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  • doug.butler 29 Oct 2013 at 10:45
    "Our special Commissioner" was C. E. W. BEAN

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BOURKE, Aug. 29.  

There was death' in the paddock. For   nine days the police had followed a 1 man's footsteps. Now and again the foot- I marks would turn back upon themselves. Now < they would lead round and round a tree. Now ' they would shoot off at right angles. At long < Intervals they had found depressions and < scratches in the surface which showed where

he had gone down on hia hands and knees ' to lap the dregs of last month's rain still lying in some claypan.

And now, at last, after nine days' hard fol- lowing, thor found towards evening that the footmarks began to drag. They could «ee clearly the long scrape of the toe before each heol mark. They hurried on, following for all they were worth Presently they came to his hat. There the dark closed In upon them. It waa too black to follow, and they

had to camp.

That night down oame tbe rain. And in the morning every J.race of the tracks they were following was sponged away as from » Blata. AU day they searched-both the trooper and the blacktracker. Some long tims after, a boundary rider came upon hil coat. There were letters in It from some man In Scotland And from that day to this those were all the traces that they found of him.

Muoh later a letter came back from the man In Scotland to whom the police had writ- ten. He was a doctor there, and the dead man's brother. The dead man had been work- ing his way through the far west from station to station on foot. He had suddenly an- nounced that he meant to walk to Sydney. Probably he drank. Certainly ho went mad.


Now, the paddock where that man was lost was not Z0 miles out of Menlndle. He never got out of the one paddock. It was no bigger than most other western paddocks-10 miles by 10 rolles. And yet either in that paddock or In the one which we drove through next to It the boundary riders have ridden across, at one time or another, the skeletons of three men, with their swags scattered near thom, just as they lay down when they oame to the end of their strength.

The truth la that a great part of New South Wales outback there, though It U marked off into little squares on the map and has well known names wrlten over it and even roada drawn through It, and therefore la never dreamed of by ui city folk as being any dif- ferent to other oivlllsed.lands, la not really yet a country in which a man can be sure of I keeping his life.

When the first white man pushed out Into that oountry from the fringe of the known country, each man took his life In his hands; and they knew It. There wa» tome danger from blacks-not a very great danger. The real danger waB from the country itself. The white mon-Burke and Will» and others-went provided against that danger, with stock and water-bag» and provisions, even with camels. And the- with it all sometime» those men

gave out and dttd.

What even Australians do not realise-of- ten until I» I* past mattering whether they realise it or not-ia that in the greater part of this western oountry there ha» only been made one difference »inca the explorers Ant came out upon it. It 1» precisely the »ame beautiful, endless, pitiless country that it was when they found it-with one exception. Sheep have come there. ..

Men have made of the west a country in any part of which sheep can live as a gen- eral rule. That Is all. Men can't live there. It is -when they think they can that they .come to grief. They have to stage from

I water to water, from tank to tank, or well

to well. And It wa» not for them the water was dammed or these wells »unk. , It was for the sheep. Except for the sheep, and the sheep alone, the west would be, and is, to-day as the untamed centuries had left It -aa the first white man, when he carne over the red sandhill on the horizon to the edge of the pine scrub, found it. Some way out of Mcnindle we happened to drive through a paddock that had been unitoeked ' for many years, it gave ona a glimpse of what the white man did find.


It wa» almost Impossible to get eut of one's head the idea that ona waa driving through a park. Pretty pine tree», blua clumps of applewood, needlewood, belar, grey-blue mulga, with the exquisite black traoery of its delicate branches »hewing un- der the leave», »ailed by In group» on either aide of u«. Up a shallow glade between them the long white beards of spear grass three seasons old were standing. In parts knee deep. The road-the one sign of man'» work -wound through the gras» away out of sight. And along it, far ahead of us, startled by the trotting horseB, bounced two kangaroos, mo- ther and young one, furlong after furlong. Others we started and sent off into the scrub -at least a dozen or two-grey and brown. But these two stuck to the road as though It were made for them-disappearing some- times where It wound behind the trees, but always turning up, »till bumping along It where It wound out again beyond. No won- der men thought the land would carry any stock they liked to cram upon it.

Emu and kangaroo swarmed through that paddock. How they had found it out. Heaven knows. But it gave one the Impression that the white men who first came out upon new country must have found It teeming with life. As a matter of fact, one of them told us after- wards that they did not? Life teemed around the lakes-duck, teal, «wans, kangaroo, emu, brolga, pelican, Ibis, and all the rest. But on the waterless back-country-this man said-they oame out on an almost ghastly stillness, long white grass, soft blue trees, no animals, lew black».


"Why, even the Mulga black» from out hack had to come down to the Darling foi water, so they told me," he said, "sneaking down by night and getting back again before daybreak tor fear of the Darling blacks. There wore great battled if they were caught, for their law waa never to trespass on each other's ground».

