In the shadowy hills below Mount Kosciusko
the Crackenback Creek flows and swells.
It’s the Kingdom where wild silver brumbies reside –
where the heir of the great Thowra dwells.
The descendants of Golden, the creamy-gold mare,
and of Bel Bel, run playful and free.
Thowra’s grandson is now the new King of Cascades –
Cobra leads his small herd gallantly.
Fillies nibble on snow grass, so tender and lush.
In the candle barks, foals play and hide.
In the snow gums they’re camouflaged – white, silver, grey –
like the phantoms of Thowra they glide.
They are watched by some possums and kangaroos too,
and a wombat cub strolls down the track.
Cobra guards his small herd while the mares and foals sip
a cool drink from the sweet Crackenback.
But the peaceful day’s dreaming is shattered by guns,
and the magpies burst out of the trees,
then the grey stallion roars as he breathes in the scent –
the foul odour – of Man, on the breeze.
Sudden panic takes hold of the wild brumby’s heart.
Cobra screams out his trumpeting cry,
calling, “Run to the rough granite country above,
to the Ramshead, majestic and high!”
Fourteen men hunt on horseback, crack menacing whips,
form a net ’round the small brumby herd,
and the dust forms a cloud, gun shots roar, fillies scream.
The wild horses are trapped, vision blurred.
There’s the thunder of hoof beats, eyes rolling in fear,
and the shrieking of white cockatoos.
The mares twist and they buck, but the foals can’t escape
from the whistle and jerk of lassoes.
The men laugh as they capture the frightened young foals,
but they let the old mares get away.
Someone singles out Cobra and twirls his lasso.
Cobra ducks and he turns with a neigh.
As he rears on his haunches and strikes at the man,
Cobra bellows his challenging calls,
but the man pulls a gun, so the stallion retreats
and he flees for the Crackenback Falls.
The two gallop across the exposed Brolga Flats,
and they speed past the old Cascade Hut,
along Yarraman’s Valley and up Dead Horse Ridge,
to ravines near the South Ramshead Butt.
The grey stallion is struggling and showing his age,
and he’s gasping to draw every breath.
But the man keeps on chasing, his horse young and strong –
to keep fleeing would cause Cobra’s death.
Cobra slides to a halt and he spins right around –
lunges hard at the horse in pursuit.
In surprise, the mare slips and she staggers and trips.
The man pulls out his rifle to shoot.
Cobra strikes and he bites with a guttural roar,
a tornado of muscle enraged,
and the man tumbles off as the mare falls and rolls –
now a face-to-face battle is waged.
The man jumps to his feet and he grabs up his gun,
hot adrenalin fizzes his blood.
Cobra rears up above him with threatening hooves,
then he thumps to the ground with a thud.
The young man is aware he could kill this proud horse
with the slightest hair touch on the trigger,
but the horse too, could strike out that large deadly hoof
with the speed of a cobra’s cruel vigour.
Two opponents confronting, defiant and strong,
neither yielding, despite their fatigue.
Sudden calm then descends like a blanket of peace.
The bush creatures look on, in intrigue.
All is still in the mountains. Their swirling eyes glare
and lock on, in a battle of wills.
Then a feeling of ‘knowing’ takes over the man.
Knowing what though? He shivers with chills.
Cobra’s breathing is hard, nostrils flare with each breath,
blowing steam like the smoke from cigars.
The man sees Cobra’s coat isn’t sleek like he thought –
he is covered in old battle scars.
They are trophies of combat, the proof that he’d won –
like the notches in wood rifle butts.
He’d defended, protected and fought for his mares.
The man knew that this stallion had guts.
Cobra’s face bears a scar, like a grey lightning bolt.
Something clicks in the man’s stirring mind,
and his memory searches events of his youth –
there is something it’s needing to find.
The man sees a long scar down the old horse’s ribs,
from the girth, all the way to his flank,
like he’d ripped wide apart, but the scar had been stitched.
He remembered – and then his heart sank.
The man’s mind went back twenty-odd years, maybe more.
He was pulled back through time with a jolt,
to when he, as a boy, had watched Dad breaking in
a young fiery, dappled grey colt.
As a youngster, he fancied that he and the horse
were connected in some special way.
He would feed the horse apples when Dad wasn’t ’round –
he admired that stubborn, steel grey.
But the colt wouldn’t break – he would buck till he dropped.
Every day brought the same brawling fight.
Then his flesh hooked on wire as he bucked round the ring.
He tore open – a sickening sight.
The men roped him and tied him and stitched the beast up,
but he still wouldn’t yield to the men,
so they opened the gates, with his Dad gripped on top –
like the devil, he burst from the pen.
His Dad’s plan was to ride him until he gave in,
but the colt threw Dad off, boots and all.
Cobra posed on the waterfall, brave and strong-willed,
and he roared his invincible call.
So Dad tracked him with vengeance – he wanted to beat
that unbeatable grey renegade,
then Dad planted a .44 slug in his chest.
The colt fell, and washed down the Cascade.
He despised his own Dad for that cruel, hateful act,
because HE could have tamed him, he knew!
There were tears on his pillow for months from that day,
and the time – then till now – quickly flew.
As he slowly returns to the present he sees
the same horse, but no longer steel grey –
Cobra’s mane and tail glisten and float like white mist,
with the sparkle of waterfall spray.
He is silver as angels in snow covered hills.
The old horse is no longer a colt,
but a platinum Stallion, majestic and proud,
and his beauty strikes home with a jolt.
What a miracle! Cobra survived through the odds.
Through those hard times, new strength he had found.
He’d been shot in the chest, and crashed over the falls,
and yet still that young colt hadn’t drowned.
The man flinches – the tall silver brumby steps close,
then the tension just vanished somehow.
Cobra’s breathing has steadied, his eyes mellowed soft,
in submission, his head’s lower now.
The old stallion remembers! The man is aghast –
and an apple, he pulls from his shirt.
As he holds out the apple, the tall brumby chomps,
and the juice dribbles down to the dirt.
Yes, there WAS a connection between boy and horse,
a remarkable friendship so rare.
The old brumby remembered the only kind soul
who had taken the time out to care.
In those beautiful moments between boy and colt –
now the man and the stallion as well –
the two friends felt the magic of trust in their hearts,
and they both felt their beating heart swell.
All is well in the foothills of Crackenback Range –
there’s alliance between man and beast.
In the Kingdom where snow grass and candle bark grow,
brumbies wander to north, south or east.
The descendants of Thowra – grey, silver or cream –
they are welcome to run wild and free,
and old Cobra, the platinum King of Cascades,
proudly leads his small herd gallantly.
© by Kym Eitel