Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A few days later Defoe gave six of the older boys 5 pounds each and a train ticket to a Bush town.
"The Cocky will meet ya at the station, so good luck lads. This is Gods' own country and with a bit of hard work and a few brains ya should do all right for ya selves."
We said our goodbyes to each other and that was the last I saw of them. As the days went by Bill Defoe kept getting phone calls from Mr. Mansell, the Aussie Director of the BBM. Each time he got a phone call, a few more boys were shipped out until only 2 of us remained, me and Morris.
One day I said to Bill, "What about me and Morris Bill? Haven't ya got a place for us to go to yet?"
"Ya sure ya won't change ya mind about going in the Army, Yorky?"
"Quite sure Bill. I'm itching to get out to the Bush. I've been looking forwards to that for 2 years now."
"Alright mate." He said. "Ya old enough to leave home so I guess ya old enough to make decisions for ya self. You and ugly Morris will be leaving tomorrow morning so better roll ya swag bright and early."
He walked away resigned to the fact that Army life was not for me.
It was difficult for me to sleep that evening 'cause all I could think of was red dust and kangaroos. When morning finally came I was packed up within half an hour so I made mi way across to the kitchen for some breakfast.
After breakfast we said goodbye to the cook and went back to the Nissan hut. Before long Bill Defoe came through the doorway and said, "Here's ya ticket Maurice. There's 5 quid for ya start in life. Here's your ticket Yorky and here's a fiver mate. Make sure you look after it 'cause you'll have to work bloody hard in the Bush for a fiver."
"Thanks Bill." I said. "You're a real good bloke. You've really helped me a lot since I've been here."
"Root ya boot Yorky." He said with a slight waver in his voice. "Ya train leaves at 2 O'clock from Sydney Central so don't go fucking around Sydney and miss 'em or you'll be sleeping on the station all night."
An hour or so later one of the Jackeroos loaded our cases into his car and drove us both down to Cabramatta Station and before long Maurice and I were humping our cases onto the Central Stations' platform.
It was now about 11 and we had to wait until 2 in the afternoon for Maurices' train. Mine didn't arrive until 4:15 so we sat around the station smoking fags and eating hot chips covered in tomato sauce.
There was no one left in my life now to say. 'Don't do this' or 'Don't do that!' All I had to listen to now was the inner voice of silence that lives in the center of my heart.
The train Morris was due to take arrived on time and I helped him put his 2 large bags on board.
"Look after yourself Morris." I said as he climbed up the steps. "Keep practicing with your knife mate and best of luck to ya."
"Same to you Yorky." he said and then went inside to find his seat.
I watched the train slowly pull out of Central Station and unbeknownst to me, a couple of years later I found out from one of the boys I accidentally met while traveling around the fairgrounds that poor old Morris was gored to death by a large stud bull. The bull was in heat and really cranky. Morris was walking through the paddock when the bull decided to charge him. Morris ran for the fence but he was not fast enough. The bull stuck one of its horns straight through Maurice's back and broke it. Then it gored him into the ground. At the time the boy told me this story I knew that none of us can escape our destiny.
I was now left sitting on Central Station by myself. I felt rather sad as I sat there, thinking about all the people I had left behind, mi mother, dad and sisters, the 15 lads I'd lived with for the past 9 weeks, Bill Defoe. They were in the dead past now and all I was left with was myself.
'Oh well', I thought, as I wiped away a couple of tears that slowly trickled down the front of mi cheek, 'I'm left with what I stared out with, myself.'
"THE TRAIN STANDING ON PLATFORM 17 WILL BE LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES. IT WILL ARRIVE IN LAKE CARGELLIGO AT 12:30 PM TOMORROW. ALL THOSE WHO ARE TRAVELING ON THE TRAIN SHOULD BOARD NOW."
"Is this the train to Burgooney?" I said to a platform ticket man.
"It sure is mate. Ya got a long ride ahead of ya. You'd best hop on her 'cause she's pulling out soon."
