Coincidences do happen in this life; and some of them happen so strangely that the telling of them amounts almost to the incredible.
This, this little story happens to be true; but I wonder how many will actually believe it.
Being fortunate enough to have a river at the bottom of my paddock, and consequently an unlimited water supply, I had installed an hydraulic ram, and I was just putting the finishing touches on it when a tall, gaunt man dropped his swag outside my fence and wandered down the paddock toward me.
"I see you got water to waste these days," was his opening remark.
"Of course. Why not?" said I.
"P'raps your memory ain't so good," he said. "Water wasn't so plentiful where I seen you last -- Yarralwingie, in ninety-two, at Steve Stagg's pub -- you and a friend of yours eatin' bread an' cheese; Steve Stagg standin' in the doorway an' a couple of swagmen comin' up the limestone road. Do you remember now?"
I had a faint recollection of the scene; so I humored him, wondering what would come next.
"You friend was a decent bloke," he continued. "Took the wind out of Steve's sails. That dirty hound was for sendin' us on our way -- a twelve mile stage without so much as a drink of water; but we got it back out of Steve, in the end."
I had never seem Steve Stagg since that day; so I asked the gaunt man if he, perhaps, had ever gone back to Yarralwingie.
"Not on yer life," said he. "That was ninety-two. I never seen Steve again till twenty year later: in the West it was. Me an' that same mate of mine was runnin' a condenser outside Southern Cross. Fifty mile from any water that place was, and that's where we got our own back outer Steve Stagg. Come to us with his tongue out, broke an' perishin'; but we sent him on his way. He learnt his lesson that time all right."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Some cove found him two months later, an' he wasn't nice to look at. Gosh, it's warmin' up today. How about a billy of that water, mate? Sorter sparklin', ain't it."
I had only been half listening to his talk; but suddenly the full enormity of this man's callous deed come to my consciousness.
"Get out of this!" I said. "And find water for yourself."
"Oh, all right," said he. "That ain't goin' to be no trouble."
The executioner of Steve Stagg wandered back up the paddocks, leaving me with a doubt, even myself, that such a story could really be true. But it is a faithful record; and I give it here for what it is worth.
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-05|