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where they had built their own rough shelters.
But, alas ! The prosperity for which they laboured



GOLDEN BUCKLES 59

has been taken to cities, and the country is as
desolate and man's hfe in it as primitive as ever.
Central Australia is being exploited, not settled.

While the seeds of such thoughts as these were
genninating in Tynan's mind, the horses had been
unsaddled, the packs pulled off, and the tired ani-
mals led down to the troughs before being hob-
bled.

"Hi, you there! What the hell you doing?
Lend a hand !" This in stentorian tones from the
yards.

Tom smiled grimly as he and Jim walked up the
hill.

"The old man's a Tartar," he said, "but he's not
a bad sort when you get to know him. The syn-
dicate that owns this run and dozens more, always
pick hustlers like him and give them commission."

By this time they had reached the yards, and
were greeted by the manager.

"Hullo, Tom! Thought you . never coming.
Good-day," as Jim was introduced. "Tynan's
name, is it? Hold leg-rope. Hang on."

Such was the new man's introduction to Bill
Dookie, manager of Marnoola horse and cattle sta-
tion for the Two Continents Meat Syndicate.

For the next two hours Tynan hardly knew
whether he was on his head or his heels, but he
was successful in carrying out Bill's instructions
to "get a hold of that leg-rope and hang on."

The receiving yard contained about 200 cows
and calves, from which the unbranded youngsters
were drafted off in lots of about ten into the
branding pen. Here they were lassoed and drawn
to the rails with a long green-hide rope, on which
three nearly naked blacks were pulling. Tom
was given charge of the front leg-rope, and a
blackfellow, after securing the back leg, handed
the rope to the new chum, who passed it round a
hitching post and held on. In this way, the calf



6o GOLDEN BUCKLES

was thrown and a blackfellow loosened the lasso
and caught another in readiness. With almost
incredible quickness, Bill cut and ear-marked the
steers, then called out, "Brand-0!" and the red-
hot iron was handed between the rails. Again
and again Tynan saw the familiar "X.T.X."
pressed on the quivering rump of the prostrate
animals, to the accompanying of smoke and some-
times flame, and usually much bellowing.

So insistent was the work, and so necessary
was it to keep keenly alert, that Tynan forgot
his weariness, his thirst, the miles of new country
he had traversed, and the multitude of new ex-
periences that had come to him — everything, in
fact, but grasping that green-hide rope and see-
ing that it was tight on the post.

"How many more?" asked Bill at length,
straightening his back and looking with approval
at the new-comer, who, in spite of his awkward-
ness at the unaccustomed work, showed a certain
clean activity that pleased the manager.

"How many, mob?" he repeated, to the black
who was using the lasso.

"Ner," grunted the man, "close up finish um."
And sure enough there proved to be only three
more heifers to brand.

During the pause, Tynan noticed for the first
time that a girl was looking after the brands,
keeping them hot in the fire and handing them
between the rails; a big girl, but still in her
teens, with the skin and hair of a half-caste.

At last the third heifer staggered to its feet
in a dazed fashion and trotted off to join the
others.

"Callar!" shouted Bill to the men on the rope.
"That's the lot. Now you get tucker. . . . Moo-
cher!" he called to one of them, a tall, nearly
naked black, who seemed more intelligent than
the rest. "You walk longa kitchen. You get



GOLDEN BUCKLES 6i

bacca, tucker, three-fella." He held up three
fingers.

"Yah !" grunted the man, and at once explained
to his two friends that all three of them were to
have a stick of tobacco and a feed.

Bill rubbed his hands, which were covered with
blood and grease, in the sand, and then on his
trousers, and turned to Tom, as he consulted a
battered note-book.

"Two hundred . fifty one since dinner. Hundred
. twenty-nine steers . . hundred . twenty-two
heifers. . . . Not bad . . old bloke like me. . . .
Good trip?"

Bill Dookie looked by no means old. Young
men in the bush quickly become withered and
wrinkled with the hard life, but years seldom
bring the aspect of old age. The manager was a
tall, upright man, with grey hair and beard and
a hard face, which was saved from appearing
brutal by a pair of penetrating but kind eyes. He
had a name for severity with the blacks, but it
was noticed that a good boy usually stayed with
Bill, for, in reality, he was an absolutely just man.
With whites also he was strictly just, and, as
Tom had said, "Not a bad sort when you know
him."

In answer to his question about the trip, Tom
answered, "Not bad. The horses had plenty of
condition when I trucked them." And then he
began to tell of his exigencies of the road.

