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Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:04 pm
by Wendy Seddon
Kamilaroi Country

A wiry, tired man rode a wiry, tired horse. Three weeks in the saddle with an hundred head of cattle wandering the long paddock can do that to a man and a mare. Droving, ideal employment for an ‘antisocial cretin’. Not his words but Francine’s, and that’s enough of that, no story there just a sad mistake. Hundreds of miles with his only utterances being “whoa!” and “dog, here!” left plenty of time for thinking, or more often, not thinking - lulled by the rhythmic amble of his horse into a somnipathy which calmed and satisfied.

It was because he was in this state that he only noticed the boy when his horse was spooked by a sudden movement caught in its peripheral vision. A scrawny lad mirrored the mare’s reaction and scrambled out of a low forest of gorse, ready to flee. The drover judged the boy to be about twelve or fourteen, certainly no older than fifteen - it was hard to tell under the grime of the trail. His boots were shredded and his clothes were cut for a boy carrying at least an extra 10lbs in weight. Must have come quite a way.

An intercourse between the boy and the drover, not eloquent enough to be called a conversation followed and went like this:
“Hey, boy!”
“I aint doin’ nothin’ mista!”
“No-one says ya was. C’mere. Ya got a name?”
“Frank. Don’t tell me dad ya seen me mista!”
“Dunno ya dad. Ya got a place in mind to head to?”
“Gunna join up, gunna be a soldier. Me bruvver ‘n me uncle’s with the Wallaby march. I reckon I can catch ‘em if’n I don’t dawdle.”
“They’ve got 40 mile up on you lad. Don’t go breakin’ yer neck in a wombat hole!”

With a cheerful wave, the boy ran off in that half skip, half run that kids do before they’ve been raped of their innocence. “Should be home bottle feedin’ a poddy”, thought the drover, “not my problem if he goes gittin’ his head bowed off, more ‘n likely they’ll clip ‘im ‘round the ears and send ‘im home.”

He’d seen the Wallabies set off from Walgett, saw the posters in the Post and Telegraph office too. It showed a soldier standing astride two countries calling “Cooee” supposedly from the Dardanelles, “Won’t you come? Enlist now.” A Digger in need of a bit of a hand with a dose of adventure to boot was a sure way to round up a mob of wannabe soldiers and set them marching. Destination: Sydney, 281 miles away. They were headed in the same direction but he was only going half that distance and glad he wasn’t covering it on foot like them – marching through swirling dust over hard packed dirt or worse, crushed stone or blue metal and trekking through rivers of mud in the wet.

He’d heard tell of them being treated like lords in the towns they went through, crowds cheering them on, but not before putting flowers ‘round their necks and filling them up with roast lamb and plum pudding. He hardly believed the tales of hand knitted socks gifted by the dozens from womenfolk along the way, but he did believe the tales from a Boer war veteran who now roamed the bush tracks. Lost- not geographically but in his soul. Whatever happened ‘over there’ did not appeal to the drover, he saw no adventure in killing people he personally had no fight with.

Life was dandy, he had a pumpkin – would make a pretty good pie when he put it with hot, crusty damper. He plucked the pumpkin from a campsite known to be visited regularly by a sundowner who planted seeds around the North West so he’d have a reliable food source when next he ambled that way. He could do with a new pair of socks though.

From what he could figure from information coming his way in dribs and drabs, the Wallabies were making good time. Then again, they didn’t have an hundred head with them. He preferred cattle to men. They weren’t likely to bugger off to the hotels or the brothels along the way. One hundred and twenty four head actually and he intended to get as many as he could to the sales at Gunnedah. He uncoiled his whip and cracked it over the dog’s head. The signal between them was clear - round up the half blind heifer lagging behind and get it back with the mob. Next time he’ll leave her, he aint no babysitter to a stupid cow. He chuckled then because the words ‘stupid cow’ brought with them memories of Francine and their last slanging match.

And so the days went by. Thinking or not thinking, dozing then riding breakneck after a demented tearaway. The duration of the trip was at a predetermined rate, about 10 miles a day, and he was on time. He remembered his first taste of droving.,,

He’d been signed on at a pitiful salary of ten shillings a week and find your own horse. If the horse died he’d have to find a replacement. The route was to go through Booligal, a detested run by drovers state wide. It was either in drought or flood or plagued by rabbits or grasshoppers – all of which meant a headache for the boss drover. The only saving grace along the way was the One Tree Inn (or to be exact, the publican’s daughter) but “just my luck,” thought the drover, the place burnt down the previous year!

