Colin F. Jones

~ One Spur And The Arrow ~
Part 8 ~ THE DRIVE

~ 258 ~

The moon was full and silver
And lit the open plains
The night-watch strummed a soft guitar
And sang of famous names

~ 259 ~

The peaceful night had settled
To rest the tired bone
And on the rim a Dingo
Howled music of his own

~ 260 ~

From all the stations in the land
The drovers rode to town
Where the owners at a meeting
Now sat with worried frowns

~ 261 ~

The sun had scorched the stations
With a drought that was to last
So the owners had to drive their herds
Before being forced to fast

~ 262 ~

“We’ll join our herds together,”
Said One Spur to them all
“And drive ‘em across the southern plains
To the markets for the fall.”

~ 263 ~

“‘Cause the grass is brown and dying
And the steers are growing thin
So we’ll move ‘em by the months end
So we should soon begin.”

~ 264 ~

The owners all agreed
And called their drovers in
Muster the herds and drive ‘em
To the Southern saddlers rim

~ 265 ~

From there we’ll start the drive
Across the burning waste
To horse, to horse! My saddle born men
To horse! Make hast, make hast!

~ 266 ~

So the drovers formed a muster
At the Southern Saddlers rim
As the owners and the top hands
Kept up a hopeful grin

~ 267 ~

Soon the horses gathered
Along the rolling slopes
Where the drovers checked and fed them
And watched for faulty lopes

~ 268 ~

There was Marsden with his sorrel
An owner from the east
And with him was young Kelly
With a new ‘broke mountain beast

~ 269 ~

Deacon too, was riding
With his proudly striding bay
And Smithy from the mulga
With his shaggy clay-bank stray

~ 270 ~

There too, lanky One Spur
astride the mighty Arrow
Untrained for driving cattle
Still skittish as a sparrow

~ 271 ~

And keeping him a distance
From One Spurs powerful steed
John Stokes’ sleek paint stallion
Danced white eyed with breed

~ 272 ~

Brigsby by his ponies grinned
With a flashing toothy smile
A drive without his humour
Would not really be worthwhile

~ 273 ~

So the lightning well trained ponies
Were unsaddled for the night
Their final rest before the drive
That would start at first light

~ 274 ~

Then the camps in shadow
Slept to the night-hood song
And the cattle in contentment
Chewed cuds to the peaceful throng

~ 275 ~

The red sun had not yet risen
To join the light of day
Above the shimmering rim
Where the blue horizon lay

~ 276 ~

But the Drovers had eaten tucker,
Had saddled their eager mounts,
The cattle were being mustered
With cracking whips, and shouts

~ 277 ~

The bosses yelled their orders,
As they began to move the herds,
Across the slopes of Saddlers Rim,
Disturbing flocks of birds

~ 278 ~

Then soon the line of cattle
Were moving southern bound
The drovers chewing dust
That rose from gutted ground

~ 279 ~

John Stokes was riding wide,
With stockwhip held at rest
Sholt, his blood paint stallion
Prancing over the crest

~ 280 ~

Thus so, rode trail boss, One Spur,
With Deacon heading out,
With lead steer ‘Pansies father’,
Turning the heard about.

~ 281 ~

The Arrow was yet quite restless,
As he heaved to cover ground,
But his rider held him firmly
And forced his fore hooves down.

~ 282 ~

The horse was learning quickly,
Though his heart was hot with fire,
He bullied straying cattle
Though his grace was to admire.

~ 283 ~

Thus so the drive pushed on,
Into the wast lands of the plains,
With a thousand miles to travel,
Before turning back again.

~ 284 ~

The clime held fine for many days,
The sun a ball of heat,
The grasses faded into sand,
Beneath the plodding feet.

~ 285 ~

Dust and sweat and lathered mounts,
Thirsty cattle growing thin,
Tempers flared and angry eyes,
Were turning grey and grim.

~ 286 ~

Then another night had fallen,
And One Spur told the men,
“Watch them thirsty cattle,
While the rest of us turn in.”

~ 287 ~

“‘Cause thirsty cattle on the desert
Are restless and easy scared,
A falling leaf can make ‘em run,
So we had best be prepared.”

~ 288 ~

So the night crew rendered song,
Singing low and sweet,
To calm the nervous cattle
Lest they should take their feet.

~ 289 ~

But fate this night was blooming,
As a soft wind brought the cool
And in the sky a full moon beamed,
In a glowing cloudy pool.

~ 290 ~

From a ridge top in the distance,
A Dingo yawned his jaws,
To howl his frightful cry,
Through the deeper rocky draws.

~ 291 ~

Then the cattle, stirred to motion,
Arose with fear and dread,
As quickly those who heard it,
Urged the others from their beds.

~ 292 ~

As they ran to saddle horses,
The herd began to run,
The riders could not block them,
A stampede had begun.

~ 293 ~

The stockmen quickly mounted,
Were charging from the camp,
As in the air the rumbling rose
From the wild and thunderous tramp

~ 294 ~

The massive wave of cattle
Went hurtling through the dust,
As the riders tried to bunch them
For to stop them was a must.

~ 295 ~

But they failed to halt the fury;
Of the great herd’s mighty charge
They would mark them ‘til they tired,
So none would be at large

~ 296 ~

But as the stampede hurtled on,
A tragic thing occurred;
Brigsby missed the danger,
As his pony’s flanks he spurred.

~ 297 ~

A tree rose from the dust clouds,
Its branches hanging low,
And though he saw it coming,
He failed to avoid the blow.

~ 298 ~

One Spur saw the branches,
Fell him from his steed,
And hurl him to the rocky ground,
Where he lay to bleed.

~ 299 ~

Deacon who was riding close,
Leapt from his reeling bay,
And ran across the sun-baked earth,
To where poor Brigsby lay.

~ 300 ~

Soon the great herd faded,
Across the settling plain,
As by the tree, tall Deacon helped
Poor Brigsby in his pain.

~ 301 ~

‘Twas many hours later,
When the great herd tired out,
That as the new sun rose above,
They were stopped and turned about.

~ 302 ~

When the herd was settled,
And the horses were at rest,
Word was passed of Brigsby,
Who was not too good at best.

~ 303 ~

“Well have to get a Doctor”
Said Deacon to them all
“‘Cause Brigs is slowly dying,
from the injuries of his fall”

~ 304 ~

“But the nearest town lies far away.”
Said John Stokes to the men
“Who will ride the fifty miles
To get the Doctor then?”

~ 305 ~

“I will ride,” said One Spur,
“For with the Arrows powerful run
I should be able to make it
Before the set of sun”

~ 306 ~

“Also I,” spoke Deacon,
“Will ride my sturdy bay
That if One Spur doesn’t make it,
I might find the way.”

~ 307 ~

“And so will I,” said Johnny Stokes,
“Join the ride to town,
With Sholt my blood paint stallion
to swiftly cover ground.”

~ 308 ~

“One of us will make it,”
Said john Stokes to the band
“For we have the finest horses,
In all the southern land.”

~ 309 ~

For there poor Brigsby dying
A friend and drover too,
I’d ride a million miles,
God speed, I’ll ride with you.

~ 310 ~

For what more can life offer
Than friendship of the best,
Come One Spur, Deacon, let us ride,
Put your horses to the test.