JACKAROO PAPERS. I
BT X H. M. ABBOTT. .
CONCERNING JACKEROOS AND
A CERTAIN INOipENT.
"We bave read largely and often c the bullock-driver and his ally, tl .wall-eyed yellow dog; of the ma who bunts brumbies in wild and inai cessible places, on a weedy pony, wit a large stockwhip ; of the long-legge youth who could ride anything wit a hairy hide ; of the sundowner wb bas sore feet, and might bave bee something else if it hadn't been fa circumstances over wbicb he had n ' control ; and of the ligbt-hearte
shearer, witb the inexhaustible fun of " blnnky" profanity. And we ale know u good deal concerning th reverses and successes of tbe much maligned squatter, who controls th destinies of these people. But of th intermediate order of the specios Agricola Anstralicnsis - not ver much has hitherto been said ; that i to say, of the "Jackeroo," wh comes between tbe bullocky, brumby hunting, rough-riding, swag-carrying shearing class of bush-worker, am the class whose individuals are tech nically distinguished by the tern "boss." And, on the whole, th middle one of theae three orders is i noticeable one.
It is popularly supposed by dweller/ in the cities that they who go out 01 the run on horseback are fortunate persons with few worries and gooc horses to ride ; and that their chie: occupations consist of riding the gooc horses and " blowing the cool tobaccc cloud, BS they sit loosely in tbi saddle." This, too, we imagine, is ai idea entertained ' by many of. thc class in question themselves previoui to their passing the threshold of thc " mill," but, in every respect, it is t mistaken idea. AB is the case in thc acquirement of most kinds of know, ledge of practical affairs, that ol obtaining what is known as " colonial experience" does not wholly consist of beer, alternated by skittles. Tbe beer and the skittles are most fre- quently remarkable by their absence, and, figuratively, the kicks are more numerous than the half-pence.
There was once a youth who spent his days iu a city offico-at least, th c parts of the days he did not spend on the "Block"-and his nights in tho manifold recreations and sins peculiar to his kind. Altogether he did not have an unendurably hard life. The chief burden of it lay in the fact that he bad to commence his work at half past nine in the morning, and that this nocoBBitated an uprising from bis downy couch at 8.30. But he was privileged to gamble'upon the total eator whensoever he felt inolined . to do so ; was the possessor of a latch
key ; could witness the play of the English -cricketers, whenever they came a-cricketing, and was in no way debarred from amusing himself in the manner he listed. Still ho was not happy. HÍB soul yearned for freedom-for the limitless freedom of the unending plain, and the breezy mountain top-and he began to regard himself as an automation. So, being mentally diseased, he left that o (lice and betook himself to a station owned
by a company of which h¡8 father was a director, and there, for three months he sawed firewood into short lengths for a little.steam engine that was the property of the company. And after that there was footrot ; and after that .shearing ; and after that he began to wonder whether there was a soul in him, and if so, whother it was his own or tho company's. And after a year on Molly Downs he had the makings of a good man; in him : but the glamour of the life that he had beheld afar off from 'the, stool WOB a - different glamour to ..that which he
saw as bo looked along' the race on a hot day, and realised what'dust to dust meant. This youth waa tempor : arily unfortunate that he picked up
his experience in matters pastoral under the tutelage of a manager who believed in a theory that if many burdens do not break a young man's heart, they will enable him eventually to boar much greater ones. He boro his burdens fairly well, because lie himself had a theory about making his own bed and lying upon it; but often, when his back ached, towards tho sunset,' ho would reflect regretfully upon the days of the past, and wondor whether so-and-so or someone elso would win the tennis tournaments which, nowadays, it was his hard lot only to bo ablo to mad of in a newspaper that arrived half a
week after it was issued.
There was yet again another youth, whom they put without warning, upon n 'buck-jumper-but that ia such a very old and universal story that it is hardly worth while retailing again.
