|Paper||Mt. Pleasant Pyramid|
|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||The Heroism of John Romances|
|Paper||Mt. Pleasant Pyramid|
thes - QY( Br ' . :r COPYRIGHT ' Tfirr RIPQWAY'CO 7V UU H A 7 y. OU will not And frSSw .il tlie name of JoDn rvvil 'm Romanes on the , t..-.: .v I yfl I) scroll of honor, rrr ! j for men win the 15,1 VVi( badge of fame in FM iB many ways and tiA.G WMi there are many "OT degrees of valor w i and many vary-i'J vary-i'J j Op If ing rewards won W ta by its display. I "Peace has her tj5s heroes.no less re- ' ' nowned than war," is the assertion as-sertion of the poet, but this must be qualified by the omission of the word "no." It is so at any date in the case of John Romanes, for hia deed was performed in the silence and solitude of the great Australian Austra-lian bush, without a single spectator specta-tor who could bear witness to Its exemplitude of courage of the highest quality, devotion seldom equaled, and a self-sacrifice so rare that few men unacquainted with the perils of the bush can appreciate ap-preciate it. As the subject of Romanes' heroism hero-ism it shall be my duty to tell to a wider circle of readers the events which earned for a hero no greater reward than my own undying gratitude grati-tude and admiration. It seems strange to me that, so far, few persons outside of Australia Aus-tralia have ever heard of the stupendous stu-pendous efforts the government, of Western Australia has made to prevent (he incursion of the rabbit pest into the farming and pastoral regions of that state and, as my story has to do with that mammoth mam-moth work, I feel bound to speak briefly of it. For over fifty years the rabbits. Imported to Australia by some misguided mis-guided immigrant, have been a fearful fear-ful scourge to the eastern states of the island continent. Net fences had proved a success in the east and the government at once entered on the stupendous task of running a rabbit-proof rabbit-proof fence right across the country to act as a barrier to the invading hosts. That fence stands today, a completed and successful obstacle to the inroads of the pest. It is over 1,500 miles long, and stretches from Starvation Boat harbor, in the Great' Australian Bight, to Condon, in the Ninety Mile Beach, away in the tropic north. It cost the country over $1,500,000. - To maintain the barrier in a state of effectiveness against the depredations depreda-tions of the hostile natives, the blind attacks of emus and kangaroos and the ravages of flood, tornado and fire, a whole army of men are employed constantly patrlling it. In the far north, however, where the fast disappearing bands of black aborigines are still In great numbers and are savage and treacherous, the boundary riders always work in pairs. They have great hardships to encounter encoun-ter and great dangers to brave consequently con-sequently they are picked men and receive re-ceive high wages. They go armed always, al-ways, and in the splnifex country, with which my story is concerned, they are mounted on camels, because of the scarcity of water. I was associated In the early days of the construction of the fence with the advanced survey party and, on the completion of the structure, was induced by the high pay to accept the position of inspector of a length of fence in the far north. A "length" is Ihe name given to a section of the fence which is patrolled or ridden by one boundary rider, or two, as the case might be, but an inspector's "length" may consist, as in my case it did, of three ordinary lengths, a distance in this instance of close on three hundred miles. The inspector establishes a central depot where stores are kept, a decent well sunk and where the hniinrlnrv Hrlora mmt after working back along their lengths. It was in April, 1908, that I left Separation Sep-aration Well, the southernmost point of my section of the fence, and proceeded pro-ceeded north to the De Grey river, a distance of 200 miles, where I had my main depot. There I was to meet Romanes Ro-manes and his mate Gregory, who had to patrol the last hundred miles of my territory. When I reached the depot, then in charge of two men who were kept there as a relief, I found Romanes In camp, with his mate, who was very ill with malaria and quite unfit to take the track for some time, although his condition was not serious. I was particularly anxious to see the northern section of my part of the fence, because there had been a tropical flood a week or two before and from some overland-ing overland-ing stockmen I had heard that the fence was in a bad state of repair. When I questioned Romanes, whom I did not know very well in fact, 1 had entertained a suspicion of him from the moment the reports as to the state of his particular length came to me he was rather nettled and challenged me to come out with him without delaying for a week's rest to which he was entitled after completing com-pleting his out and back ride. The camels were In good fettle and I took Romanes at his word and decided that .a 'itsjaiV'i'lr-'4--'t-'-'i'' :.v-,'.4 j t i wlth him I should go-out two days later. This we did, taking with us the two best camels available for riding purposes and a third to carry 1 supplies for a fortnight's journey. Before leaving the depot I asked both Romanes and the man in charge whether the natives were "bad" along the track. "Queensland Charlie, that 'boy' of Turnbull's at the De Gray station, told me that 'Major' and 'Toby' were loose again and heading this way, but I don't believe it," said Romanes. "They would make back into West Kimberley to dodge the police, and anyway, if they do get down here Turnbull tells me he had word that they are not armed." I don't reckon we'll see anything