The Bolter and the Blackstump Bushies herded their borrowed cattle through gullies and plains for another day and a half. The Bolter was becoming more and more vexed, even at some times irked, with these bushies. They were a rowdy lot, if they were clever this would pass the time, but they were not the sharpest pencils in the kitchen drawer. All they seemed to speak about were past dalliances, rapes, murders, thefts, pub brawls, pub crawls, and other pub related activities.
The Bolter really liked hats, he'd never known why. Perhaps it was because in his life, the people in charge had good hats. Or maybe because his father had never worn one. Whatever the reason he really liked hats. A week ago he was admiring the hat he wore now. It was a fine wide brim, a small feather in the band. It made him feel relaxed.
He looked out over the bushies as they made their way to the meeting point. No hats worth the effort to speak of. Except one, that belonged to the bushies leader. The papers talked about the Blackstump Bushrangers as though they were some kind of mindless rabble, with no discernable goal. Obviously killing everyone they meet as a general principal muddied the waters a bit.
But this man had a nice hat.
At the going down of the sun, the group made camp. They knocked up a makeshift paddock for their bovine friends and killed one for tucker. The bushies were all getting into their food and their ample liquor supply, while only The Bolter and the bloke with a nice hat ate in silence.
"Hay ma't', djew wun a tipple?" asked a lout who had bumped into The Bolter, offering him a bottle and a metal cup, slopping gently as the man tried to stand up straight.
"Not for me mate, thanks for the offer. More for yourself eh?" The Bolter said pleasantly, trying to get rid of the annoying bastard as quick as possible.
"Fahkiiin... Yew Hazint tuctched a drop sins wi pickd yew ap, av ya? Yew musd bi dri az a ded dingos donga!" He laughed at his clever remark and pushed the cup closer to The Bolter, spilling his rum onto The Bolter's damper.
"There we go, bush rum cake. Now fuck off kindly, would you mate?"
"No wun tawlks tew mi lyk zat!" the lout shouted. The camp went quiet, watching them, "I waz only offering yew a dink, you cockfaced, magpie footed, large arsed cunt." The lout dropped his bottle and went for his pistol.
The shot rang out through the clearing. Everyone was silent as the lout dropped to the ground, gurgling, his chest bubbling hot and sticky blood.
The Bolter stared around, looking for where the shot had come from, when one of the lout's mates decided to have a crack as well. He whipped out his brand-new single action army, and put himself to the test.
The bloke dropped like the sack of shit that he was. The Bolter felt elated. His first gun fight and he came up roses.
"That's quite enough you lot. Back to your drinks!" Their leader, the man with the nice hat, roared.
Meekly the group, who were all looking confused and murderous returned to chatting.
Nice Hat walked slowly over to where The Bolter was sitting, checking his pistol and spinning the chamber.
"You're pretty good with that there iron," said the man in an odd accent.
"Ta. You shot this one?" The Bolter said kicking the lout in the face. He wasn't dead yet, blood gently steaming in the cool night.
"Yup." He spat on the man then put him out of his misery. The mist hung lazily in the air, bits of bone flying in every direction as the man's face was turned to slop, nose caved in like a dunny in a gale.
"What's your name, stranger?" asked Nice Hat taking a seat next to The Bolter, moaning under his breath as he lowered himself to the log.
"Don't have one," The Bolter replied tersely.
"Everyone has a name, son."
"I'm fairly forgetful," The Bolter blew his cheeks out, "I'd lose my toes if they weren't glued to my feet."
"Where'd you lose it?"
"If I knew that it wouldn't be lost would it?"
Nice Hat laughed, "Ain't that always the way? Herschel," he said offering a calloused hand, attached to a scarred arm. The laugh showed a few teeth missing.
"A pleasure, Hershy" The Bolter said taking the hand. The two squeezed firmly, The Bolter's many years working with wood and iron had given him an extraordinarily tight grip, but Herschel crushed it in his paw.