In the first few months of his novitiate, tho Jackeroo, if be ho also ~ the Now Chum,"has, as a rule, a bad
time-a very bad time indeed, lie is taught to boliovo, after much bitter experience, that he is devoid of tho slightest knnwledgo of all matters ruled ovor by common Benso. Ho learns to continually expect tho wholly unexpected ; to tako the good with the bad ; and to rejoice that tho bad is not much worso than the good. . He is a butt for the frolicsome humor
of ovory wire-strain and rouseabout upon tho place, from tho man who sees to the Btuds to the wreck who daily oxpects the " sack" from tho burr-cutting gang. HU hands, which once he rather fancied wero very presentable hands, become red and hard, and havo little bits - of skin knocked off their bnoks during tho performance of menial offices. Con- tinually ho asks himself wbethor he over thought ho would come to this kind of thing, and continually dis- covers that there is another and a - worse kind of thing to be done. Ho
. does not take to drink, bocauso ho > - has not sufficient timo at his disposal
to do so.
But after he has, learned that ho 1 ie expoctod to work, and to work his i best; after his hands have becomo 1 used to the roughness that was at < first strangely unpleasant, and when i his muscles havo becomo rather mora i dovelouad ; after tho time when days ' Boom to bo weoks, and lifo not worth c the living-thora come the boat days 1
o£his existence. He has found out for himself that it is a good and healthy-thing to feel that there is something to be done, and that he is not altogether incapable of doing it. He is beginning to feel, as the aie k stockrider felt, that
The longest day was never thea too long.
He begins to take a pride in the run. He rejoices when the clip fetches a good price in London. He sorrows with his fellows when sheep that were locally thought to be very fine mut- ton indeed do not top the market at Flemington. He meets with others of his kind from 'neighbouring st ations, and will talk to them with satisfaction of lambing percentages and kindred matters having to do with sheep. If anyone upon the place happens to have a horse that is supposed to be able to gallop he will back it, manfully and loyally to bis last shilling, should it be entered at any race meeting. He will occasionally suffer from "swelled, head," and be taken down. Occasion- ally he will go to the dogs.
Altogether they were good, those Jackaroo days. There was no anxiety about an overdraft, or the approach of rabbits ; or the difficulties attend- ant upon the endeavour to make both
endB meet. There is a recollection of a freshness that is not of later
years ; of carelessness of most things in the woy of trouble that is not of to-day. There was mostly some kind of a future to be dreamt of, and there was a little building of castles in the air that do not get built BO frequently in the after'time.
The Pastoral Produce Company Limited still owns Dingbat. It has owned it for many years. It obtained it as part of a grant from the Crown under a quaintly and loosely-worded charter ages and ages before the rail- way ran through twenty miles of it; before the company's general manager represented in Parliament the dis- trict in which it lies. Ill-natured people have connected the member- ship of the manager with the coming of the line through Dingbat, and the existence of a very convenient truck- ing siding one-half mile from the head station. But there are always evil minds ready to twist coincidence into design, and the influential member manager, who could pull wires long before wire fences came into vogue, is dead now, so it would be a kindness to let him rest. It is told of him that he once paid a visit to Dingbat soon after the advent there of a new station manager, who, anxious to stand well with the "general," prepared a goodly luncheon and entertained him right royally. But after his return to Sydney the great man saw to it that his late host's
salary was cut down a little, because, he said, a manager who could afford to prepare such sumptuous "spreads," and who could sport such excellent wines, could also afford very well, to lose a little of his screw, and that every reduction in expenses of work- ing meant bigger dividends to the company. There is a moral lying
somewhere in this.
Dingbat is a good country. Pour fifths of it is plain, and one-fifth runs up into ranges ; the mountainous fifth consists of about 50,000 acres. After the manner of the immortal Sherlock, you may deduce the extent of' the whole from this, In a good 'season the run fattenB many sheep and some oxen on its natural grasses. In a bad ono it is no worse off than many other places. Clearly, the original grantees who selected the locality of the grant were people who. had mas- tered the somewhat uncommon know-
ledge of the time when it is expedient
to como in out of the rain.