of 'em, boss." "Well, I hope not," I said, "but we'll take some extra cartridges and keep a sharp lookout." As events proved, my fears of trouble with the roving band under "Major" and "Toby," two escaped native na-tive prisoners and the worst characters charac-ters that were ever loose, were better bet-ter grounded than I knew. It took us eight days to make the one hundred miles of our eastward journey, as we made a careful inspection inspec-tion of the fence, which I found to be In better shape than I expected, although al-though we had to do a lot of strengthening strength-ening to the temporary repairs which Romanes had effected on his previous trip. At the end of my section near Mount Bruce we met the two boundary boun-dary riders who had worked south from the next section to the north. They had heard nothing of the movements move-ments of Major and Toby and reported report-ed everything quiet. We parted company com-pany next day, Romanes and myself proceeding on what should have been a six-day trip back and the other men returning north. We made a good day's march and camped at a rain shed about eighteen miles out, just as It was getting dusk. Not a sign nor a Bight of a native had either Romanes or myself seen. In fact, we had not given them a thought. I lit a fire of mulga sticks oenina a ciump ot giagie Dusn ana was soon busily engaged on the task of making a "damper," or bread baked in the ashes. A flock of Nor' West parrots flew screeching overhead. Romanes Ro-manes hobbled the camels and turned them loose with their bells making a monotonous "clamp-clamp." as they went in search of young and tender spinifex bush. "How would stewed parrot go, boss?" Romanes asked me as he looked after the rowdy birds, which had settled in a solitary gum tree a couple of hundred yards inside the fence. "Pretty good," I replied. "Take the gtin and bag a few." Romanes picked up my double-barreled Greener gun, stuffed a couple of extra cartridges Into his pocket, and was about to follow up the parrots par-rots when I advised him to take the Winchester too, saying that he might bring back the tail of a young kangaroo kan-garoo for soup. I lost sight of Romanes a minute later and went on with my preparations prepara-tions for our evening meal. The "damper" was made and I was just 'raking out the clean live coals of the fire on which to bake It, when I heard a rustle In the bush at my back. As 1 turned a spear whizzed by me and stuck quivering in the "grub bag" of the camel saddle a few feet away! I At the same moment I saw half a dozen savages in all their war paint. I rose and literally threw myself at the nearest saddle, against which a second Winchester rested. With that in my hand I could make a bolt and protect myself in a running fight. But that was not to be. A second spear, aimed with half a dozen others, went through my left wrist, and, as I involuntarily in-voluntarily dropped the rifle and grabbed at the spearshaft, a waddy descended on my head and my senses left me. What actually transpired from the moment I lost touch with mortal existence ex-istence until I found myself again in the depot I had to glean from the unwilling un-willing answers of Romanes to my question, and fill in the blanks from my imagination. When he left me to follow the parrots, par-rots, Romanes did not anticipate going go-ing more than a quarter of a mile, at most, into the scrub and expected to be ' back In camp within fifteen minutes min-utes at the outside, but before he could get a shot at the birds they had led him on for a mile. It was while he was on his way back to the camp that he heard a shout, which reirembled very closely the yell of triumph the natives give when they have captured their game, be it human hu-man or animal. Approaching the camp cautiously, Romanes caught sight of the natives raiding the outfit, tearing open the "grub bags" and generally making themselves acquainted with everything every-thing In the camel packs. Having "tumbled to what had happened, hap-pened, Romanes' first thought was to open fire on the blacks and before the natives knew what had happened a double charge of parrot shot struck them. With a yell they arose, the leader (whom it subsequently transpired tran-spired was Major) grabbing the Winchester Win-chester and firing wildly In the direction direc-tion whence the shot had come. Romanes Ro-manes had taken shelter behind a bush which, while it obscured him from view, gave him no protection against bullets. He fired one shot from his rifle, and, dashing from his cover, made for a tree a hundred yards away, the natives following in a body. Once behind a stout trunk he brought his rifle into play and emptied emp-tied the magazine with such effect that three of the natives fell and the others, meeting such a stout foe, bolted bolt-ed Into the bush after vainly hurling all their spears and spending what cartridges were in the captured Winchester. Win-chester. Not knowing how many natives there were, or whether there were more than he had seen in the neighborhood, neigh-borhood, Romanes wasted no time in climbing into the tree, there to wait until it was quite safe for him to make a further move, as the superstitious supersti-tious nature of the blacks would prevent pre-vent them from making any further attack. When he had spent a couple of hours In his high perch Romanes quietly qui-etly slipped down and approached the camp, for the main purpose of endeavoring endeav-oring to get a further supply of ammunition, ammu-nition, and to secure one of the camels cam-els In, order that he might get away from the dangerous locality as soon as he had collected anything of value which the natives had left He expected ex-pected to find me dead as a doornail