The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 9 page 2
The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare
The men were all in great spirits. We had to cross the railway gates at Glenrowan. We often found great difficulty in crossing the railway, for many of the gate keepers were in league with the friends of the Kelly gang. The keeper required a lot of calling before he got up. We then struck across the bush until we were compelled to get on to the roads; when amongst tho farm houses we had to travel very quietly to avoid alarming the occupants, for we looked upon every one as a sympathiser of the outlaws. After travelling about four hours, the constable who undertook to take us to the farm referred to, said he thought we were near the place, so we all dismounted and left our horses on the road in charge of one of the party. The remainder approached the house carefully, and we got in front of it just half an hour before daybreak. I told my sergeant with three of the men, to take up his position at the back of the house, and that I would, when it was clear daylight, put my hat on my rifle as a sign for him to approach. I remained on the spot with three men for about half an hour. They were strung up to such a pitch that I thought I should hardly be able to restrain them from rushing ahead of me.
At the appointed time I gave the signal, and we started for the house. We had to pass a window before getting to the door, and in doing so one of the men stepped in front of me. He told me afterwards that he thought a shot would have been fired out of the window, and he wanted to get between me and it. We went to the door and listened, but all was silent within. I knocked, and a man inside called out, "Who's there ?" I replied, "Police; open the door." After a few seconds he did so. I said, "Have you any strangers in your house?" He said, "I have." I suppose our appearance there frightened the life out of him, for he turned deadly pale; but the moment he said there were strangers inside we all rushed into the house and into every room in the building. I said to the farmer, "Let me see the strangers," and out came the individual whom we had passed the previous evening, the greatest sympathizer Kelly had. I asked him what brought him there. He said he came over to see his friend and spend the night with him.
We saw at once our chance was gone. I never could learn whether this man, upon seeing us pass the previous evening, had gone over to warn the Kellys to be on the look-out. We searched the haystack, outbuildings, and every place that we could think of, but all to no purpose. There was nothing to be done but to return to the camp a disappointed crew. I don't think I ever saw the men so down-hearted. Whilst returning, I thought I would try to raise their spirits, and so I took them across country. We got in amongst the fences, and there was a good deal of jumping to do to get back to camp. One of the men had a narrow escape of falling off, his horse blundering over a fence. He landed on its ears, and had the greatest difficulty in getting back to his saddle. This little incident put the men in good humour again. We had our breakfast, turned the horses loose, and got into our hammocks, where we remained all that day, both men and horses requiring rest. Next day we took a turn in, the Warby Ranges, and made back to Benalla.
I had a great many trips with my party in the Warby Ranges. I was told by a sergeant of police, who ought to have known better, that I could search these ranges thoroughly in a couple of days. However, after a month's experience, I found every day new hiding places where the outlaws could conceal themselves. I had a splendid lot of fellows in my party. My right hand man was Mayes, who acted as my sergeant; next to him was Mills, and the others were Lawless, Faulkner, Barry, O'Loughlin, and Kirkham. They were all men who belonged to my own district, and had served under me for years. There was not a weak spot in any of them. I felt that I could at any moment have said, “I think the outlaws are in that cave, go and pull them out," and they would have been proud to have been selected for the purpose. No work was too much for them, day or night, and I never heard a grumble. Lawless and Faulkner were equal to any bush riders in the world, and I often wished that they might have a chance of showing whether they or the Kellys were the best men on horseback. Johnstone was another of my men, but he was not always with me. He also was a magnificent rider, but he required some restraint, being both wild and reckless, and inclined to lose his head.
Life in the Open
Generally speaking, we had two pack horses to carry our provisions and rugs, enough to last us eight or ten days; after that the men required a spell in barracks, for our life was a very hard one, sleeping in the open without tent or fire, living on potted beef, and biscuit, and sardines. Bushmen think nothing of camping out for months, but ask any of them in the winter months to camp out without a fire, and see how long they will stand it. I remember once, when I was searching the mountains at the head of the Broken river, the weather was terribly cold; and the men were getting very downhearted at not having any luck. Mayes came to me and asked me to let the men have a fire for one night, as they were very low spirited, and were feeling the cold terribly. He said, "I am sure if we could get to some quiet spot in the mountains you could let us have one good warm, and we shall be all right tomorrow." I agreed, and took them to a most retired gully, and told them they might light a fire that night. They were so surprised, it acted like magic on them. They selected a large hollow tree, set fire to it, and there was a grand blade. They heaped up wood all round, and sat all night enjoying themselves.
After I had had a good warm I took my hammock and went about a hundred yards from them, and kept, as it were, watch over them, because I never knew when the Kellys might have crept on us, and without any difficulty they might have shot the whole of the men standing round the fire, so I thought if they were attacked I could have assisted them. First of all they made bets as to how long it would be before the tree would fall, one said two hours, another three, and so on. Then they began to bet how many native bears there would be in the tree when it fell, then who would catch the first opossum, and so they went on all night, like a lot of school-boys out for a holiday.
The nest day they were quite different men, and we had several adventures, such as one of the pack-horses rolling down a precipice. I was riding ahead, and hearing a terrible noise, looked round and saw that one of the pack horses had slipped and fallen over the cliff. It was rolling down, turning over and over like a barrel, the stones and rattling of the pack on his back making such a noise that I thought half the men were over. The track was too narrow to turn my horse round, but I jumped off and looked over the embankment, and there I saw the poor old horse lying on his side eating grass. I expected to see him smashed to pieces. We had to work our way down to the bottom, take off the pack, and lead the horse a mile or two round before we got him to where the rest were. Strange to say, with the exception of a few cuts, the horse was all right, but this accident caused a delay of two hours.
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