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eSwag-18

I'VE GOT A MAN CRUSH ON BEN HALL

Posted on June 9, 2012 by
Raymond
on the road at
Grenfell. NSW

 

Some kilometers past the New South Wales town of Grenfell; where the alcoholic and roaming poet Henry Lawson was born, is a road sign to the cave of bushranger Ben Hall. I have reluctantly passed it a number of times and did so again, before pulling up a hundred meters down the road and returning.  

Lawson's Norwegian father brought his family to the Grenfell goldfields to prospect. Ben Hall was there to rob the stage coaches. So successful was he that Cobb & Co published their timetables with the caveat 'Ben Hall Permitting.'

Now here is an admission. I think I have a man-crush on Ben Hall. He joins a select group. Paul Keating and Bjorn Borg are the others. You can learn a lot about a man from the men he has a man-crush on. Also about his self-perception. I have always seen myself somewhere between Borg's brooding intensity, Keating's sense of decorum and Ben Hall's boyish charm. With a touch of Oscar Wilde thrown in.

There's nothing serious between me and Ben Hall but just about everything about him thrills me. The way he reprised Robin Hood by never robbing the poor. The way he held up pubs, shouted the bar and then settled the bill as he rode off.

The way he led the colonial fuzz on a merry chase until, ambushed by them at 27 years of age and shot in the back as he made his escape, he shouted 'I am wounded ... shoot me dead.'

They were happy to oblige, 30 times with double-barrelled shotguns and .56 calibre Colt rifles. 

Ben was the classic wronged outlaw. I've written about him more in my book and so, unlike the police, will keep my powder dry.

Under Wedden Mountain where Ben Hall hid in caves, Tommie and I make our first camp. It is as beautiful a place as I could have hoped. Amongst the native pines of the state forest, I get a fire going and cook my favourite pasta. It is bloody cold and gets colder as the night goes on. By 6pm I am thinking about bed. Instead I just load the fire up.

When Tommie jumps into the back of the troopy I ascend into the penthouse. I love it. No more than that. I adore it. I am up amongst the trees and warm despite leaving the windows down. There is a moment of exquisite realization that I am a traveller. The roost has roosted. The bird has flown.

I drift off into western plains slumber. It is so quiet that different gusts of wind play distinguishable tunes on the pines and gums.

In a very manly way I imagine Ben Hall sleeping on a bed of leaves, his virile odour wafting from tight bush-ranging muscles encased in equally tight horse-riding pants as moonlight touches his powerful yet sensitve face. Whoops! That just slipped out. 

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I am hesitant to tell the next story. You might remember Swagman John who emerged on the highway just seconds after my acceptance of leaving my home. On this, my first full day on the road he was packing up camp just near West Wyalong. 

As we share a cup of tea I don't bother to try and calculate the impossible odds of meeting him like this again. 

John could not be described as a 'people person'. Conversation is almost impossible so it is best to sink into the moment. He is deeply comfortable with it while I fight it like quick sand.

'Where you heading?' ... 'Queensland' ... 'What part?' He just shrugs his shoulders. Well it was a stupid question. 

 

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Three days later and I am within range of Alice Springs. With light fading I turned off the road to find a camp. Amongst the mulga forest a single tree was lit so beautifully that at first I missed the two wild goats that scrambled away, leaving their new born kid. The poor little beast stood quivering with new life, an umblical cord dangling still, Tom and I its first human and canine visions.

It wobbled back to the mob like a daddy long legs on downers as the frantic parents bayed, if thats what goats do, from a distance.

 

 

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So we are into the journey.

A desert goat has its life ahead of it. John walks the road in deepest silence. Tom's life is bordered by the narrow but rich world of food and love.

In the morning I turn the ignition key and have a sense that I am living in my life, for better or worse.

Ben Hall is long dead but his legend lives. Henry Lawson's words are always hereabouts:

“Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways,

And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low,

I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not,

And restless and lost on a road that I know.”

c ya

Raymond

PS. I would ask all my male readers, in the spirit of openness, to share their man-crushes. 

