When I heard that the special Agricultural writer for the “Leader” wanted the Editor of the “News” to question him regarding Wando-vale estate, I confess I experienced a feeling that was not altogether an enviable one. But I soon pulled myself together, and after committing all available Wandovale statistics (thanks to the “Age” parliamentary reports) to memory, I faced the music with a certain amount of confidence. When I recognized the familiar features of the genial Mr. J. L. Dow, I experienced a very satisfactory sense of relief; and when my old Ballarat friend Mr. E. Luke, The Leader Photographer, and black and white artist expressed his pleasure at seeing me again, I felt that there was nothing so awful as being expected to know everything about land values, watering possibilities, sheep carrying capacity, etc., etc., of the Government property known as Wandovale Estate.
In company with driver Cook, we three, set off to do duty in the double capacity of driver and general informant by Mr. T. Cawker, we three set off for a drive to, and about Wandovale. On the road we met Mr. John Ferrier, who cordially invited us to his place, which we promised to reach somewhere about three in the afternoon.
The first snap-shot of the day was one of a mob of cattle, knee-weary, poor looking beasts, that we learned had been on the roads for seventeen weeks, having journeyed all the way from Queensland. They were going on to Ballarat.
Arrived at the south-eastern boundary of Wandovale, Mr. Luke took a fine photograph of the valley looking down towards the north. During the drive down the Wandovale hill, Mr. Dow was in raptures about the wonderful nature of the country and the glorious possibilities that were before those lucky ones who were allotted portions of the estate.
Arrived at the homestead we found that Mr. Davis was out, so proceeded with customary journalistic “front”, to make ourselves at home. The lad, Georgie, and our driver had much difficulty rounding up the bullocks at the creek for our enthusiastic snap-shotter to get a picture, but he eventually succeeded in getting three excellent plates. In the meantime Mr. Davis had arrived, and with some natural show of concern wanted to know who the -------(he did not say it) was taking possession of the place? Mr. Dow explained, and in a very few moments, journalists and manager, also a friendly foal which took a liking to Mr. Dow’s umbrella handle, as well as the buttons on his waistcoat, were posed at the side of a wagon, and duly “taken down” by the ardent photographer.
After getting a couple of fine pictures of sheep and mares – the later crossing the creek at the moment they were “snapped” – we decided on lunch, and – but I don’t think it necessary to go into details. Mr. Dow, I might incidentally remark, looked sour and disappointed only once during the whole day, and that was at lunch-time. Forth from the well-lined hamper he drew a bottle, and as he read the label his heart sank. “It’s claret,” he said, and “I asked for whiskey.” But it proved to be the real thing after all, and once more the “Leader” special’s face shone with its customary philanthropic glow. After lunch we drove on to the site of the new bridge, which is being built, by Messrs Rigby and Sharp. The work is advancing well, though there is yet much to be done.
The contractors are determined to make a good job of it and calculate on being finished within contract time. The bridge will consist of four parallel rows of piles, five piles to the row, and an extensive embankment will be built on either side. Mr. Luke, the inevitable, snap-shotted the men at work on the bridge, and promises a life-like picture in this week’s ‘Leader.’
Driving on the road which leads to Wando Dale, we turned on the hill to the left, and were taken through what is known as the “bad country.” Here we met a rabbiter, who with his horse and dogs may be found in the photographer’s box of negatives.
Taking the man’s spade, Mr. Dow dug down, and closely examined the soil. “Call this poor eh?” he said. “Why, it is rich, loamy, grey soil; I know it well.
Well, any man who can’t make a living off it deserves to fail. That is all I can say.”
When we reached the road again, after having inspected the granite formations, we drove straight to Mr. John Ferrier’s, Ferry Hill Farm. Our welcome was just the one that men appreciated after a long day, and when tea had been discussed we mutually agreed that the Western District is one of the finest places in the world. Our ubiquitous artist-friend snapshotted the threshing machine at work, and the group proved a very successful one.
We reached Casterton at about 8 o’clock, after a day that was full of new experiences and great interest to all.