|Chapter Title||FROM DROUGHT TO FLOOD-RONALD'S LAST RESOURCE-MOLONGA CREEK STATION-THE PARRAMATTA PET, BILLY CANT|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
A TALE OP EARLY SQUATTING LLFE IN
BY TBE 11 AUTHOR OF ADVENTURES IN QUEENS-
CHAPTER XVI. FROM DRODOHT TO FLOOD.
-RONALD'S LAST RESOURCE.-MOLONGA CREEK STATION.-THE PARRAMATTA PET, BILLY CANTWELL, AND GHOSTLY CONVERSA- TION.-AN AWFUL OCCURRENCE.
LET US now turu to Ronald and Ada Walton, at Boorooma. Tho period of their wedded life did not at this time exceed two years and a half, but they had been bleBsed with two pretty children-Ronald Brandon and Ada Brandon, aged twenty months and eight months respectively. Ronald liked the name of Brandon-partly because his affection for Ada Brandon had been very sincere ; and partly, perhaps because three hundred miles of rough bush road separated him from his mother-in-law. Ile determined to add tho name of Brandon to the Christian name, of names, of each pledge his wife presented bim with, if there should be a dozen ; and indeed there was every probability ofthat number, or even a greater, if one might judge by the beginning. Liko other mortals, Uley had their troubles and their pleasures. Their crosses were but light as yet, and consisted
3weuers in the Australian bush, far, far away
from a township. As yet, they had no heart toubles, so their love and unity far more than under-ballanccd the petty annoyances that assailed them, and preveuted those outside vexations from penetrating more than skin-deep. Would it could have remained
Ronald's venturo had prospered for two years even beyond his calculations, and he had been able to pay off, not only the yearly interest and current expenses, but also a little of the debt. The last few months, however had not been so prosperous ; the driest season ever experienced by the "oldest inhabitant" in the Moreton Bay Settlement-as Queens- land was then called-had set in ; grass was getting scarce at Boorooma, and, in some parts of the run, water also. Thero was a splendid supply of water at the head-station, but that could not benefit, in any great degree, sheep many miles away at out- stations. Thc scarcity of water is not of so uch importance ou a sheep-run as a deficiency of grass. If sheep can obtain a fair amount of succulent food, they can go without a drinkfordays together, the witbuot injury; so that if they haveasufficiency of green feed, with- in eight or ten miles of water, they can he driven to the latter often enough to save them from perishing for the want of it. But all this causes endless trouble to the superin- tendent and all hands on a station. Flocks must be carefully travelled through the runs of other flocks, and a sharp look-out kept to prevent them from boxing, both going and returning. Not a drop of rain bad fafleu for nearly twelve months, and in some parts bf Boorooma the poor animals were crawling about in hundreds on three legs, alternately spelling one ; and scores might be seen walking on their knees, having worn their hoofs to the quick with scraping the earth away from tho roots of thc grass, which they had nibbled far below the surface of the ground. They fell away in condition, «nd wandered about so, that the shepherds had much difficulty in keeping them together. The wool hung in rags from their poverty stricken sidos, and altogether things wore anything but a prosperous appearance. The '-miling was approaching, and much of the
¿ad dropped from the ewes' sides ; so
" JJ. good clip was destroyed.
*¡g_no good grass for
Teat of the pre _ 'frosty nights, and of winter, succeeded by _ ^tll conspired to bunt the strug _^ = squatter to his doom. Thc lambs of the "previous season were stunted, wretched things, and would never make sheep, even if rain fell soon. When things ha . got to this state, clouds began to drive up the south- east, and thc hopes of rain began general, Light tantlising shôVers fell that did not BO much as lay the dust ; then all cleared off again, leaving the sky serene as before. The wretched sheep at last began to give up thc useless for searching gross and the struggle for existence, and many laid down and died. CloudB again spread across the sky ; rain fell gently, and the wretched ones took heart and made another effort to live. Tiley had already eaten as much of the bark oil soulo kinds of trees as they could reach.
