Nearly a Circle
Peter, ‘Whip’ Degoumious grew up around Tibooburra where his father patrolled the Border dog fence. Whip left school at fourteen and his life’s work has been with horses and cattle.
Jackie was born in Longreach, attended school at Windorah, Jundah and Longreach, and was employed at the telephone exchange at Jundah when she met Whip at the Boulia Rodeo. At the time Whip had been ringing at Innamincka and Durrie Stations, and was horse breaking at Jundah.
Whip and Jackie came to Nappa Merrie four years ago in what Jackie describes as “nearly a circle”. Beginning around Jundah, they lived in a caravan, and played Scrabble and Monopoly by the light of kero lamps. Their travelling circle involved work in New South Wales, South Australia, South East Queensland, and back to the far South West corner of Queensland.
When Whip and Jackie came to manage Nappa Merrie in 2004, it was leased by Stanbroke Pastoral Co, and in January 2007, S Kidman & Co took up a seven year lease on the station. The outset of the lease marked a new beginning in the cattle program at the station, and Whip is establishing a cycle of bringing in mobs of weaners, and turning off the fats. It’s a satisfying process, and is taking time to implement.
Whip explains that, “Although Nappa Merrie doesn’t have a big mob of channels, when there is a Cooper flood-out, the low lying swamp land provides terrific feed which lasts well into any dry season.”
Nappa Merrie homestead is built above and adjacent to the Nappa Merrie waterhole, a scenic outlook, a haven for abundant birdlife, and an enjoyable spot for swimming and fishing. Asked what other features of Nappa Merrie make it such a good place, Whip is quick to respond: “I love horses, and the freedom to use them. Although we’ve got two bikes, we use the horses for everything, wherever and whenever we can.”
As well as the bookkeeping and ongoing station tasks, Jackie is also a skillful machinist, producing and repairing horse rugs and other canvas goods. She’s often up very early or very late, sewing away! She enjoys maintaining the garden and the lawns and “being out by myself. I love the animals, and just poking around. It’s also a good place to bring up kids.” Their daughter Emma was born when they were living in the caravan at Jundah, and their two teenage boys, Peter and Ray, are away at Scots College boarding school where they have an opportunity to be involved with rodeo and showing. Whip comments “One wants to lead them round, and one wants to ride them!”
There’s an attractive vine covered walkway to the office door at Nappa Merrie, and Whip has cemented an alternative footpath beside it. One Christmas morning a couple of years ago, Whip was pulling on his boots under the trellised grape vine, when a big old brown snake dropped from the branches onto his back. “The snake took off one way, and I took off the other! There was a big red mark on my back where he fell … That’s why I put the footpath around that thing … I don’t walk under there any more!”
Concerning Kent Saddlery, Whip and Jackie comment. “You’re the only ones who come around down here. We tell the workers to buy gear and you’ll keep coming back. Some of them don’t have a vehicle and they can’t get to town, so it‘s good that you come around.”