Part 2 out of 3
Dad's inclination was to leave the selection, but Mother pleaded for
another trial of it--just one more. She had wonderful faith in the
selection, had Mother. She pleaded until the fire burned low, then Dad
rose and said: "Well, we'll try it once more with corn, and if nothing
comes of it why then we MUST give it up." Then he took the spade and raked
the fire together and covered it with ashes--we always covered the fire
over before going to bed so as to keep it alight. Some mornings, though,
it would be out, when one of us would have to go across to Anderson's and
borrow a fire-stick. Any of us but Joe--he was sent only once, and on
that occasion he stayed at Anderson's to breakfast, and on his way back
successfully burnt out two grass paddocks belonging to a J.P.
So we began to prepare the soil for another crop of corn, and Dad started
over the same old ground with the same old plough. How I remember that
old, screwed and twisted plough! The land was very hard, and the horses
out of condition. We wanted a furrow-horse. Smith had one--a good one.
"Put him in the furrow," he said to Dad, "and you can't PULL him out of
it." Dad wished to have such a horse. Smith offered to exchange for our
roan saddle mare--one we found running in the lane, and advertised as
being in our paddock, and no one claimed it. Dad exchanged.
He yoked the new horse to the plough, and it took to the furrow
splendidly--but that was all; it did n't take to anything else. Dad
gripped the handles--"Git up!" he said, and tapped Smith's horse with the
rein. Smith's horse pranced and marked time well, but did n't tighten the
chains. Dad touched him again. Then he stood on his fore-legs and threw
about a hundredweight of mud that clung to his heels at Dad's head. That
aggravated Dad, and he seized the plough-scraper, and, using both hands,
calmly belted Smith's horse over the ribs for two minutes, by the sun.
He tried him again. The horse threw himself down in the furrow. Dad took
the scraper again, welted him on the rump, dug it into his back-bone,
prodded him in the side, then threw it at him disgustedly. Then Dad sat
down awhile and breathed heavily. He rose again and pulled Smith's horse
by the head. He was pulling hard when Dave and Joe came up. Joe had a
bow-and-arrow in his hand, and said!, "He's a good furrer 'orse, eh, Dad?
Smith SAID you could n't pull him out of it."
Shall I ever forget the look on Dad's face! He brandished the scraper and
sprang wildly at Joe and yelled, "Damn y', you WHELP! what do you want
Joe left. The horse lay in the furrow. Blood was dropping from its
mouth. Dave pointed it out, and Dad opened the brute's jaws and examined
them. No teeth were there. He looked on the ground round about--none
there either. He looked at the horse's mouth again, then hit him
viciously with his clenched fist and said, "The old ----, he never DID
have any!" At length he unharnessed the brute as it lay--pulled the
winkers off, hurled them at its head, kicked it once--twice--three
times--and the furrow-horse jumped up, trotted away triumphantly, and
joyously rolled in the dam where all our water came from, drinking-water
Dad went straightaway to Smith's place, and told Smith he was a dirty,
mean, despicable swindler--or something like that. Smith smiled. Dad put
one leg through the slip-rails and promised Smith, if he'd only come along,
to split palings out of him. But Smith did n't. The instinct of
self-preservation must have been deep in that man Smith. Then Dad went
home and said he would shoot the ---- horse there and then, and went
looking for the gun. The horse died in the paddock of old age, but Dad
never ploughed with him again.
Dad followed the plough early and late. One day he was giving the horses
a spell after some hours' work, when Joe came to say that a policeman was
at the house wanting to see him. Dad thought of the roan mare, and Smith,
and turned very pale. Joe said: "There's "Q.P." on his saddle-cloth;
what's that for, Dad?" But he did n't answer--he was thinking hard.
"And," Joe went on, "there's somethin' sticking out of his pocket--Dave
thinks it'll be 'ancuffs." Dad shuddered. On the way to the house Joe
wished to speak about the policeman, but Dad seemed to have lock-jaw.
When he found the officer of the law only wanted to know the number of
stock he owned, he talked freely--he was delighted. He said, "Yes, sir,"
and "No, sir," and "Jusso, sir," to everything the policeman said.
Dad wished to learn some law. He said: "Now, tell me this: supposing a
horse gets into my paddock--or into your paddock--and I advertise that
horse and nobody claims him, can't I put my brand on him?" The policeman
jerked back his head and stared at the shingles long enough to recall all
the robberies he had committed, and said: "Ye can--that's so--ye can."
"I knew it," answered Dad; "but a lawyer in town told Maloney, over there,
y' could n't."
"COULD N'T?" And the policeman laughed till he nearly had the house down,
only stopping to ask, while the tears ran over his well-fed cheeks,
"Did he charge him forrit?" and laughed again. He went away laughing,
and for all I know the wooden-head may be laughing yet.
Everything was favourable to a good harvest. The rain fell just when it
was wanted, and one could almost see the corn growing. How it encouraged
Dad, and what new life it seemed to give him! In the cool of the evenings
he would walk along the headlands and admire the forming cobs, and listen
to the rustling of the rows of drooping blades as they swayed and beat
against each other in the breeze. Then he would go home filled with fresh
hopes and talk of nothing but the good prospect of that crop.
And how we worked! Joe was the only one who played. I remember him
finding something on a chain one day. He had never seen anything like it
before. Dad told him it was a steel-trap and explained the working of it.
Joe was entranced--an invaluable possession! A treasure, he felt, that
the Lord must specially have sent him to catch things with. He caught
many things with it--willie-wagtails, laughing-jackasses, fowls, and
mostly the dog. Joe was a born naturalist--a perfect McCooey in his way,
and a close observer of the habits and customs of animals and living
things. He observed that whenever Jacob Lipp came to our place he always,
when going home, ran along the fence and touched the top of every post
with his hand. The Lipps had newly arrived from Germany, and their
selection adjoined ours. Jacob was their "eldest", about fourteen, and a
fat, jabbering, jolly-faced youth he was. He often came to our place and
followed Joe about. Joe never cared much for the company of anyone
younger than himself, and therefore fiercely resented the indignity.
Jacob could speak only German--Joe understood only pure unadulterated
Australian. Still Jacob insisted on talking and telling Joe his private
This day, Mrs. Lipp accompanied Jacob. She came to have a "yarn" with
Mother. They did n't understand each other either; but it did n't matter
much to them--it never does matter much to women whether they understand
or not; anyway, they laughed most of the time and seemed to enjoy
themselves greatly. Outside Jacob and Joe mixed up in an argument.
Jacob shoved his face close to Joe's and gesticulated and talked German at
the rate of two hundred words a minute. Joe thought he understood him and
said: "You want to fight?" Jacob seemed to have a nightmare in German.
"Orright, then," Joe said, and knocked him down.
Jacob seemed to understand Australian better when he got up, for he ran
inside, and Joe put his ear to a crack, but did n't hear him tell Mother.
Joe had an idea. He would set the steel-trap on a wire-post and catch
Jacob. He set it. Jacob started home. One, two, three posts he hit.
Then he hit the trap. It grabbed him faithfully by three fingers.
Angels of Love! did ever a boy of fourteen yell like it before! He sprang
in the air--threw himself on the ground like a roped brumby--jumped up
again and ran all he knew, frantically wringing the hand the trap clung
to. What Jacob reckoned had hold of him Heaven only can tell. His mother
thought he must have gone mad and ran after him. Our Mother fairly tore
after her. Dad and Dave left a dray-load of corn and joined in the hunt.
Between them they got Jacob down and took him out of the trap. Dad
smashed the infernal machine, and then went to look for Joe. But Joe
was n't about.
The corn shelled out 100 bags--the best crop we had ever had; but when Dad
came to sell it seemed as though every farmer in every farming district on
earth had had a heavy crop, for the market was glutted--there was too much
corn in Egypt--and he could get no price for it. At last he was offered
Ninepence ha'penny per bushel, delivered at the railway station. Ninepence
ha'penny per bushel, delivered at the railway station! Oh, my country! and
fivepence per bushel out of that to a carrier to take it there!
AUSTRALIA, MY MOTHER!
Dad sold--because he could n't afford to await a better market; and when
the letter came containing a cheque in payment, he made a calculation,
then looked pitifully at Mother, and muttered--" SEVEN POUN'S TEN!"
Our selection was a great place for dancing. We could all dance--from Dan
down--and there was n't a figure or a movement we did n't know. We
learned young. Mother was a firm believer in early tuition. She used to
say it was nice for young people to know how to dance, and be able to take
their part when they went out anywhere, and not be awkward and
stupid-looking when they went into society. It was awful, she thought, to
see young fellows and big lumps of girls like the Bradys stalk into a
ballroom and sit the whole night long in a corner, without attempting to
get up. She did n't know how mothers COULD bring children up so
ignorantly, and did n't wonder at some of them not being able to find
husbands for their daughters.
But we had a lot to feel thankful for. Besides a sympathetic mother,
every other facility was afforded us to become accomplished. Abundance of
freedom; enthusiastic sisters; and no matter how things were going--whether
the corn would n't come up, or the wheat had failed, or the pumpkins had
given out, or the water-hole run dry--we always had a concertina in the
house. It never failed to attract company. Paddy Maloney and the
well-sinkers, after belting and blasting all day long, used to drop in at
night, and throw the table outside, and take the girls up, and prance
about the floor with them till all hours.
Nearly every week Mother gave a ball. It might have been every night only
for Dad. He said the jumping about destroyed the ground-floor--wore it
away and made the room like a well. And whenever it rained hard and the
water rushed in he had to bail it out. Dad always looked on the dark side
of things. He had no ear for music either. His want of appreciation of
melody often made the home miserable when it might have been the merriest
on earth. Sometimes it happened that he had to throw down the plough-reins
for half-an-hour or so to run round the wheat-paddock after a horse or an
old cow; then, if he found Dave, or Sal, or any of us, sitting inside
playing the concertina when he came to get a drink, he would nearly go mad.
"Can't y' find anything better t' do than everlastingly playing at that
damn thing?" he would shout. And if we did n't put the instrument down
immediately he would tear it from our hands and pitch it outside. If we
DID lay it down quietly he would snatch it up and heave it out just as
hard. The next evening he would devote all his time to patching the
fragments together with sealing-wax.
Still, despite Dad's antagonism, we all turned out good players. It cost
us nothing either. We learnt from each other. Kate was the first that
learnt. SHE taught Sal. Sal taught Dave, and so on. Sandy Taylor was
Kate's tutor. He passed our place every evening going to his selection,
where he used to sleep at night (fulfilling conditions), and always
stopped at the fence to yarn with Kate about dancing. Sandy was a fine
dancer himself, very light on his feet and easy to waltz with--so the
girls made out. When the dancing subject was exhausted Sandy would drag
some hair out of his horse's mane and say, "How's the concertina?" "It's
in there," Kate would answer. Then turning round she would call out,
"J--OE, bring the concer'."
