Stinker’s History: The Dutch connection (part 2)

The ‘Katherine’ named after Sos’ daughter built by Fred Asquith in Nelson Bay.

BACK to work on the leases, it is every oyster farmer’s worst nightmare to fall into the tar pit.

Unfortunately for a recently married Sos de Koeyer that is exactly what happened.

It was 1965 and the oysterman overbalanced while walking along the edge of the tank, slipped into the tar and sank into the blackness.

Regaining his feet he crawled from the deep pot and immediately stripped off all his clothes and ran up the hill calling out for wife Kay.

As you could well imagine Kay was horrified to witness a naked tar man running up the road.

Her surprise turned to concern when it was realised that it was her husband in distress.

The tar was scraped off with a stick followed by a liberal covering of lanolin hand cleaner.

Numerous warm baths gradually washed the tar off, however it was nearly a week before Sos could venture out into the sun as the tar still clogged the pores in his skin.

“Never again,” declared Sos.

It was 1966 when Sos bought his next launch for £750 from Charlie Asquith of Nelson Bay.

Formerly the ‘Conray’, the launch was driven by a three cylinder Perkins replaced after twelve months by a 375 hp GM 2 stroke diesel.

The boat was renamed the ‘Katherine’ after his daughter.

Port Stephens was a good waterway for catching spat (fertilised eggs).

Sos put out what he called “contract sticks” – sticks that would catch the spat in Salamander Bay and be sold and transported to other systems to mature.

Contract catching was successful with the small oysters being sent to Batemans Bay, the Hawkesbury and other bays and rivers along the coast.

Many were sent on Cliff Godwin’s trucks from Stroud to Reg King and the Humbly Bros in Georges River.

Through long hours of hard work Sos’ business continued to grow to the stage where it was not possible to put out their 80,000 catching sticks from Tanilba as the block was too small, so it was decided to purchase more land at Orange Grove.

It was the early 1970s and a 50 acre block, a market garden at Orange Grove on Tilligerry Creek, was bought for $10,000, allowing Sos to work the catching leases on board ‘Katherine’.

These were boom years for Sos with leases purchased off Denzil Crawford and the Lindemans at Pig Creek and behind Upton Island and another half dozen leases up the Karuah River.

He even considered buying a dredging lease in the Karuah as there had been dredging there in the past.

At this stage Sos had 20 leases including one in the Brisbane Waters and was doing so well that his brother Digenis from Holland came out and worked with him for eight years.

Renee Sinke, a Dutchman who married Sos’ daughter, also came to Australia to work with Sos, later branching out by himself.

To keep the grass down on his Orange Grove property Sos bought twelve steers off Keith Moxey at Williamtown.

This appeared at first to be an ideal solution until they contracted worms and they required vaccination.

The problem now was how to catch them.

This was finally achieved after many miles chasing them through the bush.

Then it was decided to run a few cows and of course a bull to breed from.

It was time to build a yard, loading ramp and a race so that the cattle could be transported away or others brought in.

All was in order until the bull arrived.

“Things started getting out of control,” explained Sos.

“He was wild, I mean really wild, dangerous and couldn’t be approached.”

The bull was so crazy that Sos was of the belief that his future was as a bucking bull at a rodeo.

There was no way, it seemed, that this bull could be ridden.

The decision had been made that this mad animal was leaving Orange Grove.

A man by the name of Fitzgibbon from Branxton was contacted and he arrived with his truck and horses to catch the bull, which was destined to join the rodeo.

Riding through the scrub, the excellent horsemen finally rounded up the bull and cornered him in the yard.

The bull refused to go up the race so they lassoed the beast and attempted to inch him into the truck.

By this time he had all but destroyed the fences around the yard.

“Boy,” gasped Fitzgibbon, “this bull will sure be a good one at the rodeo.”

That same day they took the bull to the Branxton Oval to try it out.

With a champion bull rider all prepared he climbed on the beast’s back and they opened the shoot and let him out.

The raging bull took off straight for the fence with a steel rail and he crashed his way through to freedom, leaving the rider dangling from the highest rail.

The enraged animal charged around until he became lame, ending a very short career as a rodeo bull.

The next stop was his last one – the knackery.

Unfazed by these early setbacks into livestock breeding Sos bought a 400 acre block in Stroud and another 400 acres in Gloucester where he then commenced a breeding program hopefully not to produce another rodeo bull.

By John ‘Stinker’ CLARKE

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