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Ghost of Goya River (1938)

Ghost of Goya River (1938)

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Published by draculavanhelsing
Western Mail 1938 (March 10)
Western Mail 1938 (March 10)

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Published by: draculavanhelsing on Aug 05, 2013
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07/04/2014

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Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 10National Library of Australiahttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44776476
THETOPOFTHE
HILL.
TheGhostof
Goya
River.
By
Jim
Ó"Brien,West
Kempsey,
N.S.W.
rrHISseriesof
reminiscences
hasbeen
|
gathered
inyearsofroamin'
around,
i
and
stowed
deep
downinmyoíd
j
memory-box
are
scenes
andsoundsofotherdays.And
though
life's
road
grows
rougher,
so
to.
speak,
andthe
grades
are
steeper
formanyof
us
"old'uns"
as
theyears
they
go,neverthelessmany
milestones,
incidents,humorousandtragic,
westill
can
visualisewhich
cameour
way
as
we
perambulated
along
life's
battle
trails.
Idon'taimtobuild-up
a
romantic
fiction
thriller,
buttosetoutin
verbiage
easilyunderstood
by
all
'those
scattered
aroundo'er
anarea
wide,readers
of
our
"Western
Mail,"
whether
on
south-West
land
settlements,
theNor'-Westcattleruns,thecity
office
or
theGoldfieldscamps.The
incident
whichI
am
aboutto
re-
lateinthisinstalment
is
a
spooky
epi-sodetrueineverydetailwhichbefelmy
mate,Trooper
Dan
Rogan("PlashDan")
and
myself
awaybackintheyearsthat
are
dead.
Glory
be!
Strange
butcredible,
it
hasbeen
brought
tomymind
firstly
by
an
articlesomewhatsimilar,
appearing
"
recently
intheW.M.irprathepen
of
myold-time
troopercobber,"Economic,"
whosememory
isstill
young;
secondlyby
an
inquiry
that
came
by
post,caused
no
doubt
by
mystory"HowTrailsHave
Crossed,"
intheissueofDecember23.AndItakethis
opportunity
to
thank,
withsincere
appreciation,
Mr.Bailey,J.P.,Kalgoorlie,-for
so
kindlywriting
me
ofthe
passing,
atthattown
eight
yearsago,ofmyold-time
Queensland
police-
man
mate,
Oliver
Page,
a
6ft.
specimen
ofrealwhite
man.
R.I.P.The
inquiry
alludedto
came
from
Sandstone,W.A.,signed
P.P.,
asking
whe-therI
wasever
in
Springsure,
Cen-tral
Queensland,
thewriteralsomention-
ing
thathismate
is
expecting
tohear
me
recount
some
ofthehumorousinci-
dents,
trueand
otherwise,mostly
other-wise,creditedtoTom
Doyle,
first
Mayor
ofKanowna.I
regret
tosaythatthe
Doyle
inci-
dents,
so
oftentoldaroundcamp
fires
ofthe
old-timers,
are
notjustwhat
we
might
consider
drawing-room
stories.
It's
a
farcryfromTom
Doyle's
old
pub
in
Kanowna,
or
fromhis
once
richleader,theGentlePolly,totherichblue-
 