In an instant Joe would strut along with it. And Sandy, for the fiftieth
time, would examine it and laugh at the kangaroo-skin straps that Dave had
tacked to it, and the scraps of brown paper that were plastered over the
ribs of it to keep the wind in; and, cocking his left leg over the pommel
of his saddle, he would sound a full blast on it as a preliminary. Then
he would strike up "The Rocky Road to Dublin", or "The Wind Among the
Barley,", or some other beautiful air, and grind away untiringly until it
got dark--until mother came and asked him if he would n't come in and have
supper. Of course, he always would. After supper he would play some more.
Then there would be a dance.
A ball was to be held at Anderson's one Friday night, and only Kate and
Dave were asked from our place. Dave was very pleased to be invited; it
was the first time he had been asked anywhere, and he began to practise
vigorously. The evening before the ball Dad sent him to put the draught
horses in the top paddock. He went off merrily with them. The sun was
just going down when he let them go, and save the noise of the birds
settling to rest the paddock was quiet. Dave was filled with emotion and
enthusiastic thoughts about the ball.
He threw the winkers down and looked around. For a moment or two he stood
erect, then he bowed gracefully to the saplings on his right, then to the
stumps and trees on his left, and humming a tune, ambled across a small
patch of ground that was bare and black, and pranced back again. He
opened his arms and, clasping some beautiful imaginary form in them, swung
round and round like a windmill. Then he paused for breath, embraced his
partner again, and "galloped" up and down. And young Johnson, who had
been watching him in wonder from behind a fence, bolted for our place.
"Mrs. Rudd! Mrs. Rudd!" he shouted from the verandah. Mother went out.
"Wot's--wot's up with Dave?"
Mother turned pale.
"My God!" Mother exclaimed--" WHATEVER has happened?"
Young Johnson hesitated. He was in doubt.
"Oh! What IS it?" Mother moaned.
"Well" (he drew close to her) "he's--he's MAD!"
"He IS. I seen 'im just now up in your paddick, an' he's clean off he's
Just then Dave came down the track whistling. Young Johnson saw him
For some time Mother regarded Dave with grave suspicion, then she
questioned him closely.
"Yairs," he said, grinning hard, "I was goin' through th' FUST SET."
It was when Kate was married to Sandy Taylor that we realised what a
blessing it is to be able to dance. How we looked forward to that
wedding! We were always talking about it, and were very pleased it would
be held in our own house, because all of us could go then. None of us
could work for thinking of it--even Dad seemed to forget his troubles
about the corn and Mick Brennan's threat to summon him for half the fence.
Mother said we would want plenty of water for the people to drink, so
Sandy yoked his horse to the slide, and he, Dad, and Joe started for the
The slide was the fork of a tree, alias a wheel-less water-trolly. The
horse was hitched to the butt end, and a batten nailed across the prongs
kept the cask from slipping off going uphill. Sandy led the way and
carried the bucket; Dad went ahead to clear the track of stones; and Joe
straddled the cask to keep her steady.
It always took three to work the slide.
The water they brought was a little thick--old Anderson had been down and
stirred it up pulling a bullock out; but Dad put plenty ashes in the cask
to clear it.
Each of us had his own work to do. Sandy knocked the partition down and
decorated the place with boughs; Mother and the girls cooked and covered
the walls with newspapers, and Dad gathered cow-dung and did the floor.
Two days before the wedding. All of us were still working hard. Dad was
up to his armpits in a bucket of mixture, with a stack of cow-dung on one
side, and a heap of sand and the shovel on the other. Dave and Joe were
burning a cow that had died just in front of the house, and Sandy had gone
to town for his tweed trousers.
A man in a long, black coat, white collar, and new leggings rode up, spoke
to Dad, and got off. Dad straightened up and looked awkward, with his
arms hanging wide and the mixture dripping from them. Mother came out.
The cove shook hands with her, but he did n't with Dad. They went
inside--not Dad, who washed himself first.
Dave sent Joe to ask Dad who the cove was. Dad spoke in a whisper and
said he was Mr. Macpherson, the clergyman who was to marry Kate and Sandy.
Dave whistled and piled more wood on the dead cow. Mother came out and
called Dave and Joe. Dave would n't go, but sent Joe.
Dave threw another log on the cow, then thought he would see what was
going on inside.
He stood at the window and looked in. He could n't believe his eyes at
first, and put his head right in. There were Dad, Joe, and the lot of
them down on their marrow-bones saying something after the parson. Dave
was glad that he did n't go in.
How the parson prayed! Just when he said "Lead us not into temptation"
the big kangaroo-dog slipped in and grabbed all the fresh meat on the
table; but Dave managed to kick him in the ribs at the door. Dad groaned
and seemed very restless.
When the parson had gone Dad said that what he had read about "reaping the
same as you sow" was all rot, and spoke about the time when we sowed two
bushels of barley in the lower paddock and got a big stack of rye from it.
The wedding was on a Wednesday, and at three o'clock in the afternoon.
Most of the people came before dinner; the Hamiltons arrived just after
breakfast. Talk of drays!--the little paddock could n't hold them.
Jim Mullins was the only one who came in to dinner; the others mostly sat
on their heels in a row and waited in the shade of the wire-fence. The
parson was the last to come, and as he passed in he knocked his head
against the kangaroo-leg hanging under the verandah. Dad saw it swinging,
and said angrily to Joe: "Did n't I tell you to take that down this
Joe unhooked it and said: "But if I hang it anywhere else the dog'll
Dad tried to laugh at Joe, and said, loudly, "And what else is it for?"
Then he bustled Joe off before he could answer him again.
Joe did n't understand.
Then Dad said (putting the leg in a bag): "Do you want everyone to know
we eat it, ---- you?"
The ceremony commenced. Those who could squeeze inside did so--the others
looked in at the window and through the cracks in the chimney.
Mrs. M'Doolan led Kate out of the back-room; then Sandy rose from the
fire-place and stood beside her. Everyone thought Kate looked very
nice----and orange blossoms! You'd think she was an orange-tree with a new
bed-curtain thrown over it. Sandy looked well, too, in his snake-belt
and new tweeds; but he seemed uncomfortable when the pin that Dave put in
the back of his collar came out.
The parson did n't take long; and how they scrambled and tumbled over each
other at the finish! Charley Mace said that he got the first kiss; Big
George said HE did; and Mrs. M'Doolan was certain she would have got it
only for the baby.
Fun! there WAS fun! The room was cleared and they promenaded for a
dance--Sandy and Kate in the lead. They continued promenading until one
of the well-sinkers called for the concertina--ours had been repaired till
you could get only three notes out of it; but Jim Burke jumped on his
horse and went home for his accordion.
Dance! they did dance!--until sun-rise. But unless you were dancing you
could n't stay inside, because the floor broke up, and talk about
dust!--before morning the room was like a drafting-yard.
It was a great wedding; and though years have since passed, all the
neighbours say still it was the best they were ever at.
The Summer Old Bob Died.
It was a real scorcher. A soft, sweltering summer's day. The air
quivered; the heat drove the fowls under the dray and sent the old dog to
sleep upon the floor inside the house. The iron on the skillion cracked
and sweated--so did Dad and Dave down the paddock, grubbing--grubbing, in
130 degrees of sunshine. They were clearing a piece of new land--a
heavily-timbered box-tree flat. They had been at it a fortnight, and if
any music was in the ring of the axe or the rattle of the pick when
commencing, there was none now.
Dad wished to be cheerful and complacent. He said (putting the pick down
and dragging his flannel off to wring it): "It's a good thing to sweat
well." Dave did n't say anything. I don't know what he thought, but he
looked up at Dad--just looked up at him--while the perspiration filled his
eyes and ran down over his nose like rain off a shingle; then he hitched
up his pants and "wired in" again.
Dave was a philosopher. He worked away until the axe flew off the handle
with a ring and a bound, and might have been lost in the long grass for
ever only Dad stopped it with his shin. I fancy he did n't mean to stop
it when I think how he jumped--it was the only piece of excitement there
had been the whole of that relentlessly solemn fortnight. Dad got
vexed--he was in a hurry with the grubbing--and said he never could get
anything done without something going wrong. Dave was n't sorry the axe
came off--he knew it meant half-an-hour in the shade fixing it on again.
"Anyway," Dad went on, "we'll go to dinner now."
On the way to the house he several times looked at the sky--that cloudless,
burning sky--and said--to no one in particular, "I wish to God it would
rain!" It sounded like an aggravated prayer. Dave did n't speak, and I
don't think Dad expected he would.
Joe was the last to sit down to dinner, and he came in steaming hot. He
had chased out of sight a cow that had poked into the cultivation. Joe
mostly went about with green bushes in his hat, to keep his head cool, and
a few gum-leaves were now sticking in his moist and matted hair.
"I put her out, Dad!" he said, casting an eager glare at everything on the
table. "She tried to jump and got stuck on the fence, and broke it all
down. On'y I could n't get anything, I'd er broke 'er head--there was n't
a thing, on'y dead cornstalks and cow-dung about." Then he lunged his fork
desperately at a blowfly that persistently hovered about his plate, and
Joe had a healthy appetite. He had charged his mouth with a load of cold
meat, when his jaws ceased work, and, opening his mouth as though he were
sleepy, he leaned forward and calmly returned it all to the plate. Dad
got suspicious and asked Joe what was up; but Joe only wiped his mouth,
looked sideways at his plate, and pushed it away.
All of us stopped eating then, and stared at each other. Mother said,
"Well, I--I wrapped a cloth round it so nothing could get in, and put it
in the safe--I don't know where on earth to put the meat, I'm sure; if I
put it in a bag and hang it up that thief of a dog gets it."
"Yes," Dad observed, "I believe he'd stick his nose into hell itself,
Ellen, if he thought there was a bone there--and there ought to be lots by
this time." Then he turned over the remains of that cold meat, and,
considering we had all witnessed the last kick of the slaughtered beast,
it was surprising what animation this part of him yet retained. In vain
did Dad explore for a really dead piece--there was life in all of it.
Joe was n't satisfied. He said he knew where there was a lot of eggs, and
disappeared down the yard. Eggs were not plentiful on our selection,
because we too often had to eat the hens when there was no meat--three or
four were as many as we ever saw at one time. So on this day, when Joe
appeared with a hatful, there was excitement. He felt himself a hero.
We thought him a little saviour.
"My!" said Mother, "where did you get all those?"
"Get 'em! I've had these planted for three munce--they're a nest I found
long ago; I thought I would n't say anythink till we really wanted 'em."
