Mainly consisting of Sport, as Fly Fishing
The “Palmer”-Shooting Sharks
Tidal Waters-Crocodile’s Nest
“Dugong”- Gentlemen of Colour
Five o’clock Tea-Turtle Hunting
With the exception of one or two incidents which took place a few months later-one of them being of an exciting nature, namely, the quest of a man who was bushed, which account I will detail further on in this narrative-our life at Guyanda Creek was not exciting, for the blacks in the surrounding districts were on the whole quiet, yet it was healthy, full of interest, and not without small adventure in the pursuit of sport for one who was satisfied with the minor fauna and numerous birds which are found In Queensland.
I remember that when a lad in England I had regarded Australia as a land composed of bush, which I interpreted scrub, and dried up plains, all barren as far as game was concerned. This certainly was the prevailing opinion in my day by those who were not in the know. But in the early 1860s, few travelled to the great island excepting for business purposes.
In the roving life of the native police, the object of which in those days was to patrol the outside stations and sample new country far beyond them, I found that practically during all seasons, wet or dry, wild fowl of every sort prevailed, ranging from black swans, “magpie,” and other sorts of geese, down to the tiniest species of teal, and occasionally snipe. But of all these birds, I preferred the genuine black duck, which is found in all five of the Australian colonies, as grand a bird as our home mallard, many of them attaining a weight of from three up to four pounds; they possess a delicious subtle flavour, when properly cooked, which others besides myself have not found in any other species.
The forests, scrubs, and waters of Queensland teem with life for such as use their eyes. To my mind, there is an indescribable fascination in hunting and fishing wherever you list, where the result of sport depends upon your own woodcraft and the keen use of your senses, and amongst forests and waters which have never heard the firearm of the hunter, be it rifle or gun, nor seen the glint of the fisherman’s rod, your only companion being perhaps a keen little terrier, or more rarely an equally faithful “boy.”
It was an experience I had long wished for. True, that in the districts scantily sketched in the opening chapters of these Native Mounted Police experiences, we had found hundreds of miles of such wild back country in the “never never”; but then circumstances were different, in that the blacks were bad, and, furthermore, I was not my own master.
Here at Guyanda Creek, there was greater scope for bush wandering, the country was fairly quiet, and I was able to spell the horses for a few days at a time at one or other of the stations during patrol. Hospitable and kind as I invariably found the squatters, they cared but little for roaming about the bush, hunting quail or seeking orchids. They have hard enough work with their cattle and the general management of their run, and were I in their place I should follow their example, as, in fact, I often did, and take down my gun for a Sunday afternoon’s shooting, for the “pot,” at black duck in the nearest waterhole; or loose the kangaroo hounds on an emu after the bird had drunk his evening fill at the same place, and then turn on to my bunk for a “bange,” i.e. sleep, and in such manner get one day of rest, all the previous days of the week having been devoted by the squatters to cattle hunting or bullock punching, as the case may have been.
Whatever the work consist of on a cattle station, it is hard-very-and usually takes place under a sun of anything from 120 degrees up. In the police, we had none of this sort of labour, though it was not by any means always beer and skittles.
I will touch first upon my favourite sport-that of fly fishing. I always carried a strong stiffly made fly rod with me. Whilst patrolling, this was fastened to the gun bucket which held my carbine-the only safe way to carry it, as it was thus protected by the weapon. One moonlight night, I was strolling along by the bank of a beautiful creek which was subject to the influence of the tide. The water was running down clearly and rapidly; forests of tall palm trees overhung the opposite bank, and in the shadow cast by this lovely feathery grove, I heard the unmistakable rise of large fish. This sporting sound occurring as it did in an ideal salmon pool recalled the days spent on the Lochy in Scotland where I killed my first salmon in times long since gone by, and the thought occurred to me to try a salmon fly. In an air tight case amongst all sorts and conditions reposed samples of old Pat Hearn’s handiwork. I tried a medium sized gaudy specimen, the fish took it with a mighty plunge, no doubt directly it came over him, for I could see nothing in that black part of the pool. He fought like a fresh run grilse, making desperate efforts to get to sea; but if he ran well so did the winch with its hundred yards of line, the stiff little rod did its work, and presently I was able to beach a beautiful specimen of the finny tribe, glittering in the moonlight like a bar of silver, its eye flashing like a ruby. Then and there I christened it, with proper accompaniments, the “palmer.” This was the first one ever taken with the fly, and the name has been universally adopted in Northern Queensland ever since. This palmer weighed six pounds. Many have been killed since those days, and far heavier fish, but they have been taken with spinners of sorts.
The scientific name of the fish, according to Dr. Günther, is Lates calcarifer. From its list of habitats, it appears to be strictly inter-tropical, and he mentions specimens of it from India, Java and other places, its northern boundaries being Calcutta and China, limits of latitude which correspond pretty well with Bundaberg on the Queensland coast. It is a sea fish at certain times. The black fellows sometimes call it “barramundi.”
I see from my old diary that, under the heading of “Fly fishing in North Queensland,” I described this fish a little more fully as late as 23 December 1871- in that number of the Field.
I visited this pool upon another occasion accompanied by a friend who was staying with me, and who hailed from the banks of the Clyde. We used the rod turn and turn about, and killed eighteen pounds of fish; this included three palmers, the best going nine pounds, and we used the same Irish fly to which we added white wings, which certainly rendered it more fetching, and it invariably carried the palm amongst flies.
Another fish, which we dubbed fresh water herring, took a smaller edition of the same lure freely, but it was so bony and tasteless that we tried to avoid catching it. One night my friend’s terrier pup disappeared in a mysterious manner. At the same part of the river, and on the same evening, we lost a good fish, which was taken by some monster whilst we were coaxing it ashore in shallow water-fly gut and fish were carried away; then, whilst still gazing at the spot, we saw a three foot shark pass over the shallow.
The mystery was explained, the marauder had certainly taken our palmer, and most likely the small dog as well, as we remembered that the little animal was very fond of the water.
We went home, and at night devised a plan of revenge which I carried out to my entire satisfaction the next day, and therefore inaugurated a new form of sport in connection with one of the most hateful forms of fish life. My friend had to take his departure, so I went alone, provided with a log line, shark hooks and revolver. First I caught some baits-in the form of whiting- with paste, then threw one out impaled on the shark hook. It was not long before the line began to move off slowly, when, taking a round turn, I struck. The only answer at the end of the telephone was a dead pull, but directly I began to haul off went the thing seawards for all it was worth; but with such a rope in one’s hands it is no question of play-simply make fast and either break or turn. He turned, I got him into shallow water and then commenced to practise. The first ball sent the blood flying, and the shark too, but I got him back and riddled his head. He was two feet long, and contained nothing in his belly but a fish. I got three more that afternoon, but discovered no signs of our little dog in them- only fish. The carcasses were not entirely wasted, for I took the livers home for oil. I found they came up on the flow, so whenever time permitted I went down to the creek towards high water and much improved my pistol shooting.
Grey mullet of great size used to come up in shoals, we seined them, and the “boys” speared numbers of them besides, or they damned them back in branch creeks and netted them in quantities.
To watch a “boy” spearing any sort of fish was interesting. He would simply cut a long thin sapling out of the scrub, render the point as fine as a needle, and then squat alongside the water whilst shoals were slowly forging their way up with the incoming tide. In this way, fish after fish would be impaled, some landed, others lost, but the spearer seldom made a false stroke, and when the native stood up, as he sometimes did for minutes together, and remained motionless with uplifted arm in the act of striking, he resembled a martial statue carved in ebony. Far grander, to my mind, is the black human figure when modeled by a sculptor than the dirty white mutilated specimens one sees on the continent, or the newer ones of home manufacture. Alas, that kodaks were not invented in those days!
A casting net afforded much sport. Having to teach myself the art of heaving it, I soon found that the only way was to strip, and thus do away with belt and buttons which would otherwise have hitched into the meshes. When I had succeeded in making it perform a perfect circle, I caught many small fish, also whiting, up to two pounds in weight, and sometimes a large flathead-this latter is an excellent fish for the table.
At one of my hauls, I captured a horrid looking thing, all death’s-head and spikes and jelly-like protuberances. The “boys” would not go near it, said it was “cabon saucy.” Dr. Günther was kind enough to name it for me Siencea horrida one of the poisonous perches.
One of the “boys” told me of a fish in his district, situated some miles to the south, which secured its prey- insects hovering over a waterhole- by knocking them over with a jet of water which it squirts from its mouth, and though I have never witnessed this, yet I have no reason to doubt his statement. This fact has since been corroborated by an old Queensland friend, who found fish in a northern river squirting water at grasshoppers passing over them, and thus securing the dainty morsel.
A sea fish with bright blue bones was a curiosity, and a good one to eat.
Jew fish I have caught in numbers with prawns, also king fish whilst spinning. Alligators, or rather crocodiles, were numerous in most of the tropical waters. I was riding along the upper branches of a river one day and saw a small one lying under a bank, within ten yards of me; leaving the horse in a scrub, I blew a hole in the little saurian’s side with a large horse pistol I had with me; he only measured three feet. The largest I ever saw was shot in the Fitzroy and measured nineteen feet.
A crocodile’s nest which was shown to me consisted of a large mound of dead river grass and sticks; it was situated about forty yards from the river. The old “bird” was shot, and we unearthed some thirty-five eggs, each containing a young crocodile. The blacks said that out of this number, about five would have grown up, as birds and fish prey upon them- a happy provision of nature.
