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6 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections


Crooked Mick, the Shearer Giant.


Some sceptical people may doubt the exis- tence of our bunyip, but I never met a man who could for a moment question the fact that we have here in Australia— though rather late

in the centuries for such things —a real living giant. Does not every postmaster in Queens- land know his address?— Crooked Mick, Spewaw River, Never Never Land —and cannot all Northern shearers tell you tales about him which they are prepared to vouch for on their well-known veracity as gentlemen shearers, and on their honours as members of   the blade? They say that Mick shears 2000 sheep a day, occupying one side of the shed himself; it takes ten smart boys all their time to keep the wool away; he uses shears, made to order, with 3ft. blades, and requires a washtub to dip them in instead of an old quart pot or jam tin, as does the common—I mean the ordi nary shearer with the common shears. But all this is too well known ; every tar-boy in a Queensland shed has something to tell about Mick's shearing prowess. Yet compara tively few people, even here in Brisbane city, are aware of his lately having paid a visit to a local doctor and a dentist. For Mick, like our giant in wealth, Tyson, likes to go through life quietly—"never making a ripple on the sur face." It was "Pretty" Peter, a Northern shearers' cook, who told me about the giant's visit. Peter calls himself a cook, but I must say, in passing, that I once ate a pieoe of his pastry, and it stuck in my chest for days afterwards ; and oh! the nightmares! However, if " Pretty" Peter can't make pastry he is un doubtedly one of the most truthful men in or around the Gulf, and that is saying something. Every one up North knows this, therefore I have not the slightest hesitation in repeating the following story and claiming for it the great merit—in these days of fiction—ot truthfulness. The narrator assured us it was a fact, and that I consider is quite sufficient, especially for the thousands of   shearers and bushmen who have had the pleasure of meeting P— P— , who is a scarcely less remarkable man, although in a different way, than " Crooked Mick" himself, the former's strong points being his beaming beauty and bright truthfulness. But let me give Peter's story in bis own words as nearly as I can remember them.

Did I ever meet "Crooked Mick"? Didn't I meet him, last drought, crossin' the big plain between the Saxby and the Flinders. He was walkin' along with his usual stoop that's why they calls him 'Crooked' Mick, because for convenience' sake he has larn'd to double hisself in two. He had a 400 gallon tank in each hand, as it was a dry time, and he knew he'd want a couple of drinks before he reached the Flinders. He had a church on his back, which he intended leavin' as a present at Cloncurry when he passed there on his way out to the Spewaw. I asked him for a drink—

I knew him well, cooked two dozen dampers for his breakfast the shearin' before. He told me to help myself, for he isn't like some that will refuse a man a quart of water on a hot day in tbe middle of a big plain, tho' they see his tongue hangin' out like a dingo's. Mick pulled a two-gallon keg out of his pocket and gev me a nip; then, fillin' my three-quart billy, he had one hisself, and, sayin' he'd have a spell for a few hours durin' the heat, he stepped around to the shady side of Mount Bowen. I galloped after him, then he slipped the church off his back, and lay down in the shadow the mountain threw across the plain. I hobbled

the horse, and lyin' down near Mick's head we had a lone pitch. He told me he was just returnin' from   Brisbane, and filled the inside of ihe church with goods for the people of Normanton, so come that way to deliver them, and was now makin' for Cloncurry with the church, and he wanted me to turn back with him and do the preachin' in it for the benighted residents. He said I'd jest suit 'em, and he give a loud laugh at the thought—and I tell you when Crooked Mick throws his mouth open there's none of his face left, and when he laughed the mountain shook, and the echoes didn't seem able to take copy of that laugh quick enough, and, spare me days! sich a row I never heared afore or since. When he'd done, he closed his " damper trap" with a snap like an alligator, and the eagle hawks rose from the rocks and soared high above us, and a mob of cattle took fright and cleared across the plain. But, bless you! I   warn't a bit frightened, for I knew     Crooked Mick well, and, barin' he was in a temper, or on the booze, I never heared tell of his hurtin' any man. Like me, and most of us natives, he'd let people alone as long as they would not interfere with him. When Mick left off laughin', and the moun tain had done shakin', and the echoes had given up tryin' to take copy, I says, " What was you doin' down in Brisbane, Mick ? I thought you never came in from the Spewaw except to cut out a shed or two." For he's not a proud man, ain't Mick, though he do own all the Never Never country; there's none of the Mister about him, and tho' there's ne'er a shearer ever could keep tally with him for half-an-hour he never brags about it. You'd never guess you had the honour of talking to a ringer. He doesn't tell you within five minutes after you meet bim that he rung Shoolooloo shed last shearin'. He says to me, quite affable like, in his big bellerin' voice, that made the bulls answer him from the distant timber, " I never was down to the 'Big Smoke afore; and I don't want to go again ; there's no room there ; I like a fine open plain like this, where a man can stretch hisself full length. They gave me a room to sleep in, with two double beds joined end for end. I coiled myself down on 'em, but when I woke in the mornin' I found my feet stickin' out through the wall, and the fowls roostin' on 'em ; so after that I always slep' in the park, but was glad enough to get back into the bush once

