Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Two Sundowners
by [?]

When Brummy and Swampy came to a shed where shearing was in full swing, they’d inquire, first thing, and with some show of anxiety, if there was any chance of gettin’ on; if the shed was full-handed they’d growl about hard times, wonder what the country was coming to; talk of their missuses and kids that they’d left in Sydney, curse the squatters and the Government, and, next morning, get a supply of rations from the cook and depart with looks of gloom. If, on the other hand, there was room in the shed for one or both of them, and the boss told them to go to work in the morning, they’d keep it quiet from the cook if possible, and depart, after breakfast, unostentatiously.

Sometimes, at the beginning of a drought, when the tall dead grass was like tinder for hundreds of miles and a carelessly-dropped match would set the whole country on fire, Swampy would strike a hard-faced squatter, manager or overseer with a cold eye, and the conversation would be somewhat as follows:

Swampy: “Good day, boss!”

Boss (shortly): “‘Day.”

Swampy: “Any chance of a job?”

Boss: “Naw. Got all I want and we don’t start for a fortnight.”

Swampy: “Can I git a bit o’ meat?”

Boss: “Naw! Don’t kill till Saturday.”

Swampy: “Pint o’ flour?”

Boss: “Naw. Short ourselves.”

Swampy: “Bit o’ tea or sugar, boss?”

Boss: “Naw–what next?”

Swampy: “Bit o’ baccer, boss. Ain’t had a smoke for a week.”

Boss: “Naw. Ain’t got enough for meself till the wagon comes out.”

Swampy: “Ah, well! It’s hot, ain’t it, boss?”

Boss: “Yes-it’s hot.”

Swampy: “Country very dry?”

Boss: “Yes. Looks like it.”

Swampy: “A fire ‘ud be very bad just now?”

Boss: “Eh?”

Swampy: “Yes. Now I’m allers very careful with matches an’ fire when I’m on the track.”

Boss “Are yer?”

Swampy: “Yes. I never lights a fire near the grass–allers in the middle of the track–it’s the safest place yer can get. An’ I allers puts the fire out afore I leaves the camp. If there ain’t no water ter spare I covers the ashes with dirt. An’ some fellers are so careless with matches lightin’ their pipes.” (Reflective pause.)

Boss: “Are they?”

Swampy: “Yes. Now, when I lights me pipe on the track in dry weather I allers rubs the match head up an’ drops it in the dust. I never drops a burnin’ match. But some travellers is so careless. A chap might light his pipe an’ fling the match away without thinkin’ an’ the match might fall in a dry tuft, an’-there yer are!” (with a wave of his arms). “Hundreds of miles o’ grass gone an’ thousands o’ sheep starvin’. Some fellers is so careless–they never thinks. . . . An’ what’s more, they don’t care if they burn the whole country.”

Boss (scratching his head reflectively): “Ah-umph! You can go up to the store and get a bit of tucker. The storekeeper might let yer have a bit o’ tobacco.”

On one occasion, when they were out of flour and meat; Brummy and Swampy came across two other pilgrims camped on a creek, who were also out of flour and meat. One of them had tried a surveyors’ camp a little further down, but without success. The surveyors’ cook had said that he was short of flour and meat himself. Brummy tried him–no luck. Then Swampy said he’d go and have a try. As luck would have it, the surveyors’ cook was just going to bake; he had got the flour out in the dish, put in the salt and baking powder, mixed it up, and had gone to the creek for a billy of water when Swampy arrived. While the cook was gone Swampy slipped the flour out of the dish into his bag, wiped the dish, set it down again, and planted the bag behind a tree at a little distance. Then he stood waiting, holding a spare empty bag in his hand. When the cook came back he glanced at the dish, lowered the billy of water slowly to the ground, scratched his head, and looked at the dish again in a puzzled way.