Bidden Off î A Polo Story.
,3îy ROBERT ALLAN, in the Austra
. lasian Pastoralists'Review.
Polo crossed the Blue Mountains ; the bushmen took to it, and the special clause in the rides re "riding off" developed a " Mickey " in every team. To the Jackeroo it was something long sought after. Men from India, '. John- nies " who had played the game, came to the front advocating the new craze, sind among the number was Jack I'ord, one timo Jackeroo, now owner of- Station. Ho was rough and ready with either whip or fists, and an "alright 'un" across a young horse. He affected a ginger mous- tache, wore London " bags," and pro Jessed to be the one and only breeder ?of good 14-hand ponies in the districr.
. So Jack Ford rounded up his ponies ?for the purpose of picking out young 'uns to do duty as polo ponies. He had sent letters to surrounding neigh- bours of sporting tendencies inviting them over, and enclosing book of rules as played at Hurlingbam. It was a very, hobday when the mob carne into the yards. They sat on the rails look- ing oveftho likely ones.
- Said.Jack Ford-"You can take a pony each, and brcuk 'em to the raal -Jets. If they tura up " rotters," send
'em back. But," ho anded as a "saver," "you see that blood-bay pony with
the white star? "
*'No visible . brund !" came from young Jones, who was fresh und
"Precisely, Jones! Well, he'll very soon have a brand. Anyhow, I reserve him and that flea-bitten filly for my- self, so you can start and 'rope' your fancies straight away. I'm starting a polo club, und, by the hoky poky, you've got to back me up. ï'il'give you a couple of mallets apiece. Cost ihe 5s Od each. Same to you fellows."
"*. All right I " said the big mau from .Forbes. " It's too hot to rope 'eui now. - Let's go up to the house and form a provisional committee."
"They went; and in their absence the' bay pony was branded, becoming thereby the property of Jack Ford. They sat on the verandah, seven all told; hard riders, hard drinkers, and hard cases generally. They talked the club into existence, and, consider- ing that all spoke at once, a reasonable amout of sense was evolved. They -were. very, willing, these promoters. The "rules were read and re-rpud, and the one relating to "riding off ". com- mended itself to the big man from JTorbes, Tuncred by name. He held forth till Armitage, the man from .India, cooled him.
. <> Yes ; that's all very well, Tancred. The ' riding off ' part is all right, but judging by my experience of yon, you'll bally well ride a man doivn when you geb excited."
Late in tho afternoon they went down to*tho yards. A nirl sab on the rails aniaeg the men. She wore a bat- tered cabbage-tree bat strapped under her lips,, and ber hair fell below her shouraers.
..«Hello, Poll!" criPd Jack Ford. She glared at him. " Oonio to see the fun Polly?"
She stretched out her freckled arm, pointing: "I come to git that bay colt wot you branded, Mr. Ford," she drawled.
The Provisional Committee grinned. .?.There's a mistake somewhere," said Jack. ,
.«All right, Mr. Ford ; gi'mo the colt, an' we'll say no more about it."
Jack went in among the horses. ..That's my colt, Polly," he said slowly.
Polly Nixon, the adjoining cooky's -daughter, jumped off the rails, scatter- ing the| young 'uns. "Yours Ford ? The ole man bred 'im, an' you .'know it. The colt's been missing nigh on a year now. Yon g'me the 'orse or there'll be trouble."
Jack brought his whipdown sharply ; the young 'uns skipped round'the yard, und Polly took to tue rails again.
Said Jack : "It's my colt, out of my bay mare Honesty. My men could swear by the colt anywhere."
Then Polly slanged Jack mightily, ijut Jack certainly bad the " pull," for Iiis brand was on, and he bred numbers of ponies of a like stamp yearly. She turned away for her horse. " I'll send tny brother Tom, yer thief I" she cried.
? "Send Mm T'said Jack. "Send'im I «nd I'll straighten his hide for him." '*
The colt caused trouble. Polly's father threatened proceedings, but be fiad nothing good enough to " go on," So after a.while Jack was left in peace- ful possession.
' The Polo Club progressed ; a course .was marked out, and practices were Jbeld throe evenings in the week. But these cattle tuen swung the mallet . from the jump. Armitage had played
in India ; Jones was from Sydney side ; and St. John had done a little m Vic- toria, They practised regularly, and tbs back strokes of Jack Ford became -proverbial. The ponies turned up no -«rotters," and they were kepb in good "nick." Tancred was rather a nuisance in the riding-otl part of thc game, and the brute he rode WAS as strong as himself, and quits as assertive.
-Polly Nixon came through the hush to watch them play. She jeered at them at first, yet in time the spirit of polo got into this hush girl, ard sbo yelled at the mighty hitting of the *. toffs." One evening she brought ber brother Tom. Tom looked on, and his «yes. blazed. "By gosh, Polly 1" ho said, ". that's on alright game, that is."
Tom. Nixon came over again n»xt afternoon,-and he nde a jewel cf a ?pony-a.cream filly, just a shade over li hands.. "Mr. Ford," he said, " could yer aellme a couple of them polo bats? .Jue an' Polly's goin* to 'ave a game."
Jack Ford laughed long and loud, tiut, nilthe same Tom got tho polo sticks-mt 6s Od each.
