Dad in Politics and Other Stories

Our Neighbour

Steele Rudd

(A. H. Davis)

DAVY MCDONALD’S a Scotchman. He lives about three hundred yards from our place in a humpy by himself at Hungeroo. Everyone calls him Mac. He aluz looks dusty, and never washes his clothes, not once—he thinks it spoils clothes to wash them, and sez it only wears them out, Every New Year’s Day he comes out in a new flannel and white moleskins, and when he takes them off they stand up straight as he does himself. His selection joins ours, but there’s no dividin’ fence up yet. He wants us to do our half first, but he ain’t got any stock, and we don’t want to be in a hurry, cuz our cows wouldn’t have so much grass then. His cultivation paddock’s fenced in, though. We ain’t got any cleared yet, and our cattle are aluz puttin’ their heads through the wires tryin ‘ to get at his wheat, but their necks ain’t long enough to reach it. The calves reach it, though. They get in under the wires, and Mac puts his dog on them instead of puttin ‘ them out; and o’ course they beller and run mad-blind all over the wheat; then he stands outside our sliprails, swearin’ and runnin’ down our religion and forefathers, and threatens, because he knows a J.P., to have us all summoned if we don’t do somethin’ with them.

“We’ve got yokes on the calves now—some o’ them real forks o’ trees—but it don’t make no difference to their appetites for wheat. One o’ them got caught in the wires the other day, and smashed all the fence down, and Mac didn’t know about it till he saw all the cattle (about eighty head) in his wheat.

He was breakin’ up some new ground at the time, and cleared away to get his gun without tellin’ the horses to “waay.” He aimed a shot at Snailey, and it looked bad for her, but the gun wasn’t loaded, and on’y clicked. Then Mac chucked it at Silkie’s heifer and sang out, “Bally! Here, boy, here!” to his dog. But Bally was chained up, and could do nothin’ on’y howl and bark and jump in the air. Mac turned round then, and swore over at our house, and shook his fist. The cultivation paddock wasn’t near big enough for him to swear his best in. So he came out in the lane. The cattle didn’t want to go out at all, and he couldn’t find anything in the wheat to throw at them. That made him swear more. While he’d be chasin’ one and cryin’ with temper, the others would stand and gorge themselves. He got them goin’ though, at last, and had them nearly at the slip rails, when he looked round and saw the horses walkin ’right through the wheat, too, with the plough rollin’ about be’ind them. He ran to meet them, singin ’out fearful to “waay.” They were quiet horses enough, but weren’t used to him appearin’ like a apperishin, when they knew he ought t’ been be’ind; so o’ course they took to and bolted like brumbies; but when they reached the wire fence they stopped—at least one of them did; the other two went over the fence.

It was just near our house, too, where they fell over, and they got inside and watched him get them out. He managed it after a while, and then returned to the cattle; but he didn’t swear once at them. He was knocked up, or else he didn’t know any more.

He put the cows in the yard, and left them there all night with nothin’ to eat. Next day he came to our place again and said Dad was a cattle-stealer and a rogue, and that we could have a trip to town for our crawlers. Of course, Dad wasn’t at home.

Mac ain’t any good in the saddle, and he’s worse at drivin’ cattle, especially knowin’ ones like ours. So when he started them for town they didn’t want to go, and first one and then another dodged him round logs and trees, till they got right into our paddock again; then he gave up the idea of impoundin’ them.

He never spoke to any of us for a long time after that, and wouldn’t p’raps at all, on’y he wanted to borrow some flour, and had to. And now he always sez that if he was our father he would skin us boys alive; that’s because we were,throwin’ a few stones at his humpy one day and killed a fowl.

We don’t know why it is, but he never likes to see us ridin’ the calves.

One evenin’, Sam—he’s the biggest of us—was startin’ to break in Tiney’s calf. Bully. He got on, but on ’y meant to sit there a bit at first, without lettin’ him move, while we held Bully with a rope. We gave Bully a poke in the ribs, and he bellered and rushed under the middle rail of the stockyard—it was the on’y one up—and knocked Sam clean off, and then got away with the new leg-rope round his neck which Mac had lent us. Well, Mac was goin’ by just then to water his horses at the dam, and stood and laughed, and said he wished Bully had broken Sam’s neck. O’course Sam got in a scot and threw a stone at Mac, and hit him on the back, knockin’ a cloud of dust out of his flannel shirt, and makin’ him go round and round sayin’, “Oh, you—you deevil!”

We were glad Mac got it, cuz Sam would ’av’ hammered me and Jack for lettin’ Bully chuck him. Mac told about it, though, and said hangin’s too good for Sam, and he’s sure we’ll all come to no good some day.

He’s got a new man workin for him now; he’s aluz getting a new man, because when they work for three or four months and ask him for some wages he swears at them as if they had no business ter ask, and then they go to town and fetch him out a bit o’ paper. He never gives them any money, tho’ he lets them take a horse. He had twenty horses one time; he’s on’y four now, and when they’re done we don’t expect he’ll get any more new chums.

He got Jim—he’s another of us, and the best rider among our lot—to break in some horses one time, and said he’d give a pound a head for them; but when they were quietened and Jim wanted his money, Mac said if he didn’t clear off his ground he’d summons him.

I was over at his humpy yesterday to borrow a sharpenin’ stone, and he got in a rage and wouldn’t give it to me, because I didn’t care about goin’ inside and gettin’ it for meself. No, he couldn’t induce me in! I was in once, and all the time I was there I was liftin’ up one foot and then another, and scratchin’ me leg with it, and as if I was standin’ on something hot. When he saw me dancin’ about, he ran at me quite savage and said: “Didn’t yer never ’ave a flea in yer hown ’ouse?”

Guess we’ve often had, but nothing like this.

Once when Jim wanted to go to town there was no horse, and he was wondering what to do, when Mac came along and offered to lend him one (this was before they fell out about the breakin’ in). Jim was quite pleased, and said we’d all been too hard on old Mac, and that he was a real good-hearted cove. When he’d nearly reached town, tho’, on Mac’s horse, some chap, whom he met on the road, wanted to know where he got the horse from, and said it was one he’d lost. O’course Jim said it belonged to Mac of Hungeroo, and then the cove said to him: “Well, Mac of Hungeroo, or any other Mac, if you’ll take my advice, young fellow, you’ll get off and hand him over to me.” So Jim did, and tramped home—fifteen miles—with the saddle on his head. He never liked Mac after that.

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