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"Buckolts’ Gate"
by [?]


Old Abel Albury had a genius for getting the bull by the tail with a tight grip, and holding on with both hands and an obstinacy born of ignorance–and not necessarily for the sake of self-preservation or selfishness–while all the time the bull might be, so to speak, rooting up life-long friendships and neighbourly relations, and upsetting domestic customs and traditions with his horns.

Yes, Uncle Abel was always grasping the wrong end of things, and sticking to it with that human mulishness which is often stronger, and more often wearies and breaks down the opposition than an intelligent man’s arguments. He was—or professed to be, the family said–unable for a long time to distinguish between his two grand-nephews, one of whom was short and fat, while the other was tall and thin, the only points of resemblance between them being that each possessed the old family nose and eyes. When they were boys he used to lay the strap about one in mistake for the other. They had a saying that Uncle Abel saw with ten squinting eyes.

Also, he could never-or would not, as the family said–remember names. He referred to Mrs Porter, a thin, haggard selector’s wife, as “Mrs Stout” and he balanced matters by calling Mrs Southwick “Mrs Porterwicket”–when he didn’t address her as “Mrs What’s-the- woman’s-name”–and he succeeded in deeply offending both ladies.

Uncle Abel was Mrs Carey’s uncle.

Down at the lower end of Carey’s selection at Rocky Rises, in the extreme corner of the lower or outer paddock, were sliprails opening into the main road, which ran down along the siding, round the foot of a spur from ridge, and out west. These sliprails were called “The Lower Sliprails” by the family, and it occurred to Uncle Abel to refer to them as “Buckolts’ Gate,” for no other reason apparently than that Buckolts’ farm lay in that direction. The farm was about a mile further on, on the other side of the creek, and the gate leading to it from the main road was round the spur, out of sight of Carey’s selection. It is quite possible that Uncle Abel reasoned the thing out for days, for of such material are some human brains. Sliprails, or a slip-panel, is a panel of fencing of which the rails are made to be slipped out of the mortise holes in the posts so as to give passage to horses, vehicles and cattle. I suppose Abel called it a gate, because he was always going to hang a proper gate there some day. The family were unaware of his new name for the Lower Sliprails, and after he had, on one or two occasions, informed the boys that they would find a missing cow or horse at the Buckolts’ Gate, and they had found it calmly camped at the Lower Sliprails, and after he had made several appointments to meet parties at Buckolts’ Gate, and had been found leaning obstinately on the fence by the Lower Sliprails with no explanation to offer other than that he was waiting at Buckolts’ Gate, they began to fear that he was becoming weak in his mind.


It was New Year’s Eve at Rocky Rises. There was no need for fireworks nor bonfires, for the bush-fires were out all along the ranges to the east, and, as night came on, lines and curves of lights–clear lights, white lights, and, in the nearer distance, red lights and smoky lights–marked the sidings and ridges of a western spur of the Blue Mountain Range, and seemed suspended against a dark sky, for the stars and the loom of the hills were hidden by smoke and drought haze.

There was a dance at Careys’. Old Carey was a cheerful, broad-minded bushman, haunted at times by the memories of old days, when he was the beau of the bush balls, and so when he built his new slab-and-bark barn he had it properly floored with hard-wood, and the floor well-faced “to give the young people a show when they wanted a dance,” he said. The floor had a spring in it, and bush boys and girls often rode twenty miles and more to dance on that floor. The girls said it was a lovely floor.