This is the last in the line of posts relating to the accident and subsequent disaster that befell five men roughly 100 km’s east of Ballidu in Western Australia. It occurred roughly a couple of years after the end of the Great War.
For those that haven’t read the previous three posts building up to this final point, it might pay to read them first. As such, here they are.
On with the fun.
The nausea that started after twenty yards quickly became vomiting, Jacks vision began to blur, it was then that the convulsions began………..
…………..Laying on his side, spots then darkness clouded his vision; ears ringing, racked in pain, the dog poison taking full effect, Jack Bridgeman was shoved into unconsciousness, then slowly nudged into death. The gathering ant’s and flies thought it was Christmas.
South of Jack, north of Albert, the fire that had escaped Harry was now a flaming run away train of death. Willy willy’s of fire leapt around from ground to bush, weaving and circling, ranging from six to thirty feet in height. Smoke billowed, blotting out the sun, the fire front stretching east to west by about a mile and spreading, heading southward at a blistering rate, everything in its path reduced to ash in moments. Heat sapped all moisture from the air, leaving Harry Smart entirely helpless to do anything other than to continue jogging east away from it, watching hell erupting to the south over his right shoulder with fearful dread fascination. Water bag, rifle, and flour bag bouncing along with every stride he made.
Using the matches from the flour bag tied off at his waist, Albert Smart lit a small fire, a call for help moonlighting as a beacon of hope, and then set about trying to straighten his leg. Swatting away an atrocious barrage of flies, and slapping meat ants away with a small leafy branch torn from a salt bush, Albert took two deep breaths and dragged himself into a fully seated position, his body now ‘L’ shaped; sweating profusely. Using the butt of his rifle, he pushed against the sole of the boot at the end of his grotesquely broken leg, an attempt to get it vaguely back in line. Pain returned in grotesque pulsating waves, bringing nausea with it, changing tack, he loosened the loop of his hobble belt come tourniquet, and feed the butt of the rifle between it and the deformed leg, catching the belt on the trigger guard, and slid the leather toward the ankle, slowly pressing the hurt limb painfully around, bringing the lower leg back into as near alignment as he could take. The pain it caused him more excruciating than words could describe. Swallowing bile Albert fought another bout of nausea, suppressing a scream, and quietly pressed back the pain once more. Again with the butt of the rifle, he began to bring his belt back up his now much straighter leg within arm’s reach, catching it, he undid it, pulling it out from beneath his thigh. Loading then firing the rifle three more times into the blue merciless sky, and slipped into the relief of unconsciousness. His fire slowly burning out over the space of the half hour that followed. – With a terrifying start, he awoke to a cascade of falling ember’s, choking in an atmosphere that was more smoke than air, Albert could see no more than two or three feet in any direction, snippets of burning scrub flickering through the smoke, both burning his eyes and scalding his throat. Heat so intense, all sweat had evaporated from his body, and blisters started appearing on the exposed area’s of his skin. A minute or two later, all oxygen had been sucked from his lungs and the air around him; he was fortunate enough not to feel his hair singe, unconsciousness seizing him in preparation for the grizzly charred burning death that was minutes away. Harry’s run away fire had reached him.
The fat lady sang.
“Gordon, is that smoke out east there?” said Fred Chapman to his neighbour as they replaced the cups on the shared windmill. Their meeting more to discuss and inspect a boundary fence and straying stock, than to repair a windmill.
Stopping, turning his head in the general direction mentioned, Gordon Wilkins confirmed the statement.
Placing tools back into respective saddle bags, the station owner’s both strode to their wiry horses.
“I’ll head south to my place, and send my boys to alert the neighbours. I’ll pick up the other hands, and head straight out there.” Stated Gordon.
“Righto mate, I’ll head back to my place, get my lads to do the same, and bring the men in then head there. Meet, you at the western most point of the front.” said the tight lipped Fred.
Spurs and flanks met.
Three days had passed between the sighting of smoke and finding the near dead Harry Smart. Chronically dehydrated, starving, yet with only minor burns, it took a good couple of hours of sipping cold black tea and mouthful’s of greasy tinned dog for Harry’s story to finally start making sense. His obvious concern for his two missing mates giving rise to the exhausted lads about him, yet, they all separated, and going from the directions told, three men moved north from the burnt remains of the rolled Chev truck on the tracks of Jack Bridgeman. Two heading south from the same point.
Crow’s gave away Jacks position within half an hour of the riders departure, it took two days more to locate the burnt remains of Albert Smart. Albert’s lower leg cooked in gruesome malalignment, his rifle remained charred beside him. Ironically, neither waterbag had lost much water, and were roughly three quarters full when they found Jack. After the attentions of heat, ants and crows, the majority of his flesh was missing, his bones showing startling white against the bush and the drab and dirty work clothes he perished in.
Harry never returned to the Rabbit Proof Fence, and headed north to settle around Mingenew.
Poor bastards. Anyway, click the picture up yonder, there’s a ‘Duquesne Whistle’ blowing.
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