leader,theGentlePolly,totherichblue-grassvalleys
surroundingSpringsure,
and
though
theoldestinland
township
inCentral
Queensland,
itwas
a
one-horse
place
of
straggling
shackswhenI
was
there,
a
dandy
youngcopper,
wearing
the'nose-linecognomenof
"Dandy
Jim."The
little
girlyou
mention,
"F.P.,"
as
hav-
ing
gonefromthe
Macleay
Riverwhenshe
was
eight
yearsold,withher
parents
to
a
cattlestationintheDawsonValley,
Springsure,
80yearsago,whentheblacks
were
badthere,
sleeps
herlast
longquietsleep
in
our
cemetery
here,wherethe
grandMacleay,
whereinshe
paddled
inchildhood
days,
now
helps
a
kind
warm
breezetorustlememoryflowersuponher
resting
place.Was
it
SmilerHales
or
"MoondineJoe"whosaid:
"Destiny,
every
life's
chartpilot."Howtrue,don'tyouthink?When
our
mindswanderbacko'ervanishedyearstothetragic
ending
ofmany
lives,
andtothesocialandfinancialupliftsofothersless
deserving,
we
must
recognise
oldFate'srulings.In
December,
1885,FlashDanandI
wereon
patrol,and
were
making
across
from
Springsure
toPoliceman
Creek,
whichbecame
a
rich
sapphire
fieldinlateryears.We
camped
the
first
night
at
UpperSpringsureCrossing
on
theold
road,
whichthenconnectedAnakiesap-
phire
field
withthe
township
of
Spring-
j
sure.
Anakie
isnow
practicallyaban-
doned,
Iunderstand.There
was
only!
about18inchesof
water
atthe
Crossing,
I
owing
tothe
dry
spellthen
prevailing
inthesoutherndistrictsofCentral
Queensland.Projecting
upabovethewaterin
a
zigEag
coursewere
a
numberofboulderswhichserved
as
stepping
stonesforanyodd
pedestrian
who
might
chancethatway,
although
I
never
encounteredany
hobo
oftheboot
on
thatoutbackroad.It
was
toofaroffthebeatentrackofthe
dingbat
armyof
nosebag
sundownersthatin
thosedays
wasin
perpetual
circu-
lating
motioninorderto
live.
Now,
thankstothe
humane
Actofthe
old-agepensions
itis
possiblefortheout
beyond
flotsamof
over
65torestin
some
river-bendhavenwherefish
are
biting,rescuedintheirclosingyearsfromtheircontinu-
ous
roundto
get
thenecessitiesof
life.
Just
across
thecreekatthe
Crossing,
wasa
wayside
groggery
keptby
anex
shearer's
cook,appropriately
labelled
DirtyGrady.My
mateDanlikedhis
drop
attimes.It
was
his
one
little
failing,
so
whileImadecamphewent
across
the
stepping
stones
as
jaunty
asa
jumping
bullfrog,but,
well-he
would
step
lesstrue
on
his
homeward
way.
"I'll
havebutone,"
FlashDänhadsaid,
as
hecombedouthis
bushybright
said,
as
hecombedouthis
bushybright
red
whiskers,shining
like
a
beacon
light,
prior
tohis
departure
fortheoldbush
shanty
lightthat
lured
him
on.
However,
like
Noah's
raven,whenDan-got
a
tastehe
was
in
no
hurry
toreturn.Somedoreadandbelievetheancientwritthatsays:"The
ravennever
re-
turned."
Well,
I
dunno.
I'mnot
a
Bible
student,but
if
the
raven
didn'treturntohismatehow
comewe
have
ravens
intheworld
today.
Tell
me
that,let
ye!
About
midnight
I
was
suddenly
awak-ened
by
loud
hair-raising
SOScalls
com-
ing
fromthe
Crossing,
so
tothe
rescue
I,
inbare
feet,ran
as
though
a
hungry
he-devil
was
reaching
outformyshirt-
tail.
It
was
me
bould
Dan,
not
looking
so
flashnow,his
whiskersdripping
grit
andwater,
helplessly
drunk,floundering
inabout18inchesof
water,
in
a
frantic
struggling
swimfor
life.
Fearing
tragedy
combinedwith
comedy
if
Ilefthim
longer
Iwadedinand
salvagedthewreck.
Thetwoessentialsfor
a
horseman's
night
camp
being
grassand
water,
we
thoughtourselves
homeanddriedwhenclosetonightfall
on
the
following
day
we
struck
an
ideal
camping
spot,about
anacre
of
the
greenest
grassIhad
ever
seen,
showing
upvividlyincontrastwiththe
parched
brown
aspect
ofthe
neighbour-
hood.I
remember
pondering
.the
problem
of
why
no
stock
was
feeding
there,
con-
sideringthe
grassless
plains
we
that
day
hadtraversed.ThisEden-like
spot
was
only
about300pacesup
the
braefromthewoodedbanks
of
theriver
Goya,
whichlike
all
of
Queensland
inland
riversteemwithediblefish.And
as
allbushmentravelling
through
theNorthernStatecarryhookandline,Ibaitedminewithsmallgrassfrog,and
heaved
it
out.Ourhorses
hadeagerly
dipped
into
thatgrassofsuch
vivid
greenwhich
was
knee
high.
There
we
unsaddled,watered
andhobbledout.Forweeks
we
had
been
riding
a
wide
patrol
and
nextdaybeingChristmas,
whenmankindrejoices,
we
decidedto
re-
mainthere
a
day,
the
great
openspacesfor
our
thanksgivingchapel.TheGhost.
Our
horses
fedgreedilyfor
a
fewmin-utes,then
suddenly
jerked
uptheir
heads,
andwheeledaroundwith
one
accord,
fac-
ing
theriver,which
by
now
was
beingblanketed
in
an
eerie
gloom
by
the
gloam-
ingshadows
cast.With
ears
cockedfor-wardand
heads
helderectthehorses
were
steadfastlygazingtowards
theriver,striving,
apparently,
topiercethegum-treeshadowsbelow
our
camp.
They
hadgrown
highly
nervous
and
were
seemingly
scaredof
something
lurking
intheclosing
 
