Now it’s candle-light, and I’m glad to say that a dragged-out Kemo Sabe is finally resting up beside us all, even the endearing Boy Named Jo who now lives downstairs. My, is she bush-whacked, achey and weak, especially in her poor hands; enough to make me cry. Kemo Sabe has certainly had an heroic week, and had to hang on in there much longer than she’d planned, as the construction of our beautiful new bunkhouse was real strenuous, that’s for sure. It took much much longer than even a real smart small spaniel like me ever expected, no matter what the boys might say, and a whole lot of nip and tuck was involved to get it all dandy-like. Newman watched from the window; Barnaby blamed the plans but I hung about helpfully, ferrying call-outs for hot drinks and heave-hos from Eats No Vegetables: I was always around. We told the other boys how we were getting on, night after night as we sat around the campfire, warming our mitts: they heard tell how she cut them logs herself, rolled them down the river and then cleaved them in two with that great big saw, then getting the whole darn thing to work as one. Lord, there was cussing and fighting when planks didn’t fit so well, but she’s as great a tailor as she is a faithful scout and one way and another it all looks dandy now, waiting for another coat of paint or two and a bit more studleying-up. From inside, where it’s warm, dry and insulated, comes the fragrance of coffee waiting for us cold and hungry wranglers; think I’ll take mine on my bunk, after that bowl of bacon and beans. Come on in, Berry; this is a fun place to shelter after a hard day’s graft.
Berry and I relax by the fire after an afternoon in which my tracking skills are singled me out for praise. It is good to be back in the bunk house again, making sense of it all in our dreams. Picture the scene: the rain, a leaden drizzle – the sort that quietly thunders, wets you through, especially when the wind is whipping you from the south- east on the way back to the cabin; chaps stick to thighs, and the saddlebag grows heavier as the Jonny waves roll in, trying to catch us out, and galloping Barnaby find himself up beyond his armpits in a raging torrent when a rocky shelf catches him out and he slips in. The slinky arms of the waves reach intently for our ankles and drive us up to the foothills, the yellow bluffs thrown into relief by the slaty sky. Wet is everywhere, like a desert: beneath, behind, beside, above, against us. The sand, ever softer and softer as we run from the sea, eats up our footprints as it reaches up and draws us prospectors in. Can we escape? Can we outrun the desperadoes? Overhead hundreds of buzzards watch our halting progress, screaming ‘Vamoose, you varmints!’ Out in front is Kemo Sabe with faithful Has Extra Yogurt alongside on a lariat. Eyes to the ground, they doggedly stride along and disappear from sight. I, brave deputy, alone can see that the rearguard, No Vegetables Woman and Jumps Too High, have stopped following the party and taken a shortcut up the gully by the stream to the track beyond the stockade. What peril is this? The gang driven apart? Oh no! Resolute as ever, this dude hunkers down, galloping off in pursuit of them, ululating wildly and continuously to alert the others but without much success. I continue to signal distress and disunity and soon Kemo Sabe understands, when my purposeful ride finally makes sense. My frenzied message conveyed, its meaning clear, the vanguard turns and follows me as I lead them on the others’ trail: now we must catch them up – it is all drama here! A threesome again, we finally spot the others near the railroad, but far off in the drizzle. Hard riding and hot pursuit reunite us all eventually and we make it back to the range where good stew and hot coffee await. Faithful scout indeed!