Stories By Outback Jack

"Tar"

Sorry to have been away for so long, folks, but when you get out there it can be a bit hard to drag yourself away. From out where you ask? Outback of course !.

I have a few good yarns to tell from past trips to the beyond, but we are going to put them aside for awhile, because I have a story to tell you about a man and his best friend. This is a true story. I know it is, because I was there.

This story is about a dog named TAR. Tar was, to all intents and purposes, supposed to be a retriever, but I have the feeling that his mother may have strayed from the purity of the breed. Tar had the coat of a retriever, along with the floppy ears and the sad eyes, but was only about half the normal size. He was so black that you could sit him on a gate post on a moonlight night and you couldn't see him from five feet away. All these deatils must be boring, but then this story is about a wonderful little dog of doubtful parentage.

Tar belonged to a rabbit trapper friend of mine named Mick. Mick had picked him up on the side of the road when Tar was about two months old and more than half starved. He became a beaut trap dog as he hated rabbit traps. When he was about six months old he had his foot caught in one and held them in great respect from then on.

Mick and I were trapping rabbits on a property in western Victoria. It was mid-winter and we were working about a hundred traps. One day I left the camp about 4pm, heading for town to pick up some tucker and expected to be away for about 2 hrs, but a flat tyre on the old Austin 12 caused some delay and I didn't arrive back at camp 'till about 7.30pm.

Everthing was in darkness. The fire hadn't been lit and there was no sign of Mick. Tar was there acting very strange,jumping up at me, something that he was never allowed to do. He kept it up until I noticed a piece of paper stuck in the buckle of his collar. I knew something was wrong, for the paper was a piece we trappers used to place over the jaws of the trap to stop dirt and rubbish from getting under the plate and stopping the trap from being sprung.

Mick had put it there, knowing I would see it and know something was wrong. I grabbed a lantern and headed off behind Tar through the dark, cold and windy Victorian winter night. Tar moved along at a brisk pace with me trying to keep his black rump in sight in the lantern's light.

We must have covered a good mile when Tar stopped at a rocky outcrop. I jumped in fright when this voice from the darkness said,"What kept ya?". It turned out that Mick had been digging around under rocks, after rabbits, when a rock slipped and pinned his foot. He tried to free himself but with no success. It was then he realised the only chance he had to get help was to rely on Tar. He put the paper in Tar's collar buckle and sent him "home" to get me. Because of the delay with the flat tyre, tar must have waited about three hours for me to get back to camp.Not only did Tar show a lot of interlligence, but also a lot of love for the bloke who picked him up pff the side of the road as a pup. If there is a doggy heaven, then Tar has a wonderful home.

....Jack


"Musso The Magnificent"

By Outback Jack

Here we go again folks. Now this isnít a story about manís best friend or womanís best friend either for that matter. This is a true story about a bird, one of this countryís more abundant pink and grey Galah. Now this fellow was commonly known around "Clonagh" cattle station, where he spent most of his life as "Musso"

Now Musso was no ordinary bird, for he had a club foot, which meant all of his landing and grasping was done with one foot. That made for some horrific landings. Nine times out of ten he would come into land on the ground and end up on his back with his feet in the air. The lady who told me about this was on the station at the time and she would hear the thud and the screech and go out and put Musso the right way up. Musso( I did say he was no ordinary bird), worked out that if he could hang onto something when he landed, it was a lot easier on the body. He started the habit of landing on the station house fly screened windows and doors, hanging by one foot until rescued, or he would land on peoples heads, grabbing hold of their hair with his one good foot and flopping down over their faces.

The station people would see Musso coming and would start yelling, "Look out. Look out!! Now it didnít take this smart bird long before he started issuing these warnings himself. Heíd come in to land with this very loud, "Look out, Look Out !" This frightened the wits out of many a new chum or station visitor.

One day there were three cattle buyers at the station looking over some cattle. They had seen all they wanted of the cattle and ere taking a stroll, presumably discussing prices or some such thing. Now, two of the buyers wore hats and the third had no hat. It was an understood rule with Musso that he didnít land on anyone that wore a hat because the hat always fell off and him with it, so he always picked people without head gear. The buyer, who was also as bald as a baboons bum was in for a hell of a surprise!

These three buyers came back to the homestead, two doubled up with laughter, the other holding a hankie on his dome, complaining about the local wildlife. "Look what a bloody galah did to me" he said, removing the bloodied handkerchief from his head. "But to the birdís credit", he said," It did try to warn me. He was yelling "look out,look out, look out" all the time." No one let on who it was but all had a good belly laugh.= ....Jack.


