OF THE DAMNED
Conway, an early pioneer cattleman in outback Queensland, Australia, who, while
developing his vast cattle station, dies after ignoring warnings from the local
Aboriginal witchdoctor or Kadaicha that he and his family are trespassing on
sacred Dreamtime land.
's vision of bequeathing his cattle empire to his young son and descendants is
then thwarted at every turn.
story, set in the northwest of
in the 1880's near the fictional town of
, portrays the hard life of the early Australian pioneers such as William
Conway's, which his wife and small son endure after his death in a tragic
one hundred years later, after succeeding managers and lessees die in various
mysterious circumstances, the ghost of William Conway attempts to protect his
American grandson from the ancient Aboriginal curse after he arrives in
Australia to sell his inherited property. A cattle rancher himself, he decides
there’s only one thing to do before he returns to
… but he wasn’t counting on the curse descending on the new owners of
In Store Price: $AU22.95
Online Price: $AU21.95
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages:
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2005
journalist, businessman and entrepreneur, Richard Tomkies has travelled
extensively throughout a number of countries, including
United States of America
. He also lived in both of these countries.
has spent much of the last thirty-two years in the tropical north of
, and has visited all the areas mentioned in the book. Now retired, a great deal
of his time is spent writing and travelling throughout Queensland, researching
material for further books, two of which are due to be released in the near
High on the side of a mountain, outside a small
cave, Kargaru the Kadaicha, or Aboriginal witchdoctor, sat in his customary
cross-legged position under a large overhanging rock. This was his home for a
greater part of the year. From here he could look across the sacred valley of
the Dreamtime, the ancestral home of the Wollumbimbi tribe.
The hot Australian summer sun
beat mercilessly down from a cloudless blue sky. High above, a wedge-tailed
eagle soared, its sharp eyes ever on the lookout for its next meal.
A small lizard, its tail
flicking languidly, took refuge from the intense heat in the shade of a large
At the sloping base of the
high hill stood old and gnarled gum trees, their grey branches reaching tall.
Their leaves, which normally provided shelter to myriads of birds, now strangely
absent, drooped in the fierce heat.
Nothing stirred; even the
cicadas had ceased their constant trilling as though in anticipation of
Had he wished, Kargaru could
have looked out over the distant plain of tall brown grass, sparsely dotted with
eucalypt trees, the land scorched now by the relentless sun. But today his
concentration was centred on a small fire that burned at his feet.
The dark, fathomless eyes of
the witchdoctor glittered under hooded lids, his creased black face intense as
he chanted in a high-pitched monotone. From time to time he sprinkled into the
dancing orange flames something from a small animal-skin pouch – immediately
the flickering flames changed colour accompanied by a small puff of white smoke.
Picking up a long stick, the
old medicine man threw it onto the rocky ground and suddenly the stick was
transformed into a venomous snake, its body slithering quickly into the shade of
some nearby rocks, to pause momentarily, its beady eyes unblinking as its forked
tongue, flicking, tested the air.
With a deft movement, the
witchdoctor grabbed the snake behind its head, briefly holding the writhing
creature at arm’s length above the fire. He shook it, and instantly the
reptile became a stick once more.
The man then pointed towards
the blue sky above, his chanting increasing in intensity, while the bone and
feather amulet around his thin, wrinkled arm rattled as he shook the stick.
Suddenly, high above, black
thunderhead clouds began to form as if by magic, roiling up quickly and growing
larger, the ominous grey masses intensifying by the minute. Almost immediately,
vivid bolts of lightning began to flicker from the base of the dark clouds.
The valley below had been
sacred to the Aborigines of the area for hundreds of years and was their special
hunting ground. Kargaru was considered the guardian of the Dreamtime and this
particular sacred valley. Believed by the nomadic Aboriginal tribespeople to be
endowed with immense supernatural powers, the witchdoctor was held in high
The usual summer rains had
been late and the parched land was beginning to suffer from the effects of the
prolonged drought. However, all of this was secondary to the scrawny and nearly
naked man crouched by the small fire. His grey hair was decorated with bird
feathers, as was his remarkable footwear – remarkable inasmuch as, being made
from feathers as well as hair matted with human blood, they were designed to
leave no trace of footprints in the dust and dirt.
Sitting watching the
developing storm, Kargaru was remembering a particular vision he had had of
white ghost-like people violating his sacred valley. His memory covered aeons of
time but nothing like this had occurred before. His rage knew no bounds; he
would repel those who dared to trespass on the ancient and forbidden land of the
Wollumbimbi people’s ancestors …
A sharp crack from a jagged
bolt of lightning preceded an immense clap of thunder, reverberating around the
mountain. A sudden gust of wind picked up leaves and dirt from the sunburnt
ground and scattered hot ash and sparks from the fire across the rocky terrain,
heavy drops of rain beginning to beat down, heralding an imminent and violent
Suddenly, a black crow flew
up from beside the hissing fire, its discordant cawing accompanied by another
clap of thunder … Kargaru had mysteriously disappeared …
The heat from the early morning sun burned
relentlessly from the cloudless blue sky, but although it did not have quite the
ferocity of the recent tropical
summer heat, it was sufficient to cause the sweat to run down Bill Conway’s
Reining up his black mare,
, under the scant shade of an ironbark tree, the big, bearded grazier removed
his wide-brimmed felt hat and wiped beads of sweat from his face with a sleeved
Bluey, his faithful cattle
dog, flopped down in the welcome shade, his tongue lolling to one side, panting
heavily in an effort to keep cool.
