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Snippets 23 December 2009
16 July 1925 by Gouger:
I know one authentic case of a good-luck charm working apparent miracles. “Darkie” Dawson is the owner, and opal-miners well remember his luckless ventures on White Cliffs and the Ridge. Many and many a time, Darkie carried his swag from those two fields after months of bullocking toil.

After the last of numerous disappointments, he came across an overturned cart with an Indian hawker pinned underneath. The man was dying, and Dawson went to a lot of trouble to make him comfortable. Before he passed out, the grateful Indian handed Dawson a curiously patterned black opal which, he whispered, was a good-luck charm of inestimable value. Darkie tramped back to the Ridge, determined to give it another 'fly'.

His first shaft bottomed on opal. Thereafter for two years, he couldn't get off opal. He bought himself a natty sheep-selection, the ambition of all Ridge gougers. He then put in four years at the war, got through it with perfect health and minus a scratch, then returned to find a wife, who is certain the sun shines out of her hubby's nuggety little frame.

He has a son who is already game to ride anything with hair on, two others who think the world is a place made for them to laugh in, and a miniature daughter who promises to be even as fine a woman as her mother. He's backed the last four Melbourne Cup winners. His wool-clip always tops the market, and his merino rams flock up to 94%.

Only one dread clouds Darkie's happy horizon. It is with him both day and night. He's afraid of losing the curious black opal that from the day the Indian died, has never left the little bag around his neck.

Barbara Moritz
29 December 2009 06:57pm
Snippets 16 December 2009
30 January 1919 by Gouger:
About 11 years ago, when the opal fields were in full bloom, Lightning Ridge used to manufacture its own whiskey, brandy and rum. Hundreds of abandoned shafts made ideal hiding-places for a still, and as the diggers had lots of money and an unquenchable thirst, there were plenty of men who were willing to ease the drought.

One big strong chap drank two bottles of “Ladies' Favourite” straight off. He wandered away and the whole field turned out to search for him. The second day we found him strapped between the forks of a gum-tree with his own belt. It was impossible to get him out of the tree by talking to him; he just screamed and kicked the atmosphere.

Two of our most athletic men tackled the problem. One shinned up the trunk of the shrub, and when near the fork, started tickling the madman's bare feet with a sapling. This naturally drove Jimjam berserk. Meanwhile, the climber's mate had scrambled up the opposite side of the tree, and in the heat of the yells and language, he slashed the knife through the belt and gave hearty push.

Jimjam fell fair on top of the galoot who had been tickling him. Both men hit the ground with a thud and the whole search-party rushed in; but before a separation could be effected, the tickler had his left ear bitten off.

After a fortnight in the bush hospital, the brandy fiend came back to the field. He was under the impression that wild cattle had been chasing him for a week and that his only way of escape was by climbing trees. Then a chap with a bandage 'round his head came along and, showing where his ear had been, wanted to know what the chewer was going to do about it. During the next hour, I saw one of the goriest fights in the history of the Ridge. Even to this day, both combatants think each other mad.

Barbara Moritz
29 December 2009 06:55pm
Snippets 9 December 2009
8 August 1918 by Gouger:
Underground on the opal-fields at a depth of over 100ft through solid sandstone, I've dug out mussel-shells perfectly opalised. I've seen small fish a glittering, flash of red, green and yellow, even the scales being perfectly opalised. In the same way, the bones of queer animals are found embedded in the rock, some with immature opal colours mixed with the fossilised bone, others with the bone completely turned to opal. One perfect little skeleton of a long-extinct marsupial, partly opalised, was bought for a private museum. These relics are valuable mostly as mementoes of a long dead past, but a few of them are also valuable for the opal they contain.

Barbara Moritz
29 December 2009 06:54pm
Snippets 2 December 2009
27 August 1914 by Gouger:
One of the best-known residents in Townsville for many years was an immoral old billy goat. On a thirsty day the goat would make the round of the pubs, following parched men in as they breasted the bar for a drink.

Should the men be strangers, and fail to notice the patiently-waiting goat, the beast would retire to the door, measure his distance, charge, and with unerring aim butt a man who was just downing a long beer exactly on the handiest place. The publican would then explain matters, and the injured party, after feeling his rattled bones, would invariably 'shout'. So frequently did this happen that it pains me to say the goat was, four days out of seven, hopelessly inebriated. The other three days he spent in sleeping off the effects.

A totally different breed of goat once roamed the streets in White Cliffs (N.S.W.). He had an absolute loathing for a drunken man. Should the unfortunate recipient of this hatred be lying paralytic, the goat would again and again butt him in his helplessness and elsewhere. I have seen maudlin drunks blubbering pitifully on the neck of a policeman, and asking him to save them from the teetotal and Rechabite goat.

At last, however, the animal met the wrong end of Waterloo. His last victim came out of hospital quite sober, and, catching the Rechabite alone, tied a plug of gelignite to his horns with a short fuse attached. Then there was a crash, and the heavens were rent asunder, and the town blew apart, and everything went up, and later on things began to come down, and there was a steady drizzle of broken goat for three days.

Barbara Moritz
29 December 2009 06:50pm
Snippets 25 November 2009
13 August 1914 by Gouger:
Do any of you know old Dan Cosgrove, boundary riding on a Barwon sheep ranch now? Some five years ago, he took out the station poison cart, but didn't return. Next morning they found him propped up beside a burning log. His leg had been broken near the ankle. Pressing against his injured foot with his good leg, then pulling the broken leg backwards hard, Dan had at last got the bone to slip back into place. A pretty hard task for any man; and Dan had passed the sixtieth year.

Those nights were bitterly cold, so the injured man had by inches dragged himself backwards over a hundred yards to a dry log. The first thing he asked for was tobacco. They got him into a wagonette, the station carpenter being told to drive him with all speed to Walgett Hospital, a distance of 18 miles. The boss gave the carpenter a bottle of whiskey, with instructions to pass Dan a nip now and then. These instructions were faithfully carried out, except that the carpenter frequently had a nip, just to keep Dan company.

The first ten miles went swiftly by, as also did the whiskey. The empty bottle was slung away, and the next eight miles were done in furious time. At each pub in the long, straggling street of Walgett, the ambulance halted, until at last a kindly publican, noticing Dan's frantic attempts to drive the wagonette into the bar, gathered up the reins and steered the vehicle to the hospital, to the patient's immense disgust. Old Dan's leg got better.

Barbara Moritz
29 December 2009 06:49pm