Just then one of the eggs fell out of the hat and went off "pop" on
Dave nearly upset the table, he rose so suddenly; and covering his nose
with one hand he made for the door; then he scowled back over his shoulder
at Joe. He utterly scorned his brother Joe. All of us deserted the table
except Dad--he stuck to his place manfully; it took a lot to shift HIM.
Joe must have had a fine nerve. "That's on'y one bad 'n'," he said,
taking the rest to the fireplace where the kettle stood. Then Dad, who
had remained calm and majestic, broke out. "Damn y', boy!" he yelled,
"take th' awful things outside--YOU tinker!" Joe took them out and tried
them all, but I forget if he found a good one.
Dad peered into the almost-empty water-cask and again muttered a short
prayer for rain. He decided to do no more grubbing that day, but to run
wire around the new land instead. The posts had been in the ground some
time, and were bored. Dave and Sarah bored them. Sarah was as good as
any man--so Dad reckoned. She could turn her hand to anything, from
sewing a shirt to sinking a post-hole. She could give Dave inches in arm
measurements, and talk about a leg! She HAD a leg--a beauty! It was as
thick at the ankle as Dad's was at the thigh, nearly.
Anyone who would know what real amusement is should try wiring posts.
What was to have been the top wire (the No. 8 stuff) Dad commenced to put
in the bottom holes, and we ran it through some twelve or fifteen posts
before he saw the mistake--then we dragged it out slowly and savagely; Dad
swearing adequately all the time.
At last everything went splendidly. We dragged the wire through panel
after panel, and at intervals Dad would examine the blistering sky for
signs of rain. Once when he looked up a red bullock was reaching for his
waistcoat, which hung on a branch of a low tree. Dad sang out. The
bullock poked out his tongue and reached higher. Then Dad told Joe to
run. Joe ran--so did the bullock, but faster, and with the waistcoat that
once was a part of Mother's shawl half-way down his throat. Had the
shreds and ribbons that dangled to it been a little longer, he might have
trodden on them and pulled it back, but he did n't. Joe deemed it his
duty to follow that red bullock till it dropped the waistcoat, so he
hammered along full split behind. Dad and Dave stood watching until
pursued and pursuer vanished down the gully; then Dad said something about
Joe being a fool, and they pulled at the wire again. They were nearing a
corner post, and Dad was hauling the wire through the last panel, when
there came the devil's own noise of galloping hoofs. Fifty or more cattle
came careering along straight for the fence, bellowing and kicking up
their heels in the air, as cattle do sometimes after a shower of rain.
Joe was behind them--considerably--still at full speed and yelping like a
dog. Joe loved excitement.
For weeks those cattle had been accustomed to go in and out between the
posts; and they did n't seem to have any thoughts of wire as they bounded
along. Dave stood with gaping mouth. Dad groaned, and the wire's-end he
was holding in his hand flew up with a whiz and took a scrap of his ear
away. The cattle got mixed up in the wires. Some toppled over; some were
caught by the legs; some by the horns. They dragged the wire twenty and
thirty yards away, twisted it round logs, and left a lot of the posts
pointing to sunset.
Oh, Dad's language then! He swung his arms about and foamed at the mouth.
Dave edged away from him.
Joe came up waving triumphantly a chewed piece of the waistcoat. "D-d-did
it g-give them a buster, Dad?" he said, the sweat running over his face as
though a spring had broken out on top of his head. Dad jumped a log and
tried to unbuckle his strap and reach for Joe at the same time, but
That threw a painful pall over everything. Dad declared he was sick and
tired of the whole thing, and would n't do another hand's-turn. Dave
meditated and walked along the fence, plucking off scraps of skin and hair
that here and there clung to the bent and battered wire.
We had just finished supper when old Bob Wren, a bachelor who farmed about
two miles from us, arrived. He used to come over every mail-night and
bring his newspaper with him. Bob could n't read a word, so he always got
Dad to spell over the paper to him. WE did n't take a newspaper.
Bob said there were clouds gathering behind Flat Top when he came in, and
Dad went out and looked, and for the fiftieth time that day prayed in his
own way for rain. Then he took the paper, and we gathered at the table to
listen. "Hello," he commenced, "this is M'Doolan's paper you've got, Bob."
Bob rather thought it was n't.
"Yes, yes, man, it IS," Dad put in; "see, it's addressed to him."
Bob leaned over and LOOKED at the address, and said: "No, no, that's
mine; it always comes like that." Dad laughed. We all laughed. He
opened it, anyway. He had n't read for five minutes when the light
flickered nearly out. Sarah reckoned the oil was about done, and poured
water in the lamp to raise the kerosene to the wick, but that did n't last
long, and, as there was no fat in the house, Dad squatted on the floor and
read by the firelight.
He plodded through the paper tediously from end to end, reading the
murders and robberies a second time. The clouds that old Bob said were
gathering when he came in were now developing to a storm, for the wind
began to rise, and the giant iron-bark tree that grew close behind the
house swayed and creaked weirdly, and threw out those strange sobs and
moans that on wild nights bring terror to the hearts of bush children. A
glimmer of lightning appeared through the cracks in the slabs. Old Bob
said he would go before it came on, and started into the inky darkness.
"It's coming!" Dad said, as he shut the door and put the peg in after
seeing old Bob out. And it came--in no time. A fierce wind struck the
house. Then a vivid flash of lightning lit up every crack and hole, and a
clap of thunder followed that nearly shook the place down.
Dad ran to the back door and put his shoulder against it; Dave stood to
the front one; and Sarah sat on the sofa with her arms around Mother,
telling her not to be afraid. The wind blew furiously--its one aim seemed
the shifting of the house. Gust after gust struck the walls and left them
quivering. The children screamed. Dad called and shouted, but no one
could catch a word he said. Then there was one tremendous crack--we
understood it--the iron-bark tree had gone over. At last, the shingled
roof commenced to give. Several times the ends rose (and our hair too)
and fell back into place again with a clap. Then it went clean away in
one piece, with a rip like splitting a ribbon, and there we stood,
affrighted and shelterless, inside the walls. Then the wind went down and
it rained--rained on us all night.
Next morning Joe had been to the new fence for the axe for Dad, and was
off again as fast as he could run, when he remembered something and called
out, "Dad, old B-B-Bob's just over there, lyin' down in the gully."
Dad started up. "It's 'im all right--I w-w-would n'ter noticed, only
Prince s-s-smelt him."
"Quick and show me where!" Dad said.
Joe showed him.
"My God!" and Dad stood and stared. Old Bob it was--dead. Dead as Moses.
"Poor old Bob!" Dad said. "Poor-old-fellow!" Joe asked what could have
killed him? "Poor-old-Bob!"
Dave brought the dray, and we took him to the house--or what remained of it.
Dad could n't make out the cause of death--perhaps it was lightning. He
held a POST-MORTEM, and, after thinking hard for a long while, told Mother
he was certain, anyway, that old Bob would never get up again. It was a
change to have a dead man about the place, and we were very pleased to be
first to tell anyone who did n't know the news about old Bob.
We planted him on his own selection beneath a gum-tree, where for years
and years a family of jackasses nightly roosted, Dad remarking: "As there
MIGHT be a chance of his hearin', it'll be company for the poor old cove."
When Dan Came Home.
One night after the threshing. Dad lying on the sofa, thinking; the rest
of us sitting at the table. Dad spoke to Joe.
"How much," he said, "is seven hundred bushels of wheat at six shillings?"
Joe, who was looked upon as the brainy one of our family, took down his
slate with a hint of scholarly ostentation.
"What did y' say, Dad--seven 'undred BAGS?"
"Seven 'un-dered bush-els-of wheat--WHEAT was it, Dad?"
"Wheat at...At WHAT, Dad?"
"Six shillings a bushel."
"Six shil-lings-a.... A, Dad? We've not done any at A; she's on'y showed
"PER bushel, then!"
"Per bush-el. That's seven 'undered bushels of wheat at six shillin's per
bushel. An' y' wants ter know, Dad--?"
"How much it'll be, of course."
"In money, Dad, or--er----?"
"Dammit, yes; MONEY!" Dad raised his voice.
For a while, Joe thought hard, then set to work figuring and rubbing out,
figuring and rubbing out. The rest of us eyed him, envious of his learning.
Joe finished the sum.
"Well?" from Dad.
Joe cleared his throat. We listened.
"Nine thousan' poun'."
Dave laughed loud. Dad said, "Pshaw!" and turned his face to the wall.
Joe looked at the slate again.
"Oh! I see," he said, "I did n't divide by twelve t' bring t' pounds,"
and laughed himself.
More figuring and rubbing out.
Finally Joe, in loud, decisive tones, announced, "FOUR thousand, NO
'undered an' twenty poun', fourteen shillin's an'--"
"Bah! YOU blockhead!" Dad blurted out, and jumped off the sofa and went
We all turned in.
We were not in bed long when the dog barked and a horse entered the yard.
There was a clink of girth-buckles; a saddle thrown down; then a thump,
as though with a lump of blue-metal, set the dog yelping lustily. We lay
listening till a voice called out at the door--"All in bed?" Then we knew
it was Dan, and Dad and Dave sprang out in their shirts to let him in.
All of us jumped up to see Dan. This time he had been away a long while,
and when the slush-lamp was lit and fairly going, how we stared and
wondered at his altered looks! He had grown a long whisker, and must have
stood inches higher than Dad.
Dad was delighted. He put a fire on, made tea, and he and Dan talked till
near daybreak--Dad of the harvest, and the Government dam that was
promised, and the splendid grass growing in the paddock; Dan of the great
dry plains, and the shearing-sheds out back, and the chaps he had met
there. And he related in a way that made Dad's eyes glisten and Joe's
mouth open, how, with a knocked-up wrist, he shore beside Proctor and big
Andy Purcell, at Welltown, and rung the shed by half a sheep.
Dad ardently admired Dan.
Dan was only going to stay a short while at home, he said, then was off
West again. Dad tried to persuade him to change his mind; he would have
him remain and help to work the selection. But Dan only shook his head
Dan accompanied Dad to the plough every morning, and walked cheerfully up
and down the furrows all day, talking to him. Sometimes he took a turn at
the plough, and Dad did the talking. Dad just loved Dan's company.
A few days went by. Dan still accompanied Dad to the plough; but did n't
walk up and down with him. He selected a shade close by, and talked to
Dad from there as he passed on his rounds. Sometimes Dan used to forget
to talk at all--he would be asleep--and Dad would wonder if he was unwell.
Once he advised him to go up to the house and have a good camp. Dan went.
He stretched himself on the sofa, and smoked and spat on the floor and
played the concertina--an old one he won in a raffle.