"Thanks mate." I said and threw mi 2 large suitcases up the 3 steps and into the carriage. After I found my reserved seat and put mi cases where I could keep an eye on 'em, then made misen comfortable. Pretty soon the old train gave a big jerk and a few clunks and it slowly pulled out of Sydneys' Central Station.
'Well, here we go.' I thought. 'There's no turning back now.' I realized that the other boys must all have been thinking the same as me when their train pulled out of Central.
There was only a couple of people in my carriage, a woman and a man, so I put mi feet up and looked out of the window at the suburbs which were now flying past. The train to Lake Cargelligo was an Express. The word Express had nothing to do with the speed of the train, which was quite slow in comparison to the English Steam Trains. On the floor, under where my feet were supposed to be was a sort-of half-round tin can. It was about 18" long, 10" wide and about 5" deep. It was the strangest contraption that I'd ever seen on a train before and when I made some investigations I discovered that each seat had the same tin can underneath it.
The first stop was Paramatta. It was a small suburb of Sydney and lay at the bottom of the Blue Mountains. I had read in the brochures that the BBM sent me in England that Parramatta was once a penal town. There was a well-known jail there, which used to house the convicts in the early settlers days. In the 1700s' there was no road or rail across the Blue Mountains so when the convicts escaped they always took 2 or 3 weaker mates with them so that they'd have some food when they ran out. The stronger convicts killed off the weaker ones and ate them just to survive. That will give you an idea of how rough that mountain range was in those days.
It was getting dark now as the old train made its way slowly up and over the Blue Mountains. Once we got through Luera and Blackheath, the train picked up some speed and headed out due west to the Bush.
"Tickets please." Said the conductor. I handed him my ticket and he said, "Burgooney, eh mate?"
"Ya just come out from the old country have ya mate?"
"Yes, I've been here for about nearly 2 weeks now."
"Jesus Christ mate, you're in for a right eye-opener."
"What do you mean?"
"You'll find out sport." He said as he punched the ticket.
"What's this can for?" I said.
"Oh, ya never seen one of those before mate? At about 8 O'clock tonight one of the stewards will fill it up with hot water. Keep ya feet warm mate. It gets pretty cold out West this time of year. There's a blanket overhead. You'll need that or you'll freeze ya arse off. You can get ya self some sandwiches and hot tea when the canteen opens. You'll need that too. Give us a holler if ya need anything else. There's hardly a soul on the train so I've got lots of spare time this trip."
"Thanks." I said and put mi ticket in mi back pocket so I wouldn't lose it.
After, I bought some sandwiches, hot tea, a bottle of pop and a couple of bags of chips. I ate them all and then set about rolling myself a big fat Havelock cigarette. It was pitch dark out the window now so I read an old newspaper that someone had left behind.
All through the dark night we traveled, almost non-stop. The tin of hot water was great to put mi feet on because by now it had gotten really cold. I dozed and nodded the night away and when the sun came up at 6 in the morning I could no longer recognize any of the scenery. Looking out the window all I could see for miles around was wide-open spaces. Some of the red land was quite barren in places and in others there was only Mali for miles and miles. (Mali country is best described as dense bush.)
"Lamb chops, bacon and eggs do ya for breakfast?" said the steward.
"That sounds great."
"It's being served up in the dining car in about 10 minutes so you'd might as well go through now."
I had not rested too well that previous evening because it was so cold and the thought of bacon, eggs and lamb chops with a hot cuppa tea was all I needed to get mi
stiff little body mobile again.
Soon as breakfast was over I went for a walk around the train. There was only 3 people left on the whole train now so I was beginning to wonder where the hell Burgooney was. After the train left Parks, one old couple got off and at Forbes the remaining old lady left the train. I was the only paying passenger left besides the conductor and the steward. That was it!
We passed a small bush town called Condoblin and the train chugged on for another hour or so.
"Your stops coming up shortly mate." said the conductor as he walked through the carriage.
I got mi 2 big suitcases ready by the door so it wouldn't take me so long to get off. The train started to slow down but as yet I could see no station in sight. Five minutes later the brakes started to squeal as the old train ground to a halt.
