‘Emphatic’ – we were underway at 8 sharp. There wasn’t fuss or much in the way of talk. Everyone just got up, packed up and saddled up. An orderly pace line chasing down the last leg of the trail.
A longish 50km kind of day with bail points on route should sons have lost their puff. They didn’t.
Passing the settlements of Kokonga, Tiroiti, and then the first fang of the Rock and Pillar range. An eternal. An old place with a reach of stone protruding through the skin of tussock and raw, like the petrified bones of a beast long past.
That beast a barrier, a vertical wall on our western flank for the remainder of the day. A day warm, and getting warmer with a wind steady and strong.
The chase became race
Onward we rode south on the Strath Taiere plain, but the pace didn’t falter, it became a fever, a madness, our chase became a race. With Middlemarch appearing in the distance the boys broke order and bolted. First Joe, then Timmy, Mike and Flynn with a Tigre at tail. We all arrived in as much of a screaming muddle as when we first started days before, but for Sons and Men is was a fine way to finish.
There was no more riding, no more instruction, grind or crackle. There was only one more thing to do – “who wants ice cream?”
The curtain lowers
Winds bring change and with it weather. So with ice cream in hand we watched as the cloud gathered and fell hard against rock and pillar like crumpled theatre curtains drawing in the stage. Soon Sarah came into sight… still running the trail past old red rails and lonely wagons into a still and quiet Middlemarch. The last of the dusty champion and a fitting end to the show. ‘Well done Mrs Healy.’
Then they were gone, all gone. In that same continuous chatter back up the road from whence they came. Leaving Horse and I at camp under a heavy sky opening with the first wave of passing showers.
We spent the evening at the Strath Taiere pub, listening to the drawl from a ruddy crowd of local farm hands gathered as a swarm around the bar. Horse and I ate and quietly discussed the route ahead. He ordered seconds, I looked out the door as a second and third wave of rain washed through.
“Gonna be wet tomorrow Horse.” I said. He glanced over towards the door between open bites of his steak and onion sandwich. “Yeah”