They were walking away when Tom said a few
words which made the manager turn to Tynan.
The young man was leaning against the rails, be-
ginning to realise how tired he was.

"Better come down . . . drink of tea . . tucker,"
said Bill. "Feel like a spell, don't you? . . .
Worked in a yard before?"

"No," answered Tynan.



62 . GOLDEN BUCKLES

"Ugh! Come on down. Can talk after, if
you want to."

Bill Dookie walked over to Government house,
and reappeared in about a quarter of an hour with
clean shirt and trousers, while Tom showed his
companion a place where he could wash and
change.

The men's quarters consisted of two little
rooms with a passage between, and, as Jack Donay
was not coming back, Tom offered Jim the room
this man had formerly occupied.

There was a bed made of a bullock-hide
stretched on a packing case frame, two kerosene
boxes nailed together for table and cupboard com-
bined, and an improvised stool. Nothing else, save
cockroaches and dirt and a pile of cast-off xags
mouldering in one corner.

Tynan unrolled his swag, washed and changed,
and sat on the bed waiting, too tired to notice
the disrepair of the brush roof and walls.

Presently a camel-bell clanged, and Tom called
from his room across the corridor: "Ready,
Jim?" and the two went over to the kitchen.

The place was almost unbearably hot. The
stove had been alight all day, and the room was
full of flies and the odour of boiled fat beef. As
they entered the room, a lubra stuck a fork into
a big billy-can, pulled out a chunk of salt meat,
and put it on the table with a loaf of bread, a
saucepan of tea, and a bottle of tom.ato sauce.
Such was breakfast, dinner, and tea on a station
which, in the past year, had sent to market 600
beef cattle and 200 horses, the profit on which
was more than £5000.

Tynan was almost too tired to eat. During the
fatigues of the road, he had looked forward to
sitting down to a meal, and now he came to this:
the lubra, the dirt, the flies, the heat, and the



GOLDEN BUCKLES 63

almost uneatable food set out on bare, unscrubbed
boards.

One other was present at the table besides the
manager, Tom, and the new man: a girl about 16
years old, with blackfellow features, pale brown
skin, and fair hair, dressed in one garment only:
an overall. She was the girl who had been at
the yards. Bill Dookie addressed her as "Ruby,"
but she spoke very little to him, and when she
did, it was in the halting pidgin-English of the
blacks. At times she turned and addressed the
lubra, who stood idly at the stove watching the
men eat, and her talk was then in dialect.

Ruby seemed very interested in the stranger,
as she sat there like some timid animal, taking
furtive bites at her food. She was Dookie's child,
her mother being the lubra in the kitchen, who
herself was of mixed blood, having had an Afghan
father and a native mother. Bill had been a man-
ager for the Two Continents Syndicate for many
years, but had only been five at Marnoola, the
lubra and child coming with him from further
North and living at Government House.

"Bill's terrible go"ne on Ruby," explained Tom,
later. "He's taught her to do most things on a
station, breaking colts, cutting and branding, and
all that sort of thing. They do say he's tried to
teach her to read and write, too, but it's no go."

"Poor kid," mused Tynan, aloud. "What's
ahead of her?"

"The black's camp," replied Tom, with convic-
tion. "It's a damn waste of time and money edu-
cating anything with black blood in it. They go
there sooner or later:" He pointed to a red sand-
hill beyond the water paddock, where the blacks
had built their low wurlies. "I've known men,"
he went on, "... why . . . there was old Peter
Dawson's boy — a half-caste from The Tennant.



64 GOLDEN BUCKLES

They put him to school at Port Augusta, and then
to a college affair in Adelaide. He was a smart
lad, and did very well. Old Peter was no end
proud of him, and what m.ust he do but bring him
up to The Tennant for a holiday.

"Within a fortnight the lad was living naked
in the black's camp. When his father tried to
get him back, he went for old Peter with a boo-
merang and then cleared out."

"Then you don't agree with missions up here,
Tom?"

They were sitting outside the men's quarters
when he asked the question, and, before answer-
ing it, Tom spat on an ant with great accuracy.

"You can't change a blasted nigger's skin," re-
plied the stockman, with ehiphasis. "You can
teach them to wear trousers, and blow their noses
on a bit of rag, and sing hymns, and all that, but
first chance and they're off. Why, almost all the
cattle-killing since I've been in the country has
been done by mission station blacks. They learn
the ways of the whites and turn them against
us."

He smoked for a while in silence, and then con-
tinued: "If you're in these parts long, Jim, you'll
learn that the plain, straight-out, wild nigger is
far better than the educated one. A half-caste is
the worst of the lot."

