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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Education of George

page 15

The Education of George.

"Good enough;" said Billy Clifford when George asked him where he would most like to be at that moment. "Any old place inside the four corners of Australia. Any old gumtree would be good enough for me."

That was how George began to learn about Australia.

George is a friend of mine even though he is on the Staff. He came to us from one of the English Regiments, and has made up his mind to come to Australia after the war, and as I say the honour is all due to Billy Clifford. At first he held George in fitting and holy awe on account of his high rank. Later on, through George's interest in Australia, a peculiar friendship sprang up between the two. George acquires fresh information daily. It is divulged in the following manner:—

"That's a big tree, Clifford," comments George.

"Oh no, Sir. Out in Australia we call trees like that scrub."

They must be pretty tall out there Clifford."

"Yes, Sir, one might call them big. One night I was riding a pony along a bush track—pitch dark, and I could feel I was off the track. You can feel even when you're mounted. But it was so dark that night that it got on my nerves. After a few minutes I got down and lit a match. A big hollow gum tree used to lie in the track. I found I had ridden two hundred yards in-side it without noticing."

That sort of broke the ice. A few days ater Billy Clifford was riding behind George when they passed a Bedouin ploughing. He was using a cow instead of the usual horse.

"Its marvellous how the Arabs make use of all the animals here Clifford, even donkeys and camels," replied George.

"Yes, Sir. We use bultocks too out there, in our waggons."

"Really! Are they as good as horses?"

"Yes, Sir! They're better. They pull harder but their pace is slower. Still they'll shift anything. I had a team once in the South West of West Australia, and. we got bogged in a creek. I borrowed another team and hitched the two lots to the waggon and gave the word. They pulled for half an hour and then I rested them. I was disappointed. It was the only time I'd known Australian bullocks fail. They couldn't get the waggon out of the creek but they shifted the creek half-a-mile, Sir."

George told me about it afterwards. "You know," he said. "I reckon that fellow Clifford is a bit of a liar."

Soon afterwards his education was advanced a further stage. Relaxing after the day's work one evening, George started Clifford on his favourite theme, "Australia." Clifford was gradually unfolding its marvels to George, or whom he spoke as "My cobber on the Staff" It seemed to George after his lesson that "bullocks" were a subject which interested Clifford. "I say, Clifford, your bullocks in Australia seem to be pretty good pullers, have you any other animals that can pull."

"Yes, Sir. Once I was punching with a team, of bullocks up in Northern Queensland, and we struck a log across the road. I unhitched the team and hitched them up to the log. After they had pulled for a few minutes the log woke up. It was an alligator. It ran up a gum tree, and the trouble was it hung all the bullocks up by the chains. I hadn't heard whether they got them down before I joined the army."

George referred this yarn to me for confirmation. Yesterday Clifford was riding with George through Jaffa. They passed some big tractors taking up ammunition that was eventually to break the monotony and other things for Abdul.

"Those things cut out a lot of horses and labour, Clifford."

"Yes, Sir. We used 'em in Australia before the war. Labour is so dear that we have to cut down all the work we can out there. We used them tractors on wheat farms. When the land was clear we'd get a big engine and hook the ploughs on behind that, and then the harrows on behind the ploughs, and the seed drills on behind the harrows, and then—"

"Yes, I know Clifford. They do that in America too."

"Yes, Sir. I know, but out in Australia we hook the harvester on behind all these and do the whole job in one operation like."

The ride was finished in silence. Clifford's thoughts I know were of his dinner. I wonder what George was thinking about?