After giving the horses another drink, and breakfasting on damper and “Lot’s wife,” we moved on again, past the glory of the lagoons, to further brumby encounters, carrying a water-bag on a pack-horse by way of precaution against further “drouths.” But such was the influence of “Lot’s wife” that long before mid-day the bag was empty, and Dan was recommending bloater-paste as a “grand thing for breakfast during the Wet seeing it keeps you dry all day long.”
Further damper and “Lot’s wife” for dinner, and an afternoon of thirst, set us all dreading supper, and about sundown three very thirsty, forlorn white folk were standing by the duck-under below “Knock-up camp,” waiting for the Quiet Stockman, and hoping against hope that his meat had not “turned on him”; and when he and his “boys” came jangling down the opposite bank, and splashing and plunging over the “duckunder” below, driving a great mob of horses before them we assailed him with questions.
But although Jack’s meat was “chucked out days ago” he was merciful to us and shouted out: “Will a dozen boiled duck do instead? Got fourteen at one shot this morning, and boiled ’em right off,” he explained as we seized upon his tucker-bags. “Kept a dozen of ’em in case of accidents.” Besides a shot-gun, Jack had much sense.
A dozen cold boiled duck “did” very nicely after four meals of damper and bloater-paste; and a goodly show they made set out in our mixing dish.
Dan, gloating over them, offered to “do the carving.” “I’m real good at the poultry carving trick, when there’s a bird apiece,” he chuckled, spearing bird after bird with a two-pronged fork, and passing round one apiece as we sat expectantly around the mixing dish, all among the tucker-bags and camp baggage. And so excellent a sauce is hunger that we received and enjoyed our “bird apiece” unabashed and unblushingly—the men-folk returning for further helpings, and the “boys” managing all that were left.
All agreed that “you couldn’t beat cold boiled duck by much”; but in the morning grilled fish was accepted as “just the thing for breakfast”; then finding ourselves face to face with Lot’s wife, and not too much of that, we beat a hasty retreat to the homestead; a further opportune “catch” of duck giving us heart for further brumby encounters and another night’s camp out-bush. Then the following morning as we rode towards the homestead Dan “reckoned” that from an educational point of view the trip had been a pronounced success.
Just before mid-day—five days after we had left the homestead—we rode through the Southern slip rails to find the Dandy at work “cleaning out a soakage” on the brink of the billabong, with Cheon enthusiastically encouraging him. The billabong, we heard, had threatened to “peter out” in our absence, and riding across the now dusty wind-swept enclosure we realised that November was with us, and that the “dry” was preparing for its final fling—“just showing what it could do when it tried.”