What the Bushmen Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This short story fills in a gap in Henry Lawson's poem, "The Glass on the Bar." It is a story of the death of an Australian "Bushman", through an accident involving some close mates, and the tension caused by grief in the laconic world of the Australian bush.

Submitted: November 04, 2009

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Submitted: November 04, 2009

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What the Bushmen Love
By Thomas Moore
(Inspired by “The Glass on the Bar”
By Henry Lawson)
 
The Sky was illuminated for the shortest of seconds. Thunder echoed through the trees, an unstoppable, insurmountable foe. Tim broke into a sprint, hoping his mates would be waiting for him at their campsite. He’d survived countless storms before, and he wasn’t scared of this one, but he wanted to get back to camp dry.
Tim and his three mates, Harry, Sam and Charlie, were bushmen. Over the past fifteen years, they’d lived through countless storms. If they couldn’t find shelter somewhere they’d sleep in the rain.
Their life was a tough one, one they all loved. They slept under the Southern Cross and rode wherever they pleased. Their skills in the saddle were such that it was said that Clancy himself would have been proud to have called them his students. They had conquered the great Australian bush, and of this, one and all, they were proud.
Tim kept running. He wasn’t far from camp, but the sky was blackening fast, and he didn’t want to spend a night alone in the rain. He looked back at the storm cloud, slowly advancing like a gigantic wave. Its massive grey hulk seemed to emanate sorrow, cloaking the world beneath like a blanket.
“This’ll be a night to remember” thought Tim.
He didn’t know the enormity of those words.
He arrived back at camp to find Harry dousing the fire. A few bream had been cooked, and Sam and Charlie were packing the horses.
“I hope this means we’ll be sleeping somewhere dry tonight,” Tim asked, as he sat down on an old log.
“Yeah, I found the ideal cave this morning,” Harry replied, “if we don’t leave soon we’ll get wet.”
The horses were packed and the men ate fast. The smudge in the sky that was the Milky Way was slowly disappearing behind dense cloud. The stars were magnificent; absolutely uncountable. But there was no time for gazing at their mysterious beauty, for the cloud was nigh overhead, and the wind was howling through the trees.
“We need to leave now,” shouted Sam.
“I’ll show you the way to the cave” yelled Harry. Charlie threw a bucket of water on the fire and they mounted their horses.
They turned them into the now blistering wind, and, with a communal “Hi-yaa!” they rode. All four, head to tail, at a breakneck pace. It started raining, but still they galloped on.
Heaven help them if they faltered in even the most miniscule way, but they never seemed to have thought about that.
Perhaps they should have.
Harry’s horse cleared a rotting log, its right foot landing in a seemingly tiny and forgettable puddle of mud.
It was inches too deep. Sam, Charlie, and Tim: they would never forget.
Harry’s horse’s right leg was jammed in the hole. It fell to the ground. Harry was attached by the stirrups, and fell with his horse. His hands were forced up by the centrifugal force of his fall; his once fearless eyes showed mortal fear.
In an instant he was slammed to the ground. Was he dead at that moment? No-one knows, but one thing is certain: he did not live for much longer.
For rising over the log, helpless to do anything, was Tim. By the time his horse hit solid ground, Tim had realized what was about to happen.
Harry had been thrown, dead or alive, into the path of the oncoming horses.
Before anyone could do anything, Harry’s fate was sealed by the weight of three heavy horses. He was trampled beyond recognition by his mates.
The next day they buried Harry in a large clearing in the trees. The wind blew relentlessly, picking up leaves and carrying them away. It was powerless to take away their sorrow.
“I don’t need to say, ‘Harry was a great mate’,” said Charlie, trying not to cry, “we wouldn’t be bushmen if it weren’t for Harry. I remember when...” and they talked for a time about the attributes and adventures of their deceased comrade.
Sam spoke next. He kept his hands in his pockets, for they were shaking from the cold and despair. His eyes were bloodshot, but he felt he couldn’t cry in front of his mates.
Then Tim stood up, and, as he did, he saw anew his comrade’s terrified face. “Harry!” he yelled at the mound on the plain. He couldn’t stop a tear escaping from his eye. “I loved you like a brother, and I killed you!”
Tim couldn’t say anything more; he was choking on his words. A few more tears trickled down his cheeks as he started sobbing quietly. He was embarrassed by his emotions, but he felt Harry deserved his tears.
A few months later the three bushmen stopped for a drink at a favourite inn. The landlord was happy to see them, and he absent-mindedly served four drinks. There on the bar, stood an unclaimed tumbler. It was full of Three Star, and had Harry roughly etched on its side.
They drank to Harry that day, thinking somberly of his life and death. Though he had passed away, he would never be forgotten.
 
 


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