Ford-saw no more of Tom and sister Polly-far days. The brother and sister played in the old man's home paddock, »nd it was marvellous the way they im- proved. . Tom's pony would turn on the flash of a coin ; Polly's little black' anare reefed and plunged and. folio wed the .bill. One uinht^Tbnr-lmd' avturri wltli-íthe.';" toffy." ttrid.ito/'quoto frnm' T«*KVf»J,';...hu played a real "-willin' jiiûiéT"""
Said Tom : "Me an' some of the boys
is gnin' to form a club."
"Right!" cried Jones, the ardent boy. " "We'll play you to a standstill. Tom 1" *
Tom asked for more mallets ; the Provisional Committee voted himsome, and Tancred pointed out tho rule rel at-
ine to the "off-side."
Tom Nixon formed the club. They called themselves the Lone Stars, and Armitage, the Indian man, who saw them practising, came over to Ford's and told them what to expect. '.'They're regular ' Mickies.' Ride oil ? I Good Lord ! they'll ride us down.
I Talk about Tancred: he's not in it!,
and, by Holy Frost! Polly plays all right. Tom's a bit wild, though."
"We'll play 'em a umtcb,"'sald Ford.
That polo match was a "willi.,' go." The Lone Star turned out in tight pants and leggitvs ; four big hard hitters, and brother Tom had a half-healed cut over one eye. Polly was there holding brother Toni s spare stick. Ford spoke to Polly once ; she ignored him. " 'Cause," she suld to a friend, " 'E's no better'n n 'orse thief." The sur- rounding country side rolled up to see the Lone Stars give the "toffs" a dolnV for to the majority polo constituted a free fight, and most of them had come merely to see someone get " stiffened."
Ford's team defended the south goal. They turned out well—bags, top-boots, and white "sweaters." The Provisional Committee not having found a suitable name so far, Ford for this day dubbed them the "Dingbats." The Lone Stars lined up, and away back Tom Dixon defended the guol. His face was set hard, and the muscles lay thick about
his bare arms.
" Are you all ready ?" asked the um- pire. The ball was thrown In ; Polly, watching from the touch line, let out a yell, and the game started quick and lively. The first three minutes was a tangle of mallets and kicking ponies. Young Jones fell off, and one of the Mickies caught him between the shoulder blades, but Jones hung on
to the reins. He got on again, yelling
" Fowl !"
The ball went Into touch. Said Jones, while wuiting : " These fellows
are - savages. They don't know
" Never mind !"said Tancred. "Har- den your heart ! Here conies the ball 1"
The first quarter ended peacefully ; the Dingbats hud run the ball behind the Lone Stars' line twice near the corner flag. Polly rubbed down her brother's sweating pony, and in her grey eyes shone the light of battle, "Go for Ford, Tom!"she whispered. " 'Ook Mm, Tom 1 Ride 'im off !'r
The second spell evolved nothing but a dispute over Tom Nixon hooking Ford's mullet from below. They went out to the third spell mounted freshly. The Dingbats got away from the "jump." Armitage took the ball Into touch nenr the Lone Star's goal. Polly ran along the touch-line yelling. The ball come into piny, and the malletB rattled and whistled like a reaping machine among ripe oats.
Armitage took the ball through, and out on the field Ford waited. A big Lone Star rode down on Armitage swinging his malIet,And another one bumped at him, striving to hook his mallet. Then out shot the ball, cut cleverly by Armitage, and the waiting Ford "got home" on it with a mighty cross hit, The ball went through the goal posts. Polly blasphemed from " touch," and the third spell ended.
The lsBt spell started . Blogglng, Armitage got n cut over the eyes, and Tancred rode No. 3 Lone Star off, ano rode him down. They fell in a heap, Piny went on, and Tom Nixon toot the ball away, hitting hard and strong clean between the Dingbats' goal posts Polly rode into the field yelling. ,
" Go off, Polly I" said Tom, " an' we'l do'em yet."
"Get off the bally ground I" criée Armitage, whose mouth was bleeding
" Yah !" yelled Polly, and went.
The last few minutes was a " mi: up." The sticks cut sevens in the air thu Lone Star ponies kicked; bu silently the Dingbats took the ba! down the field. Then Ford, with on strong clout, sent' tho ball jumpini down to Tom Nixon, and on It he fo lowed, swinging his stick, for he wa excited. They met the ball togethe: Ford's mullet came up whistling missed, and cut Tom clean under th jaw. He yanked over the pony's rum] and the ball went into " touch." tl the field Folly raced, swinging Tom spare stick.
', Ride 'em down, Polly !" yelled tl
"Look out, Ford !" cried Anni tag and the next moment Polly bumpt , into Ford. She swung the mallet, n
big square teeth showing. It caa down whistling, cutting Ford fair ov the side of the hend. , He dropped lil a log, and lay beside Tom cNIxo Then the crowd rushed on, and the being no Inca] policeman proser Polly , was left «lone. Tom Nixon .g well lignln, und so did Ford ;. but t! Dingbats and the Lone Stars ha never met since. Ford carries a sec Says Polly Nixon: "Ford, 'e brand my bay colt, but I've branded hi
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