"Bluey The Great"
By Outback Jack

I was just out west of beyond, looking after a bit of a cattle run for a bloke whose name I can't seem to recall. Anyhow, that doesn't matter, because this yarn is about a dog called "Bluey".

We were mustering up a mob of crackers for the meatworks, and among that bunch of crowbait, were some of the greatest dodgers that ever pawed the dust.

Well, to cut a long story short, we picked up a mob of about fifteen of the smartest butcher escapees and bunched them together, in with the rest of the mob.

We camped them overnight in what we reckoned was a pretty tight camp, but would you believe it, in the morning the whole fifteen of them were gone. So we stirred the rest of the mob and took 'em off to the 'works, where we arrived a couple of days later.

On the morning we started for the 'works, I think it was about nine o'clock, I remember saying to me mate, "Where is old Bluey?"

He says,"Aint seen him since sunup."

Well, we sold the cattle, got our money, had a couple of rums at the local and headed off home. Still no sign of Bluey.

It was about a week later that I was sitting on the verandah, when I see something coming up the track. When it got closer I see it's old Bluey. In his mouth he's got a 40 oz bottle of rum, and jammed under his tail he has an envelope.

Well, he puts the "Bundy" down at me feet, has a big drink from the trough, lifts his tail and drops the envelope at me feet and sets off to check out the station bitches.

Well, the main part of the story goes like this. It seems old Bluey set off by himself to track them missing cattle. He caught up with them and moved them all the way to the meatworks by himself. Now the manager of the works knew Bluey well and gave him the cheque for the cattle.

Our Bluey's no fool. He knows that cheques are no good in our part of the country, so he takes the cheque down to the publican, who also knows old Bluey and cashes the cheque for him.He puts the notes in an envelope, and knowing my habit, gave Bluey a bottle of rum and put the envelope under Blueys tail.

Now Bluey knows there is no way he can pick up the envelope again if he lifts his tail and I tell you, there's not many a dog that can travel 40 miles without opening his mouth or lifting his tail.

But then, you an me know there aint any other dog like "Bluey The Great."! ....Jack.

The Good Old Days

By Outback Jack


When I think back on some of the things we had to do to earn a crust back when things were pretty tough. You often hear them called the "good old days." The only thing good about them is that thereíre gone !
When youíd cut a chord of firewood just to get a feed and most times it was Gidyea, wood that any axe would bounce off and you needed a pair of wedges just to split it !
When you set possum snares to sell the skins and more often than not you didnít waste the rest!
When to get the "dole" like today, you went where the work was or you missed out, and that could mean a trip on shankís pony of up to fifty plus miles or more in a twelve hour day;
When you had to appear on the site, even if there wasnít a job for you, just to get the appearance money.
When you waltzed your matilda along the well marked track and watched for the swagmanís signs on the gate post or tree, telling you whether you were wasting your time trying to get work or a free feed at some properties on the track.

You travelled light, with just a blanket and a change of old clothes, a flour bag, a billy, a pannikin or quartpot and whatever food you could scrounge. Some tracks, especially after a good wet would have wild sweet potatoes or yams growing along the creek banks and many a damper was flavoured with wild passionfruit or gerkin.
You didnít enjoy living hand to mouth but you didnít complain because you had no one to complain to most times. You had a big problem if you started to talk to your matilda and an even bigger one if she talked back!

In summer you walked at night and found the first bit of shade by sunup the next morning and preferably near a billabong or creek.
In winter you built three fires and slept between and as close to them without actually setting fire to yourself.
You got wet when it rained and you froze in the cold. But you survived. You had to.

You got to know every cook on every station and when the boss and the ringers were out working.
You knew where every chook house was so you could relieve a hen or two of an egg or three without making a sound.
You soon learnt not to take all the eggs so as not to make the cockies wife suspicious. The same applied to fruit trees. You only took what you could carry and eat within a few days or it went bad and you couldnít eat it anyway.
You soon learnt to throw a stone with a certain amount of accuracy as pigeon cooked on the coals was a delicacy. And donít knock goanna or snake. The problem is catching the buggers.

If you came across a waterhole or river and you had a piece of fishing line and a hook then you stayed until you couldnít look at another yellow-belly or sooty grunter.
You became very efficient at catching grasshoppers and soon learnt where to find witchetty grubs for bait.

Your boots were always a problem. You never wasted any fat. That was rubbed in to keep them soft and pliable. You stuffed bark or old newspaper if you had any, into your boots when the sole wore out, and wire laces were the in thing. Boot laces were to useful to waste on boots.


I often wonder how the younguns of today would survive without all the modcons.
How would they cope out on the track, humping a bluey, living off the land, having to walk everywhere and sleep on the ground ?


I sincerely hope they never have to find out.

..................Jack.