The dugong hardly comes under the heading of fish, for it is a mammal, and suckles its young; still, this seems an appropriate place to mention the mode of its capture. It is called “yungun” by most of the natives. A medical friend and myself joined as partners, with the object of collecting the oil of this sea cow, as it is well known to possess the curative properties of the cod; and though we found from experience that this was not very freely taken up- or down- by the public, owing probably to its being a new thing, yet we lost no money over the business, as the flesh sold well. It tastes like beef, and also resembles bacon, according to the part of the body it is taken from.
Being a sleeping partner, I sometimes found time and opportunity to absent myself for a couple of days, and had the luck to be present at the capture of a dugong. We very soon found that the grazing ground which they showed a preference for consisted of a salt water creek, in which grew a special sort of marine grass. We had secured a couple of boats and a large rope net, the meshes of which were nearly a foot square. This we placed at night across the creek at its entrance to the sea. The net was supported with buoys and large empty cans.
On the morning after my arrival, we pulled out to see what luck had befallen us, and observed from a distance that all the buoys were drawn together in a bunch. This looked well, and upon disentangling and attempting to lift the net, we found one dugong of six feet meshed and drowned, whilst there were not wanting signs that another had fought its way out by stretching the meshes. We had to tow net and fish ashore to clear the decks. It proved to be a fat cow.
Here was a grand life for the short time I was able to enjoy it. Living on dugong beef- fish of all sorts taken with hook and line, shooting the wild fowl which prevailed, excavating large eatable crabs from the muddy shore, their blowholes being pointed out by the “boy,” collecting quantities of rock oysters, and other shell fish, or wading under shelving to “chuck and chance it,” or attempt to stalk within shot of a shoal of fish.
This Robinson Crusoe sort of life was most fascinating, and without the drawbacks attendant upon that hero of our childhood. It was more free in every sense of the word. He had clothes of skins, I had a single Crimean shirt only for sporting attire.
He was practically alone, I had a white mate even superior to Friday. Savages of a deadly type threatened him; we also had savages, but then, they were gentlemen!
The fact was that shortly after we arrived the “boys,” observing smoke from a neighbourhood island, rowed over to it and found a small encampment of blacks, who, it appeared, frequented this islet during one moon annually for the purpose of procuring turtle and other products of the sea. A few members of this tribe returned the visit the next day, paddling over in their canoes, which as usual were each individually made of one sheet of gum tree bark. They proved most friendly natives, and brought many fine fish as a peace offering. After they had had five o’clock tea, which consisted of gorging damper and drinking the well-sugared fluid out of a bucket, we showed them the dugong net.
The “boys” understood their dialect fairly well, and great was the astonishment of the Myalls at learning our system of taking “yunguns,” for we set the net again whilst they were in our boat. But if they were amazed at our manner of fishing, so was I, for one, much struck by the way they took turtle, in deep waters, and without any appliance whatever, excepting their hands.
Thus: We took the largest boat; one black fellow paddled her with the greatest caution over the marine grass, in some twelve feet of water, whilst his companion squatted on the bow. Presently, the keen eye of this look-out detected something, and with subdued excitement, he directed the rower as to which way he should go without, however, taking his eyes off the water. Then he said one word to him, and the man of paddles gave way for all he was worth, guided by the sable pilot, who, bending his body from side to side, and thus following the zig-zag motions of the much frightened turtle- for turtle it proved to be- was now yelling from excitement and shouting, “Gie Gie,” his muscles all standing out as he prepared for the plunge.
Whilst this was going on the natives on shore had run down to a point of land, yelling and capering with excitement, then some of them bounded into the sea and swam off to us.
I happened to be looking at them when I suddenly felt the boat had lost way. The turtle hunter had gone, but so smoothly had he taken his dive that he left scarcely a ripple behind him. Then his companion stopped rowing and all was still; the sea being calm as a mill pond.
After a long wait- it seemed ten minutes but was most likely three or four- up came the black head from an unexpected quarter. He was evidently fast to something with his right hand, which was below the surface, for he used his left to support himself.
He first blew out wind and water like a grampus, then turned towards his mate with a fierce grin of satisfaction, but looking round saw the rest of his tribe tearing over the water towards him, upon which he quickly sank, and as speedily came up again alongside the boat; this was doubtless to prove to us that he had got in “first spear,” in another form of sport, and to show that his prize was all safe, as it turned on its back, its two fore flippers vainly pawing the surface, whilst its captor held it by the stout hind leg.
Then he shoved off and proceeded to tow it ashore; a slow process, but we could not have lifted the thing into the boat. His mates soon caught him up, and we rowed leisurely after the laughing, joyous mob of big children, who never ceased playing every sort of mad antic in the water till they stood on the sandy beach, their black skins shining and glistening, when with one whoop, they ran the turtle high up to the verge of the scrub and cut its throat- close to our tent.
We taught them how to bake a damper that night, and found that the jins quickly picked up this art of cookery. Next day we sent them home happy with a bag of flour, a lot of fish hooks, and “manavlins” incidental to fishing.
Several more dugong were captured after I had returned from my trip; one of the monsters showed unmistakable marks of having been in our nets before.
Pigeons and other Bush Fowl- Giant Fig Tree- Chin Chin- Notes on the Natural History of the District – “The Blankety Rabbits” – Midnight Raid on the Bunnies – A Good French Settler
Amongst the edible birds which are found on the continent of Australia the chief are the wild fowl, pigeons and quail.
Queensland is well favoured in respect to these, and though many occasions arise when the sportsman might shoot till his gun is hot, my spare time was only taken up in adding a few specimens of each to my bag, and, besides, I found a great fascination in studying, where practicable, the habits, and mode of feeding, of all sorts of birds and animals, and in this manner collected and preserved many hundreds of specimens, thus ensuring plenty of employment during the evenings in skinning the various trophies. Black duck was the bird I pursued in preference to most of the others for the pot, though many other species of anas were to be found in legions in the neighbourhood of Guyanda Creek.
These large duck were found to frequent the lagoon in preference to running water, whereas many other sorts, amongst them emerald backed teal and pigmy geese, seemed to fancy the creeks and rivers, and I would secure many sporting shots by sending a couple of “boys” far up stream, who would descend by both banks and drive the fowl past where I was ensconced amongst the lower reaches.
Pigeons and doves of sorts are so numerous that a whole book could be written about them and their habits. I will only mention one or two. The wonga wonga is a magnificent bird with a breast on it resembling a small capon; it is very difficult to localise its note or “coo” in the scrubs, as the call seems to come from every direction but the right one. I used to be more successful in bagging them during the early morning when they were sunning themselves in the tall gum-trees in open forest country. The whampoo, or, as it is often most truthfully called, magnificent fruit pigeon, is as beautiful to the eye as it is good for food.
Fancy a large bird with an olive-coloured head, breast wholly purple, back emerald green, a golden bar across the wings and bright orange under them.
During the fruiting season, their favourite haunt was the tops of the gigantic fig-trees amongst the dense foliage. The plan to adopt was to stand underneath these giants of the scrubs on a quiet day and wait until a small powdery mass of something fell, when with steadfast gazing you might at least discern the purple breast- more often than not out of shot, yet if the bird was within range and you brought him down, his mates would merely flutter a few paces, and thus one could locate others. It was breakneck work, one long stare into the heavens, whilst scrub leeches were devouring one’s legs the whole time, but the birds were well worth these trifling inconveniences.
The Torres Straits Pigeon visited us regularly from New Guinea and the S. S. Islands at the time when the quandang berries were ripe in the palmy scrubs of Queensland. This bird swallows the little blue fruit whole, and evacuates the handsome corrugated stone. They arrive in countless flocks, and their markings are slate colour and white- easy to see and easy to shoot.
All three of the pigeons which I have mentioned are excellent eating.
The only time that I was caught by the stinging trees was on one of these occasions when stalking pigeons in the scrub. Mercifully for man and beast this gigantic nettle emits a powerful smell; and its large bright green leaves and red berries give warning to the eye. I have seen it ranging from ten to fifteen feet in height, but the specimen that I brushed against was a small bush; it stung my hand and bare arm, and made me feel very sick and giddy. For more than ten weeks afterwards did I feel the numbing sensation every time I washed my hands. Enough to say that if a horse is fairly stung he will die in madness.
Upon my return home, I discovered the foul plant, as a small specimen, at Kew; and Dr. Hooker, to give him his title at that period, informed me that they would have to fence in the specimen, as more than one person had fingered the pretty green leaf with dire results.
I had a keen little terrier that was my constant companion on these petty hunting excursions- black and tan; by name Chin Chin; she would hunt quail, and such small beasts as bandicoot and iguana, with all the zest of her race.
She did not retrieve, but would follow and point out a winged bird if it were possible. Though very obedient to her master, she was half wild in some of her habits, notably, when she had a family. The pups were brought forth in a hollow log in some scrub or other, upon one occasion half a mile from the camp, and I should never have found the “nest” if one of the boys had not tracked her up.
In all minor forms of sport Chin Chin was good all round. She would tree a goanna during the day, or “set” him in a hollow log; also locate a possum in the branches at night- very often when it as too dark to descry the little animal myself.
Scrub wallaby we would not take the trouble to hunt; but his fellow, that forms its seat in the tall blady grass like a hare in the old country, Chin Chin would put up, enabling me to get a quick shot as the two-legged beast bounded like lightning over all impediments. The hind quarters and tail of this marsupial I generally managed to carry back to camp. Whilst on the subject of those animals which carry their young in a pouch, I may mention that upon one occasion I caught a marsupial mouse, which I saw labouring along a low branch in the scrub, and found upon examination that she carried a full-grown young one in her pocket, which she never attempted to get rid of, and still retained after I gave her her liberty.
