ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author was born in Brisbane in 1948. From age 16, for
three years he worked on cattle and sheep properties in Central Queensland as a
jackaroo. He returned to Brisbane and competed as an amateur boxer, winning a
Queensland Golden Gloves Championship and went on to fight 21 professional
Prior to semi-retirement at the end of 2015 he was employed
by DeLaval, a world leader in dairy technology as a project manager working
across Australia, overseeing key installations of robotic milking equipment.
Werna Creek is his first manuscript and the main
locations are where he spent his early working life. He is well on his way with
the second manuscript Where the Penny Falls, which is a prequel to
He lives with his wife, Debra, in Stockleigh,40 minutes
south of Brisbane.
The author would like to thank his sisters-in-law, Lee Kemp
and Kath Wilson, and good friends, Tatiana Dorofeeff and Tara Fahy, who read
Werna Creek in its infancy and passed on their comments, which helped in the
presentation of the finished manuscript.
Also Steven Horne, the Author of The Devil’s Tears
whose objective advice helped extensively in formatting the story.
To my wife, Debra, whose unwavering love and support
inspire me to be the best I can be.
t was hot; the temperature was 42 degrees in the
shade. The water from the previous day’s downpour lay across the clay pan in
small pools enhanced by multiple small dancing mirages, giving the strange
deceptive appearance of one gigantic inland sea.
A solitary sand goanna moved cautiously closer to its
target, which was lying half-in and half-out of one of the pools. Its tongue
flicked, tasting the air for signs of decay from its potential meal. A rotting
carcass would make for excellent dining. The closer the huge monitor got, the
more tentative its approach. Finally, when within reach, it raised its
two-metre-long body on all fours and clawed at an outstretched arm for any sign
of life. No response. It moved even closer, giving one last flick of its forked
tongue before opening its jaws to rip into human flesh.
The deafening crack, a hair’s breadth from its head,
changed the great reptile’s mindset. With blistering speed it took off, back
towards the line of scrub on the creek, not hesitating until it was safely 10
metres up a massive gum tree.
Dropping the stock whip to the ground, the rider
leapt off his horse and turned the body on its back.
“Luke...” he called, in a voice that quavered with
uncertainty and disbelief.
Twelve hours later, the rain was still steadily
falling. Three men sat around the camp table under the canvas tent discussing
the consequences of the wet weather that had caught them unawares in the middle
of their cattle muster. With the tent lit only by kerosene lanterns, Tony
Rafter, the property owner, sat with his legs outstretched, nursing a mug of hot
black tea. Old Joe Collins, the camp cook, was opposite, leaning forward as he
spoke. He poured a small amount of his brew into a second enamel pannikin to
cool it. The third man, Les Law, by far the youngest at not yet 20, sat with
both elbows on the table. His large brown eyes were alert as he took in all of
the discussion. The future of Cooinda wasn’t just the Rafter family’s and Old
Joe’s, it was his as well.
The Rafters had given Les a home and treated him as
one of their own. He had witnessed the devastation the last three years of
drought had brought to these 80,000 acres of prime cattle country and the toll
it was taking on Tony Rafter, his family and the craggy old cook. Les felt the
pain and frustration as much as anyone when they found out they would lose the
property if they didn’t sell the majority of the stock, and without stock there
would be no future.
The man lying on the camp stretcher, unbeknown to the
others, had opened his eyes and was endeavouring to make sense of the
conversation. Old Joe asked Tony if the unexpected deluge might be used to
convince the property’s financiers to extend, rather than force the sale of
unfinished stock in a bad market. He glanced over at the patient as he waited
for an answer. The man had not moved since they’d retrieved him from the clay
pan earlier that day.
“Hey, Tony, he’s awake,” he said without the
slightest change of tone in his voice as he started to rise from the canvas camp
“Stay there, I’ll see to him,” Tony offered. Joe
didn’t argue; he just settled back in his camp chair.
Tony knelt alongside the cot.
“Hi, mate. You’ve been out of it for quite a while.
We were a little worried when you didn’t come around. We’re flooded in out here
and not able to get you to town. Joe has cleaned you up as best he could and
stitched up a great gash in your head. You’ve a good number of cuts and bruises
but nothing obviously broken and Joe doesn’t think you have any internal damage.
He’s not a doctor but is actually better at mending people than some we’ve had
A pair of bloodshot hazel-green eyes looked steadily
back at Tony then closed for 10 seconds. When they opened he asked, “Where am
“This is our mustering camp. As I said, we’re kind of
stuck here until the creek goes down. How are you feeling?”
“I feel like crap, I have one hell of a headache and
my body feels like I’ve been trampled by a herd of buffalo and I’ve no idea how
I got this way.”
“Just take it easy for now. You might make sense of
it when your head clears. Are you feeling up to eating something? Joe’s got a
broth stewing in case you were hungry when you came around.”
The patient gave a slight nod and attempted to rise,
fighting the searing pain that tore through his head.
“Just take it steady. I’ll prop you up so we can get
something into you.”
Tony spoke with a calmness and authority, taking
control as he always did. Having those around him do his bidding willingly was
one of his great strengths.
He looked across to Joe, who was already ladling
something from the pot on the makeshift camp oven to an enamel bowl.
“I’m Tony Rafter, Joe Collins is the one getting you
a meal, and the young bloke over there is Les Law. Our homestead is only 20
kilometres away but we’re isolated between Werna and Cooinda Creeks. Both have
flooded and broke their banks yesterday. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way we
can communicate with the outside world to get you some help. Our two-way radio
died when the first storm hit. We’ve been working on it but I think its revival
is beyond our capabilities.”
Tony looked directly into the man’s eyes, waiting for
a response. He saw them close once more for a few seconds as he seemed to gather
“How did I end up here?”
“We found you unconscious about 200 metres due west
of here. An old goanna was intent on making you his lunch. That was 12 hours
ago. Joe did what he could for you and we’ve been waiting ever since. Mind you,
there wasn’t anywhere we could go, so in a fashion you’ve provided our
Joe placed the bowl on a box alongside the bunk.
“Do I need to feed you or do you reckon you can
“Thanks, Joe, I should be okay.” Taking the spoon and
with a slightly trembling hand, he lifted some of the broth to his lips. The
first few spoonfuls were quite an effort but his hand steadied and he slowly
sipped his way through most of the contents.
Tony went back to the table while Joe stayed by his
charge, taking the plate away when he knew he was done and returning with a mug
filled with water.
“Are you thirsty?”
“Yeah, I’m a bit dry.”
“Take these and they’ll help with the head,” Joe
explained. He handed across two white tablets. “They’re just paracetamol from
Winton Hospital. The matron is a good mate of mine.”
Popping the pills into his mouth, the man took the
water when Joe lifted the mug to his lips, letting him drink at his own pace.
When he was done Joe looked down and asked, “What’ll we call you?”
The stranger slipped down from the upright position
that Tony had helped him to, lay flat, closed his eyes and went into a deep
sleep without answering.