of interest

Henry Lawson mentions him in his short story, "Shall We Gather at the River?" which appeared in his 1907 collection, The Romance of the Swag. In it he says:

"The old man sat on the front seat, stooping forward, with his elbow resting on the desk and his chin on his hand, bunching up his beard over his mouth with his fingers and staring gloomily at Peter with dark, piercing eyes from under bushy eyebrows, just as I've since seen a Scotchman stare at Max O'Rell all through a humorous lecture called 'A nicht wi' Sandy.'"


© Max O'Rell

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The Concert of the Bush

However, if you want noise, fire a shot into the trees, and you may chance to disturb a colony of sulphur-crested cockatoos, who will raise such a hubbub as will make you instinctively put up your hands to stop your ears. A few moments, and silence reigns once more.

The birds seem to do their best to add to the sadness of the scene. The crow's note is like the cry of a lost soul, a long-drawn, quavering utterance full of anguish. The curlew's shrill and plaintive cry might almost be that of a dying child; but if you want to hear a sound that will sadden your very soul, listen to the morepork at night. Even the liquid and musical babble of the magpies has a tinge of sadness.

KookaburraAlone, the laughing-jackass reminds you that one may find gaiety everywhere, even in the Bush. He laughs consumedly, and his Hoo hoo hoo hoo, ha ha ha ha is comic in the highest degree. When you hear him laugh, you want to laugh with him. This smallish, thickset bird has a head almost as large as his body, and a formidable beak, with which he attacks and destroys snakes; so it is not surprising to find that he is held sacred by the law of the Colonies, which forbids you to shoot him.

Justice must be rendered to the frogs that swarm in the Australian marshes, and add their incontestable talent to the concert of the Bush. Some play the raquette with immense spirit and gaiety; others twang the banjo like the cleverest dilettante of Carolina or Florida.

The Tragedians and the Clowns of the Company

With the exception of the snakes which swarm, the centipedes, whose bite necessitates the amputation of the bitten member, and a score of other poisonous insects, the Australian Bush contains no savage creatures, none even dangerous.

The kangaroo, the wallaby, the o'possum - the chief denizens of the bush - are all animals with the soft gaze of a gazelle, and perfectly inoffensive; even the little bear of the country, if you take up your gun to shoot it, sits staring up at you, and seems to say, " I have done you no harm, why do you aim that wicked thing at me?"

The wild duck, the hare, the magpie, the paroquet, the love-bird, all these you will find in great numbers in the Bush, besides a host of superbly-plumaged birds, among which the lyre-bird, with its tail feathers forming a perfect lyre shape, stands pre-eminent. Besides these, there is a creature impossible to overlook - the hated rabbit, pursued and dreaded more than a wild beast by the Australians, whose pastures he devours. In Europe, if you killed a rabbit without permission, you would lay yourself open to a fine; in Australia, if you aimed at a rabbit and missed it, I believe you would be hanged without a preliminary trial. The hatred is not to be wondered at, for the rabbits make such ravages that squatters go to the expense of putting wire fences all round their immense stations to keep them out. The rabbit race never could have dreamt that it would one day acquire such tremendous importance. More than once the Rabbit Question has occupied the attention of the Parliaments of the different Australasian Colonies. The authorities were even for a long while in communication with M. Pasteur, seeking to obtain a virus which might be the means of exterminating the race. (Note: A couple of rabbits will, at the end of ten years, have produced a family reaching to the fabulous number of seventy millions.)

The Kangaroo

The most notable Australian creatures are the kangaroo among the quadrupeds, and the emu among the bipeds; the latter is a bird much resembling the ostrich, but is smaller and more thickset. That gigantic bird the moa, which was a denizen of the Australasian Bush, can now only be seen in skeleton form in New Zealand museums. Some of them measure sixteen feet in height.

The kangaroo and the emu are still plentiful, but one has to penetrate pretty far into the Bush before one meets with either.

The kangaroo is as mild as a lamb, and never attacks; but when hunted and set upon by dogs, he can defend himself very intelligently. He runs to a spot where he knows there is water. When a dog is too close on him, and he feels there will not be time to find a place of shelter, he goes into the water and waits. The dog follows, and when he is within reach, the kangaroo seizes his paws with his own long hind ones, pulls him under water, sits at his ease, and by means of his short forepaws holds the dog down until death completes the process. It is, as you see, very artistically done.

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