"They were strange people, the blacks. They couldn't bear the mention of their dead. There was a fellow covering up the place where a child had been buried one time. I happened to be passing.

" 'Piccaninnie been tumbi« down?' I asked.

" 'Brrr-rrrl' He started back a» if he could eat me, and »hook the »tick he was digging with. 'Brrri' _e s_yñ, 'Me plenty put 'em white man longa ground'-which was his way of saying he'd like to do for me. He was terribly upset. They couldn't stand men-

tion of their dead.

"But they were wonderful fellows all the same, some ways. I've aeen them time and again get a dry pine log with a split In it, and rub fire out of It with a little pointed »tick. The dust of the wood would «tart smoking, and then fire 'd com»."

"How long would It take!" I asked. "Twenty


"Under two minute»," wa» the answer.

"Well, as I was saying, there wasn't enough water tor the blacks at some times. A« for the animals, you would not see a beast or even a fclrd. The only one» we did see were those '12 apostles,' and I'm sure I don't know what they did for water.

-"That W»B before we dug the tanks In the paddocks. As soon as the tanka began to gather water the game began to find It out, and they became thick enough after that."

Those tanka wore put down for the »beep. So that the sheep were actually responsible for making this country not only to some ex- tent livable for men, but even for its own

wild animals.


Some of the feature» of the country which even those who live amongst them take for granted have been brougth about, apparently

by sheep. Wo spent one night at the home- '

stead of a man who was the Brat to take a j

homestead lease in the central west. . He

waa a grand man. and tha only maa of «11- , coutte» *nd i«l«eto»-4rte «-nivtil til«

arought In that part. It wa. . _. . '-t


It may be one's misfortune ever to H_L .

» waa a wild dog that had kiiiL . ¿ a **.

-ay before, and'came ^d^cev« "V*!

howling after the station dogs **

At the back of that houae, ¿traton.. v " acre after acre "to the bilis 1T\ * ** along the road to the south i T¡?T£ Pine forest. With a few except on,1»°.^

there where they happenod J^h^£<

course, every pine tree n th.» T . r

dead-leafless and __££***- Z

the feature of the country thereabout, T

cord ng to the man who had watctT "£

the sheep were the cause of that frl.» ¿T'

U.,ydeahth8 TH°y J"8 DOt At S

it. death. The drought caused that

When first I rode my horse on to tu. country," said the old man, "he sank ¿T

It up to his fetlocks at every steppt wu all beautlfully-grassed open country awu"ta the hlllB-not a pine tree on It. But the _,,ï was so loose that the sheep drove their f__ deep Into it as they walked over it.

"It was open country then. In about »yeas or two the sheep had trodden In the face ot it and hardened It. I think they must bare affected aome seed that was hidden In it all the time. For no sooner was the ground hard than up came this pine scrub thick all over the face of it. It grew and grew Into tali forest, as you see It. And then carne the

drought and killed It all."

Providence only knows what the sheep ira not responsible for. in tho west, beoiuw the west is such a country to play with. In plica» they have trampled a drafting yard to dust for 20 years; and the first spring raia after they left it has brought up grass»» that, had not been seen for a generation. In place», with the rabbits te help them, during the drought they have eaton out tis roots of the gras» and saltbush, and BO trample« ana trodden and powdered the face of tis country that It has blown clean away and piled ttatlt up behind tree clump» and over fence» and old stockyards, where you can see it to-day and drive your buggy over It, fences and alL if you, care to; and haB left behind great pi«! bald patches of shiny bare clay, *hlch It t_» sheep go on with their work and trample It to powder also may poBBlbly bear grass «ni saltbush again-or may not. At least, that Is perhaps the most general of the utterly con flictlng opinions. Someone ought to writ» «

book about the west.

Whatever the sheep may or may not hat« done, tbey have done thlB tor Australia. Aa far as the west is livable for men. It li ti» sheep and sheep alone that have maia It a». You cannot wander to nowhere nowadan,' There are at least fences across tho plain-, though the next one may be over the horlioa, And there is water now every 3D mllei or so, if only you know where to find it. The ftrtl thing an owner does is to find depreiitaia, dam them,( run drains from them Ilka tht »pokes of a wheel for as much as two milei to catch every precious drop that fall«. One« caught, he does all he can to keep Unbuild« high mounds round the banks to stare off ti« dry winds, plants trees, even tries covering the tanks with water weedB to protact tïaq from the »un. So they made their prépara« tiona, and they stocked this beautiful eotn» try with millions of Bheep-with a anees t* three acres In some places.

And then came three year» la which Mast

inches of rain fell.


