Albert Goldinger; A good friend and an editor with an eye for English. My thanks, Albert, for your hard work in editing this book.
To Roslyn, my wife and to Darryl, Meryl and Warren, the Kelly and Heilig clan, many thanks for your hard work and support on my writing journey.
The Magic of the Glass House Mountains held Steve in awe as he stood on a ledge, 1200 feet above sea level, and admired their majestic beauty. The sun slowly rising above the ocean and sending its rays across these mountains and across the dense forest surrounding them gave the whole scene an almost mystic charm. A slight southerly breeze swayed the tree tops. In the distance, the ocean gleaming like a polished mirror added to the magic of the place.
A lone Kookaburra, sitting high on a dead tree, greeted the morning with its peculiar laugh. With the sky now clear and blue, Steve took in the imposing view as far north and south as he could see. Suddenly he heard the thump-thump of a wallaby hopping towards him. Startled by the presence of this human, it stopped a short distance away from him. Ears erect, it observed Steve for a moment, then turned and disappeared back into the dense bush. Steve walked back to the camp; the smell of the log fire, which had been burning all night, and the rising smoke and the silence of this place – paradise.
He was the leader of a gang who were still asleep with the women.
‘Wake up you horny bastards. Get your hands off it. Breakfast is ready.’
The bodies under the blankets beside the campfire totalled 12. Six of Steve’s men and six native women from a tribe further down the mountain. Their presence with his men brought about by exchanging six bottles of rum with King Delaney, who the gang met some weeks ago when they crossed the Caboolture River and made their way to this wild place on the side of a mountain yet to be named. Steve had declined a woman and daily observed the antics of his men.
This particular morning was no exception.
Horst got up first. ‘Life’s good, Steve.’ The woman with him lay there naked and then pulled the blanket over herself.
Horst continued, ‘A lot of action here last night, fellas?’
He pulled on his riding boots. He stood of average height, around 5ft 9 inches; stocky in stature, with dark hair and dark brown eyes. German blood ran through his veins. A crack shot with a rifle. His temper flared like a cyclone hitting the coast; and an experienced horseman. Over the past months he had taught the gang members to ride. ‘Treat your horse as your best friend.’
Bull decided before breakfast to satisfy his woman and by the moans and groans coming from under the blanket, both were enjoying the physical activity. The blanket covering the two went up and down like an attempt by someone to send smoke signals. At the finish it fell off to the side and Bull’s bare arse faced the sunlight. The oriental face of this man told you something; piercing almond-shaped brown eyes; the olive skin that gave one the appearance of being suntanned forever. At just under six feet with his boots off, his body was lean and he was mean – he would not hesitate to kill at the drop of a hat.
James, slow to wake up, threw his blanket back and unwound himself from his woman. A big man, over six feet in height, lean, broad shouldered, fair to blonde hair and his eyes were a dark blue. The women, mainly those he saw in the brothels, found him attractive. The smiling face and white teeth camouflaged a fighting machine. He carried a Bowie, which he used with great dexterity. He picked up a tin plate, went to the fire, lifted the lid of the camp oven and helped himself to some stewed meat, potatoes and some freshly cooked damper from beside the campfire. He cut a slice with his knife and dropped it in the stew. His hunger was foremost in his thoughts.
Matt stood beside him and also helped himself to a feed. At 5ft 10 inches, of solid build with green eyes, he had black long hair swept to both sides, which gave him the look of a minister of the cloth. He wore a cabbage-tree-hat made from the fan-shaped leaves of a palm. So did the other members of the gang. All were growing moustaches and full beards. Matt’s beard was already full, long and black. Charlie stirred under bush shelter of bark fastened with strips of untanned hide, called greenhide. The natives called these shelters Stringybarks. His woman was sitting up and looking at him with a smile on her face. He may have been the shorty of the gang, 5ft 6 inches standing in his riding boots. He, however, made up for his shortness in other ways and the gang members all agreed that Charlie wasn’t standing behind the door when God gave him a dick. Slim build, piggy-brown eyes, brown-coloured hair and was going bald on top. His moustache was long and droopy and gave him the appearance of a Mexican. He poured himself a mug of tea from the billy-can brew over the fire.
Bob was a lazy bloke; he liked his sleep and didn’t move under his blanket. The woman with him made the move. She got up and walked away a short distance from the campfire. She stood with her legs apart and with both hands parted her labia and pissed like a man.
‘That’s a sight I will never forget,’ Horst remarked to the group, ‘and you, Bob, an educated man from England. She is educating you with that display – she was certainly bursting for a piss – it could have filled a billy can.’
‘Okay Horst, enough said.’ Bob was awake now, and he got up and pulled on his long pants and slipped the braces over his stained night shirt. He considered himself a sophisticated man, educated at Eton, so he said. His English upbringing would have you think of a titled family. He did speak several languages, including Chinese dialects, which in the days, weeks and months ahead would be invaluable. His big ears stood out from underneath his long sandy straight hair. He had bad teeth that were in need of attention from a dentist. He stood of medium height and was a chubby chap with a portly belly.
