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Barmy Barker's Boots.

YOU see, Barmy Barker was once trampin' the roads. He was always forgettin' himself and was half his time bushed. He was awful absent-minded, was Barker. For instance, he'd get up in the mornin' and wouldn't know no more 'n the man in the moon which way he'd been goin' the night afore, and ten to one he'd go back t' where he'd come from. He 'adn't gumption enough to beat about and track himself. He'd no idea of anythink barrin' straight ahead to nowhere in particular. What he was goin' for—he didn't know. Once he scorned the offer of a good billet, when he was downright 'ard-up for one. It came o' bein' 'ead-over-ears in some big scheme or other in his mind.

Often as not he'd go to stations with his tucker-bags and come


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away with nothin'. Couldn't recollect what took him up, and forgot his bags thinkin' of it. Then he'd 'ave to ante-up a bob to a blackfellow to show him where he left his swag. When it come to payin', Barker 'd say, quite innocent, “Do I owe you a shillin': what was it for, now? I can't think.” “Me find um swag.” “But that's my swag. I put it there.” “Das right, boss. You been lose um camp, see?” Barker 'd barney over that for an hour sometimes, but he'd stump up at last. He lost a mint o' money that way.

Anyhow, ratty as he was, he hit on a good plan to steer by. When he'd come to his campin'-place he'd take his boots off, and leave 'em pointin' the right way. Then he could twist about as much as he liked takin' his swag off, and makin' preparations in gen'ral for the night. Till them boots was right, though, he darsn't turn, or he'd be flabbergasted altogether. In the mornin' everything must be shouldered for the track 'fore he dare step into 'em. Otherwise he might get turned pickin' up something. He did go without 'em wonst, and it wasn't till he'd picked forty or so thorns out o' his feet it occurred to him he was in the 'abit o' wearin' boots. A trav'ler fetched 'em along for him that time.

One night he 'ad to get up and go to the waterhole for a drink. That was the turnin'-point in his life. He put his boots on—it bein' the time snakes go picnickin' and matin'; and there's nothin' in the wide world that sets Barker's hair standin' on end more'n snakes.

When he got up next day the boots was facin' the waterhole.

“Dang it!” says Barker; “I didn't know I 'ad to cross that!”

But the boots pointed that way, so there was no get out of it. It was only fifty yards round that hole, but leather said cross it, and 'cross it went Barker—up to his neck. He felt miserable when he got out, for Barker wasn't used to bein' wet. So he stripped off to dry. When he was ready to start ag'in he found his compass 'ad gone bung once more. One boot pointed east, t' other west. “Now, which way am I goin'?” says Barker. He sat down to think it out. But it wasn't no use. Thinkin' made him giddy, and put


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him in such a gen'ral muddle that he lost sight o' what he wanted to think about. So he saw there was no help then but to wait till some one came along.

So Barker filled his pipe. He 'adn't 'ad a smoke that mornin', and his mouth was waterin'. Soon he was puffin' away big licks, and found it a good help to his brain. So he tried ag'in to think them boots the one way, and finished up with bandicootin' murphies in the old country. He was that disgusted that he grabbed the old clay-dabber to knock the ashes out, and then he saw as he'd never lit it. Barker saved a lot o' 'bacca in his time forgettin' the match part o' the performance.

As luck 'appened, a stockman came in sight about dinner-time. Barker cooeyed, and he came over. “ 'Scuse me,” says Barker; “would you do me a favor, mate? I'm a bit flummoxed.” “Certainly, old man—if it's not too much trouble. What is it?” “Ah, what is it? Lemme see—Oh! … Will you tell me where I'm goin' to, and oblige—yours sincerely” … Barker was workin' it off on his fingers.

“Why, strike me dead!” says the stockman to himself, “that bloomin' old fool's mad!”

“Where am I goin'?” asks Barker again.

“Off yer nanny,” says the stockman, riding off. “Keep straight on, and you'll not be long afore you're there.”

Barker chewed that over for an hour. One boot said east and one said west. Which was straight on? “Dang me if I don't go with Bobindie,” says Barker—he called one of them boots Bobindie. So he put Bobindie on and went west. That night he struck a dry gully, and near perished for want of water. “You're the devil's own,” says Barker. “To blazes with you!”

He got back next night—how, I dunno—and he says to the other boot, that he called Brian Boroo: “Brian,” he says, “we'll go east at your wish, and the Lord strike you blind if your designs be treacherous!” So he put on Brian Boroo and went east, leaving Bobindie to perish. He'd 'ave no more truck with that gentleman.

In three hours Brian Boroo kicked ag'in a slug o' gold, and


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Barker danced and howled in his delight. Before sundown he struck this one-'orse place where I'm treed now. But in Barker's eyes, with that slug shining in 'em, this miserable old creek was Heaven. So here he stuck. He was offered a tidy sum afterwards by a shindykit in the township to show 'em the spot where Brian hit the slug; but, Lor' bless you! by that time Barker knew as much of its whereabouts as a gorilla.

Anyway, he took the old blucher off, and knelt down 'fore the 'ouses and kissed him. “Brian Boroo,” says Barker, “you 're a brick!” So he pensioned him off straight away, and—well, there's the old fellow, snug and comfortable, in that glass case.

Me? Oh, I'm Barmy Barker.

E. S. SORENSON.

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