I’ve never been a thief.
That’s if you don’t count me and Barry McGowan sneaking into the Fettler Foreman’s tent and taking a pouch of tobacco when ! was thirteen. Unforunately when we lit up it made us sick and we couldn’t understand what the fuss about tobacco was all about.
Except I have been a thief.
I was going to the bus after a day at Glen Innes High School and noticed a purse lying in the gutter. My first thought of course was to hand it in, but I was late for the bus, and I didn’t know where to hand it in, so I thought I’d keep it to hand in at school next day.
So I secreted the purse and got on the bus, and after all the kids had got off except me and my brother I sauntered up the back of the bus and discreetly opened the purse.
Ten Pounds! I’d never seen ten pounds! A fortune…and I realised later that it was someone’s whole week’s pay. That has plagued me ever since. Later I just knew that she (whilst there was no name in the purse, blokes didn’t carry purses, so she was a she) got home on Friday night …waited with trepidation until the 6 o’clock swill finished then had to face him when he came home and demanded her week’s takings…oh…the nightmare! It’s awful!).
I didn’t know what to do. I’d toyed with the idea of keeping 10 shillings…but 10 pounds! What would you do? I wanted ten shillings, it was 3 month’s pocket money. So I did what anyone would do…I selected a spot on Bolivia Hill near where I rode mustering sheep on the weekend, and threw the purse and its 10 pounds out of the bus window; and hid the 10 shillings in my sock.
The next day at school I made a heap of my mates and myself sick with condensed milk I had bought at the tuckshop, (condensed milk being all the rage at the time, for those with obscene supplies of pocket money)…and found that friendships tend to evaporate away from largesse now exhausted.
Never mind, come the weekend I would suddenly develop a whole new batch of friends with my new-found Bolivia Hill wealth, after I recovered it.
So I rode up Bolivia Hill, to the spot I’d carefully marked in my mind…and searched…and searched to no avail. Then I realised that some thieving mongrel must have noticed the purse lying on the side of the road and half-hitched it in a scream of smoking brakes and excitement.
I can only hope he had the moral fortitude to hand in that purse. Somehow I console myself with that hope.
When I told this tale to my Father some years later he groaned and complained that I should have reported it to him. He! Of the long line of drunkard gambler ne’er-do-well gold-miners. Would he have handed it in? Ha I laugh! The 10 pounds was much safer with my benefactor on Bolivia Hill.