Moreover, the shareholders of the P.P. Co. dwell mostly in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The directors are large gentlemen, figuratively, with white waistcoats, straight mouths, stupendous gold watch-ohains, and those horny and gnarled hands which, however carefully tended in the after timo of prosperity, or apparent pros- perity, always bear witness to days of hard practical oxperienco. If you see
a man in Collins-street or round about
the Sydney block, whoso attire is scrupulously correct and linen spot- lessly white, with red, raw, scaly hands, all twisted and knotty about their backs, you may with a tolerablo degreo of certainty assume that his balance is on the right Bide of the ledger, and that he bas, or had, some connection witk pnstoral affairs. And if you should make his acquaintanco you will discover that he is fairly " canuy." lt is a mistake to supposa that a mun, is to be judged by his countenance.
Look first at his hands and thon at his necktie.
But, above all, have the managers of Dingbat boon men of mark in thoir particular line; of unerring wisdom in matters bucolic ; of un- fathomable knowledge) in all things relating to the land laws. They have always been such . good men, such oxcellont servants of their god-tho company, that tho groat nickle of retrenchment haB seldom lopped off
the oars of thoir salaries. And herein
lies much wisdom. If you want to have anything whatsoever well at- tended to, never, never stint tho man who does the attending for you. Let him squeeze) his subordinates when economy is necessary, but refrain from the foolishness of squeezing him. If yon harass your manager over-much personally, you will soon bo, as they say in tho bush,'" up a wattie." Pre- paratory to being " up a wattle," ono " goes up King-street."
From thoHe throe things, theroforo, the shareholders being colonial, the directors knowing when to come in out of tho rain, and the managers being invariably capable managers, and mostly uiirotronched, it comos about that Dingbat is one of the meanest and most hcavan-forsaken runs about which a Jackaroo ever broke his heart. And from these it also follows, bocauso of tho pre knowledgo that the colonial youth obtains from his predecessors, that most of the .TackarooB upon Dingbat ire English by birth and bad luck. Fhero has hardly ,evor hoon moro than ina out of tho usual half-dozon fledg- lings who havo bailed from the
Hawkesbury, ' or tbe Hunter,'or thi Monaro side, or tbe west. Tbe evi fame of Dingbat bas not reached thi Englishman, as a rule, .previous tc his arrival there, and the old colonia generally bas no choice in the matter In my time, I was the old colonial.
There was once an old man living near Merringiddi, who used to corni out to Dingbat every year at shearing time to take charge of the board. H< was such a courteous, gentlemanly and polite old man that for a long time no one could understand in thc least how it was that he was generali} loathed by the men who shore undei bim. Apparently, he was consider- ation itself to all who worked beneath bis seemingly mildly - benevolent supervision., And yet he was hated by his shearers with a bitter and unfathomable hatred. One day, how. ever, H'Mahon chanced to be standing near him as be leant over a perspiring toiler, unaware of the proximity ol any listener save the man whom he WOB addressing, and beard him remarli in a still, small voice, full of gentle- ness and suavity-" Keep low, you - son of a dog, keep low ; -? you !"
