Bella's Run

Bella's Run by Margareta Osborn

Book: Bella's Run by Margareta Osborn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margareta Osborn
Tags: Fiction
way until Patty conceded defeat.
    ‘I won! Say it, girl!’ Bella yelled again, throwing a hand into the air.
    So Patty did the only thing she could do: she stuck up her palm for Bella to slam a high five. ‘Okay. You won.’
    ‘YES!’
    ‘Now . . . get the fuck off me !’

Chapter 12
    Will stretched his long legs out towards the flames, more as a reflex than to gain warmth from the bonfire in front of him. With temperatures reaching the thirties during the day, the fire wasn’t really needed, but it was as much a part of the Muster as the Stockmen’s Challenge.
    A massive construction, with whole trees placed side by side and then on top, the bonfire took all night and half the next day to burn itself down. A CFA truck stood on standby, although Nunkeri had had more rain this season than Tindarra and there was at least a tinge of green left up on this plain. Even so, the tanker was good insurance in case a spark got away. With his butt planted on an old gnarled gum tree log set a strategic distance from the leaping flames, Will tuned into the poem being recited by an elderly man on the other side of the fire.
    It wasn’t hard to see that Wesley Ogilvie – cattleman, bush poet, legendary stockwhip-maker and Will’s neighbour at Tindarra – adored every minute of his annual Nunkeri Muster performances. For as long as Will could remember, Wes had regaled them with poems, bringing to life Banjo Paterson’s ballads and adding a few of his own. Every tale he told was played out on the grazing properties in the high country mountain ranges and valleys of Tindarra, Burrindal and Ben Bullen. Probably to some townies it smacked of a long-winded whine session but, unfortunately, Will knew otherwise. The droughts, fires and floods Wes wove into ballads – they’d had them all in the space of a few years, here in the towering blue mountains of the Great Dividing Range.
    ‘He loves it, doesn’t he?’ a soft, cultured voice came from the darkness behind Will.
    He swung around. Dressed in a faded pink-and-black chequered woollen bushman’s shirt, under which there appeared to be at least two more layers, a small rotund figure stood watching old Wes.
    ‘Aunty Maggie! Aren’t you hot in that get-up? I didn’t think you were coming until the morning.’
    ‘Neither did I.’ Disgust was evident in Maggie O’Hara’s voice. ‘And no, I’m not hot. It’s colder when you’re older, sober and away from the fire.’
    ‘What changed your plans? It must have been good to get you swagging it. You haven’t been too keen on the idea since Uncle Hughie died.’
    ‘Yes, well I’m not happy. I love my own bed these days. Getting old and set in my ways. But the woman we’ve brought in to judge the bush poetry competition tomorrow decided she wanted to try “this camping-out business” as she called it. She’s from Melbourne. As I organised the competition, I felt obligated to keep an eye out for her.’

    ‘She’d have no better mate than you, Aunty Maggie. Did you give her your famous camp-oven rabbito for tea?’
    ‘How could I do that when my favourite nephew wasn’t there to shoot, skin and de-bone it?’ Maggie’s voice was teasing and accusatorial at the same time. How did she manage to do that? She made him feel like a naughty school boy caught out by the Catholic Brothers all over again.
    ‘I’m sure you would have managed it. My guess is the lady poetry judge wouldn’t have managed watching you do it, though?’
    Maggie grinned then affected rounded vowels. ‘Yars, I really could not stomach any bush cuisine tonight, thank you, Margaret. Surely you have some smoked salmon and basil pesto? Oh, and a little sour cream with some sun dried tomarrr-toes on top would be simply scrumptious.’
    Will laughed. ‘That bad, is she?’
    ‘Yes, that bad.’
    ‘So what did you feed her?’
    Maggie giggled, eyes crinkling in the corners. ‘I served up baked bean and cheese jaffles straight from the fire and she

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