These were interesting “outings” taken on days and at hours whenever the duties pertaining to the force permitted.
It was during these wanderings that I made a fair collection of birds and small animals- male and female of each- some of which still remain to me; but my snake skins have long since been used up, for belts and other purposes.
I could absent myself from camp with a clear conscience, knowing that if I were suddenly required there any of the “boys” could run my tracks and quickly find me.
One evening a townsman from the little port entered the barracks, to tell me that he had “ridden hard to procure advice and help in destroying an enemy which was threatening the hearths and homes of himself and his neighbours.”
On urging him to speak plainly and simply, he did, for drawing himself up and focusing me in a dignified manner he uttered in a reverential tone, “It’s them blankety rabbits.”
Judging from the experience of other colonies, this was certainly a very deadly peril, and not a matter to be lightly discussed. So having produced a bottle of rum and lime juice- the most wholesome blend that we made in the Colony in those days- and filled our pipes, I was prepared to listen, he to recount.
It appeared that a Frenchman had just arrived in the afore-mentioned little port in a small schooner. He had some weeks before this purchased a block of land in the neighbourhood, and amongst his goods and chattels he carried with him a hutch full of rabbits. He had meant to keep this little fact to himself, but one of his hands had come ashore for a drink, and commenced to “blow” about the breed of the bunnies.
No sooner did the Frenchman become aware of the infuriated state of the townspeople, when this news of the plague ship had been sprung upon them, for the sailor had calmly inferred that his master’s intention was to breed rabbits on a large scale, than he cast off from the wharf and anchored his schooner out in the stream, where, revolver in hand, he harangued the irate mob, who had come down to the wharf in hopes of seizing the would-be marauders. He told them that he intended to breed rabbits on his own land in spite of anyone; that he had miles of rabbit-proof netting with him, that he cared nothing for their curses, and that he would shoot the first man that attempted to board his ship.
So there the matter stood, only the inhabitants determined to guard the shore night and day until their messenger returned from the barracks.
It was at once evident that had these rabbits been introduced, many would have escaped, overrun the whole district, eaten up every bit of cultivation, and fouled the country generally. But I knew that any one or two of the “boys” could do the trick, and, what is more, would love the job. This was a matter of repelling an enemy of the most deadly kind; and the country- for they would eventually invade every part- must be saved.
So I called the “boys” up, and explained the situation, telling them that the rabbits were in a box lashed to the upper deck, and that that box and its contents must go out to sea during the night; but strongly impressing upon them that whoever undertook the raid carried his life in his hands, for that he would inevitably be shot at if discovered.
The “boys” looked upon the whole thing as a great joke, and all wanted to go.
Two only were chosen, being the right number, as they themselves allowed. The messenger from the threatened township who had been kept out of earshot was now called in, one or two necessary documents were attended to, and he was dismissed with the promise that his besieged fellow citizens would be relieved if possible.
A couple of days after this interview, I was sauntering along the camp creek at dusk, when my little terrier began to bark violently, evidently hearing something in the nearest scrub. Hurriedly creeping behind the nearest cover, I saw two Myalls emerge on to the sandy plain which bordered this part of the river; they were in full war paint, the white lines on ribs, legs, and face, so depicted as to cause them to resemble skeletons.
They each carried a spear at least, and were evidently scouting by their cautious movements. I got out my revolver and prepared- to use the proper expression- “to sell my life dearly,” wondering at the same moment how many more of the tribe might not be surrounding me. Chin Chin, meantime, had crouched close to my side with all her bristles up, when to my astonishment she slowly drew up to the two figures as a setter does to birds.
I heard the word “Sinsin” uttered in a whisper, when the little bitch suddenly bounded with delighted barks on to the two skeletons. One caught her up in his arms, and with a guttural “Marmy,” they both came towards where I was lying hidden, for they had seen me long ago, but had not been sure of my identity until their little Sinsin had revealed herself to them.
As I wanted to hear the story of their adventure before we returned to the barracks, I had a fire made, as the evening was turning cold, and sat down to listen. I will discard the “pidgin” English which was our usual mode of communication, and relate their story in the vulgar tongue as follows:
“There was sometimes moonlight that night. We hid our clothes about one mile from the port, then painted ourselves and rubbed emu fat over our bodies. We climbed a tree when we got nearer, and saw the ship anchored in the stream; there was a light on the deck, and one man moving about, because sometimes he shut out the light.
“We sunk deep in the river, and all came up near the ship; and all was quiet, so we climbed up the anchor chain, watched till the man’s back was turned, then gently ran till, before he faced us, we hid. We each had a knife to cut the lashings. The light was near the rabbit box. We had nearly cleared the box, having cut all the ropes, when a rabbit got caught or something and squealed. The white man rushed up and seized C.., but could not hold him owing to the emu fat, and C.. threw him on the deck; he was knocked half silly, but scrambled up and rang a big bell which was hanging there, and yelled, ‘The black fellows! The black devils! Help!’ but we did not notice him, for he had no gun. We kicked out the light, and at last got the heavy box on to the side of the ship, and as we shoved it overboard the white men were rushing up and firing at us; but they could not see us as we were over the side and slipped into the river and dived. When we came up the tide had taken us forty yards from the ship. They now had a strong light and saw us, and every time they shot we dived at the flash; and then we heard a boat coming after us, so we drowned all the rabbits and let them row after the box, whilst we made a long dive right across the river, ran through the scrubs many miles till we got opposite the barracks, re-crossed the river again, and here we are.”
So the raid was well carried out without loss of life on either side except to the bunnies. Only trained “boys” could have executed it in such a neat manner, and they were well rewarded, whilst their fellow troopers and the jins were not forgotten, and all were sworn to secrecy.
The Frenchman inserted a strong letter in the local “rag” to say that he and his crew had been nearly murdered and quite robbed by a tribe of ghostly looking cannibals, concluding his violent letter by asking, “Where are the Police?” Presumably the townspeople had a shrewd guess that it would have made them appear as “New Chums” had they applied to the force; and so the matter ended.
I heard subsequently that the Frenchman settled down on his country lot and proved a very good man, for though he passed on any reference to rabbits with a shrug of the shoulders, yet he acclimatized every sort of useful shrub and fruit tree, fenced in with his rabbit proof wire, and in a few seasons produced a show which interested all those who came to see his botanical gardens, and they were many.
A Bobbery Pack- Wild Pigs- A Dingo Hunt- B.. rides a bullock- Squeejee’s Rough Paces- “Rarefied” at Last- B.. wins his Bet
During one of our patrols, whilst on the return journey and within some fifty miles of our camp, we spelled for a couple of day at the cattle station of a Mr. B.
He was a native of New South Wales and had overlanded cattle and horses into Queensland whilst yet that colony was a portion of his own. B, though of pure Scottish descent, combined all the useful characteristics of a black fellow’s strongest points- tracking and scouting- in fact, I almost invariably found that the native born colonists were nearly equal to the troopers for alertness and reading signs; men of untold value to act as the eyes of an army, and who would not allow themselves or their followers to be ambushed or entrapped.
At this period, however, B’s keen senses were only exercised in the tracking and recovery of strayed bullocks or horses. He possessed a wonderful pack of dogs of all sorts, from lordly looking kangaroo-hounds to mongrels of every size and colour, and with this bobbery pack he invited me to hunt wild pig.
I have frequently heard it stated that dingoes are the descendants of domestic dogs left by the great navigator Cook, and that he at the same time introduced the pigs which are found in many parts of North Queensland.
The country haunted by the porcine contingent consisted of some large rushy valleys ten miles from the station. For reasons of their own, the cattle avoided this portion of the run, and the pigs were left in undisturbed possession, excepting that about once a year, B was in the habit of making a raid upon them, to keep their numbers down.
The hunting of the porker proved a rather tame affair. Upon gaining the rushy valleys the pack soon drove a medium-sized boar from his lair in the long grass where he had betaken himself during the heat of the day.
This valley was dominated by an endless flat plain, but in spite of all our efforts nothing would induce the animal to face the open. Many times various members of our mongrel pack got hold of the quarry, only to be shaken off or trampled on, till at last from sheer rage and exhaustion he backed up against a rock, and with champing jaws and wicked little eyes faced his persecutors; but though they tried many times to rush him, not one hound could get a permanent grip, whilst more than one received an ugly gash. Such a fight was cruel for all engaged, and as the object was to thin out the pigs we shot him, and two more shortly afterwards; but none of the three had good tusks- presumably fresh blood was needed in the breed.
Whilst engaged in performing the final rites to the third pig, one of the pack, which had been feathering about the blady grass, suddenly opened, her companions immediately rushed up to her to share in the good news, and the whole lot tore up the bank and on to the plain in full cry- only the music consisted of every sort of note from cat calls to short deep barks.
“No,” said B, “a dingo, and no flies about it.”
I had had a lot of cattle hunting before joining the force, had done a little mild racing on roughly marked courses, and had ridden all sorts during my colonial experience in a Colony where one practically never walks- excepting, as often happened, a man would walk a mile to catch his horse for the purpose of riding two miles. In the old country I had three enjoyable seasons in Norfolk when that grand old specimen of an M.F.H.- the late Mr. Villebois- ruled the Marham country; but never till this dingo hunt did I know what it was to go and go free, that is, without encountering such obstacles as timber and paddy melon holes. A horseman of the prairies would appreciate my meaning. Let any one picture the scene- a boundless plain with here and there slight undulations; ground firm and covered with short grass; a hot sun, yet tempered by a soft and at the same time exhilarating breeze; mounted on fast stock horses, old in the sense that the riders could teach them nothing; the coolness and freedom of one’s apparel. Consisting of cabbage tree hat, Crimean shirt, moleskin breeches, and thin knee boots; and a belt with pouches to hold them all together.
