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        BILL'S BROWN


We were riding through the mulga

           When a bellow from the scrub

Had our mounts up rearing,   clawing sky.

           Out into the clearing

                      Burst a spotted,  red,   crazed steer,

Hooked horns swinging wildly,  tail flag

                                            battle high.

 

 

My mate cried,  " Split ",   and split we did,

           The horses leapt apart.

Bill 's pony seemed to stumble in her stride.

           The vicious head stabbed sideways,

                      The girth was cut right through,

Man and saddle crashed and fell

                                            aside.

 

 

No time then to think about it,

           I have often wondered since

Just what caused that unprovoked attack.

           Had the animal been brooding

                      In the bush here all alone

Since the last big muster,   maybe six

                                            months back?

 

 

There was a brand above his hip bone,

           I glimpsed it as he spun

About,   throwing dust and roaring as he came.

           Bill lay struggling feebly,

                      Left leg crumpled underneath,

Fighting back the waves of blinding

                                            pain.

 

 

I fought my horse to gain control

           And soothed his rising fear.

Raw and newly broken, not yet cattle - wise.

           I managed to direct him

                      Toward the charging brute,

Tho' he shuddered violently and rolled large

                                            frightened eyes.

 

 

At once he seemed to steady,

           Urged by my desperate hand,

The courage of his breed came to the fore.

           Two beasts came together

                      Shoulder striking shoulder,

My brave colt almost tumbled,  wet neck

                                            dark with gore.

 

 

With hand and word I praised him

           But the battle was not won,

The steer was up and coming at a lope.

           At last I had a hand free,

                      My mount had settled down,

Shaking loops out quickly,   I waited with

                                            my rope.

 

 

The beast was truly maddened,

           Great nostrils dripping red,

Blowing crimson bubbles with each snort.

           Swift rope snaked out about him,

                      Seemed to hover in the air,

Then snagged upon a wattle,  three feet

                                            short!

 

 

Swearing,  cursing,  praying,

           I hauled the rope back in,

Kneed my horse into a raking run.

           Fiery eyed with fury

                      The monster closed to kill,

Hopelessly I wished for a whip or

                                            gun.

 

 

My prayers for aid were answered

           From a quarter unexpected,

I'd forgotten little Brown was on the loose.

           Saddleless,   reins flying,

                      I thought she'd just kept running.

How could one pint - sized mare be

                                            any use?

 

 

Bill always swore by that one,

           Claimed she never could be beaten,

We could easy get him riled on her behalf .

           Smallish,   for a stockhorse,

                      Nondescript and shaggy,

I often called her "runt" to raise a

                                            laugh.

 

 

Like a bolt she left the timber

           With a chilling,   whistled challenge,

Gamely sprang unerring to where her master lay.

           Teeth bared savagely,   head lowered,

                      She whirled to meet the menace,

Bill's faith in her was proven on

                                            that day.

 

 

She rammed the brute,   she slashed him

           From his eye along the jaw,

Teeth and hoofs gouged strips from blood

                stained hide.

           Hurt,   and shamed,   and shaking,

                      The steer could take no more,

Little Brown sank slowly at Bill's

                                            unknowing side.

 

 

Bill recovered at the homestead,

           I nursed the old mare's wounds.

She lay in sheer exhaustion where she fell.

           I can tell you who cheered the loudest

                      As she staggered to her feet.

He who calls her "runt" can go

                                            to Hell!