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Friday, 15 August 2014

Crooked Mick makes a mistake

Now don't get me wrong.  Crooked Mick was just an ordinary bloke, and just as inclined to make a mistake as I am — maybe more, because I know of at least one occasion when he did just that, though it was more a mistake of judgement than anything else.

It was the drop bears that were behind it, of course, that and Mick's dog being so lazy.  And I suppose Mick not thinking things through carefully enough.

A few of the back paddock drop bears were turning nasty, and attacking the women again.  This wasn't a problem for Smiling Annie who would just look up as they hurtled down, and smile at them, which'd make them turn right round and hurtle back up again.  It's true — one of Annie's special smiles was enough to repeal all the laws of physics, so bending gravity a bit was easy.

And Alice had no trouble at all, since she'd been strangling drop bears with her hands since she was five.  We have a name for hands as big as Alice's: we call them bear hands, but that's just our little joke.  You need a few jokes like that in the bush, because nothing much ever happens.

Anyhow, those two were safe enough, and Gertie, Greasy Smith's youngest, she'd just charm them with this charm thing an old Aboriginal lady gave her to ward off the evil spirits.  This charm was a piece of carved and fire-hardened brigalow about four foot long, and knobby, and Gertie always said it worked just like a charm, and had done for all of the twenty years she'd been using it.

Some of the other women and quite a few of the men, though, found themselves threatened by the drop bears, so Mick decided to do something creative.  He went out with his dog and showed the dog how he wanted it to roll a wave of rabbits over the drop bears after he'd gone running through, tempting the drop bears to have a go at him, and come down onto the ground.

Now as I said, the dog was lazy, and it soon got fed up with rounding up enough rabbits to trample the drop bears to death, and because they never got them all, Mick was always wanting him to turn the rabbit wave around, and run it back through the bear trees once more.

So being lazy, the dog decided to fix the drop bears once and for all, and he taught four of the other dogs how to work the rabbit wave, then ride up over the top of the wave, land clear on the other side, and then turn the wave back the way it came.

The idea was just to go steam-rollering back and forth with this wave of rabbits, flattening any drop bears that were on the ground, and being cannibalistic, the surviving bears would come to the bait, as soon as you got one or two of them, so it was all a bit like priming a pump.

Well the first day worked a treat, and being a Sunday, nobody paid much attention to what the dogs were up to, and it was only later that Gertie happened to mention that she had seen a bunch of them working the rabbit wave, all on their own.

The next Sunday, though, was a different matter.  The dogs must've rounded up every rabbit in the Speewah back paddock, because the wave was running at ten foot high, piling up to twelve or thirteen in the shallows, and it was close to unstable all of the time, according to Truthful Lewis, who saw the thing from the top of a Speewah ironbark, where he'd been chased by a bush alligator, which was sitting at the bottom of his tree and leering hungrily at him.  The rabbits got the alligator as well, on their second pass, so Truthful was happy to just sit and watch what was going on.

As I said, the wave was close to unstable, because there was just too much mass in it, and the disaster came on the fourth pass.  What happened was the dogs got this really big wave going, a bit like when you keep pushing a kid on a swing, but the fourth pass was just too much, and too rushed, and the bunnies on the bottom were getting trampled by the ones on top, and that slowed the base down.

So when the dogs rode up onto the crest of a wave, ready to drop down and turn the wave back the other way, the unthinkable happened, and the wave turned into a dumper.  Well the dogs went over the top, down the front, and got dragged under and rolled over by the rabbit wave, they had their faces pushed into the sand, and generally got treated in a demeaning way.

So when they surfaced, snorting and sputtering behind the wave which was now beginning to falter, they were good and mad.  And when Speewah dogs get mad, they roar.  And when any sensible animal hears a Speewah dog roar, it gets going, which is why the rabbit wave re-formed and took off across the plain, with the dogs still roaring behind them.  They might have been as silly as rabbits, but that roaring soon got them sensible.

All the warning the people of Bandywallop got was a low rumbling noise as the rabbits came pouring over the plain, with the dogs roaring behind them.  Of course, they thought it was a stampede of scrub bulls, and that was enough to persuade them all to scramble up onto a large rock behind Mulligan's pub, carrying whatever they could.  So they were well placed to see how high the tide came.

Except, that is, for a bloke called Long Harry, whose legs were so short that he couldn't make it to the top in time, and just as people were reaching out for him, the wave hit, and he was carried away.  Luckily for him, old Mulligan used to keep some planks up on top of the rocks, and the people up there were holding one of the planks out to him.

Now Long Harry had been down the Big Smoke once or twice, and knew a bit about waves.  So when he realised he couldn't make it to safety, he yelled out to Mulligan to let go the plank, and he rode that wave of rabbits, always slanting out to the left, until the wave died away.

Then he stepped off, and brought the board back with him, walking for two days and two nights to get back to where Bandywallop ought to have been.  When he got there, there wasn't a bit of the town left that was as big as his board, and there hasn't been to this day.  All the people just packed up, and moved to Yandackworroby, where life in the bush is slow and uninteresting, the way it ought to be.

But none of it would've happened if Mick hadn't made a bad mistake of judgement.  And even then, there would've been no problems if the dog hadn't been lazy and strong-willed, and even more lacking in judgement than Crooked Mick.  But it was the laziness that made Mick's dog forget to stop and think.  No doubt about that at all.

At least it kept the drop bears under control for a few years.

* * * * *

Note: there is a whole book of these stories, which I am currently pitching to publishers, but they will probably appear in an e-book.

There will be quite a number of these on the blog, all with the tags Speewah and Crooked Mick.

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