Dan did n't go near the plough any more. He stayed inside every day, and
drank the yeast, and provided music for the women. Sometimes he would
leave the sofa, and go to the back-door and look out, and watch Dad
tearing up and down the paddock after the plough; then he'd yawn, and
wonder aloud what the diggins it was the old man saw in a game like that
on a hot day; and return to the sofa, tired. But every evening when Dad
knocked off and brought the horses to the barn Dan went out and watched
him unharnessing them.
A month passed. Dad was n't so fond of Dan now, and Dan never talked of
going away. One day Anderson's cows wandered into our yard and surrounded
the hay-stack. Dad saw them from the paddock and cooeed, and shouted for
those at the house to drive them away. They did n't hear him. Dad left
the plough and ran up and pelted Anderson's cows with stones and
glass-bottles, and pursued them with a pitch-fork till, in a mad rush to
get out, half the brutes fell over the fence and made havoc with the wire.
Dad spent an hour mending it; then went to the verandah and savagely asked
Mother if she had lost her ears. Mother said she had n't. "Then why the
devil could n't y' hear me singin' out?" Mother thought it must have been
because Dan was playing the concertina. "Oh, DAMN his concertina!" Dad
squealed, and kicked Joe's little kitten, that was rubbing itself fondly
against his leg, clean through the house.
Dan found the selection pretty slow--so he told Mother--and thought he
would knock about a bit. He went to the store and bought a supply of
ammunition, which he booked to Dad, and started shooting. He stood at the
door and put twenty bullets into the barn; then he shot two bears near the
stock-yard with twenty more bullets, and dragged both bears down to the
house and left them at the back-door. They stayed at the back-door until
they went very bad; then Dad hooked himself to them and dragged them down
Somehow, Dad began to hate Dan! He scarcely ever spoke to him now, and at
meal-times never spoke to any of us. Dad was a hard man to understand.
We could n't understand him. "And with DAN at home, too!" Sal used to
whine. Sal verily idolised Dan. Hero-worship was strong in Sal.
One night Dad came in for supper rather later than usual. He'd had a hard
day, and was done up. To make matters worse, when he was taking the
collar off Captain the brute tramped heavily on his toe, and took the nail
off. Supper was n't ready. The dining-room was engaged. Dan was showing
Sal how the Prince of Wales schottische was danced in the huts Out Back.
For music, Sal was humming, and the two were flying about the room. Dad
stood at the door and looked on, with blood in his eye.
"Look here!" he thundered suddenly, interrupting Dan--"I've had enough of
you!" The couple stopped, astonished, and Sal cried, "DAD!" But Dad was
hot. "Out of this!" (placing his hand on Dan, and shoving him). "You've
loafed long enough on me! Off y' go t' th' devil!"
Dan went over to Anderson's and Anderson took him in and kept him a week.
Then Dan took Anderson down at a new game of cards, and went away
Dave had been to town and came home full of circus. He sat on the ground
beside the tubs while Mother and Sal were washing, and raved about the
riding and the tumbling he had seen. He talked enthusiastically to Joe
about it every day for three weeks. Dave rose very high in Joe's
Raining. All of us inside. Sal on the sofa playing the concertina; Dad
squatting on the edge of a flat stone at the corner of the fireplace; Dave
on another opposite; both gazing into the fire, which was almost out,
and listening intently to the music; the dog, dripping wet, coiled at
their feet, shivering; Mother sitting dreamily at the table, her palm
pressed against her cheek, also enjoying the music.
Sal played on until the concertina broke. Then there was a silence.
For a while Dave played with a piece of charcoal. At last he spoke.
"Well," he said, looking at Dad, "what about this circus?"
"But what d' y' THINK?"
"Well" (Dad paused), "yes" (chuckled again)--"very well."
"A CIRCUS!" Sal put in--"a PRETTY circus YOUS'D have!"
Dave fired up.
"YOU go and ride the red heifer, strad-legs, same as y' did yesterday,"
he snarled, "an' let all the country see y'."
Then to Dad:
"I'm certain, with Paddy Maloney in it, we could do it right enough, and
make it pay, too."
"Very well, then," said Dad, "very well. There's th' tarpaulin there,
and plenty bales and old bags whenever you're ready."
Dave was delighted, and he and Dad and Joe ran out to see where the tent
could be pitched, and ran in again wetter than the dog.
One day a circus-tent went up in our yard. It attracted a lot of notice.
Two of the Johnsons and old Anderson and others rode in on draught-horses
and inspected it. And Smith's spring-cart horse, that used to be driven
by every day, stopped in the middle of the lane and stared at it; and,
when Smith stood up and belted him with the double of the reins, he bolted
and upset the cart over a stump. It was n't a very white tent. It was
made of bags and green bushes, and Dad and Dave and Paddy Maloney were two
days putting it up.
We all assisted in the preparations for the circus. Dad built seats out
of forked sticks and slabs, and Joe gathered jam-tins which Mother filled
with fat and moleskin wicks to light up with.
Everyone in the district knew about our circus, and longed for the opening
night. It came. A large fire near the slip-rails, shining across the
lane and lighting up a corner of the wheat-paddock, showed the way in.
Dad stood at the door to take the money. The Andersons--eleven of
them--arrived first. They did n't walk straight in. They hung about for
a while. Then Anderson sidled up to Dad and talked into his ear. "Oh!
that's all right," Dad said, and passed them all in without taking any
Next came the Maloneys, and, as Paddy belonged to the circus, they also
walked in without paying, and secured front seats.
Then Jim Brown and Sam Holmes, and Walter Nutt, and Steve Burton, and
eight others strolled along. Dad owed all of them money for binding,
which they happened to remember. "In yous go," Dad said, and in the lot
went. The tent filled quickly, and the crowd awaited the opening act.
Paddy Maloney came forward with his hair oiled and combed, and rang the
Dave, bare-footed and bare-headed, in snow-white moles and red shirt,
entered standing majestically upon old Ned's back. He got a great
reception. But Ned was tired and refused to canter. He jogged lazily
round the ring. Dave shouted at him and rocked about. He was very
unsteady. Paddy Maloney flogged Ned with the leg-rope. But Ned had been
flogged often before. He got slower and slower. Suddenly, he stood and
cocked his tail, and to prevent himself falling, Dave jumped off. Then
the audience yelled while Dave dragged Ned into the dressing-room and
punched him on the nose.
Paddy Maloney made a speech. He said: "Well, the next item on the
programme'll knock y' bandy. Keep quiet, you fellows, now, an' y'll see
They saw Joe. He stepped backwards into the ring, pulling at a string.
There was something on the string. "Come on!" Joe said, tugging. The
"something" would n't come. "Chuck 'im in!" Joe called out. Then the
pet kangaroo was heaved in through the doorway, and fell on its head and
raised the dust. A great many ugly dogs rushed for it savagely. The
kangaroo jumped up and bounded round the ring. The dogs pursued him
noisily. "GERROUT!" Joe shouted, and the crowd stood up and became very
enthusiastic. The dogs caught the kangaroo, and were dragging him to
earth when Dad rushed in and kicked them in twos to the top of the tent.
Then, while Johnson expostulated with Dad for laming his brindle slut,
the kangaroo dived through a hole in the tent and rushed into the house
and into the bedroom, and sprang on the bed among a lot of babies and
When the commotion subsided Paddy Maloney rang the cow-bell again, and
Dave and "Podgy," the pet sheep, rode out on Nugget. Podgy sat with
hind-legs astride the horse and his head leaning back against Dave's
chest. Dave (standing up) bent over him with a pair of shears in his
hand. He was to shear Podgy as the horse cantered round.
Paddy Maloney touched Nugget with the whip, and off he went--"rump-ti-dee,
dump-ti-dee." Dave rolled about a lot the first time round, but soon got
his equilibrium. He brandished the shears and plunged the points of them
into Podgy's belly-wool--also into Podgy's skin. "Bur-UR-R!" Podgy
blurted and struggled violently. Dave began to topple about. He dropped
the shears. The audience guffawed. Then Dave jumped; but Podgy's horns
got caught in his clothes and made trouble. Dave hung on one side of the
horse and the sheep dangled on the other. Dave sang out, so did Podgy.
And the horse stopped and snorted, then swung furiously round and round
until five or six pairs of hands seized his head and held him.
Dave did n't repeat the act. He ran away holding his clothes together.
It was a very successful circus. Everyone enjoyed it and wished to see it
again--everyone but the Maloneys. They said it was a swindle, and ran Dad
down because he did n't divide with Paddy the 3s. 6d. he took at the door.
When Joe Was In Charge.
Joe was a naturalist. He spent a lot of time--time that Dad considered
should have been employed cutting burr or digging potatoes--in ear-marking
bears and bandicoots, and catching goannas and letting them go without
their tails, or coupled in pairs with pieces of greenhide. The paddock
was full of goannas in harness and slit-eared bears. THEY belonged to Joe.
Joe also took an interest in snakes, and used to poke amongst logs and
brush-fences in search of rare specimens. Whenever he secured a good one
he put it in a cage and left it there until it died or got out, or Dad
threw it, cage and all, right out of the parish.
One day, while Mother and Sal were out with Dad, Joe came home with a
four-foot black snake in his hand. It was a beauty. So sleek and lithe
and lively! He carried it by the tail, its head swinging close to his
bare leg, and the thing yearning for a grab at him. But Joe understood
the ways of a reptile.
There was no cage--Dad had burnt the last one--so Joe walked round the
room wondering where to put his prize. The cat came out of the bedroom
and mewed and followed him for the snake. He told her to go away. She
did n't go. She reached for the snake with her paw. It bit her. She
spat and sprang in the air and rushed outside with her back up. Joe
giggled and wondered how long the cat would live.
The Rev. Macpherson, on his way to christen M'Kenzie's baby, called in for
a drink, and smilingly asked after Joe's health.
"Hold this kuk-kuk-cove, then," Joe said, handing the parson the reptile,
which was wriggling and biting at space, "an' I'll gug-gug-get y' one."
But when Mr. Macpherson saw the thing was alive he jumped back and fell
over the dog which was lying behind him in the shade. Bluey grabbed him
by the leg, and the parson jumped up in haste and made for his
horse--followed by Bluey. Joe cried, "KUM 'ere!"--then turned inside.
Mother and Sal entered. They had come to make Dad and themselves a cup of
tea. They quarrelled with Joe, and he went out and started playing with
the snake. He let it go, and went to catch it by the tail again, but the
snake caught HIM--by the finger.
"He's bit me!" Joe cried, turning pale. Mother screeched, and Sal bolted
off for Dad, while the snake glided silently up the yard.
