The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 9 page 3

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

A Bad Night

The tracks in the mountains are made by the wild cattle, and I am sure I often thought it a marvel that we did not roll down the sidlings we crossed. One night we spent a terrible time. We had arrived at the foot of a steep mountain, and I told the men to camp there, and fixed the spot where my hammock was to be slung. I then took three men with me and ascended the mountain. It was a fearfully wild place. I went up to see if I could observe any signs of fire in the distance. We stayed on the top of the mountain for an hour or two, and then descended; but we had a terrible job to get back with our rifles in our hands. It was pitch dark, and the difficulty of our position caused much amusement. Every now and then one of us would come bump up against a rock, and we would be calling to each other to ascertain whether we were keeping together, and we were very doubtful whether we should find the spot where the other men were camped. However, I had taken particular notice of the hills as I went up, and if there is one thing I am proud of being able to do more than another, it is being able to find my way about the bush. I have been thirty years knocking about the country, and I only once lost myself, and had to stay out all night, and that was under very exceptional circumstances.

We got to the camp, had some tucker, and I jumped into my hammock, which had been slung between two saplings, when two or three native bears began to sing out in a most piteous manner, like children crying. I stood this for a short time, and then called out to one of the men to cut the tree down, so as to get rid of the bears. He did so, and I fastened my hammock to the stump of the tree, and fell asleep. When I awoke in the morning my rug was frozen, the country round was perfectly white with frost, and the men told me the running water in the creek close by was frozen.

One night in the Warby Ranges is forcibly fixed in my mind. We were in one of the most favourite resorts of the outlaws, and were searching a side of the mountain. The men were stationed at equal distances from one another. I was very anxious to search all the gullies leading up the mountain, so I took the lower position myself, the men being all above me. They searched every nook and corner, behind all the rocks, the scrub, and any place in which a man could hide.

Only a Wombat

As I was riding along I saw a newspaper a day or two old folded up and stuck between two rocks. It had a long article abusing the police for not capturing the Kellys, and had evidently been put there for the outlaws' perusal. Not far from this I found a track up a gully in the mountains. I looked up, and saw Lawless about 100 yards above me, and beckoned to him to come to me, which he did. I showed him the track into the gully. He said, "What shall we do?" I told him we had better search it. We got off our horses, tied them to a tree, and walked up the gully. I took one side and Lawless the other. We were not more than eighty yards apart.

Shortly afterwards I saw Lawless trying to attract my attention; he beckoned to me to come to him; I did so. When I got near he pointed downwards, as if there was something beneath the rock he was standing on. He had his rifle in position to fire at a moment's notice. I could not understand what he meant or what he had seen. He remained where he was, and I went round to the front of the rock he was standing on. He said when he jumped on the rock he felt something move it, and heard a noise as if some one was running underneath it. I went close up to the opening, and there I saw a large wombat in the hole. I told him what was there, and his countenance changed in a moment. When I first came up to him his eyes were starting out of his head with excitement, and he said, "I thought we had them at last."

We continued our search, but as usual, there was nothing to be seen. We got on our horses and rode about the place until about five o'clock, when we came across a nice paddock, and decided upon turning our horses into it and camping for the night. We had fixed the different spots for our hammocks, and were just going to our meal, when one of the men called me, and pointed out the tracks of fresh horse foot prints going into the mountains from the direction of the lowlands. The tracks appeared to be an hour or two old. We were considering what we should do, and sat down in the usual manner away from each other with our rises beside us, when all of a sudden every man jumped to his feet and called out, "Look out, sir, they are coming straight for us." I stood up and saw four men riding towards us as hard as their horses could go. It was the habit of the Kellys to ride like demons through the country.

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