Last modified on 20 November 2015, at 21:58

Cookson, 03 09 1911 4

3 September 1911

(full text transcription)

PLAYING AT OUTLAWS

It not difficult to throw the mind back 21 years or so, and imagine this old slab hut, stronghold of the bushrangers. Here, many a time, they had met to learn news of the movements of the police. Here, often enough, they had planned and arranged all manner of depredations on neighbouring properties and the disposal of the proceeds.

We stop back warily, and endeavour to enjoy the sensation of feeling like a police topper stalking the place. We look carefully at the slot in the door, half expecting to see an eye glinting wickedly behind it, and the muzzle of a rife protruded through the larger aperture below. And we retreat in haste and great disorder several feet - to the back fence, in fact, on realising that there actually is a pair of keen eyes watching through that well worn loophole, and that something much resembling the muzzle end of a lethal weapon is projecting from the shot hole. For a moment this apparition was a little too realistic. The farmer found it quite an enjoyable joke, and laughed long and heartily about it. And as fresh phases of it occurred to him he would break out into more ebullitions of hilarity. It was a good while before he got his good humoured face straight enough to explain.

Playing at Kellys is, of course, the game of games in this district. And this farmer's children had enviable and unique facilities for doing the thing realistically. They had all the original properties, so to speak, and they took advantage of them. Aaron Sherritt was usually slain in the stable at the end of the yard. But the troopers were frequently massacred in holocausts before the slotted door of the old stronghold. No doubt those youngsters had a gallows rigger somewhere around the place.

The temptation to regard a stranger as a hostile trooper had been too much for one youthful Australian, and he had just drawn a lead on the intruder's liver with the whip handle that did him for a gun, when the ambush was perceived and the visitor backed out of range.

The farmer had no objection whatever to a photo of the place being taken. So while the camera was being adjusted he fetched some children up to the front. It only took a few seconds, but when the operator looked up from the view finder he was met with the spectacle of the son and heir of the family, a desperate villain of about eight summers, revelling a huge Enfield revolver against a small sister, who was, for the moment, a superintendent of police. It was no toy of a gun either, but a self acting weapon of modern make and deadly appearance.

The most striking feature about this impromptu tableau was the astonishing celerity with which the pistol made its appearance.

The farmer explained that he did not believe in firearms much, but he generally kept some handy; everyone in that part of the country did.

Many years, it appears, must roll on before the Kelly country gets free of its deeply permeating taint of crime and lawlessness and the summary jurisdiction of the sudden and deadly firearm.

We might have been in Texas or Kentucky.

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the previous day / next day . . . BW Cookson in the Sydney Sun index