27 March 2020

Meet the drovers a town adopted

| Edwina Mason
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Drovers Luke Morris and Nikita Hayes

Drovers Luke Morris and Nikita Hayes have been adopted by the Young district residents during their eight weeks here on the road. Photo: Edwina Mason.

If you want to see community at its best, bring 400 head of cattle to Young and see what happens.

Doors have opened, dinners have been cooked, cans of beer handed out, there’s also been the odd cake, bags of fruit, bread, a bucket of honey, even pizza delivered to Luke Morris and Nikita Hayes since they rode into the district from Cootamundra two months ago.

As the pair of contract musterers have clung to the local roads with their mixed-breed mob, they have met just about everyone in the district, some who’d stop by for a beer, a chinwag and a chat, and others who hang out the windows of their cars with phones, a smile and a greeting.

In fact, Luke rolls through the names of people they’ve met like a teledex index list. He sums them up pretty accurately.

The Alice Springs locals have been here, there and everywhere up roads, down lanes – lanes some of us never knew existed – as they slowly edged toward Grenfell and onward to Dubbo.

They showed every sign of heading north for good and things got dull for a while, then the rain hit, so Luke and Nikita returned with their entourage that includes a stock truck, ute, two motorbikes, eight horses, 12 dogs plus the 37,000 litre water truck dragging a stock trough.

Each evening you’ll spot them hunkered down on the side of the road or in a reserve, their cattle munching on the spoils of the land while they forge a meal from a gas cooktop and quietly settle in for the night.

Luke Morris and Nikita Hayes

The couple were due to marry soon but COVID-19 slightly upset their plans. Photo: Nikihayes124 on Instagram.

It’s a drover’s life for Nikita, an Alice Springs farm girl and trained beauty therapist who was enlisted when she met Luke at a pub in Currabubula, and so far she likes it. Apart from the odd barney. And stupid drivers.

The latter just hit and killed one of their bitches who had just delivered a litter of puppies. But as part of the Young and Community Facebook page, Nikita and Luke put a request for help out and their adopted family – the people of Young and surrounds – came forth with suggestions for feeding the wee orphans.

The cattle have been on the road since mid-November, starting in Gundagai.

Nikita and Luke took over the mob on Boxing Day and each day is pretty much the same.

They head out at around 5:00 am and the rest of the day involves a lot of manouvering of stock around cars, or cars around stock.

The cattle are pretty blasé when it comes to the road rules, they just mosey along, stop and look at the drivers, maybe drop a plop and then saunter a little more.

Nikita will tell you her biggest fear is not them getting hit, but getting through a fence.

And she has her favourites – like a little black heifer with horns who is the leader of the mob. The brahmans with their wonky horns also hold a special place in her heart.

Water is the tricky bit – hence the truck – and the cattle had a little trouble adjusting to chlorine.

“They wouldn’t touch it but someone suggested a touch of molasses and they love it,” Nikita said.


A noon nap at the campsite for Luke. Photo: Nikihayes124 on Instagram.

Camping is a breeze bar the bugs and flies.

“You try and make a sandwich and they’ll fly away with it,” Nikita said.

But there’s hot water, thanks to Luke’s mum who bought the couple a gas-heated portable shower.

They were to marry in May but COVID-19 has thrown a spanner into that plan.

Nikita reckons she’ll tag along for the trips.

This week the cattle will get trucked out to their respective homes at Warren and Dubbo, and they admit they’re sad to leave Young.

“It has just been amazing the welcome we have had here. People have been so nice,” Nikita said.

The couple plan to head to Tamworth then Roma to deliver horses, then it’ll be South Australia and into quarantine before they return to the NT where Lukita Rural Contracting will start another job carting cattle across the nation.

But for COVID-19, there’d probably have been a huge farewell for the drovers that became our locals.

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