When the rain fell, Ronald walked out into it bare-headed, in an uncomfortable frame of mind experienced by men whose fortunes arc balancing in the narrow linc, with ruin on one hand and safety on the other. He thought not of himself, but of bis wife and little ones. If he failed in his venture, what effect would it have on them ? He was powerless to improve matters one jot. He had the satisfaction of knowing he hod done all for thc preservation of the stock that all could be done. He was now entirely without human resource, and if thc rain continued so as to cause a spring in thc grass, within, say n week, hundreds of the sheep
must die in the meantime. Ho walked
straight away from the house passing tho carcasses of many poor sheep, but heeding them not ; his thoughts dwelt not on the dead, but on the thousands perhaps yet to die, and his mind was racked and totured with hopes and fears for thc future. The rain fell heavier and heavier ; still lie walked on. He was dimly conscious of a pleasant feeling that the drenching rain imparted to Iiis frame ; it kept down, in a measure, thc parching fever in his brain. He met a flock, of cager tottering sheep, and stood still mechanically as they passed bim. Why he did so, he knew not. Two or three of the strongest (sheep stood on their hind legs, with their fore feet against au apple tree and nibbled at a few leaves that hung within their reach. He went up to them, broke olf n large branch, and threw it down. Ba Í ba ! b:i-a ! bloated the lucky ones, aa they tore at thc branch, quickly stripping it uf every leaf, am! even the twigs. The whole flock stood still at the joyful sounds, and listlessly turned
their heads to sec what was thc cause of such
long-discontinued notes. Some of the nearest rushed towards those that were chewing thc leaves ; then others, till thc whole flock, com prchending how matters stood, congregated round Ronald, He had made a discovery. Why had he not thought of it before 1 Why had none of his men thought of it ? He was at first astounded at thc magnitude and im- portance of thc idea, and was inen pablo of
action for a few moments. The wretched
animals looked wonderingly up at him, and some ventured to Weat feebly, as though in supplication. Thc shepherd lazily drew closer to see what was thc matter, for he as well as Iris flock liad long ceased to evince much curiosity or excitement at any event, however unusual. He was not very surprised, tlierefore, to see his master standing bare- headed in thc midst of thc flock.
" Harry !" said Ronald, excitedly, "run to your hut, get au axe, and tell the hut-keeper to set tn work aB bard as lie can, and cu,' away at thc apple tree scrub on the fis as soon aa thc other shepherds come j their flocks they arc to help him. work with a will till they
longer. Do you undcrstaii come back and blaze till you ha1?» not i _ it up to yon lomchov
"My word I"
Ai soon as tho mon had started, R°VBYBYB^^^^| -off at a rmi -for the head-stathm, whBgBgBgBgBgBBBJ three miles off. It was pouring witbBBBBBBBBi and that DO doubt enabled bim to keen iBBBBBBBH
pace better than he otherwise could^BgBgBgBBBH done. He arrived breathless at his hcwBBBBBBJ told Jupiter to run some horses into the yorBBBBBBV and then went in to see his wife. She h&BgBgBBBH not seen bim leave, being eDgaged in her owxiBBBBBJ room at the time with the children ; and when SgBBBB she missed him she concluded he had gone out V-BBBJ to one of the sheep stations, and felt a little BBBBJ aggrieved that he had not given her tile ^ABI invariable parting kiss before starting. BBBJ Little Ronald had been prattling BBB inccsantly about " Dear pappy dorne *vB] a gee-gee ;" and " When pappy tum back, ^jl mamma ?" He and his mother were fondling M and chatting while the baby slept. Ada's ' surprise at seeing Ronald in such a plight caused her to utter a little excitedly,
"Oh! Ronald: How wet and fagged you look I Where is your bat T Change at
*'No, Ada. I must he off again imme- '".J diately."
Little Ronald, or " Ron," as he was called for short, and as a distinction, collapsed and hid his head in his mother's bosom, not recog- nising his father.
" Why, my pct ! you do not know dear papa !" said Ada.
Tile child looked again shyly, but was still unable to recognise Ronald, whose hair and
beard hung down and clung to bis face and i garments in such ungraceful fashion. The
child exclaimed with scorn, \ ' -gp^J
" Rouny not want^ljY^ba^^,»^»;^^^^»^^^^^^^^ "Ronalcf, you cannot go out again in ^jHL^L^L^L^Lf
pouring rain. Pray go and change ; I WlBBBBBBa get you some dry things." BBBBBBl
" Must go, Ada. Good bye. I am too weBBBBBH to kiss you. I must visit some of the out^BBBBBJ stations to-night, and- SB^BBBBB
"Horse 'long a yard, Bir," Jupiter ^BBBBBBl
" Do Btay, Ronald," said Ada in her«*^BBBBBBB pleading tones. " Is anything wronglT^gBBBBBBBJ
" No, far otherwise. I am gpMg To^rewr^BBBBB thc sheep. Good bye, don't wait up for mo." ^BBBJ
He snatched his hat from thc peg, put it on, ^BBB and rushed from the house iuto the store, ^BH where he collected os many axes os he could
carry ; at the same time directing Jupiter to BB saddle two horses, and to tell -thc bullock- BBJ drivers, Smasher and Pinchgut, to do the ABJ same, He then trudged down to. the yard ^BB] with thc axes, apportioning them out between ^^^BB thc men, Jupiter, and himself, saying, *BBBB