"Are there many half-castes?"

"Thousands."

"But women?" persisted Tynan. "How does
the mixture of blood affect women?"

"I'll tell you. A bloke working on a line-party
at the Alice had a kid by a half-caste jin— same
as Susan, Bill's jin, half black, half Afghan. The
kid was a girl with fair skin and fair hair, just
like a white, and Ted — ^that's the father, Ted



GOLDEN BUCKLES 65

Hindley — was uncommon proud of that girl. He
got a billet in Oodnadatta and the kid went to
school and grew up with white children till she
was nineteen. Then a young plate-layer, Dick
Abbott, married the girl. It was a fair and square
deal, mind you, real straight-out marriage. They
lived together for ten years, and had a home at
William Creek and three kids. One time, Dick
was away with the repairing gang for four days.
When he came back, his wife had gone. She was
last seen sitting in the William Creek blacks'
camp as naked as the day she was bom. After
that she cleared.

"I've only heard of one solitary case where a
half-caste has not gone back, and that was a boy
who went to England with his father and stayed
there."

Tom laughed, and seeing Ruby coming from the
house, asked :

"Have you had a talk with Bill ?"

"No, not yet. Do you reckon I ought to go
over?"

"P'raps that's what Ruby's come for."

The child came up, walking with the grace
which only natives have, and stood before the
men.

"Bill want um yabber longa white-fella," she
said, hesitatingly.

"That's you," remarked Tom; then to Ruby:
"You tell um Bill alright," and away went Ruby,
glad to be out of the presence of the stranger.

Tynan's "yabber" with the manager was soon
brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Bill wanted
a man to take the place of the one who had en-
listed, and would engage Tynan if he could ride.

"Can you ride?" he asked.



66 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"I rode up from Oodnadatta," answered Tynan,
"and did some riding before that."

"Oh," said the manager, "that's not riding.
Have some quiet horses in the yards to-morrow
morning. Soon see what you're like on a horse."
And the conversation drifted off to other sub-
jects.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 67



CHAPTER XI.

Bush Horses.

The station was astir at daybreak, and it was
not yet six when the camel-bell rang for break-
fast. The morning was clear, after a cool night,
and as Tynan stood under the shower-bath be-
neath the overhead tank, he felt hungry and
healthy with that glow of inward well-being which
comes from a strenuous life in the open air.

"Stiff?" queried the manager, as the new man
entered the kitchen.

"Not a bit," answered Tynan pleasantly, sitting
down to his fried salt meat and bread with a good
deal of relish. "Riding never makes me uncom-
fortable."

"Never been in a muster, that's clear," re-
marked Bill. "Ridden a good bit in my time, yet
chasing horses tunes me up like the devil. . . .
Did Albert close . water paddock gate? he
asked, turning to Tom.

"Yes. Are you going to trap some horses?"

"Yes. Want good big plant go out West in
couple days. May 's well quieten beggars before
we start."

Two windmill pumps with storage tanlcs and
troughs were enclosed by a fence, and the stock,
coming in and out to water, had to pass through
an open gate. When horses were needed, this
gate was closed, till perhaps two or three hun-
dred thirsty animals were waiting outside. When
the gate was opened, these would rush in to
water and find themselves trapped. From there
it was an easy matter to drive them up to the
yards.

After breakfast. Bill turned to Tynan.



68 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"Can you use a whip ?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Then meet me down at gate in about quarter
'v hour. Drive mob up to yards for drafting."

It was a new and keenly interesting experience
for Tynan to see a mob of bush horses. He was
down at the gate some time before the/nanager,
and sat on the fence watching the beautiful
.nervous animals restlessly pawing the ground,
wheeling and snorting, and showing off to best
advantage their beautiful limbs and glossy coats,
for no one can groom a horse to compare with
the bush animal in a good season.

Mares were there with foals, and yearlings also,
some of them not at all willing to be weaned to
make room for the little strangers; young colts
in all the rough and tumble of boyhood; and in
and out, each separating his particular mob from
the others, pranced the stallions. It was a brave
sight, with a strong morning sun in the clear sky,
which had not yet assumed the pitiless glare of
noonday and early afternoon, and Tynan felt fit
for any test of riding ever given.

"Not bad lot, eh?" said a voice behind him, and
he turned and saw that the manager had come
down.

"By gad, no!" Tynan exclaimed, with enthusi-
asm.

