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A Hero In Dingo-Scrubs
by [?]

This is a story–about the only one–of Job Falconer, Boss of the Talbragar sheep-station up country in New South Wales in the early Eighties–when there were still runs in the Dingo-Scrubs out of the hands of the banks, and yet squatters who lived on their stations.

Job would never tell the story himself, at least not complete, and as his family grew up he would become as angry as it was in his easy-going nature to become if reference were made to the incident in his presence. But his wife–little, plump, bright-eyed Gerty Falconer–often told the story (in the mysterious voice which women use in speaking of private matters amongst themselves–but with brightening eyes) to women friends over tea; and always to a new woman friend. And on such occasions she would be particularly tender towards the unconscious Job, and ruffle his thin, sandy hair in a way that embarrassed him in company–made him look as sheepish as an old big-horned ram that has just been shorn and turned amongst the ewes. And the woman friend on parting would give Job’s hand a squeeze which would surprise him mildly, and look at him as if she could love him.

According to a theory of mine, Job, to fit the story, should have been tall, and dark, and stern, or gloomy and quick-tempered. But he wasn’t. He was fairly tall, but he was fresh-complexioned and sandy (his skin was pink to scarlet in some weathers, with blotches of umber), and his eyes were pale-grey; his big forehead loomed babyishly, his arms were short, and his legs bowed to the saddle. Altogether he was an awkward, unlovely Bush bird–on foot; in the saddle it was different. He hadn’t even a ‘temper’.

The impression on Job’s mind which many years afterwards brought about the incident was strong enough. When Job was a boy of fourteen he saw his father’s horse come home riderless–circling and snorting up by the stockyard, head jerked down whenever the hoof trod on one of the snapped ends of the bridle-reins, and saddle twisted over the side with bruised pommel and knee-pad broken off.

Job’s father wasn’t hurt much, but Job’s mother, an emotional woman, and then in a delicate state of health, survived the shock for three months only. ‘She wasn’t quite right in her head,’ they said, ‘from the day the horse came home till the last hour before she died.’ And, strange to say, Job’s father (from whom Job inherited his seemingly placid nature) died three months later. The doctor from the town was of the opinion that he must have ‘sustained internal injuries’ when the horse threw him. ‘Doc. Wild’ (eccentric Bush doctor) reckoned that Job’s father was hurt inside when his wife died, and hurt so badly that he couldn’t pull round. But doctors differ all over the world.

Well, the story of Job himself came about in this way. He had been married a year, and had lately started wool-raising on a pastoral lease he had taken up at Talbragar: it was a new run, with new slab-and-bark huts on the creek for a homestead, new shearing-shed, yards–wife and everything new, and he was expecting a baby. Job felt brand-new himself at the time, so he said. It was a lonely place for a young woman; but Gerty was a settler’s daughter. The newness took away some of the loneliness, she said, and there was truth in that: a Bush home in the scrubs looks lonelier the older it gets, and ghostlier in the twilight, as the bark and slabs whiten, or rather grow grey, in fierce summers. And there’s nothing under God’s sky so weird, so aggressively lonely, as a deserted old home in the Bush.

Job’s wife had a half-caste gin for company when Job was away on the run, and the nearest white woman (a hard but honest Lancashire woman from within the kicking radius in Lancashire–wife of a selector) was only seven miles away. She promised to be on hand, and came over two or three times a-week; but Job grew restless as Gerty’s time drew near, and wished that he had insisted on sending her to the nearest town (thirty miles away), as originally proposed. Gerty’s mother, who lived in town, was coming to see her over her trouble; Job had made arrangements with the town doctor, but prompt attendance could hardly be expected of a doctor who was very busy, who was too fat to ride, and who lived thirty miles away.