more. I'd never have gone at all only I wanted to see a doctor."   "A doctor! Mick," says I; "why, I never hear any ot the boys talkin' about yer bein' sick." "Well, I was," he says, "I thought it must have been a touch of the sun. It couldn't have been the grog, for they only had a couple ot casks of rum altogether at the pub, and old Jamaica never did disagree with me, no matter how much of it I drank. But somehow after that ' burst' I never could get right; I always had a pain in my head, a dartin' sort of a pain, every now and then. However, 'twas shearin' time, so I went to work as usual, but at the end of about a month, havin' cut out four sheds —one a week—and findin' I was no better, I got the cheques cashed, and before any of the bush publicans oould manage to get me on the booze again I cleared for Brisbane. "I kept very straight, never touched a drop of bard stuff, and only allowed myself about twenty drinks a day—never more or less*l9 than a gallon at a drink. But wheq-I' went to the doctor's place he only shook- jjiis bead when he examined me, and said I was a—what d'ye think he called me, Peter?-'Adyp-so-ma-ni-ao!—I remember the word well—nothin' less. I told bim I was nothin' of the sort; I was a shearer, and a ringer too, and for two pins I'd hit him in the eye. A dyp-so-ma-ni-ao indeed! Some sort of a rouseabout I s appose he meant. When he saw I was riled he bolted out of the room, and I walked away down the street, sufferin' badly, 'cos the excitement had brought on the pain worse than ever. " I saw ' Dentist' on a door plate, and a lot of false teeth in a glass case, and it suddenly struck me that it might be my teeth wanted overhaulin', as I had heard of people gettin' bad headaches from neuralgia. I entered and told .the dentist I wanted my teeth looked at, and any necessary repairs carried out as quickly as possible, for I wanted to get back to the bush again—I was dyin' for a breath of fresh air. He at once plaoed me in a ohair, a lovely easy chair. I leaned back, shoved my feet through the window, and let them rest outside in bis garden. He got a little bit of a looking glass about the Bize of a shilling, and told me to open my mouth wide. When I dropped my lower jaw be stepped back as if I was a tiger, .. and putting the little glass aside, he went to a drawer and got a bigger one, about the aiae of a five-shillin' pieoe, with a handle to

it. I opened my mouth, the glass disappeared. The dentist looked at a loss. At last his eye rested on a fair-sized mirror that stood on the mantelpiece and reaohed to the ceiling. He took it down; then resting the bottom part against his belt and holding the sides with his hands he crossed the room to where I was Bit tin' at my ease, with my mouth open like an alligator waitin' for flies. He slid the glass in, and while he stood there puffin' and blowin' a look of satisfaction stole over his face, as if he felt content at having at last got the measure of my mouth. He then stood on a ohair and looked down into the glass, but finding the light was not good enough for it to reflect things away baok towards my throat he lit a kerosene lamp and pushed it back to tbe end of the glass. Again he jumped on the chair and had another look. His mouth opened, his eyes opened wider and wider as he gazed into the reflector, till I thought they were going to jump out of his head. I saw in a moment be had discovered something; so it must haxe been ray teeth then, not what the doctor said about dip-80-many something. I knew the qnack took me for a common rouse about, alrid fancied I had been sheep-washin', and dipped too many, and caught cold; but this dentist was a different kind of man alto gether ; he treated me like a gentleman, and saw what was wrong with me tbe moment he slid the mantelpiece mirror into my mouth and put the lighted lamp on it to illuminate what he oalled the cavities in myonolars. " The glass lay on my tongue like a postage stamp ; it didn't inconvenience me in the least. I had, for a wager, held more five-shillin' pieoes in my month than any of the other shearers' hats could contain. The dentist looked long into the glass, then stepping off the chair he dropped his hands by his side, regarded me with a look of bewilderment for a minute or bo, and asked, ' What in heaven's name do you live on ?' "He had forgotten the looking glass; bo had I, and as I attempted to answer him my jaws closed on it, and crunched it, lamp and all, aa a kid would a conversation lolly. When he heard it crackin' he leaped to the door, ready to start away, but observin' me, in a moment of forgetfulness, swallow the lot he rushed baok, and, seizin' me by the shoulder, tried to shake me, and exclaimed, ' It'll kill you ; come —come quick to a doctor!' I really pitied the poor little fellow's distress. Seeing ha waa