"That's only little lot. Should see beggars
roll up after few showers. Run around looking
for surface water, . . . only find sip here and
there, . . . when they do turn up they're pretty
thirsty. Last muster . . . about two thousand
horses on run, . . . since then most mares got
foals. Been good year for foals. . . . See that
chestnut stallion . . . white star? Suffolk Punch.
Damned good stock he gets, too. . . . Clydesdale
over there. Been here a year. Owners want to



GOLDEN BUCKLES 69

heavy up mob a bit. . . . Had Arab entire few
years ago. His stock sold well at the time.
. . . Suffolk Punch stamp wanted now — chunky,
not heavy, suitable for army . . . farming, de-
livery cart work."

Bill spoke in a gruff, disjointed way, due to a
hfetime spent with blacks. He seldom used many
words, and his remarks to Tynan sprang from
a fondness for horses which he saw was shared by
the new-comer.

"I used to ride a half-bred Arab with the X.T.X.
brand," said Tynan, eagerly.

"Mare?"

"No; a gelding — a six-year-old."

"Ugh! There's troughs. . . used to water,
. . . yard where he was branded. Marked him
myself. . . . Yarning here won't yard them
horses!" He broke off the conversation fiercely,
as if ashamed of himself for indulging in it.

The water paddock gate was opened, and after
feints and retreats, a few horses came through
very gingerly, galloping and bucking as soon as
the fence was passed. Gradually the whole mob
followed and Tynan closed the gate. Two hun-
dred heads bent over the water which gushed
through the ball cocks on the three sets of
troughs, showing how quickly the animals were
drinking.

"Aren't they nervous of the mills?" asked
Tynan, pointing up at the broad metal sails which
whirled around in the wind, clanking the pump-
rods up and down.

"No. Used to it. . . . Even got over scare at
the engine." The manager pointed to a pile of
tarpaulin at the foot of one of the mills. "Put
her on when wind drops. . . . Horses terribly con-
servative. . . . Always water here . . . mothers



70 GOLDEN BUCKLES

did before them. . . . Pine when they're taken
away. . . . Homesick. . . . Put jam tin on that
post, . . . silly beggars make hell of fuss. . . .
Nervous . . , get used to it."

Now and again one of the foals would start
away, or one yearling would playfully nibble the
back of another. At once the whole line would
break and scatter, only to return again to the
troughs. But gradually their thirst was quenched,
and the horses gathered into groups, just as men
and women do on similar occasions. Some few
strolled towards the entrance, but found it closed.

Presently the manager put his fingers to his
lips and blew a shrill blast, and at once three
mounted blacks appeared at the top end of the
water paddock.

"Coax these beggars up a bit, will you?" he
asked. "Don't hurry . . . till . . . clear of
troughs. Brutes kick them to pieces . . . not
careful. . . . Steady there! Whey, lads! Now
into them. Woa! . . . Hoi! Hoi! Use your
whip, . . . want to see good riding, watch that
girl of mine up there." Bill's sentences became
more complete as his excitement increased.

Crack ! Crack ! Stock-whips sounded like rifle-
shots, and in a cloud of dust and to the thunder
of hoofs that made the ground vibrate, the mob
of horses was hurried up the water paddock to-
wards the yards. Twice they tried to break be-
fore the rails were reached, but the mounted nig-
gers checked them, and the girl in a blue overall
wheeled and galloped and stemmed the rush as
well as any.

"Draft this mob right away," said Dookie, as
he dropped the last slip-panel into its place be-
hind the yarded horses. "Here's Tom. He'll take
bush ... you take workers."

From the big receiving yard, the horses were



GOLDEN BUCKLES 71

driven to a smaller one in lots of thirty or forty.
This yard opened out to a short lane ending in
several gates into different yards. At the top
of the lane stood the manager, and as the horses
came past him, he shouted "Bush" or "Worker,"
according to whether the animal was to be allowed
to go free to the bush again or was to be retained
for station work. So Tynan was stationed at one
gate and told to swing it open whenever "Worker"
was called, whereas Tom controlled one of the
other gates for the bush horses.

Simple as was the task entrusted to him, Ty-
nan found that all his wits were necessary to
keep pace with the work which, to the other men,
was mere routine. He was so interested in tne
horses themselves that the shout, "Worker!"
often woke him as from a trance. He noticed that
many of the animals that came through his gate
had white marks on their backs where a saddle
had rubbed them at one time or another, and their
general behaviour in the yard confirmed his
opinion that most of them were broken-in horses
which had been having a spell.

"Worker !" shouted Dookie, as a beautiful chest-
nut gelding came through the gates with a great
show of spirit. "Tom!" he called, "that's
Prince."