"Now, lads, you have it in your power to BBBJ do me a good tum. Do it, and you shall not BBBJ lose by it." BBBJ
"We'll Btick by yon, sb-, through thick and BH thin-won't we mate ?" BBB
" My oath !" replied Pinchgut. ^BBJ "I'm all here nu that tack, said Jupiter. BBBJ "Very well lads-thank you. Now, you BBS all mount, and I will hand you thc axes when BBB you are up. Smasher, you go to the Ten- ^*BJ mile Station, and tell the mon to cut down all the apple trees they can find, and let the sheep feed on them. You, Pinchgut, go to to Peak Mount Station, and do the same ;
and Jupiter can go to Frenchman's Hut. I
will go to the Haunted Hut, at Molonga ^
The three hands rode off in their several 4^BJ directions to execute their employer's orders. ^^BBB Ronald cantered pout the house, and kissed^BBBBB his hand to Ada and little Rou. Thc 2%^B1BVBVB1 waved his baud, cried, "D^H^BBBBBBB pappy." Ada returned". .the^|^4BBBBBBBBBB watched him sight, thiullBBBBBBBBBBBBJ
" He will lie ill, I am Such MBBBBBBBBBJ
ful wet afternoon he has beflBBBBBBBBBfl
working himself for a long time posj^BBBBBBBBBJ with the hard work and worry togciflBBBBBBBBBJ enough to ^^MBBBBBBBBBJ
she not^y^BBBBBBBBBBB took, aho was aw&reB^^nBBBBBBBBBBBBBB he was going, fouBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBJ
-ABBBBJBurock cighTeenBBBBBBBBBBBBJ ^BBBB-station, was SBVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVAB BB^ternoon. Ronald's hnrss^BBBBBBBBBBBBBj brisk canter. w&sABBBBBBBBBBBBBJ places on flats v.ateri^BBBBBBBBBBBBBBi was beginning to for tABBBBBBBBBBBBBBV the earth, wasBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB surface long dr^^BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBJ
Fortunately it ^HVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVJ
mortality amongst thc nftBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBi
over the run. sBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBJ when Ronald jumped BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
were juat BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBfl Ronald onceBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
other trees thatBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBJ
till darkness closed iñTttnd tBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
The floor BtrBBBBBBBBBBBBBBi the os as they BBBBBBBBBBBBBJ
perhaps, the cxcrtionsBgBBBgBBBgBBBBBBi
men afforded them but a scantBBBBBBBBBBBBB
was a banquet, as compare^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^J
starvation fare some tinBBBBBBBBBBBBB
They were the iBBBBBBBBBBBBBJ into the hut, contented at havinSBBBBBBBBBBBB much suffering. The men kindly BgBBBBBBBBBBB their clean, dry clothes, and from ^^gVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVgVj
wardrobes subscribed a Scotch twilBBBBBBBBBBB
blue serge ditto, and a pair of duck ^^BBBBBBBBJ into which Ronald quickly put himscl£BBBBBBBBBj the wet clothes were wrung out,- and frBBBBBBBB up to drain under a little open bark shed^BBBBBBB few feet square, that was used as a place ^VAVAVA] cook in during thc summer months. A good ^BBBBBJ fire was made up in thc hut, and all sat ^BBBJ round it while the billies and " jack sheas" ^^IBJ
were boiling. A " jack shea" is a cylindrical tin vessel holding about three pints, into which a smaller one fits, the two thus occupy- ing the space of a large one ODly and there- fore a great improvement on thc original quart and pint pots for thc uso of travellers and others. The men in the hut were Government men, but all looked cheerful.
* " You have done well, lads ; and if you seo me through this job, you fch-.ul not be for-
gotten, I promise you," said Ronald. --
" We'll work for you fdr, so long as we've got hands to work with. Wc don't want nothing, 'cause we owe you more nor that," replied the hut-keeper, a big man with a very bad-looking countenance, very much scarred:. " If any cove among 'cm lind reluscd to back you up, I'd just have flattened his probiscus
-that's what I would." And bc shook his
great fist and ann threateningly.
" Well, Pct (he was called thc ' Parramatta pet') if any one lind been blackguard enough to refuse to cut food for the starving sheep, I would have tried my level best lo have given him a dressing myself, lîut I know that none of you would do sueb a thing."
"Look yon, sir-don't you f:n a bitting of
any blackguard. If yon «nuts anything of ^^^gS that sort done, you just call on thc Parra-^^"^"^^^ matta Pct, at Number One, Molonga Creek, and if these morleys don't mnhe bim so's hiB mother wouldn't know herchild,wliy,splitinc,
that's all !"
" I tell yon, Pet, if Ï rouM not lick a mau that I have anything against, without calling for assistance, I would take a thrashing as a man ought. No douMc-lianfciuy for me."
" You ain't got no call, sir, for to do no think of the sorts whiles I'm here. What am
I herc for, if it ain't to do you any service as lays in my power ? Ain't you more wallible now as you vc got your good lady-God blesB
her I and children-the little angels !-nor ^g^g^^^ you was four year agonc? Why a fellow ABJM might give you a cowardly five under thcABBBBBJ belt and bust thc wind-hag clean nut of you ABBBBBJ That ud'be a putty kittle o' tish for tjABBBBBfl lnis&MWgNo, sir-you 'cm to. mc. ^BBBBBBB JMBB^OU, you wcn^^orftBBBBBBa J|^^^^^^bOxford Sj.ippyABB^BgBgBBBgBJ BBBBBBBByihiow- thc BBBBBBBBBBBJ BBBBBBBBBhnJiùg-and said BBBBBBBBBBB