Blakey, a former manager, was a man of great ability, bf some discern- ment in a horse. deal, and of a fiery temper, which poured itself abroad through the medium of a copious torrent of blasphemy and profanity. When not profane and blasphemous that is to say, when he was unruffled by the environment-Blakey was- a deeply religious man. He was abstemious ; he attended divine service fortnightly ?; he waB kind, and occasion- ally generous ; he WOB a J.P. ; and he was eminently respectable. But n troubled moments his language was extraordinarily fluent and very
Once, when the temporary divorce laws of live stock were being adminis- tered, that is to say, when the rams were being withdrawn from the ewe paddocks-it was necessary to hand draft some twenty-five paternal ovine patriarchs out of a mob of many hundreds of owes. In hand-drafting you run about the yard until you catch the " draftee," and haul him, panting, to the gate, where you shove him through, with vaBt shoving, into a smaller yard. On this occasion all save one of the rams bad been put through the gate, which Blakey opened and closed himself as circumstances
required. The sun was hanging low down above tho edge of the plain; the afternoon had been very hot, the yards very dusty ; work that day had started at 4 a.m., and we had eight miles to ride home. It was a young ram - active, dodgy, opposed to divorce, and in coin of the realm worth fifty guineas. Four of us leant against the palings and watched tho newest importations of our kind pursue tho ram. A sale-overseer conversed with Blakey upon the morrow's plans. We gave that fresh cornplexioned new chum good advice ; we encouraged him. Finally the black-hoof jeered at him. Hound and round tho Bnuare tore the merry hunt. Sometimes the hunter would trip over a staid matron and measure hiB length in the ' dbst, amid a chorus of exhortations from his mentors. along the fence 'not to "give it best." Sometimes he would almost have his quarry when, with a wriggle and a leap, the quarry would again elude his grasp, and dash into the thick of
the mob near a corner. And all the
time a little dust-storm played about the hero of the incident and choked him, and got into his eyes. At last, almost exhausted, and in a lather of perspiration, poor Nicholls caught the ram by the legs. With what was well-nigh a last effort he turned him upon his back, and knoeling trium- phantly upon him, gasped loudly with a crooking voice-" What'll I do with him. Sir ? "
Blakey, laying down'the .law con- cerning'stray dogs to his overseer, and with his back turned upon the scene of action, growled out impatiently, " Oh, cut his -- throat ! "
Then, before we could interfere before we could utter one cry of horrified1 protest-before wo could ejaculate the name of a certain deceased and profane statesman, who was " the friend of the freo-Beleotor," that guileless Johnny-raw had whipped out tho big clasp knife that was part of his wonderful out-fit, and the vital party of fifty guineas was squirting in jerky streams on the dust, and making little crimson pools that cnuuht the Inst slanting beams of the setting sun.
Tho silence for a moment was very solemn. It moved Blakey to turn and look hy reason of its oppressive solemnity. His red face went white and then purple ; his hands came out of his pocltots and wandered convul- sively down tho seamB of his trousers. He seemed to bo choking. Wo were very much alarmed-not so much for possibilities of apoplexy in Blnkoy ns for tho ultimate fate of Billy Nicholls.
Blakey swayed n little, and gripped the edge of tho gate to steady himself.
Nicholls' white, wet face starod back and wide, terrified eyes.
Then huskily froth Blakey : " Well I'm - ! - - !--'-1 ! and - such a rotton - cow of a -
forsakon yahoo ll! " Many more strenuous periods, and finally, beforo he rushed upon tho offender with his whip:"" Wno got you, you-; who got you ?"
Nicholls did not wait for the rest of us. Ho reached tho head station
fully half-an-hour a hoad of anyone else. He did not spend that night in our barracks. 1 fancy that ho passed it in walking up and clown through the timber opposite the manager's quarters trying to catch sight of that irate and fuming personage as he paced his verandah past tho lighted doors and windows tor many hours. Folly, the cook at the house, even went BO far ns to tell Bomoono that Mr. B. had a loaded riilo in tho corner, juat inside the front door ; hut BB Folly had beon known to lio exces- sively about bor parontngo, this mnynot , have been true. At any rate, on tho ride home, when wo came up with Blnkoy on his lamo horse, no one vonturod to
speak. It would hare boon OB much '
as one's life. was worth to have
sniggered. And when there is a humorous aspect to anything it is very difficult not to snigger ; and only a consideration of the grave possibilities that may result from such a course of action*will control the looker on. We were self-controlled.
ThiB happened the week before the
Jackaroos' Club was formed in Merrin giddi, and, indirectly, led to its forma
?Australian Pastoralists' Review. I