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The Bullock
by [?]

In poor Boake’s “Where the Dead Men Lie” he says:

Only the hand of Night can free them —
That’s when the dead men fly!
Only the frightened cattle see them —
See the dead men go by!
Cloven hoofs beating out one measure,
Bidding the stockman know no leisure —
That’s when the dead men take their pleasure!
That’s when the dead men fly!

Cattle on a camp see ghosts, sure enough — else, why is it that, when hundreds are in camp at night — some standing, some lying asleep, all facing different ways — in an instant, at some invisible cause of alarm, the whole mob are on their feet and all racing IN THE SAME DIRECTION, away from some unseen terror?

It doesn’t do to sneak round cattle at night; it is better to whistle and sing than to surprise them by a noiseless appearance. Anyone sneaking about frightens them, and then they will charge right over the top of somebody on the opposite side, and away into the darkness, becoming more and more frightened as they go, smashing against trees and stumps, breaking legs and ribs, and playing the dickens with themselves generally. Cattle “on the road” are unaccountable animals; one cannot say for certain what they will do. In this respect they differ from sheep, whose movements can be predicted with absolute certainty.

All the cussedness of the bovine race is centred in the cow. In Australia the most opprobious epithet one can apply to a man or other object is “cow”. In the whole range of a bullock-driver’s vocabulary there is no word that expresses his blistering scorn so well as “cow”. To an exaggerated feminine perversity the cow adds a fiendish ingenuity in making trouble.

A quiet milking-cow will “plant” her calf with such skill that ten stockmen cannot find him in a one-mile paddock. While the search goes on she grazes unconcernedly, as if she never had a calf in her life. If by chance he be discovered, then one notices a curious thing. The very youngest calf, the merest staggering-Bob two days old, will not move till the old lady gives him orders to do so. One may pull him about without getting a move out of him. If sufficiently persecuted he will at last sing out for help, and then his mother will arrive full-gallop, charge men and horses indiscriminately, and clear out with him to the thickest timber in the most rugged part of the creek-bed, defying man to get her to the yard.

While in his mother’s company he seconds her efforts with great judgment. But, if he be separated from her, he will follow a horse and rider up to the yard thinking he is following his mother, though she bellow instructions to him from the rear. Then the guileless agriculturist, having penned him up, sets a dog on him, and his cries soon fetch the old cow full-run to his assistance. Once in the yard she is roped, hauled into the bail, propped up to prevent her throwing herself down, and milked by sheer brute-force. After a while she steadies down and will walk into the bail, knowing her turn and behaving like a respectable female.

Cows and calves have no idea of sound or distance. If a cow is on the opposite side of the fence, and wishes to communicate with her calf, she will put her head through the fence, place her mouth against his ear as if she were going to whisper, and then utter a roar that can be heard two miles off. It would stun a human being; but the calf thinks it over for a moment, and then answers with a prolonged yell in the old cow’s ear. So the dialogue goes on for hours without either party dropping dead.