Sardines and Salted Beef

For the past three weeks we have been camped up in the Warby Ranges, with a moss eaten cave becoming our home. The weather up here is nothing like it is down among the plains. The winds that flog the mountain side are unrelenting in their torment and not a day goes by when a fistful of dirt and dust is not blown into my eyes. Our provisions are brought to us by Tom Lloyd, Wild Wright and Dick Hart. The fare being mostly salted beef and sardines, with the odd tin of preserved sheep tongues added to the haul. I promise I am not an ungrateful cove, but I am sorely tired of this grub. Every day it is the same and the constant layer of salt that coats my gums has me retching. Worse still is the smell of fish that sticks to my fingers, and lingers, no matter how hard I bloody scrub. The damper that Neddy insists on making is almost entirely inedible, appearing more like a rough bit of granite than a piece of dough. Only yesterday a remainder of it was left out in the rain and when the shower had passed, the form of it were still the same. Danny reckoned we would not be needing weapons, for Ned’s baking was ammunition enough. It is a fortunate thing we have Steve, the whippet, for he is quite the baker. Says he learnt the trade while helping his Ma, which is a queer thing indeed. I have always seen the task as a woman’s job, like mending a cartwheel is to a man. I know that I should not be so quick to begrudge the whippet, for we have no one else to act as cook. Living as we do, as outlaws and outcasts, we are no longer afforded the pleasures of a hearth and a stew simmering over the flames. Even when granted such a pleasure, we can never fully be at ease. £8000 is a high price for any game young buck with a steady hand. Even the very act of changing clothes is now much sought after. Often I am left with no choice but to wear the same garments for days at a time, them being coated with dirt and reeking of nothing but campfire smoke and horse sweat. At the moment my grey tweeds are stiff with mud and the brine from a tin of sheep tongues I spilt while under the influence of drink. I am sure the damned things could stand on their own accord. To pass the time on this cursed rock, I spend most days reading and writing. Thankfully, the whiskey flows fairly freely up here, I will not lie, and I am never left in wanting of a plug of tobacco to pack my pipe with.

Image from Parks Victoria.

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