Steve was the tallest of the gang standing 6ft 6 inches. He had broad shoulders and a flat stomach. His eyes were an almond colour and he had ginger-coloured hair. Visible to anyone who cared to study his teeth was a large gap between his two top front teeth. He had been told during his childhood that the gap meant you would be lucky all your life. So far this was the case. He was a born leader and he decided that this morning it was time to plan their next bail-up.
‘Feed your women and tell them to go back to their tribe. They know their way back down the mountain. It’s time to work. The jiggy-jig is over for now.’
‘Do we have to let them go?’ Charlie asked.
Steve and his men were Merchant seamen before turning to their life of crime. A month ago in the main cobble-stoned street of Gympie, with its weatherboard shops and dwellings and where the gold miners frequented a hotel during the weekends, the gang struck for the first time. A Saturday night where, at this hotel, the champagne flowed by the bucket-fulls and the gold and cash changed hands over the bar as the miners filled their guts with alcohol. The seven men armed with revolvers walked into the crowded saloon around six in the evening.
‘Nobody make a move towards us, this is a bail-up. We want the money you have.’
The licensee behind the heavy hardwood-planked bar stood with his mouth wide open and said nothing as he pushed a bag containing gold sovereigns towards Steve, who had walked over to him brandishing his revolver.
‘I’ll shoot the first man who tries to do something stupid – like try and stop us.’
The licensee replied, ‘Please don’t shoot, take the money.’
Matt walked behind the bar and, underneath on a shelf, he saw small leather bags which he later found out contained gold dust. He took six of those bags. They were heavy. He decided to leave the rest there, he counted another six. ‘I couldn’t carry anymore, Steve,’ he said after they left the place.
‘The miners knew we meant business, Steve, when you fired a shot over that big burly bastard who said you are going to hang,’ James said as they ran from the place and galloped out of town.
The gang were brazen in this robbery, walking into a crowded grog house and leaving their horses tied up at the hitching rail outside the place. The seven horses the men rode were Palominos, the colour of newly-minted gold coins. These horses were purchased in Brisbane Town at a horse sale. The Palominos were to be destined for Cobb and Co coach work. For some reason the boss of Cobb and Co decided these horses from America were unsuited for the teamster work. Steve had laid eyes on them at the sale and knew then, they would be the animals his men and himself would ride, and his gang would be known as the Palomino Gang. The police had given chase to the gang at Gympie, however, failed to catch up with them. The fine horses they rode out-galloped their pursuers.
Steve was born in Bendigo; his father an Englishman and his mother was Irish. Conceived in a brothel in the town he grew up and, as a child, was well fed and cared for by a number of women. He never saw much of his father who mined for gold. Around the campfire he told his story of growing up in Ballarat and Bendigo in the 1850s.
‘As a boy I saw large amounts of gold, and the men who visited the brothel let me play with bags of the stuff. I developed Gold Fever in this place I called home with the smell of scent, body odour and semen. At ten years of age, the brothel talk I heard concerned the gold robbery at Eugowra. Twelve thousand pounds stolen from an escort by bushrangers; Gardiner, Gilbert and others. I knew what I wanted to be sometime later in my life as the excitement of being a Bushranger began to manifest itself deep within my brain. The turning point in my life came when I witnessed the death of my father in a drunken bar-room brawl. I ran away from Bendigo and joined a Merchant ship and was lucky to be signed on as a cabin boy by the master, who had been a frequent visitor to the brothels in Melbourne Town. I had been able to tell of my life and upbringing in a brothel in Bendigo.’
His gang members listened as he continued:
‘We met over the years on ships I worked on sailing the east coast of Australia between Tasmania and Maryborough. The desire one day to be rich and have lots of money was always in my thoughts. The memories of the businessmen, judges, policemen, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and, of course, the gold miners having it off at the brothel, stayed in my mind. They always paid in cash or gold and the Madam never missed collecting a payment. I would fall asleep at night in my bunk dreaming of the time I would steal gold and lead a gang. The good life I knew, from my time in the brothel, could only be achieved with money. I learnt fast as a cabin boy to do as I was told and without question. I saw for myself how men stick together as a team when the going gets tough on the ship and the weather turns.
‘Survival was most important to all during the life-threatening moments which did occur from time to time along the east coast of Australia. Many a ship had met its watery grave and men on them never saw their wives and children again. At the age of 20 I decided to leave my job as a Merchant seaman and follow my dream. I had big plans but first I had to form a gang and find men with the same ideas who would follow along my pathway. These men would have to be special and not be afraid to break the law and risk their own lives for the good life.
‘I already knew of five such men who worked with me on the ship I would now be leaving; Horst, Bull, Charlie, Bob and Matt. James I met in a hotel. We are the Palomino Gang.’
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