to Rosewood, climbed the Tallegalla hills in third gear then cruised into Rosewood township. Crossing the railway, I turned west then south and a kilometre or so along the road came to the river. All in all, about a 20 minute drive at between 60 and 80 kilometres an hour.

I find it hard to imagine driving a horse cart (what was called a “German wagon”) all that distance especially over the hills. Obviously this was a last resort. Most properties would have a gully or a waterhole that would collect water if it rained. Some of the properties down in the valleys may have had bores. Black Snake Creek winds through the Marburg valley but rarely has water. When it rained, people may have diverted its flow to fill their dams. Drought leads to great resourcefulness (and also crime but that is for another post). I have not investigated the creek closely – I find the name discouraging although apparently it is the brown snakes that you have to watch out for.

The elderly friend whom I was taking to visit another friend grew up in this area. She said that they had always had water tanks but that she does remember her father taking the wagon to One Mile Bridge in Ipswich (today a twenty kilometre drive at 100 kilometres/hour) to gather water hyacinth to feed the cattle in hard times. Another friend tells the story of a more recent German immigrant moving to a rural property and using up their entire water supply in one day to bring the place up to her cultural standards of cleanliness. The place was clean but they did not bathe for a long time afterwards. In Queensland today, we complain about water restrictions but we cannot imagine how hard it was for the early settlers. Water is such a vital and scarce part of life here that you will hear about it again and again.

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