"Here ya go mate." Said the conductor. "This is Burgooney. Give us one of those cases; I'll give ya a hand off with it. Someone coming to meet ya are they?"
"Yes, a bloke called Burt Booth is supposed to pick me up."
"Christ, I hope he's not too late mate. She must be a hundred degrees in the shade today."
I jumped down off the train and the conductor handed me mi 2 large suitcases.
"Best of luck lad. You better hang out in the shade or you'll fry in this heat. It's a good job that you've got that Bush hat to keep the sun off or ya wouldn't last but 5 minutes today."
The guard/conductor blew a loud, shrill whistle and the old train and its 4 carriages took off slowly down the railway track.
Burgooney station consisted of one small-corrugated tin shed, which was securely locked, and a half-moon sign that read:
I was now in a state of shock. Almost immediately hundreds of small bush flies decided to give me a warm welcome. It must have been at least 100 degrees as I tried in vain to keep the bush flies off mi face. I opened one of mi cases and found a tin of Airoguard but it made no difference at all. When I looked in one direction there was nothing as far as my eyes could see and in the other direction all I could see was Mali bush trees. It was the most frightened and despondent time I have ever felt in mi whole life up till that point.
Miles away in the distance I could see a small cloud of red dust. Everywhere I looked was shimmering heat waves and in some places the heat mirages looked like big waves of water. As I sat there in the heat on one of mi suitcases, the sweat was streaming down mi face and the bush flies were tormenting me to death.
'Now you've really done it Richard!' a small inner voice said. 'The farmer has probably forgotten you and you'll starve to death out here and no one will ever find you. Why did you leave your mothers' warm, cozy house? At least you had food and water there and Jim Bailey was a good bloke compared to this hell-hole!'
'Piss off!' I said to the voice, out loud. The curse shattered the hot, dusty silence for a split second then got lost in the wide-open space. The only form of life I could see was 3 black crows that sat in a gum tree and cawed out loud every now and again.
I decided to move around 'cause the hundreds of bush flies were just about driving me insane now. I could feel the heat of the ground burning its way through mi shoes as I walked around the tin shed.
When I looked through the dusty window of the shed I made the mistake of putting mi hand on the tin wall, which was burning hot. Instantly, I pulled it away and cursed.
"Shit! Fuck! Bastard!" I said as I shook mi hand and then looked at the large red patch that had just formed. I was now close to tears so I walked around the back of the station shed to investigate further.
All of a sudden I noticed a great big lizard who was sat in the sunshine staring straight at me. He was a couple of feet long and had hard, thick scaly skin. Around his neck was a big frill of scales. I did not know if he would attack me or not so I bent down and grabbed a broken limb and hurled it in his general direction.
The tree limb almost hit him so he took off at full speed straight under the tin shed. As he ran he kicked up a small cloud of red dust behind him. All over the ground were these small brown burrs with tiny barbs sticking out of them. Growing up the back-side of the shed wall was a patch of brittle looking thistles about 4 feet high. The ground was as hard as concrete and it looked as though it had never rained for years in these parts. A bit further along I saw a huge mound of dirt, which had holes the size of a sixpence all over it. Picking up a hot, flat rock, I threw it at the mound. Within seconds the biggest ants I had ever seen came marching out to investigate the violent intrusion. I stood well back as I watched them scurrying over and around the mound. They had 2 little pincers at each side of their mouth and they looked very much to me like miniature black crabs. Later on I came to know they were called Bull ants and could give a nasty bite to an unsuspecting victim.
Off in the distance, the small cloud of red dust was now beginning to get bigger and bigger and after 10 minutes or so I could see a small white dot in front of the cloud of red dust. A few minutes later I recognized the white dot as a pickup truck.
Ten minutes later the pickup ground to a halt in front of me in a cloud of red dust that got up my nose and made me cough a bit. In the back of the truck were 2 black dogs with pricked ears and yellow eyes. They stared straight at me and as soon as I moved they started to bark.
"Sit down ya bastards!" roared a broad Australian voice from inside the cab. The drivers' side opened and a rough-looking Bushman climbed out from behind the dusty steering wheel.