The Late Mr. J. Macfarlane, M.L.A. for Ipswich.


such a good hearted chap I smiled,     and told him I could chaw up a dozen of 'em any mornin' before breakfast, for if ever I feel a bit bad after a big feed I buy a half-dozen bottles of rum, draw the corks and swallow the lot, bottles and all; they assist digestion wonderfully. So a thin bit of glass like that in the mirror was no more to me than a wafer would be to him. " Having succeeded in satisfyin' him that the mirror would do me more good than harm, he again inquired what I lived on. ' Beef and charcoal tarts, when sober, but when on the booze I eat anything,' says I. " ' Just the conclusion I came to.' he says, ' such an assortment of odds and ends as the cavities in your teeth contain I never saw in any shop. I can do nothin' for you to-day ; I have no instruments or implements here to do the work with; but if you'll call to-morrow, immediately after dinner, I'll have everything ready to start oleaning the excavations out, and with the help of a few extra hands we might manage to stuff—that is, fill them in again before night. Now,' he says, ' good-bye till to- morrow ; I have no time to lose, I can tell you. Of course you are aware that it will cost you a good bit—it's such a large contract, and you're in such a hurry to get cured ?' " I told him, as I drew my feet in out of his garden, I didn't care what it cost, if I had to mortgage my Bunyip and Bandicoot station on the Spewaw, so long as I got rid of the pain in my head. " I need not say that I was there at the appointed time. I saw half-a-dozen men un loading a furniture van and takin' the things into a shed at the back of the dentist's house. He came out after a while to pay the vanman, and seein' me he told me to follow him, but instead of takin' me into the little room where the comfortable chair was he led the way to the shed, and pointed to a big iron chair, placed in the middle of it, and securely bolted to the floor. I sat down, six men at once stepped forward, and after asking the dentist if I was quiet they pro- ceeded to lash me down, legs and arms, with ropes passed through ring bolts in the floor and around posts and stanchions, till they had me spread out, like that eagle floatin' up above us. They now got a wire rope, and tellin' me drop my jaw they ran a bight of the wire over my teeth, and fastenin' it under the chair they twitched it with an iron bar till they nearly buried tbe point of me chin in me brisket. Having fixed me to their satisfaction, and feelin' easy in their minds that I couldn't move, they bruck open a box and drew out another mirror bigger than the one I had chawed up and swallowed the day before, two on 'em lifted it and slid it well baok on me tongue, and the boss lit a lamp and shoved it on the glass. After havin' a look hisself be beckoned to the blacksmith, who seemed to be foreman of the works—and he oome forward, and puttin' his hands on his knees stooped down and had a look at my upper back teeth, where tbe dentist pinted with a bar of rod iron. Shiftin' the lamp   under the tooth the smith said to the boss, ' I can see what you mean, but blow me if I know what to make on it, unless the hosses out on the Spewaw are built in proportion to the men —fit to carry this here bloke—and that there thing stickin' in his tooth is a horseshoe nail.' "Of course I could hear every word they was sayin', for they hadn't, for a wonder, stuffed my ears up, nor tied my eyebrows down, so I could twig all their movements, and wantin' to tell 'em as how I was the only squatter on the Spewaw, and that I had no horses out there, nothin' but alligators, bunyips, and bandicoots, I gave a lift with my lower jaw, snap went the wire rope, down my throat went the mirror and the lamp, and back jumped all hands, ready to streak it for their lives. But seein' I was not goin' to try to bust the other fixtures, they stood and listened while I told 'em about their bein' no horses up on my place, for they would be of no use to me, and besides, the bunyips and 'gators would make short work of them if there were any foolish enough to try to live there. So whatever 'twas that was in my tooth it warn't no horsenail. They fetched a second lamp, slid it in on the blade of a long-handled shovel, and after another look they decided to clean out what the dentist called the excavations in two other hollow teeth first, get them filled in, and then try to draw the piece of iron out that was stuck in the top tooth. One of the men rolled a coil of thicker wire rope over to the chair, and passin' this twice over my lower front teeth they bound my jaw down on my chest again, an' then all hands started with drills, picks, and shovels to clean out the two hollow teeth in my bottom jaw. Lord! 'twould surprise you to see what they raked out. It surprised me in fact; for things that I thought I had eaten years ago came to light again, and it a'most made me feel hungry when I thought of how my stomach had been ' had'—cheated out of what was meant to fill it by them there hollow teeth. " The men broke out heads and horns of fat bullocks that I had eaten the shearin' afore, shin bones of beef that I had ladled up with my soup, tins of preserved fruit and bottles of grog that I had swallowed, or thought I had, without drawin' the corks, meanin' to let 'em burst inside and warm me up, and when they didn't I blamed the publican for keepin' bad grog—never dreamin' about the hollow in my bottom teeth. At last they struck on some thin' bard; the picks would make no impres- sion on it, neither would the diamond drill. 'Twas like steel, the blacksmith said, and 'twould take an artesian bore to work through it; but by heating the drill red-hot he might manage to make a bit of a hole in it, and then loosen it with a charge of dam-ni-mite. " After about an hour's hard work they got a charge in, and let it off; it did not bust the thing right out, but it split it up ; you could hear it crackin' like ice, and then with long iron steel-pointed bars they worked it out bitby bit. The dentist examined it, took a piece to his workshop, and tried it with chemicals, and oome baok and told the men 'twas a flint rock of the very hardest description known in the world. I could not," says Mick, "help laughin', bound down though my jaw was, when I heard him, for I recognised it the

