The Bushranger

The term bushranger is defined as being ‘an outlaw living in the bush’, or in America, ‘a person who has broken the law, especially one who remains at large or is a fugitive,’ with both of these definitions relevant to Joe’s situation. Living outside the law, Joe had been stripped of the right to live within society, to simply walk up Camp Street and visit James Ingram or to present himself at the Ovens District Hospital if he required medical attention. He may not have been forced by slavery and abuse like Michael Howe, Martin Cash or Matthew Brady, but his loss of liberty and the hunted existence he was forced to abide by was no different. This existence left Joe no choice but to creep along an old mining race in the dead of night like a bandicoot when he required clean clothes and a wash. It saw him being kept from the woman he loved, the tenderness of her touch and warmth of her bed, with each visit requiring him to risk his life. The comforts Joe once took for granted, like a plate of hot stew enjoyed beside the warmth of a fire, now required great risks to obtain, leaving him little choice but to again fill his belly with salted beef and cold sardines. The places he could safely rest varied from a spot on the ground, an abandoned hut, a cave or a hay stack. With nothing to escape the nightmare of reality but a bottle of gin and his opium pipe. Worst of all for Joe was the fact he now had to trust others with his life, made harder for Joe when so many people in the past had let him down.
Whether they robbed a mail coach or a bank. Whether they had escaped the horrors of a chain gang, the slavery of assignment or found themselves in conflict, made no difference. As each man was forced to live outside of society, with the fear of capture and death ever present.

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