Anderson, passing on his old bay mare, heard the noise, and came in. He
examined Joe's finger, bled the wound, and was bandaging the arm when
Dad rushed in.
"Where is he?" he said. "Oh, you d--d whelp! You wretch of a boy!
"'Twasn' MY fault." And Joe began to blubber.
But Anderson protested. There was no time, he said, to be lost barneying;
and he told Dad to take his old mare Jean and go at once for Sweeney.
Sweeney was the publican at Kangaroo Creek, with a reputation for curing
snake-bite. Dad ran out, mounted Jean and turned her head for Sweeney's.
But, at the slip-rails, Jean stuck him up, and would n't go further. Dad
hit her between the ears with his fist, and got down and ran back.
"The boy'll be dead, Anderson," he cried, rushing inside again.
"Come on then," Anderson said, "we'll take off his finger."
Joe was looking drowsy. But, when Anderson took hold of him and placed
the wounded finger on a block, and Dad faced him with the hammer and a
blunt, rusty old chisel, he livened up.
"No, Dad, NO!" he squealed, straining and kicking like an old man kangaroo.
Anderson stuck to him, though, and with Sal's assistance held his finger
on the block till Dad carefully rested the chisel on it and brought the
hammer down. It did n't sever the finger--it only scraped the nail
off--but it did make Joe buck. He struggled desperately and got away.
Anderson could n't run at all; Dad was little faster; Sal could run like a
greyhound in her bare feet, but, before she could pull her boots off, Joe
had disappeared in the corn.
"Quick!" Dad shouted, and the trio followed the patient. They hunted
through the corn from end to end, but found no trace of him. Night came.
The search continued. They called, and called, but nothing answered save
the ghostly echoes, the rustling of leaves, the slow, sonorous notes of a
distant bear, or the neighing of a horse in the grass-paddock.
At midnight they gave up, and went home, and sat inside and listened,
and looked distracted.
While they sat, "Whisky," a blackfellow from Billson's station, dropped
in. He was taking a horse down to town for his boss, and asked Dad if he
could stay till morning. Dad said he could. He slept in Dave's bed; Dave
slept on the sofa.
"If Joe ain't dead, and wuz t' come in before mornin'," Dave said, "there
won't be room for us all."
And before morning Joe DID come in. He entered stealthily by the
back-door, and crawled quietly into bed.
At daybreak Joe awoke, and nudged his bed-mate and said:
"Dave, the cocks has crowed!" No answer. He nudged him again.
"Dave, the hens is all off the roost!" Still no reply.
Daylight streamed in through the cracks. Joe sat up--he was at the
back--and stared about. He glanced at the face of his bed-mate and
chuckled and said:
"Who's been blackenin' y', Dave?"
He sat grinning awhile, then stood up, and started pulling on his trousers,
which he drew from under his pillow. He had put one leg into them when
his eyes rested on a pair of black feet uncovered at the foot of the bed.
He stared at them and the black face again--then plunged for the door and
fell. Whisky was awake and grinned over the side of the bed at him.
"Wot makit you so fritent like that?" he said, grinning more.
Joe ran into Mother's room and dived in behind her and Dad. Dad swore,
and kicked Joe and jammed him against the slabs with his heels, saying:
"My GAWD! You DEVIL of a feller, how (KICK) dare you (KICK) run (KICK)
run (KICK, KICK, KICK) away yesterday, eh?" (KICK).
But he was very glad to see Joe all the same; we all felt that Shingle Hut
would not have been the same place at all without Joe.
It was when Dad and Dave were away after kangaroo-scalps that Joe was most
appreciated. Mother and Sal felt it such a comfort to have a man in the
house--even if it was only Joe.
Joe was proud of his male prerogatives. He looked after the selection,
minded the corn, kept Anderson's and Dwyer's and Brown's and old Mother
Murphy's cows out of it, and chased goannas away from the front door the
same as Dad used to do--for Joe felt that he was in Dad's place, and
postponed his customary familiarities with the goannas.
It was while Joe was in charge that Casey came to our place.
A starved-looking, toothless little old man with a restless eye, talkative,
ragged and grey; he walked with a bend in his back (not a hump), and
carried his chin in the air. We never saw a man like him before. He
spoke rapidly, too, and watched us all as he talked. Not exactly a
"traveller;" he carried no swag or billycan, and wore a pair of boots much
too large. He seemed to have been "well brought up"--he took off his hat
at the door and bowed low to Mother and Sal, who were sitting inside,
sewing. They gave a start and stared. The dog, lying at Mother's feet,
rose and growled. Bluey was n't used to the ways of people well brought up.
The world had dealt harshly with Casey, and his story went to Mother's
heart. "God buless y'," he said when she told him he could have some
dinner; "but I'll cut y' wood for it; oh, I'll cut y' wood!" And he went
to the wood-heap and started work. A big heap and a blunt axe; but it
did n't matter to Casey. He worked hard, and did n't stare about, and
did n't reduce the heap much, either; and when Sal called him to dinner he
could n't hear--he was too busy. Joe had to go and bring him away.
Casey sat at the table and looked up at the holes in the roof, through
which the sun was shining.
"Ought t' be a cool house," he remarked.
Mother said it was.
"Quite a bush house."
"Oh, yes," Mother said--"we're right in the bush here."
He began to eat and, as he ate, talked cheerfully of selections and crops
and old times and bad times and wire fences and dead cattle. Casey was a
versatile ancient. When he was finished he shifted to the sofa and asked
Mother how many children she had. Mother considered and said, "Twelve."
He thought a dozen enough for anyone, and, said that HIS mother, when he
left home, had twenty-one--all girls but him. That was forty years ago,
and he did n't know how many she had since. Mother and Sal smiled. They
began to like old Casey.
Casey took up his hat and went outside, and did n't say "Good-day" or
"Thanks" or anything. He did n't go away, either. He looked about the
yard. A panel in the fence was broken. It had been broken for five
years. Casey seemed to know it. He started mending that panel. He was
mending it all the evening.
Mother called to Joe to bring in some wood. Casey left the fence, hurried
to the wood-heap, carried in an armful, and asked Mother if she wanted
more. Then he returned to the fence.
"J-OE," Mother screeched a little later, "look at those cows tryin' to eat
Casey left the fence again and drove the cows away, and mended the wire on
his way back.
At sundown Casey was cutting more wood, and when we were at supper he
brought it in and put some on the fire, and went out again slowly.
Mother and Sal talked about him.
"Better give him his supper," Sal said, and Mother sent Joe to invite him
in. He did n't come in at once. Casey was n't a forward man. He stayed
to throw some pumpkin to the pigs.
Casey slept in the barn that night. He slept in it the next night, too.
He did n't believe in shifting from place to place, so he stayed with us
altogether. He took a lively interest in the selection. The house, he
said, was in the wrong place, and he showed Mother where it ought to have
been built. He suggested shifting it, and setting a hedge and ornamental
trees in front and fruit trees at the back, and making a nice place of it.
Little things like that pleased Mother. "Anyway," she would sometimes say
to Sal, "he's a useful old man, and knows how to look after things about
the place." Casey did. Whenever any watermelons were ripe, he looked
after THEM and hid the skins in the ground. And if a goanna or a crow
came and frightened a hen from her nest Casey always got the egg, and when
he had gobbled it up he would chase that crow or goanna for its life and
Every day saw Casey more at home at our place. He was a very kind man,
and most obliging. If a traveller called for a drink of water, Casey
would give him a cup of milk and ask him to wait and have dinner. If
Maloney, or old Anderson, or anybody, wished to borrow a horse, or a dray,
or anything about the place, Casey would let them have it with pleasure,
and tell them not to be in a hurry about returning it.
Joe got on well with Casey. Casey's views on hard work were the same as
Joe's. Hard work, Joe thought, was n't necessary on a selection.
Casey knew a thing or two--so he said. One fine morning, when all the sky
was blue and the butcher-birds whistling strong, Dwyer's cows smashed down
a lot of the fence and dragged it into the corn. Casey, assisted by Joe,
put them all in the yard, and hammered them with sticks. Dwyer came along.
"Those cattle belong to me," he said angrily.
"They belongs t' ME," Casey answered, "until you pay damages." Then he put
his back to the slip-rails and looked up aggressively into Dwyer's face.
Dwyer was a giant beside Casey. Dwyer did n't say anything--he was n't a
man of words--but started throwing the rails down to let the cows out.
Casey flew at him. Dwyer quietly shoved him away with his long, brown
arm. Casey came again and fastened on to Dwyer. Joe mounted the stockyard.
Dwyer seized Casey with both hands; then there was a struggle--on Casey's
part. Dwyer lifted him up and carried him away and set him down on his
back, then hastened to the rails. But before he could throw them down
Casey was upon him again. Casey never knew when he was beaten. Dwyer was
getting annoyed. He took Casey by the back of the neck and squeezed him.
Casey humped his shoulders and gasped. Dwyer stared about. A plough-rein
hung on the yard. Dwyer reached for it. Casey yelled, "Murder!" Dwyer
fastened one end of the rope round Casey's body--under the arms--and
stared about again. And again "Murder!" from Casey. Joe jumped off the
yard to get further away. A tree, with a high horizontal limb, stood near.
Dad once used it as a butcher's gallows. Dwyer gathered the loose rein
into a coil and heaved it over the limb, and hauled Casey up. Then he
tied the end of the rope to the yard and drove out the cows.
"When y' want 'im down," Dwyer said to Joe as he walked away,
"cut the rope."
Casey groaned, and one of his boots dropped off. Then he began to spin
round--to wind up and unwind and wind up again. Joe came near and eyed
the twirling form with joy.
Mother and Sal arrived, breathless and excited. They screeched at Joe.
"Undo th' r-r-rope," Joe said, "an' he'll come w-w--WOP."
Sal ran away and procured a sheet, and Mother and she held it under Casey,
and told Joe to unfasten the rope and lower him as steadily as he could.
Joe unfastened the rope, but somehow it pinched his fingers and he let go,
and Casey fell through the sheet. For three weeks Casey was an invalid at
our place. He would have been invalided there for the rest of his days
only old Dad came home and induced him to leave. Casey did n't want to
go; but Dad had a persuasive way with him that generally proved effectual.
Singularly enough, Dad complained that kangaroos were getting scarce where
he was camped; while our paddocks were full of them. Joe started a mob
nearly every day, as he walked round overseeing things; and he pondered.
Suddenly he had an original inspiration--originality was Joe's strong
point. He turned the barn into a workshop, and buried himself there for
two days. For two whole days he was never "at home,", except when he
stepped out to throw the hammer at the dog for yelping for a drink. The
greedy brute! it was n't a week since he'd had a billyful--Joe told him.