The pack had got a fair start before we could get out of the gully, and here B beat me by a good two hundred yards, for he put his horse at a place where I had already passed, judging it to be impracticable; this was where the elevated plateau was gained by an almost perpendicular ascent of clay and stones. It was stupendous, but B simply threw himself forward on his horse’s neck, clutched the mane, and the active beast, who was as anxious to join the pack as his master, simply kneeled his way up, and when near the top with one or two terrific plunges threw himself off to the level ground. I pulled up to witness this feat, and certainly have never seen anything like it before or since. The first thing that caught my eye, when in a more sober way I had also gained the flat, was B going like the wind, rein hanging over his arm whilst he was calmly engaged cutting up a pipe of tobacco.
Our bobbery pack had gained a long start. In the far distance I viewed them topping a ridge; when I reached this they had disappeared over the next, and so had B.
How the animal I bestrode swept on- like a whirlwind, frightened quail rose from under his feet, only to drop at once on one side or the other as if from fear of being overtaken. For a few yards or more we fairly raced a plain turkey, which, however, at length rose in the air, after its first unwieldy flappings, a few feet above the ground. But the pace after an hour of this sort of work began to tell. The horse pricked his ears, and there in the distance was B, standing upright on his saddle and viewing the ground. I had scarcely reached him when he cried, as he dropped like an acrobat into his eat. “There they are, the two dogs, going a ‘docker’ under the scrub away to the right,’ and then I saw that the swifter kangaroo hounds had left the mongrel pack behind and were gaining on the dingo, which was striving to make his point the scrub. Again we followed, and at length had the mortification to see the two hounds throw up outside the scrub; but what was this, blowing and puffing and disappearing into the tangled bush, without taking notice of anything but the spoor of the dingo- the little bitch which had first found the quarry. Then after a few minutes’ interval we heard the sounds of scuffling and fighting. The remainder of the pack rushed in, so we threw the reins over the horses’ heads, and followed on foot as best we could.
No cattle had been through this jungle, and we had to cut and fight our way to where we heard the uproar of yells and baying. At length we gained the scene of strife, found the dingo apparently dead, and the plucky little bitch severely bitten. Yet after the wild dog had been mauled by the whole pack, one of its eyes blinked when I reckoned it ten minutes dead; and so B killed it outright- as they have frequently been known to recover after receiving fearful wounds. B knew of a waterhole nearby, and men, horses and hounds took a well-earned rest under the shade of the ti-trees which surrounded it.
B, unlike some others that I met with in my wanderings, was totally exempt from colonial “blow.” He was a silent man at the best of times, and one might be for months in his company and never hear from his own lips any references to his prowess as a horseman. Though I had heard many rumours of his various feats in the saddle, it was only upon our return to the station that these were confirmed.
We found some young colonials assembled there for the purpose of mustering, and during B’s temporary absence one evening, the talk grew fast and furious as to what he could and could not do. At last one of his chief backers roared out:
“My word, I’ll bet you he can ride a bullock that’s never been handled.”
“Have you ever seen him do it?” cried one of the audience.
“Then I’ll take you he can’t ride it to a finish.”
“Done with you,” said the first man, and the bet was registered. B appeared on the verandah shortly afterwards, and was immediately surrounded by a noisy crowd, all shouting at once, and detailing the nature of the decision which had been arrived at. Pushing them aside he sat down in one of the “squatter” chairs and lit his pipe, and presently remarked:
“Well, it’s pretty good cheek your putting me up to ride a beast before asking me.”
There was silence, and he continued:
“If I do say I’ll have a try who’s going to choose the bullock?”
“What do you say to the Squeejee heifer?” remarked one of the crowd, evading the question.
“The crankiest beast in the mob,” laughed B, “All right, I’m game, run them in to the yard tomorrow, and don’t let’s have any more jaw over it.”
It was explained to me that this animal with the queer name had met with an accident to one of her eyes in the days of her youth, which had distorted her vision and caused her on occasions such paroxysms of rage that she charged every person and beast whenever she was taken with the fit.
When the mob was yarded up the following morning, I found no difficulty in discovering Squeejee, the vixen was horning every beast that approached her; a fiend amongst her otherwise quiet companions.
B soon appeared with his friends, and looked all over the man to do the job, a picture of muscular activity, even amongst his mates, who were all clean limbed youngsters, and almost his equals in horsemanship. “Mount as I please,” he had bargained for, and we saw him climb like an acrobat on to the cross beam over the gate which formed the egress to the yard. Then he sang out, “Let ‘em rip.” What an eye the man had- for as the heifer came rushing, plunging, and bellowing, with head down, in the midst of the throng of cattle all furiously fighting for the paddock, B calmly dropped on to her back as into a saddle, and there remained seated, in spite of tremendous jams to his legs from various beats in the narrow space, for these were terrified beyond measure by the decent of a man apparently from the clouds.
As for Squeejee, for the first twenty yards she simply lost whatever reason she possessed, then realising that the thing was actually on her back, with a series of terrific forward leaps and bounds, and yelling madly, she dashed for a clump of trees, totally ignoring the direction her companions had taken. This move, as we learnt later, B had foreseen, having “looked at his fences,” as he expressed it, in the early morning. First she dashed against the bole of a great gum tree with the object of smashing her rider’s right leg; the only result was that she nearly drove her own off ribs in, as B coolly threw his limb across the animal’s withers. A black fellow, who had come out to see the show with the other station hands, happened to be running close behind with joy, and shouting most profane words in encouraging tones to B. It evidently occurred to Squeejee all of a sudden that this ribald dark-skin had something to do with the load on her back, and wheeling around as on a pivot she charged full at him. Many another man would have gone down gored; not so our ebony friend, he was round and up a tree like a black squirrel, and the heifer only succeeded in carrying away a large lump of turf on her horns. Baffled of her prey, who was now jabbering at her in deriding tones from the topmost branches, a bright thought struck her. What evidently occurred to her bovine mind was that she would rub off the man on her back just as she got rid of flies in the scrub, for she rushed straight under some low-lying branches. B flattened himself out in plenty of time, and was nearly September off; but we saw him emerge safely clinging to the beast’s neck and rump with hand and heel, then a quick turn, and he was into his seat again and waving a stout switch which he had somehow annexed. Squeejee now pulled up. With downcast head, and blowing jets of foam from her nostrils, she ruefully contemplated the situation.
While she was thus played out, B gently urged her on, and guided her with his switch towards the yard again, into which she at length quietly walked, after a few feeble attempts to diverge from the proper course. B then jumped off, and the poor brute was so relieved that she threw herself down on the dusty ground and took no further interest in the proceedings. She was “Rarefied” with a vengeance, for B, who had sent for a tub of water and a feed for his late mount, approached her quietly on the side of her sound optic and stroked her head, and she only blew a gentle sigh of satisfaction. He let the slip rails down, and next morning we found her all gay with the rest of the mob.
So B’s backer won his bet.
I heard that others tried to accomplish the same feat at a subsequent period, but none succeeded, excepting a black boy, and he only indifferently. The slippery shiny coat of a bullock causes the greatest difficulty in sitting tight. B got around this by previously wringing out his breeches in a bucket of water; yet such was the seat of the man upon anything with four legs that my impression was that he could have dispensed with this “water cure.”
“Piled up” in the Fitzroy- Slim Jim- A “Bogie” and a “Bange”- A Nasty Position- Jim speaks Firmly- The “Battle of the Bogie”- Jim knocks out the Greaser- My Friend the P.M.- Black fellow Hung- Chin Chin’s Narrow Escape
Soon after my return to barracks, I received a message requesting my presence at headquarters on matters connected with the force; so having placed a suitable individual in charge at Guyanda Creek I proceeded to the coast and caught a steamer bound for Rockhampton.
On this trip a couple of incidents occurred which both affected me indirectly.
We were no sooner clear of the land and in a tumbling sea than en emigrant, who happened to bear the same name as myself, fell overboard from the fore part of the ship, was carried like a streak under the paddles, and never seen again; boats were lowered, and everything possible was done, but all we found was his hat.
That was incident number one. Now for the other- which concerned me more nearly.
There were no ladies on board, and only two or three men in the saloon. One of these proved a real “white man,” and I shared a cabin with him. I will call him “Slim Jim,” and if it had not been for his alacrity and presence of mind, a few hours later my colonial experience might have come to an end.
The fact was we piled up on a sandbank near the mouth of the Fitzroy, the tide at the time rushing furiously up the estuary, and as the captain mentioned casually that there we should remain for some hours, a small detachment from the steerage and cabin determined to swim out to a dry spit of sand visible some hundred yards away. Slim Jim said he felt lazy and would read and smoke until we returned. I left my clothes in the paddle box, descended by the floats, and reached the bank with the others.
The day was hot, and we disported ourselves in the shallows, collecting shells and flotsam, and trying to bail up mullet in the creeks.
Then a roll in the hot sand and a smoke, for of course we had brought the wherewithal for this purpose on our heads, and lastly a “bange,” and what better word is there than this colonial one to express a stretch out, or, as sailors term it, “a stretch of the land.”
