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Monday, 4 August 2014

Crooked Mick rides the bulls

Sometimes Crooked Mick would decide to make a bit of easy money.  Take the time we were hanging around Bandywallop, waiting for the train, and the local show was on.  This was before the town got wiped out when the rabbits came through, though. I'll tell you about that some other time.

Anyhow, there were these two really smart types from Sydney there, with four bulls, and they were challenging all-comers to ride these four bulls.  It was fifty pounds to enter, and you got twenty five, fifty, a hundred or a thousand pounds, depending on how many of the bulls you rode.

Well when Mick heard about this, he was all for having a go, but I tried to talk him out of it.  I knew these blokes — well, I didn't know them, but I'd seen them before, and they were a slippery pair.  I reckoned they'd have a few tricks up their sleeves to make sure the bulls couldn't get ridden.  I'd seen the bulls, too: they were mean scrub bulls from the Speewah backblocks, but Mick wouldn't be persuaded.  He had a plan.

He lined up Flash Jack and Lazy Harry and me to go in with him: I had no choice, I was Mick's mate, but Flash Jack and Lazy Harry knew they were on a good thing if they were to share their winnings with Mick.  You see, they knew Mick, and they didn't know these other two blokes at all.

So up we bowled, and Mick, Jack and Harry all coughed up the cash, and then Flash Jack went first.  Like we expected, the first bull was easy, no real trouble at all for anybody used to the Speewah.  That was the bait to get the punters in, and the pair started to take a few bets on the side, as Jack got onto the second one.  They lost a bit there, because Jack stayed on that one as well for the required ten seconds, but I could see the third bull was a different kettle of fish altogether.

You see, what they'd done was to get two bulls that would toss any townie, but that a bushman could ride, so the bushmen who entered the challenge managed to break even on their entry money and prize money.  The townies, on the other hand, lost out straight away, and the smart pair were cleaning up on the side bets.

You see, the two city boys managed to lose just a little bit of money in their betting, so that by now everybody thought they were on a sure thing, and even though the two shortened the odds considerably, everybody was laying down money to bet on Jack.  Except us, which is just as well, because Flash Jack was off the bull, even faster than a flash.

Lazy Harry was up next.  The first bull, he just sidled up to, slow and lazy, and sat on him so gentle, the bull never knew he was carrying a rider till too late.  The second bull saw Harry coming, but keep in mind that Lazy Harry moves so slow it'd make a snail scream with frustration, so again he slipped aboard, sat out the ten seconds, and slipped off again, with the bull none the wiser.

The two city blokes held a small confab at the side of the paddock, then came back to offer really low odds, so the money poured in from the mugs, and we put some into the pot as well, because we'd seen Flash Jack ride before, and we'd seen Lazy Harry ride before, too.

Well I don't know what they did, but it was all Harry could do to stay on that third bull, but however he did it, Mick was pleased.  "That there bull's been broken, now, so I'll have an easy ride, and we can build up a really big pile for the last one."

"How do you mean?" I asked.  He explained that he was going to make a show of it, to really string it out, so the odds would improve.  That way we would clean up on the second and third bulls, and have a good show with the fourth one.

"Just keep back enough money," he said, "to cover everything."  And that's how we would've done it, but just then we hear the train whistle in the distance, so that wrecked everything.

Crooked Mick walked over to the two city blokes and said, a bit hesitant-like, "Do yerz mind if I ride them bulls two at a time, one hand and one foot on each?"

They looked at him, and the smaller one said, "You can ride all four at once if you like!".  He was so short, he had to stand on his head to get his foot in the stirrup, but I knew he was also the more dangerous one of the two, so I got a bit worried right then, because this bloke was just too confident.

"Righto!" says Mick, and he hopped up on the rail and grabbed two of the bulls by the scruff of the neck, one in each hand, then he kicked off his boots, and wrapped his toes round the necks of the other two and nodded to the bigger city bloke.

"Don't forget, yer've gotta stay on all four bulls or yer lose!" said the city bloke, slipping the gates.

"No worries," yelled Mick, "just make it quick: me train's coming!" and then he's off out into the paddock.  Well those bulls tried it on, once or twice, but Mick just rode along, like he was doing press-ups, and then when the fourth bull got a bit frisky, Mick just picked it up with his left foot and plonked it down, knocking the wind out of it.  When the bell went, he turned around, and plodded his way back into the yards, so the four bulls could be locked up, and only then did he let go of their necks.

Well we knew what to expect, of course, so Flash Jack, Lazy Harry and I kept the two city blokes under close watch.  They tried to bolt for it, but we were there at the hole in the fence first, and when Mick caught up with us, they took one look at him, and paid up, gentle as them bulls were, now Mick'd finished with them.

Silly really, because Mick'd never get in a fight unless it was an even match, and there was only one fight I ever saw him in, and that time, the bloke even knocked him down.  I'll tell you all about that some time.

That delay while we collected our winnings gave the rest of the locals time to catch up, so we dashed off to our train, leaving the two city blokes trying to remember what you did to get rid of tar and feathers, I expect.  We were happy, but two weeks later, we'd spent the lot or given it away or something, but we did still have a motor car at the end of the two weeks.  We kept that for years.

Now I can see what you're thinking: bulls don't have necks, so how could Mick grab them by the scruff of something they didn't have?  I would've thought so too, but if Crooked Mick grabs you by the scruff of something you don't have, the only way out is to grow one of them things, real quick.

And that's what them bulls did.  Matter of fact, they were taken back to the Speewah, and you can see their descendants there today, because those four bulls were the first of the Speewah long-necked roans, the gentlest beef cattle ever bred.  When Crooked Mick domesticates you, it stays in the blood for a long while.

* * * * *

Note: there is a whole book of these stories, which I am currently pitching to publishers, but they will probably appear in an e-book.

There will be quite a number of these on the blog, all with the tags Speewah and Crooked Mick.

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