With stories grouped by the themes they explore, editor Haynes introduces each section giving a rundown of what is to come, and has included an Australian poem before each theme gets underway. There is a lot of humour in this book, reflecting the philosophy that you have to laugh at the ups and downs that the bush hands you, or you'll fall in a heap and cry.
Country pubs and nights on the turps feature, as does the role of faith and country clergy, bush romance, and the trials and delights of bush life. You'll feel for the father in Frank Dalby Davison's Here Comes the Bride, as he stoically buries the stresses and strains of a shrinking bank account and a punishing drought to give his daughter a joyful wedding celebration. Entertaining, delightful, funny and thoughtful, The Best Australian Bush Stories is a charming collection full of both the spirit and exaggerated stereotypes of the bush - two elements that make for a great yarn.
Personalise your weather. It was an extraordinary experience down in those ferns, winded, able to see nothing but fern fronds, half-stunned so that I couldn't coordinate myself, with that hard-muscled, surprisingly large fur-covered length of malevolence trying to disembowel me. In fact she was running around to the other side of the patch of ferns to catch the koala when it came out. Now, koalas have another protective device, apart from the one they use on you from a great height.
They cling to the belly of their oppressor and simply hang on with tooth and claw. It's a mechanism probably designed to work on dingoes.
Once the koala is clinging to the dog's underside, the dog can't get at it with its jaws. I gather that in these circumstances the koala is quite prepared to hang on until the dingo collapses. The koala evidently gave up all hope of escape and decided on the anti-dingo defence. It was upside down in relation to me and its back claws grasped my chest and dug in. Its front claws grasped my thighs and dug in. Its head went between my legs and its teeth dug into my crotch.
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It rolled with me and clamped its hold tighter — all its holds. I screamed again and started pummelling the brute with my fists. It was like pummelling fur-covered wood and made as much impression. The thing had muscles fashioned from some substance far harder than any animal tissue ought to be.
It was growling like something demented, which it was, of course, and its backside was almost in my face — even my peril in no way diminished the frightful stench of the creature. Mary Anne's head came in sight over the ferns.
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I was thrashing and clawing in a tangle of fern fronds and she couldn't see exactly what was going on beyond the fact that I had the koala and the koala had me. That wasn't my worry at all. There was no way I could lie there until she came back, with that creature vigorously trying to desex me. Ever tried to run with a koala's claws in your chest and thighs and its teeth in your crotch?
It's not possible. I was very close to tears of rage, pain and frustration.
I floundered through the ferns and tried barging into a tree, koala first. All I did was drive tooth and claw further in. I tried falling on the damned thing. I winded myself. On all fours now and near collapse, my disintegrating mind suddenly grasped the fact that I was on the edge of a pool in the centre of the koala-haunted grove of trees. With a manic cry of hope I scuttled forward, took a deep breath and flung myself in, complete with koala.
I didn't know how long a koala could hold its breath but as far as I was concerned we were both staying down until the koala let go or we both drowned. The koala was a dead weight holding me down and we stayed in those brown dark depths for what seemed like half an eternity. The pain in my bursting lungs began to equal my other pains. Eventually, I realised that there was no need for me to have my head under water. It may seem I was slow in reaching an obvious conclusion but if you've never been submerged in a bush pool in the clutches of a furious koala, you can't appreciate how difficult it is to think clearly in the circumstances.
I struck for the surface, got my head out, breathed deeply and gratefully and set about trying to throttle the koala. Koalas are very hard to throttle, particularly when they have the sort of grip on you this one had on me. But I tried hard, completely disregarding the fact that it was a member of a protected species. The koala seemed determined to die under water with my fingers around its neck.
Australian Outback Books, Bush Poetry, country stories - Fiona Lake
That was all right by me, as long as it died quickly. Then, even through my pain, I had the terrible worry that a dead koala might not loosen its grip. Would I need surgery to detach me from this malign beast? Then the beast gave up — a good twenty minutes, I swear, after it was first submerged, although Mary Anne has claimed she was away less than a minute.
Time is, of course, relative.
The koala let go and surfaced near my face. Its toy features were expressionless, but it coughed and growled viciously and I backed away fearfully. A gleam of contempt seemed to appear in its bloodshot eyes and it turned and swam expertly to the edge of the pool, clambered out, trundled across to a tree, climbed it, looked down at me bleakly, and went to sleep, dripping water. Mary Anne came back and expressed surprise that the koala had let go and asked why I was all wet. The overalls I was wearing were of very thick cloth and no serious damage had been done. No thanks to the koala. Mary Anne and I eventually caught all the koalas on the island and set them free on the mainland, but I didn't carry out the task with good grace.
I'll never go to the aid of the brutes again. Among a certain class of fatuous writers there has always existed a custom of sending forth gushes of gladsome song, and warbling, in more or less tuneful warbs, about the pleasures of country life.
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The miserable wretch who is condemned by hard fate to live in the city, with all its inconveniences such as postal deliveries, newspapers, shops and trams , is held up to the gaze of public sympathy; while all are requested to envy the lucky individual whose habitation is in the backwoods, about miles from nowhere in particular, who lives in a humpy made of several sheets of stringybark, with three big rocks on top to hold on the roof, and who has to walk seven miles for his mail. When he does walk the seven miles he usually finds there is no mail, as the mailman couldn't cross the Buggabulla 'crick'.
Or has lost his horse, or is drunk, or something. It is time that some hard-fisted resident of the back country formed himself into a Royal Commission to inquire into the best mode of inflicting capital punishment, diversified with floggings, on the perjurers who so wantonly trifle with the immortal truth. If a ton or two of these miscreants were placed in the hands of a conscientious forwarding agent, and dumped down in judiciously chosen spots in the back-blocks where they would have to chop wood, and cookdamper, and boil junk, and 'graft' hard all day, and walk to the township for provisions, and do without society and clean shirts and socks, the amount of imbecile verse on the glorious lot of the bush dweller would be reduced by several cubic yards.