Wednesday 21 April 2010

Acquitted while a head.

George Cooper was legally blind, but was a regular at Mel’s wine bar. Maybe twice a week his old mare delivered him to the door where she waited patiently until about nine o’clock when she would snort her message that it was home time. In the interim, George, at about eighty years of age, would drink more than he should and tell stories. This one is too good to not pass on.

Back when Laguna had a hotel and was the first stopping place west of the Hawkesbury on the Great North Road, I’m guessing about the late 1860’s, a bushranger was active near Wisemans Ferry.

As anyone familiar with that area will know, prolonged summer rain turns dirt roads to porridge and paddocks to soup. A week of rain and no wheeled vehicle could move along the flat country between Laguna and Wollombi. That was the situation when a rider came through with news that a bushranger had robbed a gold coach, shot the guard in cold blood and was probably headed their way.

Later that night, under a full moon, a traveler woke to find a big bearded man silhouetted against the sky, climbing in his window. He thought he saw a gun in the intruder’s hand, scrabbled his own out from under his pillow and shot the man dead.

Of course, the noise brought men a-running, lanterns in one hand and revolvers in the other. It was a wonder the sleeper wasn’t also shot in the panic, but everyone eventually calmed down and the body was dragged into the kitchen for a better look.

They agreed he must have been the bushranger. But, as there was no way even a pack horse could get through to the Wollombi lock-up, they decided to cut off his head and take it in for identification. The sleeper volunteered to walk the seven miles at first light carrying the head in a chaff bag.

After Battling through the mire for most of the morning, he made it to the court house and presented his grisly trophy. The constable cleaned it up a bit and they compared the rough bearded face with likenesses on the wall. He wasn’t wanted.


  1. (To be sung by a skilled country/western artist.)

    Mamma, don't let your babies
    grow up
    to be bushrangers.

    'tis only a path
    to headlessness
    and heartache ...

    (Stopping here, before losing other vital bits.)


  2. QwkDrw, You have revealed talent your readers would otherwise never suspect!

  3. Love it. Shocking tale indeed. Must have been a prevention campaign - get them before they become bushrangers. Just one thing - your opening line would imply that blind people can't go to bars.

  4. I see how you read it that way, but 'legally blind' means he can see a bit, but is blind enough to be entitled to help including free cab travel.
    Re the poor dead traveller, we hypothesised the poor bugger had arrived so late he dicided to not disturb Mine Host, find a bed and pay in the morning! He paid indeed!

    He never asked for help (it would have been cheerfull given), and despite the challenge of getting there, he arrived independently and was always a loved and valued member of that little group of bushies.

  5. What was I doing when I wrote that? Hadn't even had a drink! Just hope anyone stumbling upon it did their own cut and paste. The last paragraph referred to George of course, not the headless traveller. Must be losing it.

  6. Well, yes, I did have to read that last comment twice! But your posts (and comments) are always worth that much effort or more.


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