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Poisonous Jimmy Gets Left
by [?]

I. Dave Regan’s Yarn.

‘When we got tired of digging about Mudgee-Budgee, and getting no gold,’ said Dave Regan, Bushman, ‘me and my mate, Jim Bently, decided to take a turn at droving; so we went with Bob Baker, the drover, overland with a big mob of cattle, way up into Northern Queensland.

‘We couldn’t get a job on the home track, and we spent most of our money, like a pair of fools, at a pub. at a town way up over the border, where they had a flash barmaid from Brisbane. We sold our pack-horses and pack-saddles, and rode out of that town with our swags on our riding-horses in front of us. We had another spree at another place, and by the time we got near New South Wales we were pretty well stumped.

‘Just the other side of Mulgatown, near the border, we came on a big mob of cattle in a paddock, and a party of drovers camped on the creek. They had brought the cattle down from the north and were going no farther with them; their boss had ridden on into Mulgatown to get the cheques to pay them off, and they were waiting for him.

‘”And Poisonous Jimmy is waiting for us,” said one of them.

‘Poisonous Jimmy kept a shanty a piece along the road from their camp towards Mulgatown. He was called “Poisonous Jimmy” perhaps on account of his liquor, or perhaps because he had a job of poisoning dingoes on a station in the Bogan scrubs at one time. He was a sharp publican. He had a girl, and they said that whenever a shearing-shed cut-out on his side and he saw the shearers coming along the road, he’d say to the girl, “Run and get your best frock on, Mary! Here’s the shearers comin’.” And if a chequeman wouldn’t drink he’d try to get him into his bar and shout for him till he was too drunk to keep his hands out of his pockets.

‘”But he won’t get us,” said another of the drovers. “I’m going to ride straight into Mulgatown and send my money home by the post as soon as I get it.”

‘”You’ve always said that, Jack,” said the first drover.

‘We yarned a while, and had some tea, and then me and Jim got on our horses and rode on. We were burned to bricks and ragged and dusty and parched up enough, and so were our horses. We only had a few shillings to carry us four or five hundred miles home, but it was mighty hot and dusty, and we felt that we must have a drink at the shanty. This was west of the sixpenny-line at that time–all drinks were a shilling along here.

‘Just before we reached the shanty I got an idea.

‘”We’ll plant our swags in the scrub,” I said to Jim.

‘”What for?” said Jim.

‘”Never mind–you’ll see,” I said.

‘So we unstrapped our swags and hid them in the mulga scrub by the side of the road; then we rode on to the shanty, got down, and hung our horses to the verandah posts.

‘”Poisonous” came out at once, with a smile on him that would have made anybody home-sick.

‘He was a short nuggety man, and could use his hands, they said; he looked as if he’d be a nasty, vicious, cool customer in a fight–he wasn’t the sort of man you’d care to try and swindle a second time. He had a monkey shave when he shaved, but now it was all frill and stubble–like a bush fence round a stubble-field. He had a broken nose, and a cunning, sharp, suspicious eye that squinted, and a cold stony eye that seemed fixed. If you didn’t know him well you might talk to him for five minutes, looking at him in the cold stony eye, and then discover that it was the sharp cunning little eye that was watching you all the time. It was awful embarrassing. It must have made him awkward to deal with in a fight.