and battered beyond recognition, but he got the shock of his life when he bent over me and found me breathing. There was a big wound on the back of my head, and the first thing Ro manes had to do was to stop the flow of blood and pack me up somehow out of the way of swarms of ants that already were busy at work. Having made me as comfortable as possible, Romanes went in search of the camels, his Idea being to strap me to one and get away without delay, de-lay, for If the natives should return in the morning in increased numbers, neither of us would ever leave the spot Poor John, he little knew then what a burden he had assumed in finding me alive! Better for him would it have been if I had really died then and he could have buried me, and, unhampered by a delirious man, have hastened to safety. His first disappointment came when he stood up to listen for the bells of the camels, cam-els, which should have been heard. He failed to catch the faintest tinkle. His, disappointment became alarm when not three hundred yards from the camp he found our pack camel dead, with several spears sticking It, and the other two, fifty yards fuurther on, hopelessly wounded. His determination not to leave me placed him in this predicament: he had first of all to shift me to a place of safety before morning brought the natives on us again; and alone he had then to get me Into the De Grey depot, a distance of nearly eighty miles, the best part of it over waterless water-less country. It was Impossible for me to move of my own initiative, for that had left me and I lay like a log, senseless, delirious. If my life was to be saved I had to be moved from the spot where I fell and be' carried to a place of safety. That was the conclusion Romanes arrived at and before another dawn broke we were-ten were-ten miles away from the scene of our last camp and I was safely resting in the shade of a bush, while Romanes Ro-manes went in search of water and food. In the dark hours of the next night Romanes carried me another twelve miles and collapsed beside me near an old native well. How long into (hat day he slept, Romanes never knew, but when he awakened, probably aa the result of my ravings, he saw a native coming along the fence scarcely two hundred yards away. His first thought was to shoot at sight, believing that the black must be one of our old enemies, but feeling certain that the black fellow fel-low could not have seen us In our retreat, he decided to wait till he came right up. The native was apparently ap-parently following our tracks and was already turning off Into the bush just where we had left the fence, when Romanes recognized him as a native he had seen at Turnbull's station. "Hullo there!" he yelled. The black fellow stopped, saw the strange and dilapidated white man with a rifle in his hand, and turned with a yell to bolt into the bush. Romanes called to him to halt and at the same time used Turnbull's name, and dropped his rifle. At the familiar name, and seeing that he was not to be shot instanter, the native na-tive stood still while Romanes walked toward him and told him who he was. The black accepted the peace overtures, over-tures, and when Romanes learned that he was making for the De Grey station with the news from an out-station out-station that the warlike natives were about, Romanes decided to trust him and conducted him to where I was lying. He inspected my wounds with many grunts and exclamations of concern. He made a native plaster for my wounds, composing it of leaves and sticking it on with wet clay, over which waa bound the piece of shirtsleeve shirt-sleeve which Romanes had first used to staunch the blood. Then with a message to both the depot and his employer, asking them to hasten to our assistance and telling them where they would find us, dead or alive, the native was dispatched by Romanes. " Romanes then picked me up again, and, footsore and exhausted as he was, carried me another nine miles. There for three whole days and nights we lay, myself in a high state of fever, happily oblivious to all that happened, and Romanes incessantly on the watch for blacks. On the morning of the fourth day after our arrival at the shed, relief came. When poor Romanes, by this time half-insane as the result of his hardships, realized that he actually saw white men and that the hordes of furious savages rushing on him were merely the creation of his blood shot eyes, he broke down and wept Three days later I awoke to consciousness con-sciousness and found myself in comparative com-parative comfort at the De Grey depot, de-pot, where the surveying party's cook a first-rate amateur surgeon had patched me up and doctored me in great style from the outfit's medicine chest. I was still a helpless wreck, but my brain was clearing, and when I realized where I was I asked about Romanes. They brought him to me and it waa harder work for that brave fellow to answer my question as to how I got safe in from Mount Bruce than it had been for him to carry me the best part of the journey. It was a month before I waa well enough to travel down to Geraldton and there convalesce, but before 1 left I had the satisfaction of knowing that Major and Toby had met with their inevitable fate. They had "stuck up" the Turkey Creek station, and, on being beaten off by the stockmen, ran into the arms of a police patrol, who killed many of the natives. Including In-cluding the ringleaders, and captured the balance. When I was able to report re-port to headquarters a further piece of intelligence pleased me. That was that my rescuer, John Romanes, had been promoted to the charge of an inspector's section and had been assigned as-signed to one of the best stretches of fence in the southern country.