Jack Clarke - Yarram Overseer

“They don’t make them like they used to!”
Ian Hastings, 2018 (bio)

Many of us will have particular amusing (and perhaps not so amusing) memories and anecdotes about experiences and people we came across during our careers with the Forests Commission. My first posting after completing VSF studies was to the Yarram District in 1970. Ken Sheldon was the District Forester, with John Booth, Forester and Jack Clarke and John Blythman as Forest Overseers. I assisted John, Jack and John on a range of programs, the Strzelecki re-forestation program, the PX plantation program, timber harvesting supervision and the fuel reduction program.

This particular anecdote concerns Jack Clarke, his dry wry sense of humour, fuel reduction and the Army. Jack had also mentioned to me that he was a returned Army serviceman from WW II – remember this.

One morning Jack said …”Come on young fella, it’s a good day for a bit of fuel reduction burning out in the Mullundung Forest”. Mullundung Forest was predominantly a Yellow Stringybark forest with some Banksia and bracken fern understory and Swamp Gum along the few watercourses and depressions, and was generally flat to gentle undulating country.

Various parts of the Army used the Mullundung Forest for Army exercises and normally we had advanced notice of when and where the exercises would be – not this time! So Jack and I started burning, taking turns with the drip torch and bringing the utility along the road. The burn was trickling back into the bracken fern understory quite steadily, and suddenly out onto the road popped soldiers fully geared with packs and SLRs with all their face camouflage markings.

I turned to Jack and said … “Look at this”. Jack, the returned Army service man, had a silly grin on his face and replied … “Oh, they don’t make them like they used to. Fancy a little bit of fire flushing them out!"