~Characters Of The Kimberley~

Mr "Honest" Jeff Ryall

Written and Published on-line 20th April 2011

Mr "Honest" as he is affectionately known- Jeff Ryall- lived in Derby, that west coast town some 240 kms away from Mt Hart, for over 30 years, with his lovely wife Sue.

He raised his family there - and is well known and respected, for as his nickname suggests, he is as honest as the day is long. Jeff is a brilliant shooter – one of the best you'll ever meet, plus he is an adept and skilled bushman. Jeff and Sue ran West Kimberley Guns and Ammo - they also sold trailers, ice and bait.

For 16 years Jeff had been coming into the Mt Hart area under an agreement with CALM/DEC to help control the wild bull numbers on the property. These wild cattle unsupervised since the demise of the cattle station itself, require such control methods. Not to exterminate them...Just to control their numbers and cull the necessary.

Now Jeff used to do it hard in both the dry season and the wet season. He'd come out here with his 4WD Ute towing a trailer, and would sometimes shoot and cut up as many as 10 scrub bulls in a day. This meat was not just left for the carrion scavengers of the wilderness, oh no! Jeff used to carve up the meat and put it in big eskies full of ice that he carried on his trailer. Sometimes if he was lucky, he'd have a helper or two in toe...

Once the hard work was done, that’s the hunting, the shooting and the carving up, Jeff would take this wild product all the way back to Derby (4 hours drive away) across rough roads, in all sorts of weather. Then with his wife, Sue’s help he would spend 5 days cutting up the meat and mincing it, finally bagging it.

This minced and packaged meat was sold locally to people in Derby and Broome as dog food. For a while Jeff also had a market with the crocodile farms via Perth and Darwin. Jeff's wild meat business became extremely popular with the locals, with many of the residents coming to depend on this cheap, fresh meat. And yes, there were lots of happy dogs in Derby town & in Broome...

Almost everyone with a dog in Derby was a customer.

"Honest" Jeff found a niche market for a product that some just see as a feral animal that should be aerially culled, with the carcass left to bloat and rot. Jeff's efforts were effectively helping control the wild cattle numbers within Mt Hart's conservation estate, as well as around the Mt Hart homesteads, gardens and the airstrip.

During the years he was performing this service, the cattle were more wary of vehicles, would stay off the road more, and certainly learned to keep clear of the homesteads & airstrip because Jeff’s actions had made them wary of both cars, and humans.

With Jeff putting the bulk of the carcass to good use the meaty bones and scraps he left behind were completely devoured by eagles, dingoes, goannas, ants, crows and quolls within a couple of days. From death came life.

After a hard-days work shooting and cutting up meat, Jeff totally exhausted would find a likely spot, roll out his swag, light a fire, warm up the dinner his wife Sue had prepared for him before he left Derby and have a beer or two... Then he would settle in for a well earned rest under the stars of the glorious Kimberley night skies.

The next morning he'd be up at the first glint of the suns rays, making himself a cuppa and a bit of brekky, then pack up camp ready for another hard days culling, before tackling that four hour drive back home to Derby. Whenever we needed something, "Honest" Jeff was always there for us. If we had run out of an essential we needed during the wet season, he'd always bring it out for us and if we ever needed help, he was always one of those there first to lend a hand when we needed it the most.

Here's a photo of "honest" Jeff helping me move the cold room into place. Jeff, who is also a brilliant welder, spent the whole day welding up the shelter over this cold room for me.

He was always donating stuff to us and to Mt Hart, from BBQ's to trailers...this was a man we could always count on - he stood by us through thick and thin.

Honest Jeff Ryall and Sue may no longer be in the Kimberley, but their memory and their story lives on amongst us all. "Jeff's Creek" along the Mt Hart access Road is named after Mr "Honest" Jeff Ryall. They will always be an important part of this country’s everlasting history. Jeff and Sue will forever remain an iconic piece of the Kimberley's past and this Mt Hart Country. Because when someone earns respect in the Kimberley, they earn it for life.