One day when riding a little chestnut night-horse along beside a claypan on Cattle Creek I found myself in rather a dreamy mood. I had a short flat shovel in a saddle pack round her neck and was looking for young Bathurst burr needing to be dug out. It was an absolute pest and spread like wildfire if not controlled. Peggy, called after my black pony Peggy at Riverview, was hand reared (by bottle), another gift to us from a drover passing through and consequently very quiet. I hadn’t bothered about a saddle and all she had on was a thick flat felt pad for a seat covered in polished leather and complete with girth and stirrups. It was light for her but not particularly comfortable for me although Peggy was comfortably fat, so I elected to walk occasionally.
I’m afraid I was not looking where I was going because my eyes were searching for burrs and my feet went right through the undermined soil and into a fox warren up to the knee. There did not appear to be anyone at home so I backpedalled and circumnavigated the rest of the warrens on the bank of the creek. I mounted and rode on under the big river gums, still thinking of something else, and absent mindedly looking for burr. It was very pleasant beside the creek, warm and sunny and peaceful. But suddenly something funny happened. I found myself sitting on the ground in some sand. I was sitting in exactly the same position as when I’d been sitting on the horse, knees bent, legs curled, hands up as if holding the reins, quite unhurt but with no horse under me. Unaccountably she’d gone! I hadn’t even felt her go! I looked around and there she was about 10 feet away, snorting and puffing, reins dangling, ears pricked looking fixedly at some spot above my head. She must have moved like lightning.
I looked up. There hung the biggest goanna I’d ever seen. His front claws held on to a horizontal branch while his back claws scrabbled desperately for a hold to pull himself up again, and his tail lashed wildly from side to side. He looked about to fall on me instantly and I got out of there faster than I’d ever moved in my life before. It was not an attractive prospect having a large Goanna embracing your head. Well that wakened me up and I think Peggy and I were more alert for the rest of the afternoon. I know she saw a few more spooks before we arrived home and I was deadly careful of riding under trees for quite a long time afterwards. I had learned one useful lesson: don’t ever use a flat saddle pad – always saddle up to avoid unpleasant surprises – like being left behind when your horse goes somewhere else. Even the quietest of them can take fright. One might even meet another bad-tempered boar one day.