"So I see," answered the stockman, as the ani-
mal curvetted through Tynan's gate. "Who's go-
ing to ride him this time. Bill?"

"Dunno," was the laughing answer, but further
conversation was impossible, as more horses came
into the lane. "Bush. . . . Bush. . , . Bush.
. . . Worker. . . . Bush. . . . Bush."

At last the whole mob was drafted.

"How many . . ." began the manager, turning
to Tynan. "Here, not . . . call you Mr. Tjman.
What name. . . . Eh?"



72 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"Jim's as good as any other," laughed the young
man.

"Ugh! How many . . . through your gate?"

"Twenty-two."

"Good . . . plenty. . . . Hi, Scarry!" he called
to one of the boys who had been hunting up the
horses. "Let um that mob go bush. By'm by
you bring um up two fella saddle, hobble, side
lines, ropes. See?"

"Ya. Me know," was the answer.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 73



CHAPTER XIL

A Riding Test.

The three white men walked down to the kit-
chen for a cup of tea and a smoke, and returned
to the yards in about half an hour. The twenty-
two horses were in a yard that opened out into
the biggest of all, which had a strong breaking-in
post in the centre, and, at one corner, a gate lead-
ing to the crush and branding pen. The main slip-
rails led out to a hard flat piece of open country.

"Now, Jim," said the manager, "see what . . .
can do. Scarry, put um saddle . . . that fella,"
indicating a mare with a small white mark on
her back.

The new man rode one horse after another for
half an hour, giving each a couple of turns round
the big yard, and then out on the flat. Some
were quiet, some awkward, one or two bucked
badly, but he stuck to each one till he was able
to hand it over to a nigger, who took off the sad-
dle and fastened on a pair of hobbles.

The manager's quarter-caste daughter was sit-
ting quietly on the fence watching each movement
of horse and rider, and, though Tynan would have
repudiated the idea, her presence may have stimu-
lated him to his best efforts. For, to be thrown
when a girl was looking on, and a girl who, as
the manager expressed it, "can ride any blessed
thing with hide on," would have been too humili-
ating.

When the young man was riding the fifth
horse, Dookie stepped up to the girl and spoke
to her in a low voice. With a laugh, she called
to Scarry in his native tongue, and he answered
her in the same, laughing also.



74 GOLDEN BUCKLES

Prince, the big chestnut gelding, was next led
out, saddled and bridled. Tynan swung the reins
over the beautiful animal's neck, took a short grip
on the near-side rein with some of the mane, and
watched for an opportunity to mount. The horse
backed away, snorting, so Tynan let him have his
way till he was against the fence. Suddenly the
animal wheeled round and started to back again.

The man was tired. He had been through a
severe test for one not used to riding rough
horses, and some of them had thrown him about
a good deal. But the presence of those silent
spectators, and more especially, perhaps, of that
girl on the rails, nerved him to beat this animal.
- He wedged it into a corner at last and mounted.
He dug his heels into its flanks, but was totally
unprepared for what followed. Prince was in the
centre of the yard with one bound. Before Ty-
nan realised he was out of the corner, the horse
had reared straight up, and was turning round
on its hind legs, pawing at the air and roaring
as if in pain. Then followed quicker and more
violent movements than Tynan had thought pos-
sible for a horse. Heaven and earth seemed shat-
tered to a thousand whirling fragments, and his
body seemed to be jerked every possible way at
the same time as he clung to the maddened ani-
mal. Now he was high in the air, with the horse's
hunched back beneath him, bent tightly as a bow ;
then he was along the animal's rearing shoulder,
or leaning far back like an oarsman at the end
of a stroke, while Prince's heels struck lightning
blows behind him.

This went on for two whole minutes, and then
for a couple of seconds the panting horse stood
quivering. Finally, with a mighty rear, up went
the lashing front legs, higher and higher, till the
animal lost his balance and crashed backwards
to the ground.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 75

Tynan was thrown clear, and was on his feet
before Prince recovered. His blood was up.
Rushing in, he grabbed the bridle, and when the
horse staggered to its feet, the rider was again
firmly in the saddle.

"Bravo!" came from the manager, "Good man!
Good man!" from Tom, and above the shout of
approval from the watching blacks, the young man
heard the excited laugh of the manager's daugh-
ter, and somehow that primitive praise struck an
equally primitive chord in his nature, and he was
glad.

But Prince had thrown him once and knew how
to do it again. It wasted no time in useless buck-
ing. Rearing again, it toppled over, and as it
fell, turned quickly, throwing its rider many yards


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