Our stay in Australia
was marked with financial success as well as very
pleasant business acquaintances with Australian
people. They always extended us a hearty welcome. I
never was in a country where they were as fond of
athletic sports, horse racing, rowing, cricket, etc.
The bathing beaches of Australia had to be guarded
by driving piles around them to keep the bathers out
of the jaws of the sharks. On going up the coast of
Australia on our way to Java we had some strange
experiences. At one point, which was the land end of
the cable, was a small settlement where people in
the employ of the cable company lived, and at the
time we were there, living out about half a mile,
were quite a number of aborigines. The climate being
very warm, they did not require much clothing, but
when any of them had occasion to come into the
station, they would take a coffee sack, cut a hole
in the centre to push their head through, and holes
in either corner for their arms, and with this for
clothing they were permitted to come in. On their
return they would loan it to another native, which
usually kept it in use.
At a place called McKay, I remember one black chap
coming down to our steamer wearing a brass plate
about the size of half the head of a barrel, on the
plate being engraved and inlaid with black letters:
"Jimmie Strongstink, King of Patrick's Plains". It
was hung around his neck by a chain, and was
presented to him by some of the boys about town as a
joke. But he would call attention to it and point to
it with great pride.
There was a Mr. Robinson, a cannon ball performer,
whom we heard of in Australia. They used to tell
about his wonderful strength, etc. One of his tricks
he used to do when he took offence at the people of
the music halls where he was working. All the music
they had was a piano, so when he was offended in any
way, in the course of his act he would use one of
the cannon balls to smash the piano, putting it out
of business, he claiming it to be an accident.
At one time on our trip along the coast of Australia
we had to wait for the tide to come in to get us
over a bar. I asked if I could go ashore in the
wilds to shoot a kangaroo and the captain consented,
saying he would have the whistle blow every little
while so I would not lose my direction. After being
ashore awhile I shot a kangaroo and dragged it down
to the steamer, where it was taken aboard. Everybody
had a look at it. The captain finally ordered the
men to take it back to the cook. Some of the women
folks asked what was to be done with it, and he
answered, "Cook it and eat it." They all exclaimed
that they wouldn't eat it. He told them that it was
very nice. The next night after dinner the captain
and everybody were on deck and feeling very happy,
when he asked them how they liked the dinner. They
said very well. "How did you like the soup?" "Fine!"
Then he told them it was kangaroo soup. So they had
eaten kangaroo soup without knowing it.
On this trip we stopped at Cookstown, and the only
ground we found large enough on which to erect our
tent was down at the edge of the water. Our tent
extended on the beach and before the performance was
finished the tide had come in, and there were our
seats standing in the water. It was my second
experience of that kind. The other was at
Shreveport, Louisiana, when the river was very low,
and we erected our tents on the river bottom.
We gave a circus performance at Cookstown. Our
troupe was made up of first class artists, but the
only music we had was an old fashioned hand organ.
It was really comical to see it, but everybody
seemed to enjoy it.