On the morning of the third day the barn-door swung open, and forth came a
kangaroo, with the sharpened carving knife in its paws. It hopped across
the yard and sat up, bold and erect, near the dog-kennel. Bluey nearly
broke his neck trying to get at it. The kangaroo said: "Lay down, you
useless hound!" and started across the cultivation!, heading for the
grass-paddock in long, erratic jumps. Half-way across the cultivation it
spotted a mob of other kangaroos, and took a firmer grip of the carver.
Bluey howled and plunged until Mother came out to see what was the matter.
She was in time to see a solitary kangaroo hop in a drunken manner towards
the fence, so she let the dog go and cried, "Sool him, Bluey! Sool him!"
Bluey sooled him, and Mother followed with the axe to get the scalp. As
the dog came racing up, the kangaroo turned and hissed, "G' home, y'
mongrel!" Bluey took no notice, and only when he had nailed the kangaroo
dextrously by the thigh and got him down did it dawn upon the marsupial
that Bluey was n't in the secret. Joe tore off his head-gear, called the
dog affectionately by name, and yelled for help; but Bluey had not had
anything substantial to eat for over a week, and he worried away vigorously.
Then the kangaroo slashed out with the carving-knife, and hacked a junk
off Bluey's nose. Bluey shook his head, relaxed his thigh-grip, and
grabbed the kangaroo by the ribs. How that kangaroo did squeal! Mother
arrived. She dropped the axe, threw up both hands, and shrieked. "Pull
him off! he's eating me!" gasped the kangaroo. Mother shrieked louder,
and wrung her hands; but it had no effect on Bluey. He was a good dog,
At last, Mother got him by the tail and dragged him off, but he took a
mouthful of kangaroo with him as he went.
Then the kangaroo raised itself slowly on to its hands and knees. It was
very white and sick-looking, and Mother threw her arms round it and cried,
"Oh, Joe! My child! my child!"
It was several days before Joe felt better. When he did, Bluey and he
went down the gully together, and, after a while, Joe came back--like
Dad used to say that Shingle Hut was the finest selection on Darling Downs;
but WE never could see anything fine about it--except the weather in
drought time, or Dad's old saddle mare. SHE was very fine. The house was
built in a gully so that the bailiffs (I suppose) or the blacks--who were
mostly dead--could n't locate it. An old wire-fence, slanting all
directions, staggered past the front door. At the rear, its foot almost
in the back door, sloped a barren ridge, formerly a squatter's sheep-yard.
For the rest there were sky, wallaby-scrub, gum-trees, and some acres of
cultivation. But Dad must have seen something in it, or he would n't have
stood feasting his eyes on the wooded waste after he had knocked off work
of an evening. In all his wanderings--and Dad had been almost everywhere;
swimming flooded creeks and rivers, humping his swag from one end of
Australia to the other; at all games going except bank-managing and
bushranging--he had seen no place timbered like Shingle Hut.
"Why," he used to say, "it's a fortune in itself. Hold on till the
country gets populated, and firewood is scarce, there'll be money in it
then--mark my words!"
Poor Dad! I wonder how long he expected to live?
At the back of Shingle Hut was a tract of Government land--mostly
mountains--marked on the map as the Great Dividing Range. Splendid
country, Dad considered it--BEAUTIFUL country--and part of a grand scheme
he had in his head. I defy you to find a man more full of schemes than
The day had been hot. Inside, the mosquitoes were bad; and, after supper,
Dad and Dave were outside, lying on some bags. They had been grubbing
that day, and were tired. The night was nearly dark. Dad lay upon his
back, watching the stars; Dave upon his stomach, his head resting on his
arms. Both silent. One of the draught-horses cropped the couch-grass
round about them. Now and again a flying-fox circled noiselessly overhead,
and "MOPOKE!--MOPOKE!" came dismally from the ridge and from out the
lonely-looking gully. A star fell, lighting up a portion of the sky, but
Dad did not remark it. In a while he said:
"How old are you, Dave?" Dave made a mental calculation before answering.
"S'pose I must be eighteen now ...Why?"
"I've been thinking of that land at the back--if we had that I believe we
could make money."
"Yairs--if we HAD."
"Well, I mean to have it, and that before very long."
Dave raised his head, and looked towards Dad.
"There's four of you old enough to take up land, and where could you get
better country than that out there for cattle? Why" (turning on his side
and facing Dave) "with a thousand acres of that stocked with cattle and
this kept under cultivation we'd make money--we'd be RICH in a very
Dave raised himself on his elbow.
"Yairs--with CATTLE," he said.
"Just so" (Dad sat up with enthusiasm), "but to get the LAND is the first
thing, and that's easy enough ONLY" (lowering his voice) "it'll have to be
done QUIETLY and without letting everyone 'round know we're going in for
it." ("Oh! yairs, o' course," from Dave.) "THEN" (and Dad lifted his
voice and leaned over) "run a couple of wires round it, put every cow
we've here on it straight away; get another one or two when the barley's
sold, and let them breed."
"'Bout how many'd that be t' start 'n?"
"Well, EIGHT good cows at the least--plenty, too. It's simply WONDERFUL
how cattle breed if they're let alone. Look at Murphy, for instance.
Started on that place with two young heifers--those two old red cows that
you see knocking about now. THEY'RE the mothers of all his cattle.
Anderson just the same...Why, God bless my soul! we would have a better
start than any one of them ever had--by a long way."
Dave sat up. He began to share Dad's enthusiasm.
"Once get it STOCKED, and all that is to be done then is simply to look
after the fence, ride about among the cattle every day, see they're right,
brand the calves, and every year muster the mob, draft out the fat
bullocks, whip them into town, and get our seven and eight pounds a head
"That'd suit me down to the ground, ridin' about after cattle," Dave said.
"Yes, get our seven and eight pounds, maybe nine or ten pounds a-piece.
And could ever we do that pottering about on the place?" Dad leaned over
further and pressed Dave's knee with his hand.
"Mind you!" (in a very confidential tone) "I'm not at all satisfied the
way we're dragging along here. It's utter nonsense, and, to speak the
truth" (lowering his voice again) "I'VE BEEN SICK OF THE WHOLE DAMN THING
A minute or two passed.
"It would n't matter," Dad continued, "if there was no way of doing
better; but there IS. The thing only requires to be DONE, and why not DO
it?" He paused for an answer.
"Well," Dave said, "let us commence it straight off--t'morror. It's the
life that'd suit ME."
"Of course it WOULD...and there's money in it...no mistake about it!"
A few minutes passed. Then they went inside, and Dad took Mother into his
confidence, and they sat up half the night discussing the scheme.
Twelve months later. The storekeeper was at the house wanting to see Dad.
Dad was n't at home. He never was when the storekeeper came; he generally
contrived to be away, up the paddock somewhere or amongst the corn--if any
was growing. The storekeeper waited an hour or so, but Dad did n't turn
up. When he was gone, though, Dad walked in and asked Mother what he had
said. Mother was seated on the sofa, troubled-looking.
"He must be paid by next week," she said, bursting into tears, "or the
place'll be sold over our heads."
Dad stood with his back to the fire-place, his hand locked behind him,
watching the flies swarming on the table.
Dave came in. He understood the situation at a glance. The scene was not
new to him. He sat down, leant forward, picked a straw off the flor and
twisted it round and round his finger, reflecting.
Little Bill put his head on Mother's lap, and asked for a piece of
bread...He asked a second time.
"There IS no bread, child," she said.
"But me wants some, mumma."
Dad went outside and Dave followed. They sat on their heels, their backs
to the barn, thoughtfully studying the earth.
"It's the same thing"--Dad said, reproachfully--"from one year's end to
the other...alwuz a BILL!"
"Thought last year we'd be over all this by now!" from Dave.
"So we COULD...Can NOW...It only wants that land to be taken up; and,
as I've said often and often, these cows taken----"
Dad caught sight of the storekeeper coming back, and ran into the barn.
Six months later. Dinner about ready. "Take up a thousand acres," Dad
was saying; "take it up----"
He was interrupted by a visitor.
"Are you Mister Rudd?" Dad said he was.
"Well, er--I've a FI. FA. against y'."
Dad didn't understand.
The Sheriff's officer drew a document from his inside breast-pocket and
proceeded to read:
"To Mister James Williams, my bailiff. Greeting: By virtue of Her
Majesty's writ of FIERI FACIAS, to me directed, I command you that of the
goods and chattels, money, bank-note or notes or other property of Murtagh
Joseph Rudd, of Shingle Hut, in my bailiwick, you cause to be made the sum
of forty pounds ten shillings, with interest thereon," &c.
Then the bailiff's man rounded up the cows and the horses, and Dad and the
lot of us leant against the fence and in sadness watched Polly and old
Poley and the rest for the last time pass out the slip-rails.
"That puts an end to the land business!" Dave said gloomily.
But Dad never spoke.
We Embark in the Bear Industry.
When the bailiff came and took away the cows and horses, and completely
knocked the bottom out of Dad's land scheme, Dad did n't sit in the ashes
and sulk. He was n't that kind of person. He DID at times say he was
tired of it all, and often he wished it far enough, too! But, then, that
was all mere talk on Dad's part. He LOVED the selection. To every
inch--every stick of it--he was devoted. 'T was his creed. He felt
certain there was money in it--that out of it would come his independence.
Therefore, he did n't rollup and, with Mother by the hand and little Bill
on his back, stalk into town to hang round and abuse the bush. He walked
up and down the yard thinking and thinking. Dad was a man with a head.
He consulted Mother and Dave, and together they thought more.
"The thing is," Dad said, "to get another horse to finish the bit of
ploughing. We've got ONE; Anderson will lend the grey mare, I know."
He walked round the room a few times.
"When that's done, I think I see my way clear; but THAT'S the trouble."
He looked at Dave. Dave seemed as though he had a solution. But Joe spoke.
"Kuk-kuk-could n't y' b-reak in some kang'roos, Dad? There's pul-lenty in
"Could n't you shut up and hold your tongue and clear out of this, you
brat?" Dad roared. And Joe hung his head and shut up.
"Well, y' know"--Dave drawled--"there's that colt wot Maloney offered us
before to quieten. Could get 'im. 'E's a big lump of a 'orse if y' could
do anythin' with 'im. THEY gave 'im best themselves."
Dad's eyes shone.
"That's th' horse," he cried. "GET him! To-morrow first thing go for
him! I'LL make something of him!"
"Don't know"--Dave chuckled--"he's a----"
"Tut, tut; you fetch him."
"Oh, I'll FETCH 'im." And Dave, on the strength of having made a valuable
suggestion, dragged Joe off the sofa and stretched himself upon it.
Dad went on thinking awhile. "How much," he at last asked, "did Johnson
get for those skins?"