moment I saw it. An' what do you think it really wes, Pretty Peter?" "Don't know, Mick," says I. "Perhaps an alligator's head." "No fear," says Mick. "It was one o' your dampers, Peter. You know what they are like when fresh. So you can imagine that flint itself would be softer than one o' them after bein' stamped down into my tooth for over twelve months. Shearers are not easy to please and may grumble at your cookin', Peter, but I never had a man to suit me better; the remainder of those dampers you made me went down all right, and did me more good than bottles, kerosene tins, or even oil drums ever did, an' if you like I'll take you out to cook for me on the Spewaw." But knowin' what an eater Miok was I thought the contraot too big, so declined the honour, sayin' as how I had a job to cook for the publican at Taldora and couldn't disappoint him, as he was   going to have races there in a week's time. I could see Mick didn't like me refusin' him, for he thought a lot of my cookin', did Crooked Mick. Howsomenever, he said no more about it, but went on with his yarn touchin' the cleanin' and fillin' up of his teeth. "After they got your damper out, Pretty Peter," he said, " the men had a drink and a spell; then they set to work again, and in about two hours they bottomed the second tooth, and they oome on what they thought was a silver nugget. One of the men crawled in and held the lamp close to it to have a good look and swore 'twas bright silver and nothing else. I knew it must be one of the hatful of crown pieces that I held in my mouth for the wager, but they had my jaw bound down so that I could not stir it to tell 'em what it really was. So the boss himself took the lamp, and, stretchin' hisself at full length along my tongue, lowered the hurricane lamp into the hollow, and, sounding the bottom with a hammer, he came out and said 'twas silver too; but as they had already gone deep enough, and the silver was restin' on the natural bottom, it would do fust-rate. Therefore they oould all turn to   and fill the excavations up—as quickly as possible, because he wanted to get that iron out of my top tooth before dark. And he also said, if he had time and could find an elephant's tusk, he wonld make me a false tooth for the front of my mouth. " The men broke the heads off of a couple of barrels of cement, and started shovelling it into the exoavationa they had cleaned out, the dentist usin' the hose to wet it, and the black smith his hammer to stamp it in. When both teeth were full the barrels were well-nigh empty, and then the boss poured a lot of molten lead on top of the stuffin', as gold or silver would cost too muoh, it required such a large quantity. This done they got a vice fixed on to the end of the iron in the achin' tooth, and tried to pull it out but couldn't. I roared with pain, and they got so frightened that they left off haulin', and held another consultation, each tryin' to think of the best way to get it out. One man who had been working on an artesian bore suggested standing me on my head, tying my lower jaw back, and rigging a regular purchase, such as they used for getting the pipes up, but this would take too long, so it was not carried out. "At last the blacksmith said, 'I'll fix him; I'll make him use hia own strength and pull it out hisself. Let the ropes go off his lower jaw. Now make this hawser fast to the vice, and take a double turn with the other end round that post.' While the men were doin' this he heated a crowbar in the fire, and when it was red hot—glarin, flarin' hot— he whipped it out and shoved it up my nostril. The pain was terrible, and with a yell of rage I threw my head baok with such a jerk that out came the iron. 