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Bill, the Ventriloquial Rooster
by [?]

“When we were up country on the selection, we had a rooster at our place, named Bill,” said Mitchell; “a big mongrel of no particular breed, though the old lady said he was a ‘brammer’–and many an argument she had with the old man about it too; she was just as stubborn and obstinate in her opinion as the governor was in his. But, anyway, we called him Bill, and didn’t take any particular notice of him till a cousin of some of us came from Sydney on a visit to the country, and stayed at our place because it was cheaper than stopping at a pub. Well, somehow this chap got interested in Bill, and studied him for two or three days, and at last he says:

“‘Why, that rooster’s a ventriloquist!’

“‘A what?’

“‘A ventriloquist!’

“‘Go along with yer!’

“‘But he is. I’ve heard of cases like this before; but this is the first I’ve come across. Bill’s a ventriloquist right enough.’

“Then we remembered that there wasn’t another rooster within five miles–our only neighbour, an Irishman named Page, didn’t have one at the time–and we’d often heard another cock crow, but didn’t think to take any notice of it. We watched Bill, and sure enough he WAS a ventriloquist. The ‘ka-cocka’ would come all right, but the ‘co-ka-koo-oi-oo’ seemed to come from a distance. And sometimes the whole crow would go wrong, and come back like an echo that had been lost for a year. Bill would stand on tiptoe, and hold his elbows out, and curve his neck, and go two or three times as if he was swallowing nest-eggs, and nearly break his neck and burst his gizzard; and then there’d be no sound at all where he was–only a cock crowing in the distance.

“And pretty soon we could see that Bill was in great trouble about it himself. You see, he didn’t know it was himself–thought it was another rooster challenging him, and he wanted badly to find that other bird. He would get up on the wood-heap, and crow and listen–crow and listen again–crow and listen, and then he’d go up to the top of the paddock, and get up on the stack, and crow and listen there. Then down to the other end of the paddock, and get up on a mullock-heap, and crow and listen there. Then across to the other side and up on a log among the saplings, and crow ‘n’ listen some more. He searched all over the place for that other rooster, but, of course, couldn’t find him. Sometimes he’d be out all day crowing and listening all over the country, and then come home dead tired, and rest and cool off in a hole that the hens had scratched for him in a damp place under the water-cask sledge.

“Well, one day Page brought home a big white rooster, and when he let it go it climbed up on Page’s stack and crowed, to see if there was any more roosters round there. Bill had come home tired; it was a hot day, and he’d rooted out the hens, and was having a spell-oh under the cask when the white rooster crowed. Bill didn’t lose any time getting out and on to the wood-heap, and then he waited till he heard the crow again; then he crowed, and the other rooster crowed again, and they crowed at each other for three days, and called each other all the wretches they could lay their tongues to, and after that they implored each other to come out and be made into chicken soup and feather pillows. But neither’d come. You see, there were THREE crows–there was Bill’s crow, and the ventriloquist crow, and the white rooster’s crow–and each rooster thought that there was TWO roosters in the opposition camp, and that he mightn’t get fair play, and, consequently, both were afraid to put up their hands.