The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
His brand proclaimed to the world at large of his birth on a cattle station in the great North West, where, years ago, he was known as the slickest thing alter stock for miles around. But times were bad, and a change of management, lacking judgement, drafted him off with a mob for the war-buyer.
The journey from our out-back saleyard to the barren sands of Egypt meant months of miseoy in rattling, monotonous trains, and on a smelly, cramped transport. He missed the rustling coolebars and the peaceful lagoons of his former lire as only tne native born, be it man or beast, can. Followed a spell in a Remount Camp, until he was finally drafted to a regiment then patrolling the endless sands of Sinai.
Big Jim Morton, casually strolling round inspecting the remounte, stiffened to attention when his gaze rested on the brand. We had travelled the tracks that lead to sunset, and the magic letters brought back half-forgotten memories of better days. Judicious words in the right quarters, and 1423 brown gelding was allotted to the big trooper. Fortune smiled on the old horse that day, for it gave him a rider who knew his worth: a rider blessed with that not uncommon complex bushman nature, stern-hearted and strong-willed when occasion demanded, but sympathetic and sentimental as a girl where a good horse was concerned.
Some latent whisper from the homeland bade Jim christen his mount ''Mulga". The long, freezing all-night rides through the grey, misty sand-dune?", the lonely patrols, and, later, the blinding, choking dust-laden days of Palestine, they weathered together. Many a nieht, with the column creeping like some monsiruous, evil serpent through the darkness, "Mulga" picked his way through the treacherous boulders and wadi beds with light-footed precision, while for hours his rider slept a swaying, dreamless sleep in the saddle. On more than one occasion Big Jim lay cold and shivering in order to give his horse the benefit of the saddle blanket. Like the charger of Romance and his knight-errant master, they clattered through captured stone-cobbled villages, centuries old, where the swarthy Arabs, their eyes lighting on horse and rider through a veil of cigarette smoke, would mutter in deep gutturals, "Mashallab! 'Tis the tall men from Australia and their big, untamed horses." In these wild lands the slouch hat and the big waler commanded respect, and the wily Arab, recognising this, mostly remained quiet.
Sometimes Jim's mates chaffed him good-naturedly on his weakness for his equine comrade; but Jim would onlv laugh and say that, after the war, he'd take the old horse home, if it cost him a fortune, and see that he spent the remainder of his days in peace and quietness. But fate willed otherwise, and on that evil day when the Regiment attacked at dawn, a Turkish shrapnel, bursting only too true, ploughed furrows in "Mulga's" glosy hide and laid him low, while some of the best blood from the West dyed a foreign soil. They pulled his r.der from under him with a shattered knee, and bore him away.
Jim is home now and the folks there are often puzzled at an indefinable something missing from his sunny nature; and, Jim being reticent, probably they wont know. But his troop mates will tell you, that half the laughter left his eyes, half the lightness his voice, that day when he left the brown horse "Mulga" lying so weirdly still on the green, battle-scarred sward of a Syrian plain.
The Dusk is gently rounding home its sheep
Into great pens of blindness, ringed of stars;
And little sheep are homing, too, to me,
Deep-bleating, for the vastness night unbars.
And little mouths a-browsing far all day
Are nearina meadow-sweet of balm untold,
And staying flocks of mem'ry flit anew
Amid the gliding fleeces of the fold.
For Dusk is but a shepherd, too, as I,
Of sightless herding' neath the wand of sleep,
And, on its hush, oft to the hush of me
Comesstrange, returning palter of lost sheep.