On 24 August 1942 R A Cook, wheelwright and blacksmith of Goondiwindi, wrote a note on his printed invoice paper. I can’t be sure of the name of the recipient, but the note went like this:
Just a line to ask you if you can supply me with some river oak billets for bullock yokes. They want to be 4ft 11 long by 6 x 6. If you can, let me know what price for same. I require (15) Fifteen and I want them quick.
I admire the brevity of the reply, written on the bottom of the letter: Unable to supply. Defence orders on hand.
With so many able-bodied people doing war work it must have been difficult for tradesmen to carry on. I’m interested to see that there was still work for a small town wheelwright and blacksmith—not to mention the timber getters and axemen on whom he relied for materials. And work for bullock teams and their drivers too, it seems.
The request for river oak is interesting too. This is probably Casuarina Cunninghamiana, now called river she-oak. This timber gets a mixed report: The timber is moderately strong, tough, durable and straight-grained. However, excessive splitting and warping during seasoning limit its utility for posts, poles and sawn lumber. The wood has been used in small dimensions for products such as furniture, turnery, shingles, flooring, packing cases, tool handles and barrel staves. I wonder what attributes made it good for bullock yokes.