Closing her eyes, Maggie took in five slow, deep breaths. Inhaling through her nose, exhaling through her mouth, clearing her mind as she focussed on her breathing. It took time for her to relax enough to remove those unwanted thoughts and sensations from her broken body.
After two or three deep breaths, Mrs. Trout cleared her throat and began.
‘A working dog named ‘Scotty’ loped along beside the seventeen and a half hand brown gelding Freddy Chapman was currently astride. Wire strainers, pliers, hammer and fence staples filled his two saddle bags, a couple of yards of coiled light gauge plain wire tethered to the back of his saddle with a length of binder twine. His hard mouthed, red eyed, evil tempered horse despised the fact that there was someone seated upon him. That he had been gelded, and the feel and sound of the wired laid upon him only served to anger him further. Being named ‘Teatime’ didn’t offer him much inspiration either.’
Mrs. Trout stopped reading, and gazed across at Maggie. With her eyes gently closed, the 58 year old mother of three, farmers wife, and retired primary school teacher wondered if Maggie had fallen asleep.
“I’m not asleep Mum.” said Maggie reading her mother’s mind. “Please keep reading, I am enjoying the picture of Freddy and his horse.”
“Ah, right you are dear.” said Mrs. Trout in response, and continued from where she left off.
‘September sun slowly edged toward the horizon of the hilly paddock Freddy was travelling through, home his target. Grass, green thick and lush was heavy and wet under foot. A good half inch had fallen intermittently throughout the day, subsequently he had hardly touched the water bag now slung just fore of his work worn saddle from the pommel. Freddy wondered while he rode what mother had made for tea this evening? He longed to shed his damp drab work clothes, his damper boots, and get his recently cut hand attended to. The latter a result of a misplaced hammer blow.’
‘Cresting a low hill, still a good three and a half miles from home, unasked, the painted mongrel that trotted along beside the horse shot off like lightning, streaking down the slope in a blur of legs toward a shallow and poorly dug dam. An unsuspecting boomer, a male ‘Grey Kangaroo’, raised its head from feeding on the grass near the dam, turned firstly ear, then head, west toward the speeding dog. Beyond the dog, it glanced in Freddy’s direction for no more than a moment, and acted immediately.
‘Slipping on the wet grass, the big ‘roo took off down the slope, his fear of dogs, and the sound of Freddy, now in full gallop, spurring him into life preserving action. Half a mile disappearing under foot, tail brushing the ground with every bound he made, the boomer started to tire, losing ground to the long legged working dog. Unperturbed by distance run, Scotty didn’t show the slightest sign of slowing. Nostrils flared, Freddy had given Teatime his head, the rangy beast eagerly entered the fray, excitement cloaking man and horse like a velvet glove worn over a mailed fist. Digging deep the large kangaroo made for the safety of the bush, some 200 yards to the north of him, but found himself being turned by the circling dog toward the thunderous roar of Teatimes hooves striking the ground. Slowing, close to blown, the big roo changed direction again, and again, fear turning to anger within him at the futility of his attempted escape. He slowed near a large white gum. Putting his back toward it, setting a trap for the working dog, rendering it unable to get him from behind, but still enticing Scotty into his range, offering all six and a half feet and one hundred odd pounds of himself to them.’
‘Gaining on the dog and nearing on the tree with the boomer standing before it, thankful that it did not go into the dam, Freddy slowed, letting Scotty do the work, keeping the horse out of harm’s way. Allowing himself the opportunity to unhook stirrup and iron from the off side of his saddle, gathering it in his large, gnarled, sun brown fist, ready to swing and deliver a deathly blow to the great grey boomer when the time presented.’
‘Barking and baying, the mongrel rushed in and back from the boomer, never exposing his back to the mighty kangaroo, nor getting quite close enough to bring him down, merely opening a space for the man on the horse to get in and strike the marsupial to the ground. Sinking his heels into the gelding, Freddy shot in toward the big grey, stirrup held high in anticipation of the blow to come.
Closing on the grey, he drew hard on the reins, dragging Teatime to a near stop. With the horse’s rump nearly touching the ground, Freddy Chapman leant out and down from the off side of the saddle and swung hard from the shoulder.’
“Missing the kangaroo entirely……..unseating himself as he did so.”
Stopping briefly, Mrs. Trout cast a quick look at Maggie, yet she only looked and did not see. She kept on.
‘With his aggressor off balance the enormous boomer grabbed at Freddy with his front paws, pulling him further from the saddle for the man to land with a thud on his back in the wet grass . Raising himself up onto his tail, the kangaroo struck at Freddy with both feet. The iron hard nails of the boomers toes slicing deeply into him, cutting through cloth and flesh with the same ease as a hot knife through dripping. Roaring, Freddy tried to roll, yet the roo struck him again, ripping him open further, blood and flesh exploding from him, coating both kangaroo and himself in the crimson of life.’
