'A DROVER'S BLANKET'
- A Powerful Excerpt -
Ever written something that you consider to be fairly powerful? Well, this is a piece from of one of my latest books that I consider to be very powerful. It is 1911, Australia, during the biggest drought in Australia's history. I guess you really have to read the lead up to this point in the book, but I think you will get the drift. It is written by a 14 year-old girl, Molly, who has been living under duress. She is the girlfriend of Smokey Danson, the main character in 'Gunnedah Hero', and she has kept a daily diary which she hides under the feedbin in her horse's stable because her father has become depressed and violent due to five years of drought. Not only, her father hates Smokey Danson's family. See what you think ...
Dad went to Tamarang today to buy some cattle. He arrived home late and I could tell that he’d been drinking. He swayed as he walked in the door. I was reading an old newspaper at the time and a cold chill ran up my spine when I saw the mean look my father was wearing. He was about to rage. Mum glanced up but didn’t say a word. I think she recognised the same violent expression. Fortunately, Thomas was in his room.
My father staggered to the table, flopped on a chair and glared at me. ‘Molly. Don’t ever do that again,’ he said with a cold, vicious tone to his voice. I looked at him and felt frightened. Mum looked at Dad, then glanced at me and raised her eyebrows. That wasn’t a good sign.
‘Don’t ever sneak behind my back to see those Dansons.’ Tears were close to the surface. I guess I’d had enough of his moody antics and wanted to scream at him.
‘But, Dad … ’
‘Don’t give me any backchat or I’ll give you a strapping. I know what you did yesterday. Everyone in Tamarang knows.’
‘But, why do you hate them so much?’ I asked, immediately regretting my question. When Dad stood up, his chair fell over and made a thumping noise on the floor. My father looked angry as he stumbled towards me. Fearful, I jumped to my feet and headed for the door. Trying to dash past him, his big hand clobbered me on the side of my face. A sharp pain shot through my head like a bullet as I fell against the sideboard, knocking two of Mum’s precious plates onto the floor. Both of them smashed and shards of porcelain scattered. I heard Mum gasp as I tried valiantly to stand upright. Dad lunged at me again, but I ducked and bolted for the door.
‘Harold!’ Mum shrieked as I grabbed the door handle, almost ripping it off in a desperate attempt to escape.
‘Come here!’ Dad hollered, but I took off into the darkness with his violent raging voice bellowing behind me. ‘Molly! Disobey me again and I’ll whip you!’
I slowed down when I reached the old cattle yards. Leaning against the splinter-dry rails, I looked back at the homestead with tears crawling down my face. I could see Dad’s silhouette on the veranda, holding the fly-wire door open.
‘Come here, girl!’ he demanded, waited a few seconds then stormed inside and slammed the door.
I listened intently, hoping that he wouldn’t attack Mum or Thomas. Silence prevailed, so I squatted on the ground and waited for ages until all the lamps were extinguished in the homestead. Feeling safer, I headed towards an old disused tankstand near the pigpens; one of my favourite spots to sit on summer evenings. It was high, and the view from there was beautiful.
I climbed the ladder and sat cross-legged on the wooden stand, gingerly touching the side of my face where Dad had struck me. It felt hot and tender. I gently wiped tears from my face and sniffled. My mind raced. It was obvious what had happened. I’d been caught deceiving my father. Someone in Tamarang had told Dad that I was present when Smokey arrived home.
Being a beautiful moonlit night, I lay on my back and rested my hands under my head; something I’d done hundreds of times before. The sky was littered with sparkling stars, so I turned my head slightly to the left and found a galaxy I loved. Smokey’s grandfather had given it a wonderful name. So wonderful, I’d used it to name my journal of memoirs – ‘A Drover’s Blanket’.
A good hour must have passed. I’d not heard anything from Dad and assumed that he’d fallen asleep. However, I soon heard the sound of hooves and sat up squinting. I could see a lone horseman heading towards our homestead from the direction of Wiralee.
‘Smokey,’ I whispered, and shot down the ladder in a panic, almost coming to grief as I jumped from the ladder. Getting to my feet, I could see Smokey’s silhouette in the moonlight as he cantered towards my home. My heart throbbed with excitement. I had to stop him, and ran as fast as I could, waving and shouting. He must have seen or heard me because his horse came to a halt. When I did reach him I was gasping for breath.
He dismounted and rushed towards me. ‘Molly?’
‘Yes. It’s me,’ I replied.
His arms stretched out and he hugged me tightly. ‘Tell me what’s happening? You left so quickly yesterday.’
