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

"Kiddman's" Happy End

page 20

"Kiddman's" Happy End.

"Kiddman's" contempt for lead contrasted strangely with his insatiable appetite, which was uncanny to an alarming degree. Jaded and bony, with a shaggy winter coat almost heavy enough to grace the body of a polar bear, the old pack-horse had hung ungroorned upon the lines tor the six weeks the regiment had spent, recuperating, among "the sand dunes on the coast of Southern Palestine.

He had emerged unscathed from big things, and his general appearance reminded one of a severe campaign. His old master had been killed early in the last advance, during the galloping charge on Beersheba. Since then he had had a score of grumbling, cursing attendants, who had taken turnts, in dragging him unwillingly through theinva-ded country, and back to his haven of rest and neglect, under the sand ridge. There is seldom much work for a pack-horse in a rest-camp, consequently, "Kiddman" was regarded as backsheesh by the troopers. In a horse-sense, the word backsheesh has a meaning directly the opposite to its pecuniary application.

Four months previously, "Kiddman" had been loaded in readiness for the big advance, and led forth on the end of his chewed head-rope, in the rear of his troop, by his master—the permanent pack-horse leader—the faithful individual who understood and loved him thoroughly.

Under his late master's care, "Kiddman" had done as well as could reasonably have been expected. In fact, there were times when he looked almost well, which is saying a great deal for an animal of his build. During the dusty, waterless days and nights preceding the Beersheba attack, "Kiddman" was the object of much attention. He held, at that time, the important post of ration pack-horse, therefore he was paid many unofficial visits, but the ever-watchful attitude of his master prevented the load from declining in weight.

Through dense clouds of choking, musty-smelling dust; over ragged, broken hills bare of vegetation; down and along dry gullies, backwards and forwards, taking advantage of every bit of cover, he followed his manoeuvring troop through Khalasa and Asluj, in the wide encircling movement on the right flank. He remained firm and unmoved beneath his load when night—the night of victory—closed in, while the regiment prepared to assault the town of Beersheba.

As the moon was peeping over the ragged skyline at their hack, two long lines'of Australian Light Horsemen went forward at the gallop towards their objective. "Kiddman" lumbered along in their wake, his chewed head-rope extended to the full. The course was obscure and uncertain, but the horsemen surmounted formidable obstacles and pressed on with undeniable resolution through the murderous hurricane of lead that swept against them. At the last trench, when both horses were galloping abreast, "Kiddman" lost his master. They jumped together, but when "Kiddman" landed, he was unattached. His fallen master's animal turned and galloped back through the darkness. But "Kiddman" punted ahead with a steadfast demeanour, and followed the elated victors into the town.

After that night, "Kiddman" experienced the neglect of a fresh master each day; nobody looked upon him as a cobber again. Description of the dreadful hardships he overcame would fill several volumes, but,
"Has That Man Permission To Leave The Parade Ground, Sergeant?"

"Has That Man Permission To Leave The Parade Ground, Sergeant?"

needless to say, the poor old pack-horse weathered the strain of it all, and emerged from the hungry struggle a resourceful monstrosity of hide and bone, baffling the impotent knowledge of army vets., and winning nothing but contempt from his many temporary attendants. What "Kiddman" really wanted was double the amount of feed that accident doled out to him thrice daily. Unlike all the other horses, he got nothing at night. No, "Kiddman" never received any of that special backsheesh. The fact is?, nobody on stable picquet gave him a second thought. Each had bis own horse to attend, and accordingly, favour with extras. Whenever a horse got loose during the day or night, its destination was the feed-dump, which loomed, an appetizing monument of interest, in the close vicinity cf the horse-lines, under the gaze of all hungry horses. It depended upon the horse loose, and the man on picquet at the time, whether the animal was permitted to feed unnoticed, or was promptly re-attached to the lines. Of course, whenever "Kiddman" got ioose: "Tie him up", was the curt, oft-delivered utterance of stray observers. Only during such times was he regarded with special interest. Really, his presence anywhere near the feed-dump resulted in a calamity almost.

* * *

The night was dark and bitterly cold. Rain had been drizzling sines sundown.-Shortly after midnight, when all well-behaved horses are usually asleep, the stable-guard watch—two troopers—whose shift would not have expired till 7 a.m., left the lines and sought cover from the rain in their little bivouac. Their intention wag silently mutual. The horse lines, as a consequence, were abandoned till daylight. Almost immediately after their retirement, had anyone been about, he might have noticed something resembling a four-footed animal moving with a set purpose towards the feed-dump. It went forward unchallenged, and took entire control of the reserve fodder supply with a freedom of action that might have been interesting to behold.

On the following morning, the attention of a seedy looking sergeant was attracted towards a grotesque spectacle near the feed-dump-Beside two fearfully mutil ated barley-sacks, "Kiddman" lay, lifeless, with his four hoofs pointing heavenward, A quantity of spilt grain signified that he had died happy, with an abundance to spare after satiating his most consumingdesire; which goes to prove that each and everyone of us may escape the dangers of war, and' afterwards do likewise.