"G'day." He said, "My name's Burt Booth. You must be Richard, are ya?"
'Yes, that's right."
"Throw your ports in the back of the Ute mate and we'll git moving."
"What about the dogs?"
"They won't hurt ya mate. They're chained up to the front."
The dogs lunged and growled at me as I lifted both mi suitcases and stacked them in the back.
"Sit down, ya fucking bastards!" yelled Burt Booth at the 2 mean-looking black dogs.
"Come on mate, git a move on!" said old Burt Booth as I arranged mi two cases so the dogs wouldn't chew 'em. "Hop in the other side." He said, so I walked around the Ute and opened the passenger door. "Christ, she's a warm one today." He said as he put the Ute into first gear.
Tasmania could be a really wet place at times and my stint there was just one of those times. That evening it rained inches of rain. It rained so hard all the show tents got flooded out. Before I realized it, the water had seeped up through the ground and flooded mi blankets and soaked through mi suitcase. All mi clothes were as damp as hell and had to be hung out on a fence to dry along with mi couple of wool blankets.
This little episode did not do too much to enhance my feelings about showground life. I was very grateful to the rain though, 'cause it made my decision to leave the showground much more firmer. As soon as the Tazi circuit was over we went back over to the Aussie mainland on the same ferry.
The Chad Morgan Show stopped at a small town on the outskirts of Melbourne for a couple of days. Whilst we were over in Tazi I had made quite good friends with the Maori Troubadours who were following the same circuit. They were all pretty good, easy-going blokes. Of an evening time they would cook up a large iron pot of their favorite food, which was known as 'pooha and pork bones'. There was always plenty to spare and they were kind enough to invite me to dinner almost every evening. It sure beat the hell out of the garbage showground food.
One evening after dinner one of the boys said, "Ah well Yorky, this is our last showground for a while mate."
"What d'ya mean? Where ya off to?"
"We've had the showground scene, eh. We're all off back up to Queensland where it's warmer, eh."
"Which way are ya going?"
"Straight up north," said the driver. "We're gonna take the inland roads, eh."
"Will ya be going past a town called Lake Cargelligo in New South Wales?"
"I dunno. Let's get the maps out and see, eh."
We spread out a large map of New South out on the ground and I looked for the Lake.
"There it is. It's not too far from Griffith and West Wyalong."
"Ah, West Wyalong. We go through that place on our way, eh."
My heart was now starting to quicken as I asked, "Can I get a ride up there with ya, if ya got enough room?"
"Can't see why not. The rest of the boys are flying up North from Melbourne so you can do a bit of relief-driving for me if ya like, eh."
I was never sure whether the Maoris were telling me or asking me a question, because at the end of each sentence they would always say, 'eh!' or 'eh boy!'
That evening I quit the Chad Morgan Show. I drew the small amount of money I had coming to me. Then I took mi gear to the Maoris' tent and helped them pack up their show. As soon as everything was packed away tightly, we hit the road for Melbourne.
I was really cramped in the front cab of the truck but once we dropped off the rest of the boys outside a house which belonged to one of their sisters, we settled down and relaxed, ready for the long haul North.
It was a pretty quiet trip up North, after the driver had told me all about the North and South Island of New Zealand, and as arranged, I drove the truck when he got tired. Although I didn't even have a car license, my bush-driving skills came in pretty handy as I maneuvered the big, flattop along the highway. At long last we arrived at West Wyalong. The Maori driver gave me a few dollars to get me back to the Lake because by now, I was broke down to the bones of mi arse.
He dropped me off at an all-night petrol station that was on the main West Wyalong/Lake road. We said our goodbyes' and he disappeared up the highway in the red truck while I sat on mi suitcase outside the all-nighter waiting to hitch a ride. There were plenty of cars and trucks that used the all-nighter but none were going in my direction. At about 10 in the morning, a dusty Ute pulled in and filled up with Petrol. "Ya heading towards Lake Cargelligo, mate?" I asked.
"Sure am cobber."
"Can I get a lift?'
"Shit yeah! Toss ya gear in the back, sport."