There were 2,000 head in that mob but the time they got to Echuca they’d run up a tally of 350 head dead from eating desert pea, another 500 duffed outside Hay, 3 dogs lost – one snake bite, one just keeled over one day and another buggered off somewhere along the trail. They had to leave Hodges behind in Ivanhoe with some gut problem and Redford’s boy took a tumble and wasn’t any use after the Black Swamp, could have broken his fool neck but only broke an ankle. The Booligal track had certainly lived up to its reputation.

That poet bloke, Paterson wrote about Booligal – “Hay and Hell and Booligal” and Paterson wrote that other one – “Clancy of the Overflow”. He’d come across a couple of Clancys over the years, drove sheep up to the Queensland border. Funny how the poem talks about overlanding cattle though. In the rhythmic plodding of the horse’s hooves he composed a little ditty of his own…

“Francine, I used to like your eyes,
your voice like nature’s breezy sighs,
your mouth the shape of rosebuds red
but I’ve swapped you for my horse instead!”

The dog barked and startled a flock of cockatoos which fluttered noisily off as one from their roost in a ghost gum, alerting the drover and dragging him back to the present and the lush Namoi Valley. Just as well too, the cattle were getting restless. They smelled the water a couple of miles ahead and it would take all his concentration with the total co-operation of the dog to hold them back so they wouldn’t stampede.

Just up ahead he could see ‘Gin’s Leap’ and he let the cattle drift between the hills and the river. Apparently a young aboriginal girl and her lover jumped off the cliff and a Romeo and Juliette style romance ended predictably. The drover tried picturing Francine hurling herself over the edge, distraught that she would never see him again. Not likely. A few graves were all that remained where the Rock Inn once stood- seemed to be the area for tragedy. He and Francine were a tragedy but, funny, she had grown on him.

The sale yards at Gunnedah were close, the end of his employment. When he’d filled his pockets and his belly and when he’d had his fill of ale, he might just head back up to see Francine in Moree. He had a necklace of Quondong seeds he’d traded with ‘Quondong Joe’ to sweeten his return. Might even take her dancing before he signed on again for another trek along the long paddock.

When the cattle were penned and a second count done, a handshake between the drover and the owner and the drover’s work was finished. Then after a night of restless ‘indoors’ sleep he mounted his mare and rode back through town. The banner still hanging on the corner of the Grand Central Hotel. “Welcome the Wallabies”, barely warranted a second look.

Wendy Seddon © October 2011 1425 words

Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:12 pm
by Heather
Very well written Wendy - you clever chookie! You're a lady of many talents.

Heather :)

Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:43 pm
by Maureen K Clifford
Love it Wendy - very very good IMO and gets you in from the first sentence.

One typo - goes gittin’ his head blowed off, more ‘n likely they’ll clip ‘im ‘round the ears ...I don't charge for editing it's on the house :lol: :lol: :lol:

Liked the reference to the quondong seed necklace - tied it in nicely with the era. Quondongs are also high in Vitamin C good for stopping scurvy and I believe have other medicinal properties for healing as well.

Thanks for posting Wendy - I thoroughly enjoyed the read.



Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:01 pm
by mummsie
Great story Wendy and thank you for sharing. Congratulations, well deserved in my opinion.


Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:22 pm
by Wendy Seddon
Thanks girls,
Maureen...actually they do all the editing before it's published!!
This is the original, warts and all!!


Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:22 pm
by william williams
Con grats OWLY you have captured Silent loneleness that you have during that way of life

Bill Williams the old battler

Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:32 pm
by Bob Pacey
I like it.

Nuf said.

A man of few words.


Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:06 pm
by Maureen K Clifford
is your new name Nuf now Bob? :lol: :lol: :lol:

Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:34 am
by Bob Pacey
NO NO NO Maureen it is short for enough so you just say nuf and that saves writing the whole word then people still know what you are saying, like if I said no instead of know or ok instead of putting OKAY and then it is easier for you to type the whole thing in and people can get the drift ( that means the vein of what you are saying ) but you don't have to type the whole thing or like do not can be don't and stuff like that.

There that explains it all

NUF said.

The original Bob.

Re: Kamilaroi Country

Posted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:31 am
by Maureen K Clifford
:o :shock: :? Whatever Bob