Comments
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Stuart Whitelaw
Reply
Raymond, I am with you with Ben Hall. We were in Canowindra recently, and walked over the swinging bridge to what we had thought was the site of Ben Hall's famous pub lock in. There is now a plaque saying 'we got it wrong- it's back in the town'. It was Robinson's Hotel and is on the site of the current Royal Hotel, right on the bend in beautiful Gaskill Street. Luckily this hotel escaped the decorating and modernising efforts of my parents. Dad was a tiler and would travel to country towns to retile the pubs (for obvious reasons his speciality). Mum would get out graph paper, search out all the leftover tiles lurking in the shed, and create Mondrian like patterns for their front walls. I shudder to think of the wonderful 1880's tiles that were chipped off the walls! So, Raymond as you travel the country, keep your eyes peeled for remnants of my Dad's work, mostly in Central NSW. As for man crushes, and I truly hesitate to put this on record, it's Paul McCartney. I was sure we would meet and change the world together.
Raymond
Reply
Hi Stu. You should do a LOT more than hesitate to mention it. You should NEVER mention it. I will pretend that you never said it and I'll ask everyone to do the same. Even Ringo would be better than him. I'll look at for your Dad's work though even if I am a little disappointed in you. R
Rosa
Reply
Your sense of freedom comes across so well. Good on you!
Raymond
Reply
Hi Rosa. Freedoms just another word for nothing less to lose. Never quite knew what that meant. Until now.
christa walsh
Reply
Lovely . . sounds like you are becoming more present to yourself and the song of pines and sweet goats wandering new born wobbly . Robert Dessaix said once that in travelling he tuned in more deeply to himself and all around him. It's like John's silence and the excitement of moving along a landscape aloneuninterupted aware . uuuumm inspiring stuff you are 'being' . c
Raymond
Reply
And where are you. Somewhere in Western Australia I think. I like Robert Dessaix. and Nicholas Rothwell. Another great writer of things outback and Australian. R
christa walsh
Reply
As you are probably singing the stones there , I have hit the red dust in Derby . . . seen the horses training on the beach at Broome,adventures in Tom Price , Karrijini , marvellous . Enjoy your week . c 
Alynn
Reply
I don't take quite enough medication to entirely stop my OCD, so (as a Grenfell landowner) I must point out that it's the 'Weddin Mountains', not 'Wedden Mountain'. (And I think you'll find that it's 'nothing left to lose' not 'less'. You really do need an editor, despite what you think. Mr Hall was quite a spunk, wasn't he? As man crushes are the only sort I've ever had, I think I'll keep them to myself ... Enjoy the journey. Luv, A.
Raymond
Reply
Its ALAN not Alynn. No wonder I left the Sydney Opera House.
Alan
Reply
"It's" not "Its". So go and get stuffed. People like you who have always had a smooth ride simply don't understand how hard it is to be Alynn. And Grumpy. And Gay ... one day at a time; day after day ... Love to Tommie. I'm sure he takes people as they are, without judging.
Barbara
Reply
My man crush, personality wise, is Daryl from Oodnadatta. Can't get enough of him. Will we ever get to see him? Is he as rugged and virile as he sounds? Is he an extreme exfoliator? Great that your adventure is going so well Ray but it can't be easy. Reading your blog makes me feel we are there, it is fantastic.
Raymond
Reply
HI Barb. Daryl might be coming to my book launch. I have mentioned it before but he is my Life Coach and I think it best that he be there.
Anne Looby
Reply
Love the Henry Lawson...love your journey...love the image of Ben's tight riding pants...the wobbly goat...most of all love your expression of the journey. And ... you're bloody hilarious. x
Raymond
Reply
Don't you like the photos?
SHANTIEMAN DAVIE
Reply
Good to hear that your first week went well in your now full time status as seven days and seven nights Swagman without a day off. Nothing ain't worth nothing less its free. You stay off the beaten track my friend. King Kong was the man for me.
Raymond
Reply
King Kong. Now there's a curve ball. I guess he was kind of cute. Sort of. c ya Raymond
jilltaylorking
Reply
You took me out of suburbia and to the open space where I was with nature - the breezes through the leaves ...October sounds good for the book launch ! c u j
Raymond
Reply
Off on the Desert Choir tomorrow. Good luck with the wedding. Rx
Catherine Horan
Reply
G'day Raymond.I also thought it was 'nothing left to lose' so I'm glad someone else has pointed you in the right direction. Was Ben Hall a Gentleman Bushranger? I'm sure he was more manly in the flesh but that photo makes him seem a little ... dandyish perhaps? When (and where) is the book launch, I too want to meet Daryl from Oodnadatta.I'm really glad you're sharing this experience.
Raymond
Reply
Hey Catherine. Just back into range from a Desert Choir. Not sure if Ben was the Gentleman Bushranger. Dont think so. He was a country bloke.People turned up from everywhere for hus funeral in Forbes. The book launch has a date now - Oct 11 2012. Daryl is riding a bull down and is starting tomorrow. I am going to send you a sneak preview of his latest. c ya Raymond
Alynn
Reply
Thanks for backing me up Catherine, but there really is no way to point Raymond in the right direction. We're wasting our time. It seems from what I've read, that several bushrangers were known as "gentlemen", and the legends get intertwined. (Thunderbolt was also credited with good behaviour and shouting a round at the pub, and there are several romantic versions of Hall's death.) I suspect you have ruined Ray's man crush by using the word "dandyish"; but then again ... Cheers, A.
Margaret
Reply
Ohhhhh Raymond, you do make me laugh out loud.....just love your blogs.
Raymond
Reply
Hey Margaret. Just back from the Desert Choir. Glad you are with us. Raymond
Max Ross
Reply
Today my dad and I were talking about family history. Surprisingly, Ben Hall Is My Great Great Uncle. By the picture you have posted on Ben Hall, My dad said he looks very similar to my Grandad and himself. 22 years old I am and I wished I knew this during high school, english/history assignments. I Think by hearing a few stories and reading your article that I think he's a sensational cool person. Cool of you also to have written this. Have a great day!
ken goodsell
Reply
there is a story that a Jones (nee Goodsell) woman had an 'involvement with Ben Hall, and is reputed to habe 'managed' or 'laundered' the takings from his roberies. A lot of goodsells were in the Grenfell area, including my grand parents.