Chas Adlard, Australian Author


"She looked a bloody good sort to me, mate."

Blue Donavan nodded in agreement and took a long pull from the schooner in front of him. The cold beer was welcoming after the week's hard graft and he intended to sink more than a few.

"I reckon I might take her dancing again at that. She scrubbed up all right and for a sheila could tell a good yarn.

"That just about did it!"

Both the men swung around in astonishment. When they had entered the "Beyonya" hotel, the darkened bar had been quiet. They hadn't noticed the figure nursing a drink in one corner for their attention was set on the lanky barman and his beer. Beyonya's hotel was kept company by only one other building - a single bowser garage that sold, or rather could procure, almost anything, that is, if one had the patience to wait. Beyonya was isolated from the nearest town by eighty-seven kilometres and that urban place was no more than a gathering of shanties. The nearest city was two thousand plus kilometres away, which according to local folk was still too close for comfort. The last woman to enter Beyonya's hotel was 'ole man Duffy's wife who had cut her hand off while cutting wood for her stove. By all accounts Duffy himself had taken her to meet the Flying Doctor, that was, after he'd finished two more beers to complete the going "shout".

Blue Donovan and his mate, Lindsay Keaton, shuffled off their stools and more hastily removed their hats in deference towards the fairer sex.

"I beg your pardon, miss?" said Blue.

'Don't patronise me, you sexist lout.'

` "Eh?" said Lindsay. She'd lost him, and then some.

"Just hold on there, lady." Blue had the temper associated with his titian hair and his manners often complemented his disposition.

The lady in question was not to be put off by this outback bumpkin. "I might remind you that this is nineteen ninety-eight and not the early twenties."

"It is?" Lindsay shook his head in amazement.

"So what if it is?" returned Blue.

"So what.......?" Carol King was beginning to choke on the anger that welled up inside her chest. Her editor's discriminatory comments had ended abruptly within three short days after she'd joined the tabloid. The newspaper still employed her and she had gained respect not only for her stand on women's rights but also for her work. Carol changed tack. "Haven't you heard of a little thing called equality?"

"Can't say I have," said Blue. Subdued now by the question, he turned to the barman who had moved to a better position to watch the play. "What about you, Tiny? 'Ave you heard about equality?"

` "Nope."

"Me neither," put in Lindsay. He was not about to be left out of the fray.

"Oh, for God's sake".

"'Ere, watch your words, miss. Folks around here have respect for the Good Book and particularly the Lord's good name."

"Dead right, mate." said Blue.

"You're putting me on?" Carol found her confidence waning.

"Where d'you come from, miss?" Lindsay asked. He always was handy with the oil for troubled waters.

"Adelaide. Why?"

"No reason."

Blue wasn't going to let her off that quick. "Don't they have manners down that way then?"

"My manners aren't in question. Yours, however, are. Wasn't it you making sexist remarks about women in general?"

"I haven't a clue what you're talking about. I was having a private chat with my mate 'ere - until you butted in."

"Now who's being rude?"

"She's right, Blue," agreed Tiny.

"Yeah, mate." Not to be left out was Lindsay.

"Beers all round, I reckon?" Blue looked enquiringly at the young woman.

"Yes, that would be nice. Thankyou." The journalist's change in mood was prompted more by her reason for being in Beyonya and not by the charm of her new comrades. Lindsay did the necessary introductions before cross-examining Carol further about her life past, present and future. Amazingly the first hour saw only three more arguments start between Blue and the city journalist. Drinks were bought and sunk in rapid succession and Carol did her best to match the men schooner for schooner. Her attempts to lay money on the bar were refused gallantly by her companions which only increased her determination to be recognised as an equal. A group of stockmen arrived at the hotel and with them a truck driver who was transporting their cattle. None the wiser with the local custom he threw his smokes on the bar and straddled a stool.

"Not that one, mate," said Tiny. "That's for 'ole Reggie."

"Sorry, mate." Carol watched, amazed that the truckie didn't get dirty with the bar attendant. More determined now to make a stand she fixed her eye on a corner stool to her right. "Ah, ah", she thought.

"I wouldn't sit on that one, Miss Carol," said Blue.

"No way," said Lindsay.

"Oh, wouldn't you?" Carol fairly threw herself at the stool only to land breathless on her back.

"I must fix that leg," said Tiny. "Somebody will hurt themself one day."

"An' that's a fact, mate," mused Lindsay.

Refusing Blue's outstretched hand, Carol retired hurt in the direction of the ladies' toilet. This meant leaving the bar and circumnavigating the hotel. To the rear stood a rickety old convenience which offered the desperate relief. Shared by both the hotel and garage patrons, the outhouse was less than pristine. Clouds of flies bothered the fleeting visitors, hurrying them on their way. On her return to the bar, as she passed an open window, Carol heard the men inside swearing and cursing with fervour. Finally, she thought, they are acting like normal folk.

"Woman in the bar, lads," shouted Tiny. Immediately, voices lowered and the strong language ceased. Woman in the bar! Carol couldn’t believe her ears. Not only that but she had nearly landed on the floor again. As she had reached for the door, two men had spontaneously helped her entrance - albeit in perfect politeness. No story was worth this outrage. Five minutes later she was heading out of town.

Back in the pub Tiny was putting the old stool back in the cupboard.

"Thank God, she's gone", he said.

"Too bloody right, mate," agreed Lindsay.

"Rubber-necks. Who needs them?" said Blue.

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