History in the Bush

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Out in the bush, beyond civilization, some historical truth is revealed.

Submitted: August 02, 2016

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Submitted: August 02, 2016

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It was pelting down outside so while Bert got the fire going, while Henry, who had an oilskin with him, brought in a kerosene-tin full of water so they could have a brew and a warmup. They had built a bivvy earlier in the year because they were camping at the back of the forest while surveying a roadline and assessing the wild animal damage to the trees. Bert reached for his ubiquitous whiskey bottle to add body to the tea.

‘Another day and we’ll be at the top of the ridge.’ Henry said blowing into his mug, ‘For a change we’ll be able to see the coastline and the horizon.’

‘’s right,’ replied Bert, ‘Y’know some of these trees ‘ere saw Cap’n Cook sail by.’

‘Yeah, that’d be right!’ Returned Henry, ‘Some of these Totaras are pushing six hundred.’

The pair sipped on their fortified tea and Bert poured some more whiskey while Henry stoked the fire, they were comfortable despite the rain.

‘Y’know that Columbus was a bastard of a man?’ Henry didn’t know if that was a question or a statement.

‘What brought that on?’ Henry asked, confident that Bert was going to fill the day in with his yarn.

‘The horizon,’ Bert explained, ‘people reckon that Christopher Columbus proved the Earth wasn’t flat! It’s bullshit though, Pythagoras knew it was round and the Greeks worked out the diameter of Earth before even Jesus was born!’

‘Still doesn’t make him a bastard though.’ Henry stirred.

‘Well he didn’t even discover America!’ Henry sensed Bert was getting wound up. ‘The ancestors of Sitting Bull found their way to America ’way back and that Viking fella, Erikson, was the first white bloke, four hun’red years before Bugger-lugs Columbus.’

‘Yeah, I know about Leif Erikson,’ Henry pressed, ‘but it still doesn’t make him a bastard.’

Bert poured himself another tot, and held up the bottle to judge how much was left but Henry let him know he had had enough.

‘He landed on San Salvador and later on Hispaniola but typically for Spaniards he reckoned the locals had goldmines somewhere. He wasn’t a Spanish though, he was Italian. Anyway his ship was wrecked and the locals rescued ‘em and he thanked ’em by doin’ ’em all in!’

‘I didn’t know that, lousy rotten buggers.’ Henry said. ‘How do you know all of this, Bert?’

‘My uncle knew all about him,’ replied Bert seriously, ‘we had many a yarn. The old bugger had anti-Catholic tendencies, but I stumbled across old books at the old Otepopo Athenaeum – a good way to fill in me winter nights!’

Henry was at the Athenaeum auction when it was closed down, he bought a handful of old books, most you can never find these days, so he was not surprised the information was stored away those old volumes.

‘I read Glory, God and Gold, during my hunting days, about the Spanish thinking they had the God-given right to rape and pillage Central America and Mexico.’ Henry told his companion.

‘Pack of bastards there too!’ Bert agreed, ‘But that happened a lot later.’

The rain had stopped but a gale blew up, so strong it would blow the milk out of your coffee! The pair set to and laid rocks on the bivvy to help keep the roof from blowing off. They then spit roasted chunks of venison and Henry cooked some rice. They ate each in his own thoughts. With a grin resembling some sort of victory Bert produced another bottle, this time Irish whiskey. How he carried it, Henry never could work out! He was well aware of Bert’s Irish ancestry and how they were forced to emigrate when their English landlord had ripped off the roof their cottage! Bert had a sense of justice that Henry admired.

‘Y’know he never actually set foot on what is now USA!’ Bert muttered after his first sip.

‘You still on about Columbus?’ Henry knew his mate had more to say.

‘Yeah, I forget the name of the first people he met up with, Arawa-something, anyway they were native, indigenous people and Columbus an’ his crew wiped them out! Genocide it was! History’s full of cranky buggers like them!’

‘Shit, I’ve never heard Columbus was into that!’ Henry was surprised.

‘Gold hungry bastards! Reckoned the local natives knew where the gold was, so made them each bring a thimble-full every couple-a months, if they didn’t, he’d cut a hand or arm off and watch ’em bleed to death! Bloody laughing!’

‘Bastards is right!’ Henry agreed.

‘Rule of conquest, stick your country’s flag in the ground, state your religion or monarch and then rape the hell out of the place!’ the whiskey had fired up Bert, just a tad. ‘Th’ bugger had to find money to keep going back and forth so he looted gold and sold slaves.’

‘Slaves? That’s another new one on me!’ Henry was astounded.

‘Yeah, ‘twas him really stared off the trade!’ Bert explained, ‘And he sold off nine and ten year-old girls as sex slaves! Y’ don’t hear any of that when they’re praising the bastard up!’

Henry took another sip of his whiskey.

‘Don’t know what gets into buggers; invaders, explorers, butchers, religious freaks, call ’em what you will, atrocities bring ’em down to a level lower than maggots!’ Bert went on. ‘If y’ can’t do a bit of good, why do you have to be a bastard and do bad?’

‘Yeah I know,’ Henry put in, ‘I saw a thing about Leopold of Belgium and what he and his cronies did in the Congo! Bloody awful!’

‘’S one thing to kill people, but to make a sport of it…’ Bert shook his head. ‘They had bets on who could cut a native in half with one stroke of a sword, or cut off a head! They would smash babies against rocks and throw them into the water to see who could throw the futherest! They made ’em fight specially trained dogs like bloody gladiators in a ring, the poor buggers were only given a stick to fight with! And they used to hunt ’em with dogs, like the Pomms hunted foxes!’

‘Enough!’ cried Henry, ‘I agree, they were all bastards!’

‘Not all, one guy potted Columbus to the Queen of Spain and he was thrown into jail for a while, but the stupid bloody king, Ferdinand let him go! And returned his possessions!’

The wind had stopped and they both went outside to pee. It was a clear night with no moon and the universe twinkled its glory.

‘In the scheme of things we’re bloody insignificant.’ Muttered Bert, ‘But bastards like him always manage to sit on top of the cream like bloody blowflies!’

Henry knew what he meant.


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