Tears instantly welled in my eyes. I didn’t know where to start, but I decided to be honest with him. ‘Smokey. Dad hates your family. I don’t know why. He found out that I met you yesterday, came home drunk and clobbered me.’ Smokey grabbed my shoulders and gently turned me so he could see my face in the moonlight. He stared into my eyes, scowled and glared at the homestead with a menacing look. I guess he could see my bruised face.
‘Molly. Maybe I can speak to him and sort this out.’
‘No. He won’t listen. He hates you … Even more now that you have the money from the gold you found in Gunnedah.’
‘Oh,’ Smokey replied.
My father bellowed in the darkness. ‘Molly! Come here!’ I glanced over my shoulder and could sense that Dad was nearby. Smokey looked angry. He scrunched up his eyes and stared at the homestead. ‘Get here!’ Dad hollered.
I panicked. ‘Quick. Smokey, go now or he’ll hurt you. He’s likely to do anything … Truly.’ Smokey grabbed me and hugged me. Then, when he gently held my face with both hands, I could feel his dry, rough skin against my cheeks – the hands of a hard-working drover.
‘I promise you one thing, Molly Jane Swenson. You’ll never regret it if you come to Wiralee and marry me. I’ll make you the Wiralee Queen. You’ll want for nothing.’ I wrapped my arms around his middle and wept. Neither of us spoke a word until I heard the frightening sound of gunshot.
‘Quick, Smokey! Go, please!’ I shouted.
The most wonderful drover I’d ever met kissed me on both cheeks and reluctantly mounted his horse. ‘Molly. I love you,’ he said, pulled his reins to the right and rode off. I fell to my knees and listened to the sound of his horse cantering towards Wiralee Station. Silent tears poured from my eyes when Dad hollered again. This time his voice was muffled. He seemed to be further away. Frightened, I ran to the stables to sit and think. So much had happened.
I crept quietly in the shadows, stopped at the entrance to the stables and listened. It was silent as I walked inside, but my heart leapt into my mouth. Dad had been waiting for me. He grabbed me by an arm and clouted me across the face.
‘Ah!’ I screamed as pain ripped through my jaw. My father had a vice-like grip on my arm. There was no escape. He yanked me towards him and slapped me several times with an open hand. I felt my knees buckle beneath me. As I fell to the ground, he gave me a vicious punch with a closed fist.
I had no idea how long I’d been unconscious, and I woke up feeling sore. The taste of blood lingered in my mouth. It was quiet, so I assumed Dad had gone. I immediately checked my pockets, pleased to know that the silver locket was still there. Lying on my back, I looked into the sky. The first thing I saw was the Drover’s Blanket. It was like a wonderful message from above. I suddenly felt no pain, and a calm feeling engulfed my entire body. It was a strange sensation.
Staggering to my feet, I found my way to Dusty’s loosebox, opened the door and patted my beautiful mare. Fortunately, moonlight flooded through a large opening at the top of the stables, allowing me to see her. When Dusty snorted and nudged me as she always did, I kissed her silky neck and hugged her. Tearfully, I lit a candle and wrote the last message in my wonderful journal.
To whom it may concern
I, Molly Jane Swenson, love my family. However, I cannot remain at Swenson Station. My father is sick and I’m fearful of him. With great sadness, I have made a decision that will change my life forever. I’m walking to Wiralee Station to spend my life with a wonderful drover – Smokey ‘Gun’ Danson, the ‘Gunnedah Hero’.
I will miss my beautiful horse, Dusty. God, I so dearly want to take my wonderful mare with me, but I cannot. If I did take her my father would accuse me of stealing.
I will miss my family too. However, I have no choice. I must leave Swenson Station, and leave only with the clothes I’m wearing, and a precious silver locket.
Molly Jane Swenson
March 2nd 1911
‘Oh, my God. I can hear Dad shouting. I have to finish this quickly. If he catches me again, he’ll destroy my wonderful memoirs. I better hide it in the usual place under Dusty’s feedbin. One day I’ll reclaim my book … And my horse. I promise. Goodbye, Swenson Station. Goodbye, Dusty … I’ll miss you.’
Clancy's comment: Well, what did you think of it? Did you get involved and feel the tension? Did you feel for some of the characters? Want to know what led to this point in the story, and what happened after this incident? Want to read more? Easily done. Just head to 'A Drover's Blanket Reviews' above. Then, head to my bookshop in the top right-hand corner of this page and buy a copy of 'A Drover's Blanket'; paperback or e-Book. Having said that, I suggest that you read 'Gunnedah Hero' before you read 'A Drover's Blanket'. It will explain how this all came about.