Well, what could they do in a country Ka «hat? Men can get about In a country «ter« there are tanks and fences for sheep. Bul when the tanks were dry, and the fences sand- hills, and the aheep dead-a simple commer« dal traveller's buggy drive became u dan- gerous, som|etlmes, as a dash to the Pole. We met one man who had started to drive a dry stage of 70 miles from Eighteen-mile well, out of Bourke, to Wanaaring, to collect arrears on sewing machines. They pickett htm up alone two mornings later two and a halt miles out of Wanaaring, waving a handkerchief on a stick, and whispering, "Water-back there!" They took water back there for four miles and found his mate anil the, two horses collapsed. Some twig _4 scratched their water bag. That was «II,


It Is wonderful what a time people hive, lasted-especially children-when lost ltkaj this. Ona policeman told us. If one remem« bera the story aright, of three children who wandered from a central-western honfcsteal out into the long grass. For nine days thej| hunted them, all hands at the station llnim out and working up and down paddock after paddock. Then they found them collapsed, bul

alive. Thet eldest, a girl, had kept Uietv alive on yams or roots of some sort Tai superintendent of police at Bourke hal u almost stranger story.

"It was in the '80s," he said, "that tra children got lost just going back after school to their homes on the outskirts of the tow» here-two little toddlers. The grass was lone on the common then-I haven't seen a blade of It since '94. A search-party looked <'or them and could not nnd'tbetn. I had a tracket here then called Charlie-a black from a Dia- mantina run, and such a tracker that I had made the owner promise. It ever he dispensed with him, to let me have him. I took Charlie out. We miado a circle 12 miles from the town. And wo out their track.

"Charlie followed the track at a canter, see. ing it ahead of him by the turn of the grui blades, where you or I could not possibly haï«,

suspected It."

From Bourke you can see far over the plain one solitary table-topped bill. Its name li Mount Oxley. It is 28 miles away. "We fol- lowed the tracks to Mount Oxley," said the superintendent, "and there they turned. Wa turned after them, and four days from the dar, they were lost, M miles out, within a mile ot the Bogan River, wo found the toddlers. They, were pretty poor. But wo brought them la

all righi."

"tílVE YOU AN IDEA." ] The superintendent bent over bis desk ail, hunted for a paper. Finally he got It, and. handed It acros the table. "That'll elvo yoi) an ieica," he said, "livery moaUi or two w»' (et these reports."

It was an ordinary typewritten police of- ficer's report from a place 70 miles out It said that two boundary-ridera only last week, while mustering in a paddock cn Cliitot» Downs station, near Yantabulla, had como on the body of a man, very much shrunken, in brown singlet and trousers-billycan by, him-knife open at his side-swag, with tent- fly, and apparel lying around-bicycle close at hand-all much damaged by weather. Ha was midway between tho track to Willara and another track. Officer thought ho had probably tried a short-cut, and'had mióse!

the tank.

"They're all right," said the superinten- dent, "until something happens. Then they're, done," _ I

That Is to say, that In this year, 1309, ia the back country of Sydney, a maa can travel by taking advantage of the provision that Ia made there for sheep, without danger of los- ing his life for Just so long as the man is « sane, healthy, whole man, or the provision can bo found. If anything happons-if he breaks a leg, sprainB an ankle, gets drunk, goes mad-as he of ton has dono-ho has about as much chance as Shackleton would have had If the same thing hail happened at tt» Pole. If he Is a town mau and takes us wrong road, just bocauao it happens to haye bigger ruts, as a tailor did on the way to Louth some time since, and the ruts goM» miles and peter out-the chances aro he will be found, as the tailor was. Just 11 days Mo late, with his bicycle hung in a tree, and his clothes lying around. There aro main roa« in the centro of New South Wales of walch la town man can barely see the trace«, we struck one like that. ..__M

"There's been a lot of trafilo along her.,' said the driver when we cut It. You could see all the wheel marks for yfars-ther. ap- peared to bo exactly M of t»em_M"h»too4 ioad was traceable by the ruts which stood Out of the ground, not into »-"« BOg; waggon had hardened the sand there and tM years had worn away the sand «rounä «| Anotb<* roa4 thr0URh the ST^'whHtel by the white line of the wild oats which tai caught in the old nits and grown 'hore.

Those are the landmarks for human betop In these parts; and tbey are apt to be OT«* looked by one who is not used to them-M his peril But then the ProvUlon awort bim 1» for sheep, not for men-sheep «a may 'io six weil» without water. W»g the Auatrallan ^^¿"^SU^JS sheep, «e It has from South AuBtraU» «-« oevr the border, H W driven th.wUUW» too-a fortlorl-an« the Uni I« lirrr-i fences dow«, homaatawU' "11DJa'1- -, "*»

Quite apart frog, tíu *«*'_"_. Jg¿g_;

et Uwm, -Mt If ** ám¡ WM _*PS

?lia, j «.~_i-- M

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