Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XV page 2
Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir
Omeo formed part of Captain Slade’s district, but I doubt very much whether he ever visited the place. He had the good fortune, however, to have a sub-officer there named Reid, whose qualities fitted him exactly for hunting big game. It was some time after the murder of the gold-buyer Green in 1859, as already related, that he was placed in charge. Very soon there was a great improvement; some incorrigibles were run in or had to leave the district, while others settled down as small graziers or station hands and gave no further trouble. Reid is, I believe, still living, and could, I am sure, supply many interesting reminiscences of his life at Omeo in the sixties.
Captain Slade was sixty years of age when I relieved him in 1867. He fancied that his life was drawing to a close, yet he lived on for about a quarter of a century in his pleasant home at Alberton, under the shadow of his vines and fig trees. The figs were perfect, but one cannot say as much for the product of his vineyard. His neighbour and constant friend, Captain Kelsall, used to make extraordinary faces as he sipped sparingly of Slade’s home-made wine. The pleasant smile that appeared when the whisky bottle was placed on the table instead showed clearly in what direction Kelsall’s taste lay.
There was a curious kind of religiosity about Slade; if anyone questioned his views or spoke disparagingly of certain authors that he quoted from, there was sure to be a warm argument. The special intervention of providence in human affairs, as illustrated in his own experience, was a strong point with him, a belief I conceive that no wise man would impugn. The question was - whether Slade’s belief was based on quite conclusive grounds.
He used to drive a horse named Trooper. Trooper was over twenty years of age - a horse that any child might manage. One day, as the old horse was jogging quietly along, Slade let the rains fall to the ground. The road was quite clear, but if Trooper took it into his head to turn into the timber, a most unlikely thing for the old horse to do, no one could tell what might happen. Slade in great fear clasped his hands together, offered up a short prayer and called out ‘Whoa, Trooper.’ Trooper whoad so suddenly that his master was pitched out over the dashboard.
Another standing illustration that Slade used to give related to the crossing of the Albert River . It was towards evening when he was reaching the river bank. He was wet and tired, but if he could but drive safely across he would save a mile or more on his way home. Slade again offered up a short prayer, turned Trooper into the stream, and to his great joy found the water not more than six inches in depth.
This horse Trooper had had a peculiar experience before this time. He was being ridden by a constable through the Gippsland forest near Bunyip, when a tree suddenly fell, killing the constable and pinning Trooper down into soft road. Two days later the coroner held an inquest, and then some men set to work to remove the body of Trooper, who was regarded as dead. To the surprise of everyone the old horse got on his legs again, and was soon as well as ever. The body of the unfortunate constable must have broken the force of the blow that brought them both to the ground. Trooper’s damaged wither showed where the blow had struck.
The horses bred in Gippsland in those days were of rare quality; it is no wonder that they captured the fancy of that Omeo band of horse stealers of whom I have spoken. They had strains of Harold, Littlejohn, Van Tromp, and Peter Finn. I used two horses bred by E Crooke, of Holey Plains, 22 and 23 years of age respectively, and they were as sound and free from blemish as when they were colts.
“VIKING’S” LAST RACE
Of course Sale had its racecourse like every other country town. I saw Viking’s last race. I could understand, from seeing Viking’s style, his former owner, Lindsay Gordon’s peculiar attitude in the saddle as he approached a fence. When Viking cleared a fence, he immediately began looking out for the next, his beautiful head high in air, and his ears moving as one sometimes sees the ears of a startled hare move, one at a time; and then as soon as he sighted his fence down Viking’s head would go until his nose seemed to skim the ground, a very awkward position I should think for any rider.
A few days before his last race, Viking had ruptured a small blood-vessel in the lungs when racing at Bairnsdale. The bright arterial drops were still showing when the horse was being saddled, and many who saw him thought he should not have started. The course crossed a lane. Viking bungled at the first jump, and before he could recover himself he was into the other fence and broke his neck. This occurred on the Sale course.
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