A Digger Hunt
A DIGGER HUNT
“Joe, Joe!” No one in the world can properly understand and describe this shouting of “Joe”, unless he were on this El Dorado of Ballarat at the time.
It was a horrible day, plagued by the hot winds. A blast of the hurricane winding through gravel pits whirled towards the Eureka this shouting of “Joe”.”Joe!” It was the howl of a wolf for the shepherds, who bolted at once towards the bush: it was the yell of bull-dogs for the fossikers who floundered among the deep holes, and thus dodged the hounds: it was a scarecrow for the miners, who now scrambled down to the deep, and left a licensed mate or two at the windlass. By this time, a regiment of troopers, in full gallop, had besieged the whole Eureka, and the traps under their protection ventured among the holes. An attempt to give an idea of such disgusting and contemptible campaigns for the search of licences is really odious to an honest man.” Some of the traps were civil enough; aye, they felt the shame of their duty; but there were among them devils at heart, who enjoyed the fun, because their cupidity could not bear the sight of the zig-zag uninterrupted muster of piles of rich-looking washing stuff’, and the envy which blinded their eyes prevented them from taking into account the over-whelming number of shicery close by, round about, all along. Hence they looked upon the ragged muddy blue shirt as an object of their contempt.
Are diggers dogs or savages, that they are to be hunted on the diggings, commanded, in Pellissier’s African style, to come out of their holes, and summoned from their tents by these hounds of the executive? Is the garb of a digger a mark of inferiority ‘in sudore vultus lue vesceris panem’. In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread, is then an infamy now-a-days!
Give us facts, and spare us your bosh, says my good reader. — Very well.
I, Carboni Raffaello, da Roma, and late of No. 4, Castle-court, Cornhill, City of London, had my rattling “Jenny Lind” (the cradle) at a water-hole down the Eureka Gully. Must stop my work to shew my licence. “All right.” I had then to go a quarter of a mile up the hill to my hole, and fetch the washing stuff. There again— “Got your licence?” “All serene, governor.” On crossing the holes, up to the knees in mullock, and loaded like a dromedary, “Got your licence?” was again the cheer-up from a third trooper or trap. Now, what answer would you have given, sir?
Our red-tape, generally obtuse and arrogant, this once got rid of the usual conceit in all things, and had to acknowledge that the digger who remained quietly at his work, always possessed his licence. Hence the troopers were despatched like bloodhounds, in all directions, to beat the bush; and the traps who had a more confined scent, creeped and crawled among the holes, and sneaked into the sly-grog tents round about, in search of the swarming unlicensed game. In a word, it was a regular hunt. Any one who in Old England went fox-hunting, can understand pretty well, the detestable sport we had then on the gold fields of Victoria. Did any trooper succeed in catching any of the “vagabonds” in the bush, he would by the threat of his sword, confine him round a big gum-tree; and when all the successful troopers had done the same feat, they took their prisoners down the gully, where was the grand depot, because the traps were generally more successful. The commissioner would then pick up one pound, two pounds, or five pounds, in the way of bail, from any digger that could afford it. or had friends to do so, and then order the whole pack of the penniless and friendless to the lockup in the camp. I am a living eyewitness, and challenge contradiction.