'Twas a mortising axe that I had for a toothpick, and being in the habit of chewin' it, I most have forced it up the hollow tooth, when I was on the booze, without notioin' it, and never felt the pain till I got sober. But when I dragged my head back and it came out I never felt such agony in all my life, and, mad with rage and pain, I tugged and tore, struggled and swore, till I lifted the chair from the floor, broke the ropes from the ring bolts, and as the dentist and his men had all cleared, and I could not find one of them to trample into a mummy, I dashed away for the river and threw myself in to cool l my burning nose and wash the blood out of my mouth. The iron chair was still fast to me, my hands were tied to it, so I could not use them, and would have been drowned only for Wigiewoogooroo, who was playin' about in the river, chasin' sharks, and hearing me aplashin' he came, took me out on the bank, undid the ropes, and took the chair off. " I was that wild with Brisbane and every one and everything in it that I determined to clear out straight away and never pay tbat dentist a solitary shilling. So Wigiewoogooroo and me started down the river, but, seein' a bran' new church and a great big store near it, I thought of my friends in Normanton and Cloncurry, and, fillin' the church with stores for the former, I put the lot on my back and started up the coast, not only for the sake of gettin' to Normanton but to let Wigiewoo- gooroo have a little amusement haulin' out sharks, whales, dugong, and suoh like, for he's a very playful animal is Wigiewoogooroo, and I like to see him luggin' a whale out, or swimmin' with an 18ft. shark under one arm and a dugong under the other." "But, Mick," says I, "who or what in thunder is this here Wigiewoogooroo ? Is it a 'uman bein' or a hanimal ?" " What!" says Crooked Miok, sittin' up, and looking down at me with surprise. " Never seen Wigiewoogooroo? Never heared any of the shearers talkin' about him ? Why, where have you been lately, Peter? I've had him with me all last shearin', and you never heared about him ! I'll show him to you. He stopped back chasm' crockerdiles in the Taldora big water hole, but he ought to be here by now." With that Mick put his fingers to his mouth and gave a whistle that nearly lifted the roof off my head. Next minute there was a roar from behind the hills that made them shake and wabble, and I saw somethin' comin' round the foot of the mountain. " There he is,' says Mick, pointin' to this movin' mass, while I shook in my shoes where I stood in the shadow

cast by the leaf of Crooked Mick's hat. " Ain't he a beauty ?'' says Miok, smilin' as Wigiewoo- gooroo came out on the open and I could see him properly; but so could my old moke, and,   with a snort an' a whistle like a brombie, he wheeled around, and with head and tail up away he went across the plain. I picks up the bridle and after him ; but will you believe it ? 'twas three days before I caught him, he was that frightened from the one glimpse he got at Crooked Mick's pet, Wigiewoogooroo." Here Pretty Peter paused and did not seem inclined to continue, so to loosen his tongue I offered him a nip. He took half-a-pannikin— neat—remarking that a buoket of that would do him good. " But what about this animal—this pet of Crooked Mick's?" I asked. " What was he like?' " Now, there!" said Peter," you must excuse me. He was a oross between a bunyip and an alligator, and if I was to desoribe him to you you would think I was tellin' a lie. And I don't want to give it to say to no man that ever Pretty Peter told a lie in all his life."