Eventually I happened to stray some distance from the others, and paddling through shallows and holes scooped out by the tides gained at length the solid north bank of the river, where some arum-like lilies caught my eye.
Upon my return I found that the waters had increased, also that my mates had swum off again on their return trip. Their tracks showed that they had very properly gone a long way up the stream before taking the water. I did the same, as I thought, but not enough, as the event proved, to catch the floats. As I found myself drifting past them, I called for a rope, but the only answer I got was from a big red-faced greaser, who levelled a torrent of oaths, coupled with the most filthy language conceivable at me, finally yelling out that he’d see me damned etc etc. Here was a nice reception, and from a man I had never even spoken to, but there was not much time to “argufy,” as I clean missed the floats, then scraped along the smooth slippery part of the hull, only to find my legs sucked downwards. At length, getting a grip with my fingers and nails into a chink of the plates, I coo’eed as loud as I could with the breath left in me. At the same moment, to my great relief, appeared Jim, who merely said, “Keep cool,” then dropped me a rope, which I caught as it drifted past, and hung on to for all I was worth. Two or three men hauled me on board, and then threw a rug over me, as I had left my clothes in the paddle box. Jim gave me a nip and a smoke, and stated that he had seen a man “volleying about” over the side, and thought that he was slanging someone who might have come off in a boat, but that when he got up from his deck chair to look he grasped the situation; like lightning seized the first coil of rope and got it over to me just in time, as I have stated. Jim was a most unassuming man of gentle manners and possessing a calm, soft voice. “You were a foolish lot,” he continued, “to try that ‘bogie’ here, as the place is full of sharks; however, it’s all right now, and I shall take it upon myself to speak firmly to this engineer, and admonish him.” And he did!
Before doing so he brought me my clothes, which I put on leisurely, being for the moment rather played out. Then he found out the name of the ruffian, and sent for him.
The man came quickly, head in the air, smoking his pipe, and in a bullying, bantering tone said:
“Did you sen for me, young man?”
“I did,” quoth Jim, in his calm tones, “I would not keep you a day longer if you were in my service, and I shall report you after witnessing your cowardly and offensive conduct just now.”
“I’d be very sorry to live with the likes of you,” retorted the bully, who up to this seemed to think that he was going to get off with a sermon.
“Well, it’s very certain you would not live long” continued Jim, who then concluded his discourse in an unexpected way, though in the same even tones. “You are one of those cowardly cruel brutes who are the curse of this Colony.”
“Oh, is that yer talk?” spat out the greaser.
“Not all; I would further remark very gently that you are a stinking son of a sea cook, and possess no more heart than a cucumber. Ah! You look as though you were going to strike me. Pray remove that pipe before it’s driven down your throat.”
Before this sentence was concluded, the engineer, who at first was evidently puzzled by the little man’s tone and language, literally tore off his coat, and, with a furious torrent of vile abuse, made a blow at Jim, which would pretty well have settled him had it got home; but he merely threw his head on one side, and with a smile remarked:
“I’m so glad you have put your pipe down.”
At this moment I saw the skipper’s bronzed face peering from the bridge, a delighted expression spreading all over his features. Foiled in his first attempt, the next blow of the greaser, from sheer strength, broke through his opponent’s guard, doing no more damage, however, than raising a flush on Jim’s face as he stepped back. The latter at present acted on the defensive, evidently to wear his huge antagonist out; but at length after feinting a bit, his set smile died away as he saw his opportunity, and with a quick rush he put in his left with such a crashing blow on the bearded chin that the big man spun round and came down with hands on the deck.
However, he was not knocked out yet, for after an interval, during which his opponent calmly waited and watched, he shook himself together, and then made several furious rushes at his small antagonist, who avoided them by hopping about like a dancing master; this so enraged the other that he lost all control over himself, and livid with rage rushed at his adversary like a bull at a gate. Jim thus had an easy task, for with a smart upper cut he sent the engineer to the regions below.
The fact was that neither combatants nor spectators had noticed what was now very evident, that the men had fought right up to the fore hatch, and the engineer’s foot slipping on a plate, he secured a knock out, and knock downstairs for himself, at the same moment. Jim was quickly down after him, helped to carry him up on deck, placed him in the shade, put ice on his head, tended him like a brother, and nursed him till he came to. He explained to the crowd that he did not do it on purpose- a fact which was obvious to us. Marvelous to relate no bones were broken, but the shock nearly finished the beaten bully, and he had to be invalided ashore. Jim was much upset, which the skipper remarking said:
“Sir, if it’s any consolation you’ve licked the biggest bully in the A.S.N. fleet.”
“But why did he want to pitch into my mate when he was defenceless?” asked Jim.
“Simply because he was in the water and powerless,” returned the captain. “When the others came aboard from the bank he never said a word to them.”
There was one peculiarity about Slim Jim which I have never noticed in any other man. He would use most shocking language; yet delivered in an even flow of gentle and calm accents, in ordinary conversational tones, whilst never raising his voice, in fine, this soothing lullaby would have sent an infant to sleep. Not that he ever played to the gallery, this gentle swearing was meant for his own ear alone; as he said when questioned:
“It is neither loud nor vulgar, and it acts as a mighty mental relief to my feelings, when those feelings are upset by annoying circumstances.”
I noticed that his face always wore a most benevolent expression whilst thus communicating with himself.
I have given the light weight a suitable alias,; but he was my good friend for many years after the “Battle of the Bogie,” and I trust that he is going strong still.
Before I quitted Rockhampton on my return journey I went to see the P.M.- a grand old man and friend of former days.
I found him just finishing his breakfast when I reached his house, and preparing to go out, as he said he had a little job on hand at the jail, and further begged me to accompany him. The little job I soon learnt was the hanging of a black fellow who had assaulted a white woman very grievously, and had then placed her whilst senseless on the line before an approaching train. My little terrier, who usually accompanied me everywhere had a narrow escape from a ghastly death at the execution.
When we came to the jail yard we found the whole of the prisoners assembled and surrounded by the warders; having been turned out of their cells to witness the ceremony.
The parson then walked to the foot of the gallows reading the prayers and closely followed by the prisoner, who soon ascended to the drop; and it seemed pitiful to see him scanning his native mountains, scrubs and plains with wild sweeps before the cap closed his view for ever.
And now I noticed for the first time that Chin had taken her seat directly under him, in the middle of the very flap through which the body would descend. I coaxed her, threatened her, but all to no purpose. There she sat as though glued to the spot. It was uncanny; why was this the only occasion on which she disobeyed me? It was only when the rattle of the fall was heard above her did she seem to realise the situation, as with a piercing yell she sprang away, and so escaped by a bare few inches.
Upon my return to the home port I noticed that my friends seemed unusually pleased to see me, and upon asking the reason for this friendly demonstration they showed me a telegram from Rockhampton, “Kennedy fell overboard under paddles on up trip; was never seen again,”
Monsieur Taxy- His Spicy Appearance and Full flavoured Songs- Botanist and Skin Collector- The Frenchman in Love- Peculiar Notions- An Amorous Quest – The Lost Foreigner- The Dusky Beauty- Adieu to Taxy
When I reached the barracks I was told by the “boys” that a young Frenchman had been to see me, that he was coming back again soon, and that at the present moment he was eating scrub. His name was Taxy, they averred. Subsequently I was enabled to understand these conundrums for my visitor proved to be a collector of curios and objects of natural history, and he had been seen tasting the bark of a creeper, presumably thinking it was cinchona, by a “boy” who had followed him.
Neither he nor the troopers understood one another, and when he informed them that he was a taxidermist they concluded that this was his name, but could only remember the first portion of the word. He shortly appeared with his hands full of ferns and other green stuff from the scrubs. He was dressed in spotless white, and wore a straw hat set jauntily on his head, topped with a veil which encircled the brim, and patent leather boots. He would have shone in Queen Street, Brisbane, but it was hardly the rig for perambulating the scrubs in. He spoke English very well, and in fact larded it freely with “My word,” “My colonial,” and such innocent oaths, which are peculiar to Australia. He laughed at my remarking that “Taxy” was a strange name, but said it would do as well as any other as he was travelling on a secret service mission for a French museum, which he would tell me more about another day. He proved a pleasant and most amusing guest in the description of some of his experiences since he set foot in Australia. He also sang, with good effect and gesture, some very lively songs of a French music hall nature before turning into his bunk for the night. The last thing he said before going to sleep was “I shall take a bogie in the creek tomorrow.” And when the morning came to my surprise he did; and furthermore, suggested after breakfast that he would like to accompany us during our next patrol so that he could collect his specimens under the shelter of the “boys.”
So he came with us during our next rounds, attired in a more suitable costume, and mounted on a very quiet horse, as he said that he was not much accustomed to bush riding.
We had been out some few days, Taxy evidently enjoying himself very much, as evidenced by his highly spiced French ditties, which were often repeated far into the night; and as he shared my tent, I begged him to crowd them all into the day’s march and leave the night for sleeping. He owned that there was reason in the request, and intimated that he should give his horse many songs when on the road, as he had found that it appreciated music, and walked faster when he sang. But one day, on approaching a station, our gay friend suddenly stopped in the middle of one of his favourite verses, pulled up his horse, and looked grave. Upon my remarking that we had good quarters before us and an abundance of fruit, he said, “That may be; I have been to this place before, and they were not very civil to me; with your permission I will remain here till you have finished your business.” I made no further remark, but had the tent pitched for him, and saw that he was supplied with rations, as I intended to camp with the “boys” in the quarters of the old squatter who owned the station.