lurking
intheclosingnight."Whatth'devil
is
wrongwiththe
nags?"exclaimed
Dan.
"Oh,"
Isaid,
"there
mustbe
someone
comingl"
Wecould
see
nothing.
Welistenedbut
nothing
could
we
hear.
apart
fromthethousandvoicesof
a
bushlandnight
(inwatered
country).Horses,however,
see
much
beyond
thegift
of
man.
Then,
as
thoughby
telepathy
controlled,
theywheeled
about
asif
on
parade,
and
started
towalkaway,
looking
back
towards
therivereveryfew
yards.While
the
billy
boiled
we
drovethem
back,
and
thoughthey
were
hungry
they
were
toohighlystrung
tofeed
again.At
last,
when
theycouldstand
thestrain
no
longer,
theyboltedright
awayfromthevicinity,andmust
have
gone
a
mile
ormore
before
the
jinglingofthe
galloping
bells
had
easedtonormal.Closeto
where
we
had
made
ourfirewas
lying
a
saprotted
log
whichInotedhad
been
felled
by
human
agency
longyears
before.
But
why,
so
farfromhabi-
tation
Icouldn't
think.
Just
on
the
oppo-site
side
of
thelog
towhereIhad
spread
myrug
Flash
Dan
made
hisdoss.You
follow
me?
The
horsesmust
havetransferred
to
meere
theyhadgalloped
away
some
oftheirfearsthat
all
around
us
demonslurked.
IhadsetmylinebutI
was
taking
no
chances
in
going
downtheeerie
shadows
to
land
a
breakfast
cod.IfDan
was
feeling
anything
unusual
hemade
no
sign.Infact,
he
had
hardlyspoken
a
.wordin
our
day's
ridebecauseof
thereactionof
the
night
before.He
was
whipping
thecat,like
a
politicianwho
had
losthisjob.WhenatlastIdidturnin
sleep
re-
fused
tocome,
so
Ijust
lay
therebeneaththeoutback
starspuzzling
the
problem
of
our
horses'strangebehaviour,conjur-ing
upvisionsof
the
oldhomefarmdown
thewattle-glade
by
Kelly'sbridge,whereIusedtomeetinthe
springtime
twi-light
little
Mary
Kelly
inthefriendlyshadows.
Ay,
and
sure
Iwould
givethe
worldtolive
those
old
timedaysagain.
AyearagoIvisited
the
old
farmstead
by
Kelly's
bridge
near
the
little
shingled
roofedschool
at
thebush
crossroads,
whichall
wereas
beckoning
fingerscall-
ing
backtheolden
days
when
warm,true
friendship
filled
the
heartsof
our
riverpeople.Much
water
sincethenhas
passedbeneathKelly's
oldbridge,which
still
spansthe"crick,"
thoughchangeshave
come
tothe
wattleglade
inthe
cycling
years,andmostofmyold
chums,
J
including
little
Mary,
have
passed
to
I
theirrestIn
the
little
old-churchyardalong
the
Ofttimes
in
fancy
I
along
theridge.
Ofttimes
in
fancy
Iseem
tohear
little
barefeet
pattering
totheoldschoolgate.And
as
I
lay
there,mysaddlefor
a
pil-low,
wakefullydreaming
love'soldyoung
dream,
a
queer
sensation
whichIcan't
explaingripped
me,
causing
a
prickly
shivertoslither
along
myspine.
Mind
you,
Î
hadnotfor
a
momentclosedmyeyesinsleep,andwhen
some
supernaturalcompelling
force
against
whichI
had
no
resistance,noiselessly
turned
my
head
inthedirectionoftheriver,believe
itor
not,
as
you
will,
whatI
saw
there
was
no
hallucination.
Witl\in
a
couple
ofpacesofmy
shakedown
was
a
spirit
apparition
from
some
world
beyond.
WhenI
first
turnedmy
head
and
saw
the
ghostlyapparition
it
wasasa
shadowy
formseatedupontheold
decayinglog
whichI
previously
mentioned.Aneeri»stillnessJay
all
around,
not
even
a
leaf
quivered.
The
surroundingcountry
looked
as
though
it
hadfalleninto
an
enchantedsleep.A
sense
of
unrealitypervaded
thecampinthesilencewhich
now
pre-vailed.Countlessstarsrode
high
on
a
blue
dark
Jjackground,»
whiledown
by
theriverwhereinthe
cooing
twilightofthat
same
evening
a
thousandvoices
of
birdsandinsectshad
filled
theairwithNature's
charm,
the
little
day-birds
roost
;
ing
now
intheir
leafy
bowers
snuggled
upcloser,
wondering
andafraidof
some-
thing
inthat
midnight
hour
when
a
day
is
born.And
as
thereIlay,heldinthesuper-naturalfettersof
a
power
unknown,
I
pondered
thecontrastto
a
year-oldnight
whenIhad
camped
ona
deserttablelandinCentralAustraliaandhadforthe
first
timeheardthe
mysterious
booming
oftheso-calledbarisal
guns
or
desertsoundswhich
are
only
heard
on
star-litnights.
Gradually
thespirit
was
growing
more
distinctinoutline.FromwhereIlayIcouldclearly
see
the
thing
silhouetted
against
the
starry
skyline,
taking
fullde-
velopment
ofmortalman's
shape.
Thenwhen
suddenly
I
gained
sweetreleasefromthe
mysterious
bondswhichhadheld
me
captive,Isilentlycursed
bychildish
stu-pidity,
for-surely
the
man
thereseateduponthe
log
couldbe
none
otherthancomradeDan.He
was
fully
dressed
and
seated
withhisbacktowards
me,
perfectlymotion-
less,
gazing
towardstheriver
seemingly
in
a
listeningattitude,hiswholeatten-tioncentredupon
something
which
I,
though
wide
awake,
could
neither
seenor
hear.
I
was
undecidedwhetherto-rise
or
to
question
him
frqm
mysaddlepillow;then
a
brain
wave
struckme,andI
grinned

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