A Day to Remember
It was while Paddy was thinking ruefully of the previous evenings embarrassment the sound of an approaching truck could be heard in the distance. Then he remembered. This was the day supplies arrived from the big regional centre east. It was time for him to do his policing duty and guard supplies as they were unloaded at the pub. The pub functioned as headquarters for receiving and distribution of supplies. Orders placed by settlers in the cattle and sheep ranches far inland would be delivered to the pub and Molly would supervise their storage and delivery. Ranchers would be arriving throughout the day to receive packages, mail, and sample latest refreshments dispensed at the bar. It was a high day for all. Camels would be commissioned to supply those living in the deep interior where roads did not exist yet.
Later in the afternoon Paddy returned to his office and began sorting through a mountain of mail. One particularly caught his eye. He grunted as he examined the poster to be distributed in prominent places around his district. The poster read Wanted Samuel Lewis. In fine print was a list of the aliases used by this wanted person.
“That’s Snake!” Paddy muttered. “I had a hunch he was here for a reason.” There was a listing of the places Samuel Lewis had been moving rapidly between hideouts before reaching this his last possible stop before hitting an unforgiving desert. He’d not been forthcoming with his name and had camped on the edge of town with a woman and her son. He said his name was Smith to this one and Jones to another. For a while he’d been the topic of conversation as people speculated on his bona fides, but they soon lost interest and gradually came to accept him as part of the scene. Paddy rose slowly and selected several posters to nail in front of the few buildings in town.
As he was nailing a poster to the pub door the mechanic looked over his shoulder. He’d come to discuss jeep repairs and knew when the police station was empty Paddy would be at the pub.
“That’s Snake!” He shouted in excitement.
Those at the bar inside rushed out to see what the commotion was all about followed by Molly and Jocko.
They nodded in unison. “It’s Snake alright!”
Now Snake got his name after deftly cornering and grabbing by the tail a large eastern brown that wandered into the pub soon after his arrival in town. He swung it around his head like a cattle man with a whip while pub customers rushed to the corners of the bar in shocked horror. The eastern brown is one of the world’s most deadly snakes. With a deft crack of the whip the snakes head was broken and the stranger casually threw it outside the swinging bar doors to the disapproval of members of the aboriginal camp who’d arrived to see Molly for their usual gift of fire water. They’d take Molly’s prized gift back to camp to share among the men. The uncalled-for harming of the snake was a desecration which earned their animosity. They killed only for food, and apologized for doing so to the spirit world. For the townies and ranchers this earned him the right to be accepted into their community and that story was oft repeated. From that point on he was referred to as Snake.
There was a babble of voices as this exciting discovery was discussed. Finally, Paddy cleared his throat and took charge. “I’m takin ya jeep to arrest Snake” A chorus of approval rang from the assembling crowd.
Jed the mechanic conscious of the mess Paddy had made of the government jeep the evening before hastily offered to drive. “Ta arresting officer should ava driver,” he shouted.
The small crowd of early morning bar crawlers shouted their approval and Paddy grudgingly handed the keys to Jed. He understood what was behind the offer but had to keep up appearances around town so went along with Jed’s suggestion.
They sped out to the camp by a billabong where Snake had set up his household. On arrival, they found the campsite abandoned.
“Sumin musta sneaked out and told Snake when they saw ta poster.”
Paddy sat considering what his next move should be. Who would have done such a thing? He’d arrest them for aiding and abetting a criminal he thought. Snake was a clever bushman and they’d need a black tracker now to discover where Snake had headed. He’d been stealing cattle and selling them to drovers since his arrival in this town, and unbeknown to Paddy had been up to these tricks wherever Samuel Lewis, alias Snake, had temporarily resided. That probably accounted for his horses too. A decision was made and Paddy pointed back to town.
On arrival in town Paddy appropriated whatever horses he could find in town and appointed visiting ranchers who understood the rudiments of local language to aid him in the search. He negotiated through Molly and some of the elders of the aboriginal camp. Trackers were supplied for a promised extra allocation of fire water. The district was divided into territories and each man and a tracker assigned to one. Paddy arranged for rifles to be fired when the absconding family were sighted. But Paddy was firm that only he as the Police Officer had the right to an arrest. Perhaps this would regain some of his lost approval from headquarters and he could hope for a transfer from this fly infested hellish climate. He’d been raised on the coast and it was offensive they’d sent a coast man to this place, but he needed a job and would have to milk this situation for all it could benefit him. The searchers went to their assigned territory and Paddy went to the Police Station to wait for a rifle shot signal.
While he was sitting at his desk. Molly came through the front door and sat down. Paddy looked up in surprise.
“I’m surprised at ya Paddy!”
Paddy looked at Molly remorsefully thinking of his behaviour last evening and his threat to arrest his friend Jocko. “Sorry Mol” he whispered. He’d thought his scolding that morning had been sufficient but apparently, Molly was going to hold it over him forever.
That was the reaction Molly expected and she moved to the next stage of her plot.
“I means, do ya get pleasure outa hurting a poor woman and her child?”
Paddy sat bolt upright in his chair and looked at Molly incredulously. “I never harm women and children Mol, you know that. I told you I was sorry about trying to arrest Jocko. How many times are you going to hold that over me?”
“You’re hurting a woman and her poor child!”
Paddy flushed with irritation. “That’s enough Mol, they are criminals and the law is the law!”
“And ya hate this community and can hardly wait to leave once you’ve arrested this poor man Snake and his family. After all we’ve done for ya and the friendship we’ve all offered ya since you came ere. We love ya and want ya to stay with us Paddy!”
Molly put on her best woman’s crying fit and Paddy stood uncertainly not knowing what to do next. Then it dawned on him what was going on. He sat down wearily and thought. Life was not so bad here after all. The people were good hearted and would do anything for you. In a way, they were more genuine than those on the coast he’d been acquainted with.
He sat down and smiled at Molly who dried her tears on her sleeve. “I love you too Mol and am happy to stay here. Where is he?”
Molly resumed her usual composure and smiled at Paddy. He was not so dense after all even though he was a man. She darted around the table and gave him a hug. “I’ll give ya an extra portion for breakfast from now on Paddy.”
“Where is he?” Paddy extended his hands in resignation.
“Es upstairs in our quarters with Mary and Sam Jnr. Paddy.” She laughed happily.
“How do you expect me to explain to everyone why Snake was not arrested Mol?”
“I’m putting ‘im in ta back of the delivery truck and e can figure out where e wants to be dropped down outside ta search area.”
Paddy laughed. He really liked the pluck of this woman. “OK, go and make sure no one sees you or I’ll have to arrest them to keep my respect in this community. Go quickly!”
After Molly left Paddy sat down and roared with laughter. He liked Molly and he liked everyone in this town. It would be his community by choice now and they better not think of transferring him. He busied himself with desk work until he heard the truck start up and head out of town on its way back east. It was much later ranchers and trackers returned empty handed, one remarked casually he’d noticed Snake’s horses tied up in front of the pub. Paddy looked up in surprise and wondered how they’d got there.
That evening he headed for the pub and his evening with Jocko. Molly was behind the bar keeping them all in order.
“I see Snake’s horses in the yard outback Mol, how did they get there?”
“It’sa miracle Paddy, one of ta blacks found em wandering around and bought em ere for safe keepin. I’ll be lookin afta tem!”
Paddy nodded as he accepted the first of his rewards for the evening.
© Copyright Ian Grice 2017 All rights reserved
The above image is copyrighted to wallpaperup.com