It was late in the evening whilst smoking on the verandah with the owner of the place that I remembered my botanical acquaintance, and mentioned the fact of his having camped about a mile from the house.
“What is your foreign friend like?” asked my host. I described him as he appeared to me.
“A very spruce well-dressed young man- clean shaven, barring a beautiful moustache, dark eyes, might have stepped out of a Parisian bandbox.”
The old squatter on hearing this broke into a laugh.
“Why, that’s the botany skin hunter,” he said. “I wonder that one of your ‘boys’ isn’t missing by this. He camped here one day, and with many polite bows told me he had heard that we had some excellent stockwhips made of nègre hide which he would like to buy for his museum. On my telling him that he had been misinformed he said, ‘Oh, no, pardon me, some real squatter gentlemen who were travelling first class on a steamer told me that all squatters as soon as they had built a house ran in a few nègres for their skins, and that you had a specially good assortment.’ ‘Anything else?’ I remarked. But he did not take this question in the tone I meant it, for dropping his voice to a whisper and gazing at me with a most pathetic expression in his dark eyes, he continued, ‘Yes, shoot me a black fellow and I will give you twenty sovereigns for the head and entire skin. My word! This trophy will make me famous all over my beautiful France.’ I can see him now, blinking his eyes with delighted anticipation. What did I say? Why, nothing for the moment, for after this appalling request I had to think of the best means of getting rid of him. He wasn’t armed, else I should have feared for one of my station blacks. So muttering something about absenting myself to clean my rifle, and at the same time telling him of an adjacent scrub which was full of ferns and orchids, and bidding him seek them, I wert away and thought out a plan to get rid of this over-zealous young collector.
“Finding he had taken his departure to hunt for weeds in the scrub, I looked up my man Jimmy, and after a certain conversation with him, bid him take the Frenchman’s swag and manavlins, and seek the owner, who was fossicking amongst the trees and ferns. In about a couple of hours my man came back and described his meeting with the blood-thirstily inclined collector in somewhat the following fashion:
“I advanced upon him in the scrub, and he was picking roots up a tray. ‘Whisht!’ says I, ‘whishper, he’s clanin’ an’ loadin’ his gun. Come wid me quick, I’ll carry yer shwag and show yer the way; he can’t foller ye.’ Then the gintleman up the tray he say, ‘Craynordetechien.’ ‘Who’s that?’ says I. ‘Never mind yer fool,’ says he, ‘you must learn the beautiful French; go away, I find a perfect white specimen of a cat and layer up here, and I shall preserve it.” “That’s jist what the mashter says- says he- ‘The Frenchman is a beautiful white specimen, and whin I’ve preserved his shkin it will make many fine shtock-whips,’ and whin he was loading in the bullets he says, ‘Jimmy, would I lose the chance of such a lovely specimen thrown in my way?’ ‘Niver,’ says I ‘An’ you shall shkin him,’ says he. ‘You’ll do it tonight.’ With that I sharpens me knife, but then I thinks I’ll give the por buy a chance, p’r’aps he’s got a mother, so I gets yer things and comes off hot foot; an’ I must tell yer he always shoots in the head.”
“Well the gintleman drops down the tree looking very white, “Nordedew,” says he, “is this true?” and I answers in his own language, “It is true nordedew.”
“With that he drops his weeds, and I pretending to hear someone coming, he bolts off like a bandicoot, an’ meself after him. He ran, and I ran, an’ I put him on the road for the ten mile scrub wid his luggage. An’ thin I shouts after him, “What’s yer name?” “Ameal,” says he, pulling up. “We’ll you’ll find a meal and plenty more in yer sway, don’t eat now, but run,” says I; an’ he did, an’ I came home.’
“There’s no doubt,” concluded the old squatter, “that this poor Frenchman believed all that was told him by those infernal chaps on the boat, and was acting in a bonâ fide way; but I was glad to get rid of him, I can tell you, and that’s the way Jimmy managed it. So he’s turned up with you?”
“Yes,” I said, “and we had better go and see what he’s up to.” When we arrived at the tent, we found it empty, and one of the ‘boys,’ on peering in, said that the Frenchman had not slept there; then he began to say that he found the trail on the bush track near by, following the tracks of a jin, and that both Frenchman and jin had passed some hours ago.”
“Here’s a pretty how-d’y-do,” cried the old squatter in his wrath when he heard this. “Monsieur’s still leather hunting! He’s the dead finish! You’d better round him up; I’m off home.”
Now Taxy had informed me more than once during our recent acquaintance that one object which he had in his mind in coming to the Colony was the hope that he might effect a union with an aboriginal, for that there would be a double advantage. She would not only with her sharp eyes assist him in collecting, but she must also accompany him to France. “But first and foremost,” he exclaimed, with many fervent gesticulations, “she must be beautiful and of the pure blood, she must also have the splendid figure; thus on arriving in my country I shall introduce her at every exhibition as a daughter of the wild cannibals of Australia.”
“So I shall make a noble pile of francs, and qui sait? At length the rigour of the climate may not at last suit her- then will the museum make an enormous offer for her. After all, is it not glory to die for la belle France!!!”
At the time I dismissed the matter as frivolous talk, but now the whole story occurred to me, and when we saw that the amorous Frenchman had left all his plants and other things behind him, thus proving that he was in earnest, it struck us that we had better catch him up before he was knocked on the head.
Now the Australian jin has a very pretty little foot, the tiny impression on the dusty track had caught the eye of the excitable Frenchman, and it was obvious by certain marks that he had literally run after her. Our object was to follow quickly before he got into trouble with the woman’s tribe- a friendly mob known to be in the neighbourhood- who, however, like all blacks, object to their women being interfered with.
For some miles, the dusky beauty of Taxy’s wild imagination had kept to the main track, her would be lover closely following the easily read signs. She had then suddenly turned off at a tangent towards a neighbouring range of low lying hills, whilst Taxy had still kept to the bush road, for being no bushman he had taken it for granted that she had gone straight ahead. So at this point we pulled up, the “boys” explaining that the jin had evidently gone to her camp, a tiny column of smoke indicating this in the distance, and that they could recognise her at any time, as one of her toes was missing from the left foot. Not specially wishing to make her acquaintance, we followed her ardent pursuer, and a long hunt it was. We soon found that he too had left the road and followed a cattle track, which we eventually ran to a very small station, and found this was occupied by a humorous Irishman, who informed us that many hours before a wild and hot-looking foreigner had rushed in and asked if he was harbouring a beautiful black woman with lovely feet. But Pat told us that he did not like the looks of the man at all, for that he had inspired terror in his house-keeper, and caused a new chum, or Jackeroo, whom he was instructing in station life, to arm himself.
So he gave Taxy a drink, and sent him off on a false trail. We found our friend at length lying exhausted under a large ti-tree, near to which was a dried up waterhole. His clothes were torn, his boots burst open, and his unshaved and wild appearance gave us the impression that we had found a foreign “sundowner” of the most evil type, instead of the neat Parisian with whom we were acquainted; yet he had lost nothing of his pleasant manners, for on perceiving us, he struggled gamely to his feet, with a profound bow took off his battered old hat, as only a Frenchman can, and first apologizing in the most gallant manner for having given us so much trouble, he next threw up his hands with a gesture of despair, crying, “I have lost the petite one of the beautiful foot, and think an Irishman I saw has stolen her from me. Hélas!- but I am French! And I find her or die!”
First refreshing the wearied aspirant with a good nobbler of 30 O.P. Queensland rum, and giving him something to eat, we informed him that we knew where the girl was; upon which he started up, begging us to take him to her side at once.
This was unadvisable, but as he insisted that he would continue the search even if he had to go alone, we compromised matters by promising to bring the unknown one to him. With much joy he thereupon climbed on to a spare horse, and we proceeded, and having arrived within sight of the camp fire already referred to, I despatched a “boy” to interview the jin and bring her to us on the track, under the promise that she would not be detained, but be sent at once back to her friends with a small present for herself and them. Meanwhile, we turned out the horses and made tea. Taxy could hardly contain himself during the hours we waited. Having borrowed a clean shirt, and generally cleaned and brushed himself up- with the aid of a pocket mirror, which every trooper seemed to carry- he spent the rest of the time in nervously walking up and down, stopping ever and anon to gaze into his looking-glass and see whether his moustache assumed the correct savage twist, and all this with an air of one who has an important assignation with an unknown beauty.
Presently the mounted man was made out in the far distance, and bringing binoculars to bear, I discovered what appeared to be a bundle of rags seated behind the horseman. When the “boy” gained our camp, he gave this bundle a violent shove, which sent it spinning and rolling off the horse on to the ground. Whilst we were still wondering what next was going to happen, a figure suddenly sprang out of an old possum cloak and shrieked yells and curses at the “boy” who had thus unceremoniously dismounted it. All the “boys” were in fits of laughter, but one of them picked up her pipe, and filling it with tobacco somewhat appeased her inured feelings. As she had cast off her only garment we now saw that she was a hideous amend skinny old jin. Being told by a trooper to approach Taxy, she now advanced upon him, whereupon he retreated behind a horse, holding out his hands to keep her off. However, she was quicker than he was, and rushing up she seized him with one hand, whilst with the other she drew another clay pipe out of her grey locks, where it was hidden, and with much whining and waving of her skinny arm informed him that he was to give her “plenty baccy.”
The Frenchman was furious, and with much gesture commenced to upbraid the crowd generally in a mixture of English and French.
