I remembered a man named Foley who, because of his vocal powers, was known as Foghorn Foley. After a severe drinking bout at a race meeting of several days’ duration he went out to get his horses together. Over the three-day meeting they had wandered a bit further than usual. It would appear he had found some of them and rode out in search of the rest.
At the time he would have undoubtedly have been suffering from the effects of three days’ concentrated boozing, an occupation at which he was no mean exponent. He was in an area where it was almost an impossibility to get lost and was riding a horse that knew exactly where the nearest water was: a triangle formed by the Behn River, Stockade Creek and a road. He was familiar with both watercourses and the road, there were waterholes in both creeks (some of them never went dry). The furthest he could have got from water was no more than twenty-five miles.
Almost an impossibility to get lost. Almost. After his drinking session he would dehydrate very quickly, much quicker than normally, but even without the effects of his unrestrained carousing it is unlikely he would have survived. Probably the remarkable part is that he survived as long as he did.
He rode round for at least a day, perhaps longer; his tracks indicated that he travelled in a big circle and at one point was no more than five miles from a waterhole on Stockade Creek. One wonders how the unfortunate horse was feeling at that point.
I didn’t hear much of the details leading up to the finding of the body, but assumed someone had come along, noticed the camp and read the signs – not too difficult. If a bushman came to a camp that was deserted and there could be some doubt as to a man’s safety, he would take steps to ensure he was not in difficulties.
Foley’s tracks were followed without much difficulty; he was found no more than twenty miles from water, lying at the foot of a tree. His horse had died, too. It still had the saddle on, was hobbled and hitched to the tree under which he lay.
Had it been allowed, the horse would have taken him to water as straight as an arrow. Being bred and born in the bush doesn’t make a bushman. There is a sense some have; tragically, some think they have it and don’t. In addition to this indefinable sense the back up of common sense is necessary – and also sometimes sadly lacking.