I entertained the Jackeroo all the way to the Lake with stories about the Showgrounds. He was on his way to a place called Rankin Springs, so he dropped me off right outside the Dagos' shop, in the main street.
Was I ever glad to see Lake Cargelligo again. I picked up mi Port and trumpet case and headed straight in to see Jimmy Xmas. A new Dago was behind the counter when I got inside, so I said, "Jimmy Xmas around mate?'
"He's out fetching the soft-a drink in."
"Watch mi cases mate, I'll go out and see him."
"Not-a-worries mate." He said.
Jimmy Xmas was loading a new batch of orange drinks out of the large cooler when he saw me, "Yorky, ya bastard! Wher-a have ya bin?" I haven't-a seen ya for a long time-a?"
"I've been on the Showgrounds Jimmy.It's too rough a life for me so I came back to the Lake."
"You make-a da big money Yorky?"
"Ya must be fucking joking Jimmy. I'm fucking broke except for a buck-fifty."
"You want-a job?"
"You serv-a the table. It'll be good-a for business. You speak-a da good English and the people they like-a you."
"How much pay, Jimmy?"
"I pay-a da twelve dollar a week plus-a da tucker plus-a one pack-a the cigarettes a day. Six days-a a week, 10 in the morning till 12 at night and I throw-a in a da room. Not-a the bad, eh?", he said with a grin.
"Not bad at all Jimmy. 10 in the morning till 12 at night, six days a week, fags, tucker and a room? When do I start?"
"Right-a fucking now? You take-a dis four crate of soft-a drink inside to George, den you come-a back out-a for more."
"I want a shower and put mi cases in the room after that, all right Jimmy?"
"All right-a ya bastard." He said.
Monday, March 24, 2008
In mi downtime it was my habit to walk around the Showground and see as many free shows as possible. One afternoon, as I was sauntering along at a steady pace checking out the poster boards, a big, Melbourne City Copper stopped me.
"Gooday." He said, as I approached him.
"G'day." I said, in a friendly sort of way.
I was not expecting any more than a greeting when he said to me, "Your name Richard Swindells, mate?" I almost fell over with shock when he asked me that question.
"What if it is?" I said, not knowing how the hell he knew my name 'cause all anyone knew me by on the Showgrounds was 'Yorky'.
"Show us ya arms." He said.
"What for? I've done nothing illegal."
"I wanna make a positive ID 'cause we've got a wanted poster for you back at our local station."
"You must be mistaken!" I said, with a bit of fear now creeping into mi voice.
"Just be a good lad and show me ya arms."
"All right. But that's all!"
When he saw the tattoos on mi arms, he said "Where d'ya git those from?"
"Rex Stokers in Bradford, England. Why?"
"Just making sure I've got the right man."
"The right man for 'what'? I've done nothing wrong."
Now I was getting really scared as he questioned me. So. I run through the memories Rolodex but nothing illegal came to mind.
"We've got a missing child report out on you. It's been circulated all over Australia."
"You must be joking! Who would file a missing report on me?"
He put his hand in his uniform top pocket and pulled out a small black notebook. Then he started to thumb through the pages.
I stood in front of him, waiting in anticipation.
"Ah! Here we are. A Mrs. I. Bailey from England has filed a lost child report on you."
"Oh shit, that's mi mother."
"How long since you wrote home son?"
"Oh, probably about six weeks."
"Well, according to my information it says here that you've not been seen or heard from for three months."
"That's not true. She's a panic merchant. If I don't write every week she thinks I've been killed or something."
"All right, where d'ya live in Australia?"
"At Lake Cargelligo, New South Wales."
"How long ya staying at the show?"
"Probably till the end of it."
"Tell ya what I'm gonna do. By rights I should take ya back to the station and fill out a report but seeing as ya look healthy enough to me, I'll do it later miself. Now, you listen to me young fella'. We don't have time to looking for every Tom, Dick or Harry that gets reported missing. We've got better things to do with our time like chasing down hardcore criminals. Now! I want ya to promise me you'll write home to ya old mother 'cause it's obvious to me she's worried about ya. Is that a deal?"
