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- Children of the Bush - 1/48 -
Children of the Bush by Henry Lawson
Send Round the Hat: 1901 The Pretty Girl in the Army: 1901 "Lord Douglas": 1901 The Blindness of One-eyed Brogan: 1901 The Sundowners: 1901 A Sketch of Mateship: 1902 On the Tucker Track: 1897 A Bush Publican's Lament: 1901 The Shearer's Dream: 1902 The Lost Souls' Hotel: 1902 The Boozers' Home: 1899 The Sex Problem Again: 1898 The Romance of the Swag: 1901 "Buckholts' Gate": 1901 The Bush-Fire: 1901 The House that Was Never Built: 1901 "Barney, Take me home Again": 1901 A Droving Yarn: 1899 Gettin' Back on Dave Regan: 1901 "Shall We Gather at the River": 1901 His Brother's Keeper: 1901 The Ghosts of Many Christmases: 1901
SEND ROUND THE HAT
Now this is the creed from the Book of the Bush-- Should be simple and plain to a dunce: "If a man's in a hole you must pass round the hat Were he jail-bird or gentleman once."
"Is it any harm to wake yer?"
It was about nine o'clock in the morning, and, though it was Sunday morning, it was no harm to wake me; but the shearer had mistaken me for a deaf jackaroo, who was staying at the shanty and was something like me, and had good-naturedly shouted almost at the top of his voice, and he woke the whole shanty. Anyway he woke three or four others who were sleeping on beds and stretchers, and one on a shake-down on the floor, in the same room. It had been a wet night, and the shanty was full of shearers from Big Billabong Shed which had cut out the day before. My room mates had been drinking and gambling overnight, and they swore luridly at the intruder for disturbing them.
He was six-foot-three or thereabout. He was loosely built, bony, sandy-complexioned and grey eyed. He wore a good-humoured grin at most times, as I noticed later on; he was of a type of bushman that I always liked--the sort that seem to get more good-natured the longer they grow, yet are hard-knuckled and would accommodate a man who wanted to fight, or thrash a bully in a good-natured way. The sort that like to carry somebody's baby round, and cut wood, carry water and do little things for overworked married bushwomen. He wore a saddle-tweed sac suit two sizes too small for him, and his face, neck, great hands and bony wrists were covered with sun-blotches and freckles.
"I hope I ain't disturbin' yer," he shouted, as he bent over my bunk, "but there's a cove--"
"You needn't shout!" I interrupted, "I'm not deaf."
"Oh--I beg your pardon!" he shouted. "I didn't know I was yellin'. I thought you was the deaf feller."
"Oh, that's all right," I said. "What's the trouble?"
"Wait till them other chaps is done swearin' and I'll tell yer," he said. He spoke with a quiet, good-natured drawl, with something of the nasal twang, but tone and drawl distinctly Australian--altogether apart from that of the Americans.
"Oh, spit it out for Christ's sake, Long'un!" yelled One-eyed Bogan, who had been the worst swearer in a rough shed, and he fell back on his bunk as if his previous remarks had exhausted him.
"It's that there sick jackaroo that was pickin'-up at Big Billabong," said the Giraffe. "He had to knock off the first week, an' he's been here ever since. They're sendin' him away to the hospital in Sydney by the speeshall train. They're just goin' to take him up in the wagonette to the railway station, an' I thought I might as well go round with the hat an' get him a few bob. He's got a missus and kids in Sydney."
"Yer always goin' round with yer gory hat!" growled Bogan. "Yer'd blanky well take it round in hell!"
"That's what he's doing, Bogan," muttered Gentleman Once, on the shake-down, with his face to the wall.
The hat was a genuine "cabbage-tree," one of the sort that "last a lifetime." It was well coloured, almost black in fact with weather and age, and it had a new strap round the base of the crown. I looked into it and saw a dirty pound note and some silver. I dropped in half a crown, which was more than I could spare, for I had only been a green-hand at Big Billabong.
"Thank yer!" he said. "Now then, you fellers!"
"I wish you'd keep your hat on your head, and your money in your pockets and your sympathy somewhere else," growled Jack Moonlight as he raised himself painfully on his elbow, and felt under his pillow for two half-crowns. "Here," he said, "here's two half-casers. Chuck 'em in and let me sleep for God's sake!"
Gentleman Once, the gambler, rolled round on his shake-down, bringing his good-looking, dissipated face from the wall. He had turned in in his clothes and, with considerable exertion he shoved his hand down into the pocket of his trousers, which were a tight fit. He brought up a roll of pound notes and could find no silver.
"Here," he said to the Giraffe, "I might as well lay a quid. I'll chance it anyhow. Chuck it in."
"You've got rats this mornin', Gentleman Once," growled the Bogan. "It ain't a blanky horse race."
"P'r'aps I have," said Gentleman Once, and he turned to the wall again with his head on his arm.
"Now, Bogan, yer might as well chuck in somethin ," said the Giraffe.
"What's the matter with the --- jackaroo?" asked the Bogan, tugging his trousers from under the mattress.
Moonlight said something in a low tone.
"The --- he has!" said Bogan. "Well, I pity the ---! Here, I'll chuck in half a --- quid!" and he dropped half a sovereign into the hat.
The fourth man, who was known to his face as "Barcoo-Rot," and behind his back as "The Mean Man," had been drinking all night, and not even Bogan's stump-splitting adjectives could rouse him. So Bogan got out of bed, and calling on us (as blanky female cattle) to witness what he was about to do, he rolled the drunkard over, prospected his pockets till he made up five shillings (or a "caser" in bush language), and "chucked" them into the hat.
And Barcoo-Rot is probably unconscious to this day that he was ever connected with an act of charity. The Giraffe struck the deaf jackaroo in the neat room. I heard the chaps cursing "Long-'un" for waking them, and "Deaf-'un" for being, as they thought at first, the indirect cause of the disturbance. I heard the Giraffe and his hat being condemned in other rooms and cursed along the veranda where more shearers were sleeping; and after a while I turned out.
The Giraffe was carefully fixing a mattress and pillows on the floor of a wagonette, and presently a man, who looked like a corpse, was carried out and lifted into the trap.
As the wagonette started, the shanty-keeper--a fat, soulless-looking man--put his hand in his pocket and dropped a quid into the hat which was still going round, in the hands of the Giraffe's mate, little Teddy Thompson, who was as far below medium height as the Giraffe was above it.
The Giraffe took the horse's head and led him along on the most level parts of the road towards the railway station, and two or three chaps went along to help get the sick man into the train.
The shearing-season was over in that district, but I got a job of house-painting, which was my trade, at the Great Western Hotel (a two-story brick place), and I stayed in Bourke for a couple of months.
The Giraffe was a Victorian native from Bendigo. He was well known in Bourke and to many shearers who came through the great dry scrubs from hundreds of miles round. He was stakeholder, drunkard's banker, peacemaker where possible, referee or second to oblige the chaps when a fight was on, big brother or uncle to most of the children in town, final court of appeal when the youngsters had a dispute over a foot-race at the school picnic, referee at their fights, and he was the stranger's friend.
"The feller as knows can battle around for himself," he'd say. "But I always like to do what I can for a hard-up stranger cove. I was a green-hand jackaroo once meself, and I know what it is."
"You're always bothering about other people, Giraffe," said Tom Hall, the shearers' union secretary, who was only a couple of inches shorter than the Giraffe. "There's nothing in it, you can take it from me--I ought to know."
"Well, what's a feller to do?" said the Giraffe. "I'm only hangin'
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