“My God Maggie, I remember my father talking about this when I was a child.” blurted an exasperated Mrs. Trout. “I had trouble believing him at the time, but reading this, I am beginning to wonder if I was mistaken. Poor Mr. Chapman!”
“Yes, I remember Grandpa telling the same story, although there was no name to go with it. Can you keep reading please Mum.” Maggie softly said. This vision of the horse galloping, the kangaroo, and the dog were so close in her mind, she felt as if she were part of the scene. She had heard Teatime thundering down the paddock. She had seen the kangaroo tire, and she had felt the excitement of the dog in its chase. Maggie had nearly screamed, feeling the the long toes of the boomer tearing Freddy’s flesh.
Unnoticed by her mother, Maggie had broken into a sweat. Her pulse of rate of breathing had increased dramatically. She was in the moment, and it was the thrill of the living story that had created such a profound physical effect on her. Not wanting to break from the story, she quietly repeated herself to her mother. The fire of Freddy’s injuries washing away the dull ache of her own.
“Can you keep reading please Mum.”
‘Raising itself once more, the kangaroo went to strike, yet the deadly blow failed to fall. Knocked sideways, and then back, Scotty had attacked the boomer. Yet the great kangaroo had kept his feet enough, only to lash out, attempting to mortally strike Freddy’s ally. Alone in his attack, Scotty jumped back and away from the deadly roo, retreating in the the same moment to stand growling above his wide eyed and bleeding master. ‘
‘Seeing his route of escape open up before him, the red coated grey made off again toward his beloved bush, succeeding after a minute or so in doing so, leaving Freddy bleeding onto wet ground quickly dampening it further.’
“Your father should be back by now,” said Hazel, wife of Freddy, to her young daughter and son, “it’s not like him to get back after dark.”
‘Teatime appeared more than an hour later. Noting the distinct lack of rider, and later, the missing stirrup, Hazel acted. Not bothering to stop and catch the horse, she bundled the two children into the farms only vehicle, an old Austin truck. Not to be put off, the old Austin was a vehicle she had never driven before, specifically as Hazel had never driven any vehicle before, Father did that. Frantically trying to recall exactly how her husband had started the machine, she eventually got it going. Crunching through gears and over revving, she headed up the paddock with both of the children now tired and crying, wrapped in dressing gowns, and seated beside her. Planning for the worst, but hoping for the best, she found Freddy twenty minutes later in her headlights on the ground. He was one hundred yards from the tree where the battle had taken place, yet still almost two miles from home. Covered entirely in mud, blood, and vital fluid with the surviving dog seated beside him and pining. The Freddy she found was barely conscious through the loss of blood he had sustained.’
‘Tearing strips from his shirt and coat, she bound his wounds as tightly as she possibly could. Her many attempts to get him onto the tray finally paid off, and she set off for town as quickly as the old vehicle would carry her. Not concerned about such trivialities as tracks, Hazel drove flat out across the rough paddock. With equal gusto, she shot through closed cocky gates, leaving behind a mixture of mud, tangled wire, and droppers.’
‘On arriving at the local hospital, horn blaring, she skidded in the mud of the road, stopping directly in front of the hospital’s main entry; staff running to the vehicle in response. A doctor took one look at the bloody figure on the tray of the vehicle, yelled at an orderly and a nurse, got Freddy bundled up, and dragged him from the back of the truck, and onto a canvas stretcher. Between the three of them, they rushed him inside.’
‘On a bed under two kerosene lamps, the generator had stopped working earlier in the week, the good doctor spent time to only close the most major blood vessels. He and a nurse then dumped the unconscious Freddy unceremoniously into an infection killing iodine filled bath. The sheer stinging agony of the bath driving him back a consciousness in a thrashing, screaming response to it in his horrific open wounds. Collapsing unconscious once more, still in the bath, they finally were able to completely cut away his clothing from him. The wounds they found were a series of huge deep gashes, the largest starting just below the pubic line, and ending two feet later under his chin. Freddy’s other wounds, whilst slightly smaller, all had run well over a foot and a half, from abdomen to neck; how he was alive had the staff held in rapt amazement. His abdomen had been puncture, ribs cracked, and to their further amazement, the major blood vessels in the groin and neck, had incredibly been missed. Freddy’s heavily muscled chest and abdomen, taking the full force of the boomer, saving him from deeper injuries.’
‘And live he did. So resilient was Freddy, that in 1939 he went to war, not returning back to the farm until he was demobbed in 1946. He eventually passed away in 1996, at the age of 92.’
“That is incredible!” excitedly stated Mrs. Trout. “The poor man and his poor wife…….how truly horrid.”
“Bloody hell.” was all that Maggie could say. The fire of the iodine in her wounds still burning brightly down her chest, and through her abdomen.
Click the wee fishies above. ’tis the song I reserve for one.
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