"All right." I said. I'd have said 'all right' to anything at that point.
"Make sure ya do and don't get into any trouble. You're pretty young to be looking after yourself. I've got a young bloke same age as you but I'm damn sure I wouldn't be letting him work on no showground. Now take good care of yourself and if I was you, I'd head straight back to Lake Cargelligo after the shows are over. All right?"
"All right." I said and walked off into the large crowd.
'What an embarrassment', I thought as I got lost in the sea of bodies that were milling around the showground. 'Just wait till I write another letter to Iris, I'll soon put a stop to her shenanigans!'
After I left Barneys' sideshow I got pretty friendly with the Aborigines who worked for Jimmy Sharmans' Boxing Troupe. I got a couple of bucks a day, for a start, to help with the putting up and pulling down of the tent.
One of the Abo fighters was called Sally. He said he'd teach me how to 'show fight', and then I could get a job with the troupe fighting instead of laboring. There were about eight Abo boxers and one white wrestler in Jimmy Sharmans' troupe, plus myself.
Every evening, after the show was closed, Jimmy Sharman would bring four half-gallons of brown Muscat wine and a packet of fags each for all the boxers.
Sharman was an ex-boxer himself but he was pretty old when I met him. He had a medium build and had a dark complexion. His clothes, although old-fashioned, were always neatly pressed.
"How ya going, Yorky?" he said, when he came in the tent. "Sally teaching ya the moves is he?"
"Yeah, I'm picking it up pretty well, Jimmy."
"Hey Sally, grab the gloves mate. Let's see how well he's going."
After a couple of minutes of sparring around with Sally, Jimmy Sharman said, "All right mate, that's good enough. It's about showmanship, see. Ya swing the arms wide. That lets Sally know where they're coming from. He'll catch the punches and take the dives. He's real good at that, is Sally."
"What if he misses one?" I asked.
"That's not your problem Cobber. Anyway, these bungs have got heads as thick as a brick wall. Ya can punch 'em around all day and they won't even feel it. Isn't that right Sally?"
Sally just gave Sharman a big toothless grin and said, "Whatever you say, Boss."
"Start tomorrow Yorky. When the boys walk out on the platform, you hang around with some of the local Yobos. Make out ya one of 'em. It's good for business, mate. Now when I start sprookin' about Sally and call for someone to fight him, you stick ya hand up high and I'll call ya up on the board and we'll make a real good show out of it. The next session we run, I'll call ya back for a grudge match. That way we'll sucker a few more of those local yobos in. All right?"
"All right Jimmy", I said.
"Oh yeah, and don't drink too much of that cheap plunk. It wasn't made for white fellers!"
The rest of the evening was spent drinking the Plunk. I only took one mouthful out of a flagon as it was passed around the circle. I donated my share to the boys. Most of the boys were half-cast Aborigines and two of 'em were full bloods that came from the Northern Territory.
They'd tell me some of their tribal stories once they got to know me but I was made to promise not to tell any mens' secrets to another white fella. I learned about the Kadaicha man who is the tribal executioner. All talk of him was conducted in the lowest of whispers, in case he heard and came after us with his weapon of choice, which was known as 'The Bone'.
The Abo boxers I lived with had no concept whatsoever of ownership, so if I wasn't first out-a-bed, someone would be wearing my good shoes or one of my best shirts inside out. I never had to ask them for anything because whatever they had, which was not much, was shared equally amongst us.
Jimmy Sharman had a really large tent. Of a nighttime we would sleep in it. Of a day we would fight in it. Outside the tent was a tall, wooden platform, which we would all stand on as Jimmy 'sprooked' to the crowd. At each side of the tent hung large posters of well-known ex-champions that, according to Jimmy Sharman, all got their start in the boxing world at his fathers' tent, which was now his.
