If you’ve not read the previous couple of post’s, do it now.
With that, the day got hotter, and smoke rose vertically from the fire into the scorching cloudless sky without a whisper of wind to disturb it……………………
………………..At around 4 in the afternoon, it was sound, rather than smell, that caused Harry Smart to wake in fright from his make shift bed beneath the upturned tray of the old Chev truck. Rolling quickly out from under it, took in at a glance the fire that was beginning to engulf the cab of the broken vehicle, and the expanse between it and the fire that had been left to burn as a beacon to the east of it. Grabbing his heavy old brown rug from the length of canvas that had been his bed for many years, Harry beat furiously at the fire beside the cab, realising after a moment that his efforts were entirely in vain as the wood of the vehicle, plus the diesel from the motor caught light. Turning his attentions to the fire on the ground, he beat at it savagely, with only minor success. Where there had been no breeze at the time he got his head down, now a steady and strengthening wind had picked up, blowing from the east, the fire beginning to take hold in the dry scrubby vegetation, burning away, and speeding into the immense expanse of low bush to the west.
20 minutes later, Harry had given up his fight against the fire, now putting his energies into rescuing what ever gear he could from the vehicle, dragging and carrying it away as best he could.
Some two and half miles to the north, Jack Bridgeman welcomed the relief the strengthening easterly gave him. Looking for tell tale bird life or animals heading in a similar direction, he turned his head left and right, scanning the horizon and all between in the hope that he may be lead to water. Finding nothing, he lingered onward, the unbroken scrub and salt bush running away like the ocean in every direction from him. Reaching a small rise, he strode up it; standing at the top he welcomed the view. A small patch greenery among the drab lighter coloured scrub, and slightly larger trees in the middle distance off to the west drew his attention. With a small spring returning to his step, he upped the pace and made his way toward it, noting that the breeze had begun to swing around from the east, and oddly starting to pick up and move in from the north.
Off to the south, and roughly equal distance from the forlorn vehicle, Albert Smart fell 13 feet down the side of the rugged breakaway ridge he had been trying to find a way down. Landing heavily amongst large rocks and scrub, he gingerly turned his head running a quick assessment of his body and any injuries he may have sustained. Spitting blood tainted dust from his mouth, and focussing on his now extraordinarily painful extended lower right leg; not immediately registering that what filled his vision was the sole of his hobnail boot, filled with sockless foot facing him. His leg broken and bent back upon itself, blood began to leak through his trouser leg, drawing flies to it. Undoing the buckle of the hobble belt he wore, he pulled it out from around himself; doing his best to sit, he leant as far forward as he could, looping the belt as far down his leg as possible, and began to tighten it. With pain stealing his breath, Albert struggled to reach behind himself, withdrawing his well worn, highly prized .303 Lee-Enfield rifle. After a brief examination, he opened and then closed the bolt, loading it, pointed it to the sky, and pulled the trigger, repeating the process another two times, sending out a distress signal used the world over. Yet, due to the distance back to the broken truck, the direction of the breeze, and with the break away looming up behind him, the shots went unheard by anyone other than himself.
Back at the camp, the fire jumped the track, and took to the scrub to the south greedily, speeding its way forward eating everything in its path.
Jack let out a ‘woop’ when he reached the little soak. No more than three yards in diameter, brackish, and foetid, he cast around for wild life. The smile disappeared from his face faster than it appeared at the realisation that there was absolutely no bird life around the water hole. Scanning the ground, the only tracks he could see were kangaroo’s, but even then, they looked quite old. Being a man of the bush, his first thought was ‘poison’, and that the water had been tampered with by a dogger or station owner in the ongoing battle to eradicate wild dogs and dingo’s. By law, every poisoned body of water must have a sign nailed up in close proximity to it stating ‘Poison Here’, and signed by the man who had done it. After a second, then a third walk around, an uninspired scratch, and the ubiquitous swatting of flies, Jack found nothing telling him poison had been used. Tasting it, he had drunk far worse, he didn’t think that there was anything unusual about the water, after a minute or two, reaction free, Jack got down on his knee’s, and drank deeply from it. Thirst slaked he filled both water bags, and headed back toward camp. The nausea that started after twenty yards quickly became vomiting, Jacks vision began to blur, it was then that the convulsions began.
There you go, I don’t feel that read well, regardless, all I can hope is to convey the rapidly deteriorating situation for what it was, and the hopelessness and peril of those in the vastness of the Australian bush when things go wrong. Click the picture above.
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