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A Drovers Dream Staring into the softly crackling fire, he remembers back to a time when there were no grey

hairs, no arthritic pains, and no suntanned wrinkles. He remembers back to that day. That day, on his last drove. . . . Thunder rolled over the far off Diamantina plains like a steam train at full tilt. They pushed on, through the sweat, through the pain. Sitting in a saddle for 14 hours straight does get to you eventually. They pushed on towards the storm. It would have been wise to stop, but they were due in the Quilpie railhead soon. Finally they rested, however the storm was almost upon them and the cattle were starting to get restless. He then found himself, once again staring into a softly crackling fire, as he had many nights before. Thunder and lightning crashed over head, like a heard of brumbies galloping through the bush. Spits of rain started to fall on this dry, God forsaken land. The rain cooled breeze swept through the valley, rustling the soft, grey leaves of the Ghost gums lining the dry creek. The chirping of cicadas heralding the oncoming storm. The storm was right above them now. The cattle were extremely agitated and every flash of lightning, every clap of thunder drove them towards breaking point. CRACK!! An almighty clap of lightning flew towards the ground, striking a scraggly old ghost gum. Flames spewed out, devouring the old tree. That was it. The cattle were off and there was no stopping them. As quick as the lightning came, the cattle were gone, their thundering hooves drowning out the sound of the storm itself. Up and at em boys! He shouted over the noise of the storm. We gotta get this mob back together or there ll be no damper for us tomorrow. The cracking of stock whips filled the air as they galloped off into the scrub. . . . Dawn was slowly breaking as we pushed on through the rain. But the mob was too fast, we could not catch them. Over rocks, under branches, we chased them, but there was no stopping them. Then out of the scrub came a ghostly figure. A man carrying a stick slowly walked into the path of the oncoming cattle. They were all thinking the same thing. Man, what are you doing? You are gonna get yourself killed, these cows aren t stopping. He was not moving out of the way. But one by one the cattle started to slow. Slow from a sprint to a run, a run to a walk and a walk until finally they all stopped. As we grew closer, the soft, sweet singing of the aboriginal man became more apparent. It was like he had hypnotised the entire heard and given them peace. He continued to sing as we slowly surrounded the heard. The sweet, harmonious tones of his voice filled the air, breaking through the steady patter of raindrops on gum leaves. Although he didn't speak our language or us his, we communicated in seconds through a single look. I nodded to the man and did not look back. We moved off with the heard now under our control. Looking back over his shoulder, he sees the man slip off into the scrub, gone as quietly as he came. He sits here staring into a softly crackling fire and to this day he wonders if it were a dream or if that sweet old man really did sing those cattle till they were calm.