At one end of the tall platform was a large bell, which was suspended from the steel scaffolding, and at the other end was a bright red, double bass marching drum. Jimmy would stand in the middle with the boxers on each side of him. He'd start by saying, "Ring that bell! Beat that drum! This is what you've all been waiting for! The highlight of the day! The most exciting thing you'll see on this Showground! This is where ya git ya moneys' worth folks! This is where ya see some of the best boxers in Australia! Have a look at those posters there folks. They all started out like this, at Jimmy Sharmans' World Renown Boxing Troupe! Some of the best prizefighters you'll ever see got there start right here. Have a good look to my right and left, folks. These are some of Australias' up-and-coming future champions! Now, this is what we're gonna do folks. We're gonna match up my fighters to some of your local boys. So, if there's any of you local louts out there who think ya pretty good and handy with fists, now's the time to speak up. Not after we're gone! If ya wanna do a bit of of bragging and skiting in the bar tonight, you blokes, this is the place to make a name for yourself. Ya see that tall black feller of mine, down the end? He's called the Northern Territory Tiger. He'll take on all comers, no matter what size ya are! He's 6 foot tall and weighs 180 pounds. Any of you local footballers think ya good enough to stand on ya feet for three rounds with him and I'll give ya 6 dollars. Come down here to the center stage Tiger. Let these local louts see ya muscles! Look at that!" he says, as he felt Tigers' thin biceps.
"Six bucks to anyone who can knock him out or go the distance with him! What about you young feller?" he'd say to one of the crowd. "You look like ya can handle yourself. You're a pretty big bloke for ya age. Ya wanna make ya-self six bucks or have ya no guts unless ya with a bunch of ya mates? Ring that bell, beat that drum, here he comes Ladies and Gentlemen. This is one of your own local blokes. Give him a big round of applause!"
Once Jimmy got one of the local blokes up on stage, all is mates wanted to follow so as not to be outdone. When Jimmy called for a match to Sally, I stuck mi hand up in the crowd. Most times he would match me up with Sally first because I was not that big, so he'd say, "If this little bantam rooster from the back-blocks of New South Wales has got the guts to fight, what's wrong with all you strapping big footballers down there? Don't tell me you're a bunch of puftas'?"
This little challenge to their manhood was usually enough to make them climb up the 15-foot ladder onto the platform. Once the tent was full of local people the fight would start. Jimmy was also the referee, so he'd give the local blokes a large 16-ounce pair of gloves to wear and he'd save the thin 12-ounce gloves for us. That way if any one of the locals were Police Boys Boxing Club trained, which some of them were, we'd still have a good advantage over them. Most times Jimmy told us not to hurt them unless they got smart because if one of 'em got a bit roughed up, his mates would not come forward for a go.
I traveled all through New South Wales and into Victoria with Jimmy Sharman.
We stayed in Warrnabell for a few more days and then it was time to move on to another Showground. Everyday was show day for a 'showie' but for the locals it only came around once a year. "Thank goodness." I heard a couple of locals say as they walked out of the grounds a few dollars lighter.
All the 'showies' were making their way to Melbourne, which was one of the biggest events of the year. Just before we were due to do the Melbourne show, Jimmy Sharman said to me, "I'm putting ya out of the troupe, Yorky."
"Why?" I asked. "Aren't ya happy with my performance?"
"It's not that mate. Ya doin' fine. Melbourne is a real rough show for the troupe and I don't want to see ya get hurt."
"How am I gonna git hurt?"
" There'll be too many tough blokes there, that's why. A lot of those blokes are really hungry for the bucks and quite a few of mi boys got hurt last year. A lot of the ex-cons who can't git regular work show up at Melbourne, Mate."
"Well, couldn't I just try it, Jimmy?"
" No mate, I like ya too much to risk it. Ya can ride to Melbourne with us though and ya can come in the show anytime ya like Yorky."
"D'ya think I'll be able to find a job at the Melbourne Showground?"
"Find one? You'll have ya bloody pick of 'em mate. They're always short handed as hell at Melbourne. There'll be hundreds of thousands of people go through that place, not like these pissy little one-horse towns."
Jimmy was right. I was offered five jobs in as many minutes but they were all small stalls and I'd have no freedom. I could tell from talking to the bosses that they'd expect me to work the stall 16 hours a day.