Leaning over, Bill unclipped
a waterbag from his saddle to drink deeply of the cool water before dismounting
to pour some into his up-turned hat to offer to the mare, who nuzzled his hand
in anticipation and sucked the last available mouthfuls of the precious liquid.
He did the same for Bluey, who thirstily lapped it up. Refilling the hat Bill
offered it once more to
– it wasn’t much, but enough until they reached their destination.
The rider and his mount had
been travelling some three hours from the Mountain Valley Station homestead.
They had another two to go.
Looking about him, Bill swung
back into the saddle. He and
were atop a tree-covered ridge, which towered several hundred feet above the
open grassland below. Surveying a small part of his two-hundred-square-mile
property, Bill was filled with a sense of pride, for he and his wife
had worked hard and suffered many hardships over the last decade to develop
this property with its fertile land. The excellent grazing it provided carried a
fine but relatively small herd of
Ten years out of his
thirty-five, he thought. He and Elizabeth still had a long way to go. Now they
had a son and heir, William David Jnr, just six months old and growing fast. His
hopes for the future were that young William would one day be able to take over
this property and develop it even further.
Clucking softly with his
tongue, he gently nudged the mare’s flanks with booted heels to which
responded willingly, setting off at a fast trot, Bill sitting easily in the
saddle. Accustomed to riding many miles every day, he held the reins loosely in
one hand. The mare was as one with her master and reacted quickly to each and
every little knee pressure or softly spoken command. At her heels loped Bluey,
easily keeping up with his master and horse.
They were headed for the
wide, slow-flowing river that crossed the southern boundary of Mountain Valley
Station. Here Bill would camp the night after checking the boundary fence and a
small mob of some of his cattle. They never travelled far from water, as there
was plenty of good grazing in that area, the new fence forming the perimeter of
an approximate five-hundred-acre paddock helped contain a mob of yearlings to
this relatively small area.
The recent good season had
ensured the yearlings had put on weight. Not that Bill had a close or ready
market, but he had heard that beef was fetching a tidy sum further north on the
goldfields. However, he’d have to drive his cattle a long way to get them
there, and in the early 1880s, that was a dangerous thing to do, since the wild
Aborigines who inhabited the region made travelling, alone especially, an
extremely hazardous undertaking.
However, he’d had little
trouble with the natives in this area. He thought himself lucky that the tribes
that dwelt in the land in the region of
had been reasonably friendly.
Maybe, he thought, that had
to do with the way he treated them. One or two men, like Murrumba and Jacky, had
been persuaded to help him on the station, even though he had had to supply
their tribe with beef and a few luxuries like tomahawks, salt and even some
tobacco on occasion. Unlike a neighbour, old Tom Jenkins, whose homestead was
some 150 miles away and who had had trouble with wild blacks spearing and
killing his cattle, Bill had not had any problems with the Aborigines on his
land over the last few years. However, he always carried a heavy Snider rifle in
its saddle scabbard, and an old percussion cap Colt revolver at his waist. One
never knew when a firearm would be needed in this country, even if it were not
for protection from hostile Aborigines.
Later that afternoon, after
checking on his cattle while they trooped slowly down to the billabong for their
evening drink, Bill prepared his camp on a flat and grassy site near the
water’s edge, just as he had done on so many previous occasions.
Here the river curved in a
wide sweeping bend, the banks lined with graceful weeping ti-trees and paperbark
gums. The ti-tree fronds trailed in the deep dark water. This was the home to
several species of good eating fish, like the popular yellowbelly, and the shy
black bream. A meal of either always made a welcome change to the traditional
diet of salted beef.
Bill gathered some dry
firewood for his campfire after hobbling
, who then wandered off to graze on the long grass, lush after several months of
In no time he had the fire
going and, wandering down to the river’s edge just a few feet away, he filled
his well-used and blackened billycan to hang over the flames.
While waiting for the water
to boil to make his brew of tea, Bill spent some time throwing a baited hook and
line into the nearby deep billabong, or water-hole. It was a good way to spend a
few quiet minutes before having a meal, he thought. He usually got lucky with a
decent catch of fish, and this time was no exception; within a few minutes
he’d caught a number of pan-sized black bream. One or two, he considered, were
big enough to take home on the morrow after first salting them well.
Finishing his meal of fried
fish and damper, Bill settled back on his bed-roll to enjoy a freshly brewed,
black billy tea from his favourite but battered enamelled mug. Reaching into a
pocket, he pulled out a well-worn tobacco pouch into which he placed the bowl of
his beloved briar pipe. Filling it with the dark and aromatic contents, he
tamped down the shredded tobacco dexterously with a work-callused index finger
before lighting it with a burning twig from the fire. Giving it a couple of good
puffs, he glanced at the pipe, and, satisfied it was burning properly, gave a
contented grunt and settled back. He clasped his hands behind his head and
leaned back against a paperbark tree to watch the last of the setting sun’s
rays set fire to the western sky, filling it with streaks of red, gold and
yellow, promising another fine March day on the morrow, while his thoughts
turned towards his home and his wife and young son.
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