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The bloke from snowy river - Graham Lawrence

"There's no one today who can ride like we did," said my uncle Joe. "Why the worst rider in them days would be a champion if he was ridin' now."

"Who was the best you ever saw? I asked.

"Struth! That's a hard one. We was all so good. But there is one rider that sticks in me memory."

He carried out the leisurely ritual of filling and lighting his old black pipe, his pale grey eyes looking back far into the past. He coughed and spoke through a cloud of smoke.

"Word had gone out on the bush telegraph that the squatter had lost a good racehorse colt. By Old Regret he was and supposed to be worth a thousand quid, so we all sort of drifted over there to round up the mob of brumbies he'd joined. We liked that sort of stuff and I reckon our horses did too. Old man Harrison took charge like always. That's the way it is with rich blokes, think they know the lot because they have a few quid. Well all he had to know to make his pile was how to bet on his horse, and that don't take much brains. He was a good horseman though.

And a bloke called Clancy, who'd been up in the Over Flow country, came along. He was supposed to be pretty good, though I reckon he was a better talker than a rider.

And there was one young bloke there on a nice lookin' little pony, like a three quarter size racehorse, fiery lookin little bugger, and Old Man Harrison, know-all like he is, tells this young bloke his horse aint no good for this job. I reckoned he was a good little mountain pony, but I didn't say nothin'. Clancy did though.

'I think we aught to let him come,' he said; 'I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end, for both his horse and he are mountain bred. He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side, where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough, where the horses hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, and the man that holds his own is good enough. And the Snowy Mountain riders on the mountains make their home, where the rivers run those giant hills between; I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam, but never yet such horsemen have I seen.'

Well, we just sat there with our mouths open. Most of us didn't say that many words in a year, let alone in one go."

I thought how time had succeeded in loosening uncle Joe's tongue, but discretely kept that thought to myself.

"Anyhow," he continued, "He came with us and we found the wild horses by a big clump of mimosa and they all charged off towards the mountains. Old Man Harrison starts givin' orders again, he's almost as bad as Clancy with wantin' to talk.

'Boys, go at them from the jump, no use to try for fancy riding now. And Clancy, you must wheel them, try to wheel them to the right. Ride boldly lad, and never fear the spills, for never yet was rider who could keep the mob in sight, if once they gain the shelter of those hills.'

I dunno why he picked that Clancy bloke, he was just a drover and I reckon I could have done a better job and sure enough he messed it up. He got in front of them all right and got to work with his stockwhip, but all that talkin' must have wore him out, 'cos the horses just ran straight past him up the mountain. So there we all are, gallopin' like mad through the bush, and as I pass Old Man Harrison I hear him sayin' 'We may bid the mob good day, No man can hold them down the other side.'

When we reach the top, that bloomin' Clancy pulls up so sudden like in front of me he nearly tipped me off me horse. I would have kept goin' but for him. By the time I got meself collected together the young bloke on the pony was goin' down the mountain side like it was a race track. He just sat there in the saddle cool as ya like, and the pony's jumpin' logs 'n sendin' rocks flyin' around the place. We just sat there an' watched him, thinkin' any moment the pony would trip up in a wombat hole or somthin', but it never happened and it would have been the death of both of them if it had. You know, that young bloke let his pony have its head the whole way down and didn't draw the bridle till they was at the bottom. It was worth seein' I can tell ya. Then up the other side of a rise he goes, right among the brumbies, crackin his whip like a madman, and we see him chasin' them across a bit of a clearin', then we lost sight of them for a bit, and then way in the distance on another hill we see the mob still goin' with the young bloke hot on their heels. Well he ran 'em till they gave in and strike me if he didn't bring 'em back all by himself. That was a good little horse he had all right. From hip to shoulder he was covered with blood from the spur, an' although he could scarcely raise a trot you could see he was still as game as Ned Kelly. Yeah, he was a good rider, that bloke. I'm surprised you haven't heard that story before, they're always talkin' about it up Kosciusko way and out in The Overflow country."

A log fell with a soft crash in the fireplace. One of the dogs sleeping stretched out on the bag that served as a hearth rug started to make little yelping noises and flicking his legs in a slight running action.

"Silly old bugger's dreamin' he's chasin' a rabbit," said uncle Joe.
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