“Why make me ids dam joke?” he cried, “but ah, perhaps dis is de grandmère, if so, bring me de granddaughter.” In vain we told him that this was the identical jin he had been tracking; nothing would convince him until we drew his attention to her left foot with the missing toe, then proceeding on the track we made her place her foot in the old spoor. Not until he had seen several of these prints was he convinced that he had made a fool of himself, then he told the old scarecrow to be off; however, she absolutely declined to move until he had collected plug tobacco for her. Having secured this, she gathered up her cloak, lit her pipe, and then turned round with “give mine tixpence.”
Taxy threw her some “tokens” which did duty for pennies in those days, wit a savage grunt of dismissal, and the old hag hobbled off, only turning round when she had gained a little distance to give a parting bit of her mind to the “boys” who responded with what was evidently an outburst of malicious chaff, judging by the way it was received from the departing child of nature, who by way of answer made hideous grimaces accompanied by yells and movements expressive of derisive contempt.
So we rode back to head quarters, with Taxy bringing up the rear- no longer the gay songster, but wearing a dejected and sorrowful mien, which, indeed, seemed imparted to the animal he bestrode. However, by the time that the next coasting boat called in he had fully regained his lost spirits, and vowed that he would seek a quite unexplored part of the country, whilst for the future he intimated that he should believe half what he heard and but little that he saw.
I was sorry to lose the company of this gay Frenchman, for he was distinctly “good company,” specially during the long evenings, with his varied songs and boulevard anecdotes; but at the same time felt that a sense of relief when he was gone, as his researches, whether in an amatory or “collecting” form, partook of such a bold and aspiring nature that he must eventually have got himself and others into great trouble.
Thirsty Pat- “Man Bushed”- The Search- Short of Water- Tracking Rewarded- “Blank’s” Sandy Bed- Himself Again- Pat’s would-be Treatment
Some weeks after my French acquaintance had taken his departure, I was reminded of him again by a fresh visitor. I had been out with one of the jins to try and track a lost sheep, for very precious were our muttons to us, when a trooper galloped up to say that “a white fellow with cabon yabber,” whom I had met before, wanted to see me at once. So I got quickly home, and then recognised in the new comer the same Irishman who, as Taxy vowed, had spirited away the dark beauty he was seeking. However, he was in no mood for referring to our previous meeting. I found him violently hacking up a piece of plug tobacco; an example likewise followed by myself, as little can be done in the bush without a smoke first to clear the brains.
But my new acquaintance was not long in coming to the point, for after a few mighty draws of his “Barret’s twist” he said:
“I want yer to lend me a couple of yer ‘buys’ for…”
“Impossible,” I broke in.
“Whait a while, hark, me buy, til ye hear me spake,” he interrupted with much energy, “it’s a long and thusty road I’ve come.” This hint produced a bottle of “three star,” and when the old squatter had comforted himself he got up and rolled out such a history, embellished as it was with such a pile of expletives, that I grew interested.
“As I was saying,” he commenced- he had not said it at all, “ the blatherin’ idiot’s gone and last himself, and him only jist out from his sainted mother from Country Cark, and she paying me- well- a fair sum for his kape and larnin’ me trade, which is bullock punchin’.” A lot more he gave me to the same effect, and then – probably judging by my silence that I did not intend to bestir myself- concluded with greater volubility than ever, and with much pantomime:
“Be arl the saints in glary the man’s murder will be on yer sowl, and I shall lose me bit of pay if yer don’t find the blankety Jackeroo alive an’ kickin’.”
Now I had had to think a bit, because, determined as I was that the lost man should be found if possible, my strict and written orders were that I should on no account ever absent myself from the “boys.” Even my Irish friend allowed that I could not be in two places at once; but I eased his mind by telling him that any consequences should be risked, and he should have the help he needed, only that he must put the affair shortly in writing, and sign his name to it. I wish I could have kept the document he afterwards handed to me. It was supreme; but though I have official papers connected with my time in the Native Mounted Police, that special gem I have lost.
So I took a couple of “boys” and left the others in charge of the barracks with strict orders as to their conduct, and a promise of gaudy Crimean shirts if all went well during my absence.
This was the first occasion in which I had been personally engaged in the quest for a lost man, though, like most dwellers in Australia, I had heard many thrilling stories of such events- detailed to me over the camp fire- and felt glad that the native police had a chance of distinguishing themselves; for in certain previous cases of a similar nature the lost one had been searched for by incompetent white or black men, for it is not every aboriginal who can track- those who have been “wood and water Joey” on a station and know well the taste of strong drinks lose much of their fine bush senses.
I had with me two of the steadiest “boys,” and the best trackers of our small force. This fact practically freed me of all responsibility, no commands nor directions were required. They might go as they pleased and be left entirely to their own marvellous judgment of signs; or their instinct, rather, as was the case here, than to their knowledge of the country.
It proved a long ride and a thirsty one, as our friend had once remarked; but he was cheery, and in high spirits, and with his quaint remarks caused much merriment on the road. Not a drink did we get until we arrived- at the station I was going to say.
In reality the squatter’s abode consisted of a moderate-sized bark humpy, with a tiny shed near by which did duty as a kitchen. As we approached he stood up in his stirrups, and, pointing to his shed with a deprecating wave of the hand, said it was only “preliminary, some day we should see an irictiion…”; but a suggestion of water cut short his rhapsodies, and jumping off his horse and shouting cheerily, “Wid a drap in it and wilcome,” he passed us in on to the earthen floor of his domain.
Darkness was now setting in, and the “boys” suggested they should camp outside, and that we should take up the trail at daylight.
Our host did his “big best” and made every one comfortable, enlivening the time by abusing his red-haired Irish “slavey” the only occupant of the place as far as I could see- for not having all sorts of luxuries and drinks ready. However, if the said delicacies had been present we did not want them, for of good beef and bread there was plenty, and a bottle of rum. I very soon turned into a comfortable bunk of sacking, and was being pleasantly lulled to sleep by a gentle corroboree, which proceeded from the “boys” at their camp fire; then the squatter broke out into a cheery song, which he rendered with much power and feeling. I only remember the following lines in it:
“An’ he built him an iligant pigstye,
That made all the Munster boys stare,
An’ he builded likewise many castles,
But alas! They were all in the air.”
These lines were most typical of the singer, and though I heard the song again some years afterwards, I have never been able to get the whole of the words, to my regret.
By daylight next day the “boys” had brought up the horse of the missing man, and having taken a good look at his shoes, turned him loose again. The old squatter said that he would stay about the place whilst we were away, for that he had much valuable property to see after, also that he would beguile the extra time with song and reading, and the making of stockwhips, at which latter work he was certainly an adept, as I had ample evidence to prove. Upon my gently hinting that he might have been connected with leather work at home, he answered as he cocked his chest, “I was mashter of arl trades in the ould country.” When we were all ready for a start, he held up his hands and his brows contracted. “Whait a while, me bhuoys, I must pack ye saft bread and whine, and butter, and milk, and brandy, and shticking plaster and painkiller for the pore defunct.”
I verily believe that the good-hearted Irishman really thought that he was in the position of a universal provider; but I remember that he was evidently relieved when I only asked for a small flask of spirits and a large bottle of milk. Then we rode away, after having the direction pointed out, at which the riderless horse was found grazing. This spot proved to be some five miles distant, and the “boys” upon reaching it, picked up the back tracks of the animal. Holding to this, though other shod horses had crossed the trail, we found that it had come at a gallop from a belt of forest which was visible on the far side of a great plain. The “boys” galloped along the tracks, steadied down after entering the gum trees, and then proceeded cautiously, having to make a small cast now and then, so faint were the signs, even to them, on the hard ground under the timber. Not a word was uttered by them whilst puzzling out the hoof marks, but I was conscious of a subdued excitement, as I watched their action.
At length, after many tortuous windings, during which the homeward bound horse had walked, we came to where he had galloped out of a clearing in the forest. This had been caused, in days gone by, by a cyclone or whirlwind wrecking some of the great trees. At this spot the two troopers pointed out something to each other, and then got off their horses. I did likewise, feeling that some special discovery had been made.One “boy” held the three horses; the other walked on and pointed out to me, evidently considering that I ought to understand his hieroglyphics, that here the white man was thrown, there he had picked himself up and run after the horse, when failing to catch it, he had sat down on that log and smoked; and sure enough what I did see was a half-burnt wax match at the spot indicated. As we looked back from this point, I noticed that the forest was very dark and thick, and it was doubtless owing to this fact that the dismounted rider had not been able to see which way the horse had taken; for after a few irresolute turnings he had proceeded in quite a contrary direction. This, it may be mentioned, was the first fatal step which led to his undoing. And now the “boys” followed his tracks on foot, leading their horses. This course was inevitable, but seemed to me terribly slow work, considering that every moment was precious.
On for many weary miles we went, till at length the trackers said we should not get him that night, but that as he was walking strong he would most likely pull through if he found water- so far we had seen no signs of this. Seeing that the trail bore rather to the right of our position, I ventured to ask whether it would not lead eventually to the running stream, which I have mentioned.
“Bel,” they answered with a pitying smile, as they pointed out a line of mountains in quite another part of the country, which they averred dominated that sparkling brook; and then, as if interpreting my own thoughts, informed me that we must find water for ourselves and horses before long, preparatory to forming a camp for the night. One of them then ascended a tall tree to its very top, and, having apparently thus taken in the lie of the country, descended, and with his tomahawk blazed the trunk all round; then quitting the trail he mounted his horse and rode off at a tangent, merely remarking as he pointed with his chin, “I believe water sit down there.” We had been suffering from thirst for some time now, and, like most men under similar conditions, glad thoughts arose in my mind of bubbling springs and cool water affording unlimited “drinks” of the life-giving liquid.