"Which?" Dave answered. "Bears or kangaroos?"
"Five bob, was n't it? Six for some."
"Why, God bless my soul, what have we been thinking about? FIVE SHILLINGS?
Are you sure?"
"What, bear-skins worth that and the paddock here and the lanes and the
country over-run with them--FULL of the damn things--HUNDREDS of them--and
we, all this time--all these years--working and slaving and scraping
and-and" (he almost shouted), "DAMN me! What asses we HAVE been, to be
sure." (Dave stared at him.) "Bear-skins FIVE SHILLINGS each, and----"
"That's all right enough," Dave interrupted, "but----"
"Of COURSE it's all right enough NOW," Dad yelled, "now when we see it."
"But look!" and Dave sat up and assumed an arbitrary attitude. He was
growing suspicious of Dad's ideas. "To begin with, how many bears do you
reckon on getting in a day?"
"In a day"--reflectively--"twenty at the least."
"Twenty. Well, say we only got HALF that, how much d' y' make?"
" MAKE?" (considering). "Two pounds ten a day...fifteen or twenty pounds
a week...yes, TWENTY POUNDS, reckoning at THAT even. And do you mean to
tell ME that we would n't get more than TEN bears a day? Why we'd get
more than that in the lane--get more up ONE tree."
"Can't you SEE? DAMN it, boy, are you so DENSE?"
Dave saw. He became enthusiastic. He wondered why it had never struck us
before. Then Dad smiled, and we sat to supper and talked about bears.
"We'll not bother with that horse NOW," said Dad; "the ploughing can go;
I'm DONE with it. We've had enough poking and puddling about. We'll
start this business straightaway." And the following morning, headed by
the dog and Dad, armed with a tomahawk, we started up the paddock.
How free we felt! To think we were finished for ever with the raking and
carting of hay--finished tramping up and down beside Dad, with the
plough-reins in our hands, flies in our eyes and burr in our feet--finished
being the target for Dad's blasphemy when the plough or the horses or the
harness went wrong--was delightful! And the adventure and excitement
which this new industry promised operated strongly upon us. We rioted and
careered like hunted brumbies through the trees, till warned by Dad to
"keep our eyes about;" then we settled down, and Joe found the first bear.
It was on an ironbark tree, around the base of which we soon were
"Up y' go!" Dad said, cheerfully helping Dave and the tomahawk into the
Dave ascended and crawled cautiously along the limb the bear was on and
began to chop. WE armed ourselves with heavy sticks and waited. The
dog sat on his tail and stared and whined at the bear. The limb cracked,
and Dave ceased chopping and shouted "Look out!" We shouldered arms. The
dog was in a hurry. He sprang in the air and landed on his back. But
Dave had to make another nick or two. Then with a loud crack the limb
parted and came sweeping down. The dog jumped to meet it. He met it,
and was laid out on the grass. The bear scrambled to its feet and made
off towards Bill. Bill squealed and fell backwards over a log. Dad
rushed in and kicked the bear up like a football. It landed near Joe.
Joe's eyes shone with the hunter's lust of blood. He swung his stick for
a tremendous blow--swung it mightily and high--and nearly knocked his
parent's head off. When Dad had spat blood enough to make sure that he
had only lost one tooth, he hunted Joe; but Joe was too fleet, as usual.
Meanwhile, the bear had run up another tree--about the tallest old gum in
the paddock. Dad snapped his fingers angrily and cried: "Where the devil
was the DOG?"
"Oh, where the devil wuz the DORG?" Dave growled, sliding down the
tree--"where th' devil wuz YOU? Where wuz the lot o' y'?"
"Ah, well!" Dad said "--there's plenty more we can get. Come along."
And off we went. The dog pulled himself together and limped after us.
Bears were plentiful enough, but we wandered far before we found another
on a tree that Dave could climb, and, when we DID, somehow or other the
limb broke when he put his weight on it, and down he came, bear and all.
Of course we were not ready, and that bear, like the other, got up another
tree. But Dave did n't. He lay till Dad ran about two miles down a gully
to a dam and filled his hat with muddy water and came tearing back with it
empty--till Anderson and Mother came and helped to carry him home.
We did n't go out any more after bears. Dave, when he was able, went and
got Maloney's colt and put him in the plough. And, after he had kicked
Dad and smashed all the swingle-trees about the place, and got right out
of his harness a couple of times and sulked for two days, he went well
enough beside Anderson's old grey mare.
And that season, when everyone else's wheat was red with rust--when
Anderson and Maloney cut theirs for hay--when Johnson put a firestick in
his--ours was good to see. It ripened; and the rain kept off, and we
reaped 200 bags. Salvation!
Nell and Ned.
That harvest of two hundred bags of wheat was the turning-point in the
history of our selection. Things somehow seemed to go better; and Dad's
faith was gradually justified--to some extent. We accumulated out-buildings
and added two new rooms to the hut, and Dad was able to lend old Anderson
five pounds in return for a promise to pay seven pounds ten shillings in
six months' time. We increased the stock, too, by degrees; and--crowning
joy!--we got a horse or two you could ride to the township.
With Nell and Ned we reckoned we had two saddle-horses--those were their
names, Nell and Ned, a mare and a colt. Fine hacks they were, too!
Anybody could ride them, they were so quiet. Dad reckoned Ned was the
better of the two. He was well-bred, and had a pedigree and a gentle
disposition, and a bald-face, and a bumble-foot, and a raw wither, and a
sore back that gave him a habit of "flinching"--a habit that discounted
his uselessness a great deal, because, when we were n't at home, the women
could n't saddle him to run the cows in. Whenever he saw the saddle or
heard the girth-buckles rattle he would start to flinch. Put the cloth
on his back--folded or otherwise--and, no matter how smart you might be,
it would be off before you could cover it with the saddle, and he would n't
have flicked it with his tail, or pulled it off with his teeth, or done
anything to it. He just flinched--made the skin on his back--where there
was any--QUIVER. Throw on the saddle without a cloth, and he would "give"
in the middle like a broken rail--bend till his belly almost touched the
ground, and remain bent till mounted; then he'd crawl off and gradually
straighten up as he became used to you. Were you tender-hearted enough to
feel compunction in sitting down hard on a six-year-old sore, or if you
had an aversion to kicking the suffering brute with both heels and belting
his hide with a yard or two of fencing-wire to get him to show signs of
animation, you would dismount and walk--perhaps, weep. WE always rode him
right out, though.
As a two-year-old Ned was Dad's hope. Pointing proudly to the long-legged,
big-headed, ugly moke mooching by the door, smelling the dust, he would
say: "Be a fine horse in another year! Little sleepy-looking yet; that's
"Stir him up a bit, till we see how he canters," he said to Joe one day.
And when Joe stirred him up--rattled a piece of rock on his jaw that
nearly knocked his head off--Dad took after Joe and chased him through the
potatoes, and out into the grass-paddock, and across towards Anderson's;
then returned and yarded the colt, and knocked a patch of skin off him
with a rail because he would n't stand in a corner till he looked at his
eye. "Would n't have anything happen to that colt for a fortune!" he said
to himself. Then went away, forgetting to throw the rails down. Dave
threw them down a couple of days after.
WE preferred Nell to Ned, but Dad always voted for the colt. "You can
trust him; he'll stand anywhere," he used to say. Ned WOULD! Once, when
the grass-paddock was burning, he stood until he took fire. Then he stood
while we hammered him with boughs to put the blaze out. It took a lot to
frighten Ned. His presence of mind rarely deserted him. Once, though, he
got a start. He was standing in the shade of a tree in the paddock when
Dad went to catch him. He seemed to be watching Dad, but was n't. He was
ASLEEP. "Well, old chap," said Dad, "how ARE y'?" and proceeded to bridle
him. Ned opened his mouth and received the bit as usual, only some of his
tongue came out and stayed out. "Wot's up w' y'?" and Dad tried to poke
it in with his finger, but it came out further, and some chewed grass
dropped into his hand. Dad started to lead him then, or rather to PULL
him, and at the first tug he have the reins Ned woke with a snort and
broke away. And when the other horses saw him looking at Dad with his
tail cocked, and his head up, and the bridle-reins hanging, they went for
their lives through the trees, and Blossom's foal got staked.
Another day Dad was out on Ned, looking for the red heifer, and came
across two men fencing--a tall, powerful-looking man with a beard, and a
slim young fellow with a smooth face. Also a kangaroo-pup. As Dad slowly
approached, Ned swaying from side to side with his nose to the ground,
the elder man drove the crowbar into the earth and stared as if he had
never seen a man on horseback before. The young fellow sat on a log and
stared too. The pup ran behind a tree and growled.
"Seen any cattle round here?" Dad asked.
"No," the man said, and grinned.
"Did n't notice a red heifer?"
"No," grinning more.
The kangaroo-pup left the tree and sniffed at Ned's heels.
"Won't kick, will he?" said the man.
The young fellow broke into a loud laugh and fell off the log.
"No," Dad replied--"he's PERFECTLY quiet."
"He LOOKS quiet."
The young fellow took a fit of coughing.
After a pause. "Well, you did n't see any about, then?" and Dad wheeled
Ned round to go away.
"No, I DID N'T, old man," the other answered, and snatched hold of Ned's
tail and hung back with all his might. Ned grunted and strained and tore
the ground up with his toes; Dad spurred and leathered him with a strap,
looking straight ahead. The man hung on. "Come 'long," Dad said. The
pup barked. "COME 'long with YER!" Dad said. The young fellow fell off
the log again. Ned's tail cracked. Dad hit him between the ears. The
tail cracked again. A piece of it came off; then Ned stumbled and went on
his head. "What the DEVIL----!" Dad said, looking round. But only the
young fellow was laughing.
Nell was different from Ned. She was a bay, with yellow flanks and a lump
under her belly; a bright eye, lop ears, and heavy, hairy legs. She was a
very wise mare. It was wonderful how much she know. She knew when she
was wanted; and she would go away the night before and get lost. And she
knew when she was n't wanted; then she'd hang about the back-door licking
a hole in the ground where the dish-water was thrown, or fossicking at the
barn for the corn Dad had hidden, or scratching her neck or her rump
against the cultivation paddock slip-rails. She always scratched herself
against those slip-rails--sometimes for hours--always until they fell down.
Then she'd walk in and eat. And how she COULD eat!
As a hack, Nell was unreliable. You could n't reckon with certainty on
getting her to start. All depended on the humour she was in and the
direction you wished to take--mostly the direction. If towards the
grass-paddock or the dam, she was off helter-skelter. If it was n't,
she'd go on strike--put her head down and chew the bit. Then, when you'd
get to work on her with a waddy--which we always did--she'd walk backwards
into the house and frighten Mother, or into the waterhole and dirty the
water. Dad said it was the fault of the cove who broke her in. Dad was a
just man. The "cove" was a union shearer--did it for four shillings and
six pence. Wanted five bob, but Dad beat him down. Anybody else would
have asked a pound.
