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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6 (October 2, 1933)

How Bluey Got The Milk

page 21

How Bluey Got The Milk

All this happened long ago, when Bluey McGuire, driver of the Clyde Express, was a tender-hearted man. In those days Bluey could not run over a cow on the unfenced track out there without being upset for a week, though other drivers used to hunt the mobs of horses along the tracks, and get them if they could.

Imagine, then, the feelings of Bluey, one day, when, as he walked the length of the train at Roaring Meg looking for a leaky brake valve, he heard a baby crying in a second-class carriage. It was a small old car, and on that summer day it was suffocatingly hot, as it can be in Central Otago. With the train standing still, there was not a breath of air moving, and the burning heat of the treeless tablelands seemed to crowd into the train.

Bluey paused at the window and smiled at the baby's mother, a young woman who was bound for Cromwell, which at that time was beyond the railhead.

“Pretty hot for a nipper to-day,” Bluey said. “Is it sick?”

The mother looked ill herself. Her eyes were set in dark rings, and she seemed weary of the heat and nursing the baby.

“No,” she answered with a wan smile, trying to match Bluey's grin; “but she wants some milk. They had only condensed milk at Ranfurly, and I expect it will be the same at Omakau. I expect we'll have to wait till we get to Clyde.”

“Milk?” Bluey shoved his cap back and scratched his head. “Now I don't suppose you'd find a cow for fifty miles,” he said, “but I'll think it out, and if it's possible I'll get some milk for that baby.”

As they pulled out, Bluey had a frown on his brow. He was thinking, and he didn't stop until the train pulled up at the next station. Then he sent Joe Smith, his fireman, back to ask the woman a question.

“He says, ‘Will goat's milk do?“’ Joe asked.

“Please tell him ‘yes,’ but he must not trouble himself. The baby is better now the train is going.'

“She says goat's milk will do,” Joe told Bluey when he got back to the engine, which was under way, and gave him a bit of a chase. Bluey had forgotten about him, being so concerned about getting milk for the baby. Joe added that the page 22 mother said the baby was better, though it seemed to him to be pretty sick.

“Sick as a cow,” Bluey agreed, working his feelings up, and snatching the throttle wide open while he glared at the steam gauge, which was falling like a barometer before a storm. However, Joe took care the storm did not burst, or the steam gauge either. Joe knew his job.

“There's goats enough in the wilderness to supply whiskers for the world,” Bluey said. “But where are they? The question is whether we should hurry to Clyde or stop and catch a goat, if we see one. There's generally a mob at Omakau. There's fifteen minutes’ stop there; time to milk a nanny if we catch one.”

Secretly Joe thought Bluey was a bit mad, when he got bees in his bonnet about doing kindnesses to people, but he liked Bluey. Moreover, there was usually some fun connected with his Quixotic acts, and also Bluey could put in a good word for him with the locomotive boss, and help him to get an engine pretty soon.

Joe gave his whole-hearted help in scanning the plains, in search of goats. For fourteen miles they scanned, but it was not till they were within a mile of Omakau that the hair of a goat came in sight. Then Joe saw a small mob feeding on some rocks and hot air between the metals.

“One of them would do,” Bluey assented to Joe's report, and he pulled the cord of the Yankee whistle on the old “Q” and sent a roaring call ahead.

The goats ceased masticating the alluvial sand and lifted their heads at the sound. Bluey wanted to start them on the run towards Omakau, where he could select a milker while the passengers refreshed themselves on Dunedin beer or tinned milk.

When they saw the train bearing down upon them, the goats scampered away along the track. Soon they were galloping straight for the distant station.

“No goat could keep that pace up to the station,” said tender-hearted Bluey, “on a hot day like this. We'll try and get among them, and you jump down, Joe, and catch a nanny.”

The “Q” was doing her best to eat up the distance, which no goat has ever tried yet, and by degrees she overhauled the mob, which was scattering gravel in its terror of the racing monster behind.

“Blow the whistle,” Joe said, “and I'll jump off when they scatter, and catch a nanny. We'll take it to Omakau and milk it.”

Bluey agreed. The whistle roared again, the goats scattered, and the engine was among them, but running more slowly, so as not to hurt them. The goats were out of breath and glad to turn aside.

Suddenly Joe jumped, and landed almost on top of a white nanny. He grabbed her by the horns, and together the man and goat rolled in the dust. Bluey was stopping the train. It was smart work. Between them they hoisted the goat to the footplate before anyone had time to look out and see why the train was stopping. But they soon found it was one thing to catch a goat and another to hold her, much less milk her.

On the footplate, and up and down the slope of coal on the tender, the white nanny put up a big fight for freedom, and the idea of milking her was lost sight of for the time being in the efforts of the men to keep her on the engine, which was rocking along without any attention, though Bluey had his eyes alert for the signals.

“Won't she stay still?” Bluey swore. “Dash that baby! What did I promise anyone goat's milk for?”

“Give me the bucket,” Joe laughed, as he got a stranglehold on the goat with one hand and waved the other yearningly for the bucket. Bluey handed him the one they used to sluice water on the coal and wash their hands in. This Joe planted in a suitable place, and tried to milk the goat with the hand that was not engaged in holding the animal.

By this time they were clattering over the switches into Omakau. But the goat hated Joe, and with one super-goatish effort, got free, though Joe still had a page 23 hand on her neck. With a bound she cleared the footplate, the bucket clattering behind her, and went up on the top of the coal. The amazed stationmaster saw an apparently mad fireman and a black and white goat dancing a reel on the coal, while Bluey, between braking his train and giving advice, was making a mess of both jobs.

“Spare the crows, if I'll ever go goat-taming with you again!” Joe yelled to Bluey, while still doing his best to subdue the goat. Then the train came to a standstill, and the stationmaster climbed up to see what was sending Joe mad.

“We got a goat,” Bluey explained. “There's a baby back in the train wants some milk.”

“Well of all the ratty fellows,” the S.M. started to say. But the goat got away, and charging down the coal, leaped wildly to the platform, knocking the S.M's. hat off as it went, and almost upsetting the man himself. The S.M. saw the goat better on dry land, and his voice, rose to a howl.

“That's one of my best Angoras,” he shouted, “and look what you've made her look like, a blooming piebald.”

“Well, the kid wanted milk,” Bluey pleaded, with unconscious play of words; “and where would you get it here but from a goat?”

“And you wouldn't remember, being a ratty fool,” the stationmaster said, in withering tones, “that Patsy Bourke at the Lion keeps a cow specially to give customers milk with their morning whiskies.”

Bluey turned an accusing eye on Joe. “There was a cow in Central that you never thought of. You'd better hop along now and get some milk from Patsy. Say I sent you, and hurry!”

Joe returned with a small jug of milk which Patsy had given with ill grace when he learned it was to be used in an unadulterated state. Bluey took it from Joe and went along to the carriage where the baby was.

“The idea of milking her was lost sight of for the time being.”

“The idea of milking her was lost sight of for the time being.”

His heart beat with elation. He had done what he said he would do, and it was fresh cow's milk, to boot. But he got a setback. Mother and child were asleep. A grim-looking woman in the same carriage held up an admonishing finger, and said:

“S-s-sh! Don't wake them, they'll sleep all the way to Clyde, I hope. What's that? Milk? Right, I'll take it for them.”

After the crestfallen Bluey had gone she pulled out a flask, and it would have done Patsy Bourke's heart good if he had seen her dilute the milk from his special whisky cow.

page 24