Alas for the reality!
We came at last to a deep defile in the forest and having with some trouble ridden the horses down its steep banks, the dry bed of a small creek presented itself. We followed this down in single file, when the leading “boy,” uttering an exclamation of disgust, threw himself from his horse, which I then saw was making frantic efforts to rush into a sort of scoop-out in the ravine. The others tried to follow suit, and we had difficulty in restraining the poor beasts who had smelt water. And what a miserable puddle it was! The quick eye of the “boy” had seen that any one of our steeds would have drunk most of it up and rendered the residue undrinkable by stirring up the mud. So he saved the situation by his warning. It took two of us all our time to hold the animals, whilst the third man carefully dipped out about a gallon of the precious liquid with a pint pot, pouring it into our largest billy. In spite of its being warm and spiced with gum leaf juice, the drink all round proved most refreshing, and we were able to smoke again. After filling the can again for a big brew of tea, we waited sufficiently long for the small hole to fill up once more, and at last partially watered the horses by means of an indiarubber basin we had with us. They were then hobbled out, and as the dew fell copiously that night, and there was a fair amount of herbage, they proved pretty fit by the next morning.
There was a little more than a pint of muddy water left in the hole when we looked into it at sunrise the next day, so the source had evidently stopped running. Now I wondered, as we prepared to mount after our night’s rest, whether the trackers would make a cast, and so hit off the trail, or return to the blazed tree. They chose the latter course for some good reason known to themselves, and picked up the footsteps at once. Shortly after we had made this fresh start the course of the wandered proved most erratic, circling around the belts of timber to the right, again to the left, without either aim or object. It was evident that the man we were “hunting” had no compass with im, further, that he was becoming wildly bewildered. We followed the erratic footmarks thus for some two hours, when they suddenly took a straight course, and looking ahead the troopers pointed out a fringe of dark-leaved trees, which as I knew of old denoted the channel of a water-course, and this it proved to be, but utterly dried up. Into this the feet of the exhausted man had taken him. Into this his hands had scraped deeply in the sand, but to no purpose, and we knew now that he had not met with water during the whole of his lonely wanderings.
But he was not far off, as the “boys” knew. One of them galloped his tracks down the sandy bed and disappeared round a bend of the channel, presently returning with: “That fellow sit down there, that fellow bong.” To my surprise my companions then made excuses for not proceeding; one fancied something the matter with his girths; the other said he must shift his saddle as his horse had a sore back; so I spurred up my animal and soon viewed the man we were in search of, stretched out on the sand under a shady bank of the channel. But he was not dead or anything like it, though he presented a pitiable sight. He lay quite still, and had placed a handkerchief and some leaves over his face. These I removed, and found his eyes wide open, and his tongue swollen and protruding. He blinked his eyes as I uncovered them, but did not attempt to move. Now the milk, which we had brought in a bottle, had gone for the greater part into little balls of butter, so propping him up I administered one of these with a drop of rum, saw it melt in his mouth and go down- thus he could swallow. I then galloped back to the troopers for assistance. They looked a bit ashamed of themselves when I told them that the man who was pronounced “Bong,” or dead, was “Budgery,” or all right, and then I smartly rated the “boy” who had brought back this false news. They will examine with interest the corpse of a black man, like themselves; but it seems to be different when the body is that of a white, and enveloped in a bundle of clothes.
They informed me that there was water down the creek, as they had heard white cockatoos, so I sent one to find it, and brought the other back with me.
I will give the strange man’s name as “Blank,” and a pretty appropriate one too, considering the state we found him in. Well, Blank’s eyes followed every movement we made when I was once more at his side. Then he pointed towards his feet, by a motion of his eyes. We uncovered his limbs, which were buried in the sand, and found that he had neither boots nor socks on, yet his tracks denoted that he was booted up to the place where we found him in. We reasoned that it would be best to form a camp, and feed him up with slops for the present. Presently the other trooper returned with a “billy” full of good water, which he had found in a rocky hole. He then took the horses back with him to give them a good drink, previous to their being turned out. “Blank” took another ball, and by night time was evidently improving. Drinks of milky water eased his tongue, but he could not yet speak; though he tried to, he only succeeded in emitting ghastly noises from his throat. These, accompanied with nightmare and a sort of “horrors,” continued for some hours, but towards dawn he sank into a kind of slumber. We propped up shady boughs round him and let him be.
When he awoke we stripped him and soused him with water; this proved a real relief to the stricken man, and one “boy” was kept going as galloper to the water-hole and back.
Bread soaked in milk and butter he was at length able to swallow. He had neither matches, watch, knife, nor anything useful about him. We learnt from him later that he had left all his matches at one of his resting places, and could not find them again. He had intended to fire the bush as a signal, and this loss had driven him frantic for the time being.
I asked the “boys” which was the shortest way to the squatter’s hut, when, without an instant hesitation, they pointed in a direction totally different from that which we had come by.
“Blank” now got better hour by hour, and the “boys” having found his boots buried in the sand under his head, we put these on his feet, as the ground was hot, and got him on his legs and walked him a few steps to relax his muscles, and upon ascertaining that he wished to try and undertake the journey home, he was supported on a led-horse, and we started in the cool of the evening, having carefully filled all our water-bottles. Travelling all night, with a rest in the middle of it, we reached the hut at so early an hour in the morning that no one was about, so we made our man comfortable and turned in ourselves. I heard the old squatter’s voice though before I got to sleep, he had evidently come upon “Blank,” and was speaking in no gentle whisper to himself: “Be arl the goats of Kerry the prodical son’s turned up alive, the shape’s come back to the fold, glary be to Gad, and nothing out a pocket, not even for the findin’ him. How the buy’s changed though, his blessed mother wouldn’t know him! I must doctor him a bit.”
At this point I heard the clinking of glasses and roared out to him to “leave the chap alone.” Upon hearing this the old boy stepped up with his bottle to my bunk, and with a solemn face assured me that he intended to let the “buy slape,” but that we must drink to his speedy recovery. I had to pretend to be more tired than I really was before I could induce the lively old man to go away and look after his cattle.
After a good day’s rest “Blank” related to us the story of his wanderings, but there was little more to learn than what the troopers had read from the signs. He remembered but little of his last day’s sufferings, and in many small matters his mind was a blank. He had sucked the dewy herbage every night, but this act merely tantalized his palate. He declared that he saw black fellows one evening; but this was certainly a phantom of the brain, for the “boys” had specially looked out for signs of natives, without result.
It appears that he fell into a state of coma, or indifference to everything, before we found him, but had the sense to stagger into the shade and cover his face and feet from the sun amend mosquitoes before lying down, to die, as he expected.
He thanked us all for “seeing him through,” and declared in a joky way that he should now apply for a post in the Native Mounted Police as he had had a bit of powerful experience.
So we bid him and his eccentric guardian goodbye; but the latter was bound to have the last word, for as we rode away he cried out, “You said the buy wanted a cheerful companion to complete his cure.. and faix he’s got that same in me.” So he concluded as he drew himself up stiffly to answer our salute.
SOME OLD FRIENDS
And now I have finished this narrative concerning a portion of my experience in the Native Mounted Police. In conclusion I would like to borrow from the latest sources some hints which may be useful to intending emigrants.
I have lately received a copy of the British Australasian and New Zealand Mail, of 9 May 1910, sent to me by an old chum, Edmund Rawson, who, with his equally popular brother Charley, was amongst the earliest pioneers of the “Pioneer River,” Mackay. Also J. E. Davidson, John Spiller, and others of my old friends, all real “white men,” are mentioned in this paper, recalling to my mind the happy times of days long past- the halcyon days of the Southern “River Mob.”
To conclude with a reference to squatting, I would advise those who think of entering upon pastoral pursuits to procure the work, quite lately published and written by that grand old pastoral pioneer, Oscar de Satgé. The book is entitled Pages from the Journal of a Queensland Squatter.
Think of a book written up to date by one who went out to the Colonies nearly fifty years ago. There is sound advice in chapter 30 to those who would follow in the author’s footsteps. The book teems with anecdotes characteristic of the free and open air life of the pastoral squatter, and is likewise beautifully illustrated.
Another book of a very different nature, shows what “a rolling stone” of adamantine rock can and cannot do in the colonies. The author, a man of almost fiendish pluck and determination, tells his own story truthfully and simply. It was written by Jack Barry and published by Sampson Low.
Another recent work is W. A. Horn’s Explorations in Central Australia. These splendid volumes, besides being descriptive of everything relating to the country, go fully into many of the rites and ceremonies of the natives; amongst others the extraordinary rite of sub-incision is described, together with photographs illustrating the ceremony.
And now I bring to an end these old time events. Some experiences which befell me, specially one of a sad and pathetic nature, cannot be published; and yet another, where the survivor of an old-time fearful massacre by the blacks had stayed in my hut- a morose man, yet interesting withal. Old Queenslanders will recognise the allusion when I state that a terrible vengeance was inflicted on the black fiends, and almost entirely by one man.
I often dwell on this early period of my life as on a pleasant realistic dream, and wonder how, and where, the old force is still composed, and whether it is still required in the sense it used to be. The old memories connected with nature unspoilt, the simple lessons in natural history, the complete independence, the care taken of one by faithful “boys” ready to do one’s bidding; all this, and more, inclines me to say with Adam Lindsay Gordon, “I’d live the same life over if I had to live again.”