The Dynamite Stallion
The wind howled through the Scribbly gums and mountain ash trees. Whistling along the riverbanks, it rocked the solid river gums that had stood stoically for hundreds of years. The moon was blotted by steely grey snow clouds, which stormed through the sky, dropping their load of snow on the mountaintops. The old style Queenslander weatherboard home had stood up to over 100 hundred years of drought, snow, flood and storms and this was probably nothing. Inside the winters fire crackled, its warm flames warming most of the house. The loud bang of a door slammed shut sounded, followed by a gust of freezing wind that rushed through the warm house, followed by thunder of heavily booted feet on the wooden floorboards.
Josephine Cartwright-Black, or Jo as she preferred, rolled over in her warm bed and listened to the male voices in the kitchen. Sighing she got up and pulled her jumper on and wandered down the long hallway to the kitchen. Pushing open the rickety old screen door to the kitchen she made her way over to the bench, its awful green Formica top and rusting pipes hadn’t changed likely since the house was built. She autonomously began making coffee as she listened to the moaning from the three men, her larrikin twin brother Steve, her irreverent, bent over Grandpa Bob and her cousin Mick who worked for them as a roustabout.
“Ah nothing like a good woman on a cold night,” the wrinkly grey old man wheezed as Jo set down his coffee.
“Grandpa!” She scolded playfully, knowing he liked pulling her leg, “I’m your granddaughter.”
“Ah they wouldn’t know it town, we won’t tell will we? You see it all the time in the big smoke, them young lasses getting about town with men as old as me, what do they call it sugar daddy?” he said, before taking a mouthful of the scolding hot coffee.
“More like fuddy-duddy,” Steve snickered nodding his thanks to his sister.
“So that’s where all the good looking sheilas get to then,” Mick murmured rubbing his chin, “I’m going to marry one of those rich widowed sheilas one day, set you up for life I’d reckon.”
“Good luck at you getting a wife, Mick,” Jo grinned.
“Leave Mick alone, he can’t help if he’s a dag,” Rick, her father grinned coming through the door.
Jo quickly turned her back to the cold wind. “Shut the door dad,” she moaned, “It’s bloody freezing.”
“Nonsense Jo, it’s only 6 degrees although the wind chills probably minus ten. But feel for this little guy out in it all,” he said, shutting the door with a thud.
Jo turned back to her father and looked at the bundle wrapped up in saddle blankets he carried. “Abandoned calf?” Jo asked, wrapping her arms under the bundle to take it off him but as soon as she felt it she realised it was too light and long to be any calf particularly their red Herefords that they bred for their solid meat.
Her father pulled away some of the blankets, to reveal a dainty foal’s head that looked like the colour of mahogany. “Nope this little critter.”
“But we don’t have any pregnant mares except for Bess but she’s not due for another four months,” Jo gasped as the bleary eyes parted slightly.
Her father, Andrew gulped down his steaming hot coffee. “I am aware of that. No we were up moving the cattle to the top paddock in case it floods downstream and the swamp paddock floods and we moved them through the paddock the highway runs along and I saw something in the ditch by the road,” he explained, warming his big calloused hands on the coffee mug.
“And he made me jump that fence with the fresh wire we strung up the other day to get to it,” Steve said holding up his leg to reveal his damp jeans that were torn at the knee. Somehow Jo thought the tear was there before as Steve’s jeans always looked ripped and she always mended them.
“Well anyway got the shock of my life when he comes back with this little feller,” Andrew continued.
“And because Mick and Steve’s horses were too spooked by the storm never mind this gangly thing and old Smoky looks like she’s on her last legs anyway,” her Dad said draining the mug.
“She is not on her last legs, she is as fit and energetic as me,” Grandpa Bob declared bringing his fist on the table.
“My point exactly so I carried him home on Honey,” Andrew finished.
Jo rubbed the foals head and around his neat little ears and it shook its head dopily. “Where do you think he came from?” she asked, turning to go in search of warm, dry towels.
“Beats me, I haven’t had a good look at the little blighter yet so I have no idea, let alone how he got there to begin with,” her father yelled down the hall after her.
Jo put the foal on the shaggy bathmat in the bathroom and turned around and pulled some bath towels off the low shelves and began pulling off the wet towels. The foal lay on the bathmat too weak to sit up and Jo began rubbing the foal dry; his wet mahogany coat drying to a reddish brown colour. Using a couple more towels she wrapped him up again and went back into the kitchen. The boys were laughing again and Jo dumped the foal in her father’s arms.
“Why do I always get left holding the baby?” he demanded.
Although Jo knew that would have sounded like a joke, which it probably was, but it also had meaning in their family. At six month’s old, Jo and Steve’s mum had died in a car accident. She had been toeing the empty horse float, coming down a steep hill and when the float jack-knifed and rolled the 4WD. She died instantly. All Jo had left of her, the silver locket she wore everyday which bore her mother’s picture and a lock of her auburn hair. Her father had literally been left holding the baby or babies in their case.
Being a cattle farmer he didn’t know the first thing about raising and caring for kids and apparently there were a a lot of stuff ups. But soon Andrew got the hang of being Mr. Mum and delegating onto Grandpa who they actually planned to put in a home a few weeks before the accident. Therefore, the old man kept the farm running while Rick mourned the loss of his wife.
Also, at that time, sixteen year old Mick came to live on the farm at her Uncle Ross’ request as punishment for car theft or something like that and he never left.
Jo took the warm mug in her hands and watched her father as he examined the foal, rubbing his big hands over the foal’s tiny head. It had opened its eyes a little more now and seemed a bit more alert.
Grandpa Bob leaned over his son and looked at the foal. “Handsome little… What is it Jo?” He said, wincing as he straightened up stiffly his back obviously playing up in the cold.
“Colt,” Jo replied, opening the bottom cupboard in search of a poddy bottle.
“There’s colostrum in the shed,” Steve said, when Jo stood up annoyed that she couldn’t find it but had found the bottle.
Jo looked out the window and pulled a face at the weather. “Can you get it?”
“All right but only if there’s another cuppa waiting for me,” Steve sighed.
Steve returned a few minutes later with the bag of powdered colostrum and Jo mixed it up, used to caring for orphaned calves she knew what had to be done. Jo knelt at her father’s side and rubbed the long teat around the foal’s mouth. After some persuasion and a few squirts of the warm milk down the foal’s throat he began sucking greedily, the milk dribbling down his chin.
“Little grub,” Jo laughed, pleased that he was drinking.
The colt soon drained the bottle and settled back sleepily. “Alright into the shed with all the other poddies,” Andrew said getting up.
“But Dad it’s so cold out there, can’t he stay in my room just one night?” Jo wailed.
Her father looked out at the rain drumming against the window probably not wanting to go out in it himself. “Alright but when the weather clears up tomorrow, in with the poddies, you know how hand-raised foals end up,” her father warned, dumping the sleepy foal back in her arms.
“Spoilt rotten,” Grandpa Bob finished, waging a finger at his son before berating him about being soft on his daughter.
Jo rolled her eyes and carried the foal into her room and got some old blankets to put on the floor. After making sure he was warm, Jo scrambled into bed and after glancing at the clock that read 1.30am she fell into a deep, content sleep almost immediately.