When Nell DID make up her mind to go, it was with a rush, and, if the
slip-rails were on the ground, she'd refuse to take them. She'd stand and
look out into the lane. You'd have to get off and drag the rails aside
(about twenty, counting broken ones). Then she'd fancy they were up, and
would shake her head and mark time until you dug your heels into her; then
she'd gather herself together and jump high enough for a show--over nothing!
Dave was to ride Nell to town one Christmas to see the sports. He had n't
seen any sports before, and went to bed excited and rose in the middle of
the night to start. He dressed in the dark, and we heard him going out,
because he fell over Sandy and Kate. They had come on a visit, and were
sleeping on the floor in the front room. We also heard him throw the
There was a heavy fog that morning. At breakfast we talked about Dave,
and Dad "s'posed" he would just about be getting in; but an hour or two
after breakfast the fog cleared, and we saw Dave in the lane hammering
Nell with a stick. Nell had her rump to the fence and was trying hard to
kick it down. Dad went to him. "Take her gently; take her GENTLY, boy,"
he shouted. "PSHAW! take her GENTLY!" Dave shouted back. "Here"--he
jumped off her and handed Dad the reins--"take her away and cut her
throat." Then he cried, and then he picked up a big stone and rushed at
Nell's head. But Dad interfered.
But the day Dad mounted Nell to bring a doctor to Anderson! She started
away smartly--the wrong road. Dad jerked her mouth and pulled her round
roughly. He was in a hurry--Nell was n't. She stood and shook her head
and switched her tail. Dad rattled a waddy on her and jammed his heels
hard against her ribs. She dropped her head and cow-kicked. Then he
coaxed her. "Come on, old girl," he said; "come on,"--and patted her on
the neck. She liked being patted. That exasperated Dad. He hit her on
the head with his fist. Joe ran out with a long stick. He poked her in
the flank. Nell kicked the stick out of his hands and bolted towards the
dam. Dad pulled and swore as she bore him along. And when he did haul
her in, he was two hundred yards further from the doctor. Dad turned her
round and once more used the waddy. Nell was obdurate, Dad exhausted.
Joe joined them, out of breath. He poked Nell with the stick again. She
"kicked up." Dad lost his balance. Joe laughed. Dad said, "St-o-op!"
Joe was energetic. So was Nell. She kicked up again--strong--and Dad
"Wot, could'n' y' s-s-s-stick to 'er, Dad?" Joe asked.
"STICK BE DAMNED--run--CATCH her!--D----N y'!"
Dad made another start, and this time Nell went willingly. Dad was
Those two old horses are dead now. They died in the summer when there was
lots of grass and water--just when Dad had broken them into harness--just
when he was getting a good team together to draw logs for the new railway
The Cow We Bought.
When Dad received two hundred pounds for the wheat he saw nothing but
success and happiness ahead. His faith in the farm and farming swelled.
Dad was not a pessimist--when he had two hundred pounds.
"Say what they like," he held forth to Anderson and two other men across
the rails one evening--"talk how they will about it, there's money to be
made at farming. Let a man WORK and use his HEAD and know what to sow and
when to sow it, and he MUST do well." (Anderson stroked his beard in grave
silence; HE had had no wheat). "Why, once a farmer gets on at all he's
the most independent man in the whole country."
"Yes! Once he DOES!" drawled one of the men,--a weird, withered fellow
with a scraggy beard and a reflective turn of mind.
"Jusso," Dad went on, "but he must use his HEAD; it's all in th' head."
(He tapped his own skull with his finger). "Where would I be now if I
had n't used me head this last season?"
He paused for an answer. None came.
"I say," he continued, "it's a mistake to think nothing's to be made at
farming, and any man" ("Come to supper, D--AD!"--'t was Sal's voice)
"ought t' get on where there's land like this."
"LAND!" said the same man--"where IS it?"
"Where IS it?" Dad warmed up--"where IS N'T it? Is n't this land?"
(Looking all round.) "Is n't the whole country land from one end to the
other? And is there another country like it anywhere?"
"There is n't!" said the man.
"Is there any other country in th' WORLD" (Dad lifted his voice) "where a
man, if he likes, can live" ("Dad, tea!") "without a shilling in his
pocket and without doing a tap of work from one year's end to the other?"
Anderson did n't quite understand, and the weird man asked Dad if he meant
"I mean," Dad said, "that no man should starve in this country when
there's kangaroos and bears and"--(Joe came and stood beside Dad and asked
him if he was DEAF)--"and goannas and snakes in thousands. Look here!"
(still to the weird man), "you say that farming"--(Mother, bare-headed,
came out and stood beside Joe, and asked Anderson if Mrs. Anderson had got
a nurse yet, and Anderson smiled and said he believed another son had just
arrived, but he had n't seen it)--"that farming don't pay"--(Sal came
along and stood near Mother and asked Anderson who the baby was
like)--"don't pay in this country?"
The man nodded.
"It will pay any man who----"
Anderson's big dog had wandered to the house, and came back with nearly
all that was for supper in his mouth.
"DROP IT--DROP IT, Bob!" Anderson shouted, giving chase. Bob dropped it
on the road.
"DAMN IT!" said Dad, glaring at Mother, "wot d' y' ALL want out
'ere?...Y-YOU brute!" (to the dog, calmly licking its lips).
Then Anderson and the two men went away.
But when we had paid sixty pounds to the storekeeper and thirty pounds in
interest; and paid for the seed and the reaping and threshing of the
wheat; and bought three plough-horses, and a hack for Dave; and a
corn-sheller, and a tank, and clothes for us all; and put rations in the
house; and lent Anderson five pounds; and improved Shingle Hut; and so on;
very little of the two hundred pounds was left.
Mother spoke of getting a cow. The children, she said, could n't live
without milk and when Dad heard from Johnson and Dwyer that Eastbrook dairy
cattle were to be sold at auction, he said he would go down and buy one.
Very early. The stars had scarcely left the sky. There was a lot of
groping and stumbling about the room. Dad and Dave had risen and were
preparing to go to the sale.
I don't remember if the sky was golden or gorgeous at all, or if the
mountain was clothed in mist, or if any fragrance came from the
wattle-trees when they were leaving; but Johnson, without hat or boots,
was picking splinters off the slabs of his hut to start his fire with,
and a mile further on Smith's dog was barking furiously. He was a famous
barker. Smith trained him to it to keep the wallabies off. Smith used to
chain him to a tree in the paddock and hang a piece of meat to the
branches, and leave him there all night.
Dad and Dave rode steadily along and arrived at Eastbrook before mid-day.
The old station was on its last legs. "The flags were flying half-mast
high." A crowd of people were there. Cart-horses with harness on, and a
lot of tired-looking saddle-hacks, covered with dry sweat, were fastened
to cart-wheels, and to every available post and place. Heaps of old iron,
broken-down drays and buggies and wheel-barrows, pumps and pieces of
machinery, which Dad reckoned were worth a lot of money, were scattered
about. Dad yearned to gather them all up and cart them home. Rows of
unshaven men were seated high on the rails of the yards. The yards were
filled with cattle--cows, heifers, bulls, and calves, all
separate--bellowing, and, in a friendly way, raking skins and hair off
each other with their horns.
The station-manager, with a handful of papers and a pencil behind his ear,
hurried here and there, followed by some of the crowd, who asked him
questions which he did n't answer. Dad asked him if this was the place
where the sale was to be. He looked all over Dad.
A man rang a bell violently, shouting, "This way for the dairy cows!" Dad
went that way, closely followed by Dave, who was silent and strange. A
boy put a printed catalogue into Dad's hand, which he was doubtful about
keeping until he saw Andy Percil with one. Most of the men seated on the
rails jumped down into an empty yard and stood round in a ring. In one
corner the auctioneer mounted a box, and read the conditions of sale, and
talked hard about the breed of the cattle. Then:
"How much for the imported cow, Silky? No.1 on the catalogue. How much
to start her, gentlemen?"
Silky rushed into the yard with a shower of sticks flying after her and
glared about, finally fixing her gaze on Dad, who was trying to find her
number in the catalogue.
"A pure-bred 'Heereford,' four years old, by The Duke out of Dolly, to
calve on the eighth of next month," said the auctioneer. "How much to
All silent. Buyers looked thoughtful. The auctioneer ran his restless
eyes over them.
Dad and Dave held a whispered consultation; then Dad made a movement.
The auctioneer caught his eye and leant forward.
"FIVE BOB!" Dad shouted. There was a loud laugh. The auctioneer frowned.
"We're selling COWS, old man," he said, "not running a shilling-table."
More laughter. It reached Dave's heart, and he wished he had n't come
Someone bid five pounds, someone else six; seven-eight-nine went round
quickly, and Silky was sold for ten pounds.
"Beauty" rushed in.
Two station-hands passed among the crowd, each with a bucket of beer and
some glasses. Dad hesitated when they came to him, and said he did n't
care about it. Dave the same.
Dad ran "Beauty" to three pound ten shillings (all the money he had), and
she was knocked down at twelve pounds.
Bidding became lively.
Dave had his eye on the men with the beer--he was thirsty. He noticed no
one paid for what was drunk, and whispered his discovery to Dad. When the
beer came again, Dad reached out and took a glass. Dave took one also.
"Have another!" said the man.
Dave grinned, and took another.
Dad ran fifteen cows, successively, to three pounds ten shillings.
The men with the beer took a liking to Dave. They came frequently to him,
and Dave began to enjoy the sale.
Again Dad stopped bidding at three pounds ten shillings.
Dave began to talk. He left his place beside Dad and, hat in hand,
staggered to the middle of the yard. "WOH!" he shouted, and made an
awkward attempt to embrace a red cow which was under the hammer.
"SEV'N POUN'--SEV'N POUN'--SEV'N POUN'," shouted the auctioneer, rapidly.
"Any advance on sev'n POUN'?"
"WENNY (hic) QUID," Dave said.
"At sev'n poun' she's GOING?"
"Twenny (hic) TWO quid," Dave said.
"You have n't twenty-two PENCE," snorted the auctioneer.
Then Dave caught the cow by the tail, and she pulled him about the yard
until two men took him away.
The last cow put up was, so the auctioneer said, station-bred and in full
milk. She was a wild-looking brute, with three enormous teats and a large,
fleshy udder. The catalogue said her name was "Dummy."
"How much for 'Dummy,' the only bargain in the mob--how much for her,