Nat Gould

His life and books

Brody's Buckjumper


By Nat Gould

Jim Brody was a small man with a large temper kept well under control, and of a determined mind. “Hasty Jim” the hands on Barraba station called him. Despite his temper, Jim Brody was popular. He was always reliable, and a staunch friend, but at the same time not a man to be trifled with. Perhaps the reason of Brody's popularity lay in his skill as a horseman, for the men of the West love a bold dashing rider. There were many horses on Barraba station difficult to handle, but Jim Brody was master, and they knew it. There was no chance of waging war successfully with “Hasty Jim”, as many a furious and defeated buckjumper had discovered.

One horse on Barraba station had earned for himself the title of “Brody's buckjumper”. It came about in this wise. When they were breaking in several horses picked out of a mob at Barraba there was one fine dark bay that resisted all attempts to mount him. Jim Brody had not been at Barraba more than a month, and had very little chance of showing his prowess in the saddle during that time. As one rider after another tried to tame this refractory steed Jim Brody stood looking on with a quiet amused smile that exasperated all hands. What business had this little man to take a rise out of the best boundary riders on Barraba in this manner?

Henry Mace, owner of Barraba station and the stock thereon, watched Jim Brody, and thought he detected by the flashing of the small man's eyes that he meant business, given the opportunity. He determined his new hand should have his chance.

“What's amusing you, Brody?” said Henry Mace.

“I'm always a bit tickled,” said Jim, “when I see a horse master a man. It's really fun when the brute masters all the riders at Barraba. Makes a chap wonder where they received their education.”

“Do you think you can mount that bay horse,” said Henry Mace quietly.

“Certain,” said Jim.

“I'll give you a fiver if you mount him,” said Mace, “and I make it a tenner if you tame him.”

“Mean it?” said Jim.

“Genuine,” said Mace with a smile. “Will yon try?”

“Yes,” said Jim, “if the other fellows don't object,”

Henry Mace shouted to the men.

“I've got a man here who says he can mount that horse and tame him. Let Jim Brody have a turn at him.”

The men laughed, and seemed to think they were in for some fun. The buckjumper had given them more than enough. They were quite willing to watch Jim Brody hurled into space, if he succeeded in mounting the horse.

They stood round Jim Brody, and encouraged him with sundry sarcastic remarks.

“Hope you'll find it as easy a job as climbing into your bunk,” said the crack rider of the station who had failed to mount the horse.

“You're a good plucked 'un, little man,” said another. “Leave me your money before you try this job on.”

Jim Brody smiled and said: “I'll just show you big chaps what a little man can do. I've ridden a heap of bad horses in my time, and this will make one more.”

“Give him a fair chance, men,” said Henry Mace, “He looks a good man for a tough job. I've promised him a fiver if he mounts him, and another fiver if he tames him, and now I'll throw him the horse into the bargain.”

“Bravo,” shouted the men. “Go in and win little man.”

Jim Brody was as active as a cat on a tiled roof during its early morning explorations.

The horse stood saddled and bridled in the stock yard. It was a genuine colonial saddle, Jim saw that at a glance, and he knew he would have a fair chance as far as the gear was concerned.

The horse snorted as Jim approached him and trembled in every limb. Brody had a slight advantage over the animal, as the horse had been knocked about considerably during the morning's work.

Jim had no sooner taken hold of the saddle than the horse turned round quickly and sent him sprawling on to the ground. Loud laughter greeted Jim Brody's discomfiture.

At the sound of the laughter Jim clenched his bands, and his teeth met with a click, but he said never a word, only there was a dangerous light in his eyes that boded no good to the horse.

Jim again approached the horse cautiously, and when near his head hit him a smart blow on the nose. The horse was surprised at this mode of attack, and threw up his head, snorting, and furious at the insult. Before the animal had recovered from his astonishment, Jim Brody leaped into the saddle, with a circus-like spring, and grasped the reins. For one moment the horse stood still, and the lookers-on wondered how far the small man would be shot over the fence.

“Open the gate,” yelled Jim.

This was done, and then the fun commenced. The horse suddenly bounded from the ground, and as he came down arched his back until it resembled the half of a wheel, on the top of which stuck Jim Brody, firm as an oyster on a rock. Finding his rider was not hurled into space, the horse, in a succession of frantic leaps and bounds, made for the open gate. The men cheered as they passed through, and watched the fight with interest. The horse got his head down, and Jim Brody sat back with his arms at full stretch, holding on to the reins with all his might. Round and round went the now furious animal. He tried to bite Jim's legs, and got his nose well kicked for his trouble. Then he whirled round again like a tee-to-tum. This he varied by kneeling down and biting the ground. From this position he sprang upright with a force that made even Jim Brody nearly lose his seat. For fully an hour this performance continued, and still Jim Brody stuck to the horse. The animal was covered with foam and sweat, and Jim Brody felt as though he had been in a Turkish bath. He felt the horse's struggles becoming weaker, and knew victory rested with him. But he did not relax his grip on the saddle, nor his firm hold on the reins. After a terrible battle the horse gave in, and as Jim dismounted, the beaten animal sank exhausted on the ground.

Then it was the hands on Barraba station realised that the small man had proved himself a “bigger” man than any of them, and, like the good fellows they were, recognised Jim Brody's pluck and skill at once.

Henry Mace shook Jim heartily by the hand and asked him where he learnt to ride.

“I've been riding horses all my life,” said Jim, “in America and Australia, but that's the toughest one I ever tackled, and he's not beaten yet, don't make any mistake about that.”

Jim Brody was right. The next day the horse allowed one of the men to mount him, but no sooner did he feel the burden on his back than he bounded into the air, came down rocking-horse style, and shot his rider over the fence into the adjoining paddock. Not a man on Barraba station could sit the horse. They tried each in turn and came to grief.

Strange to say, when Jim Brody mounted, the horse showed no disposition to try and renew the battle of the day before. The small man had conquered him, and Brody's buckjumper, as he was at once called, was handed over to his new master.

It was six years since this happened when Selby's Wild West Show came to Sydney, and camped on Moore Park. Jim Brody was in town at the time spending a holiday and knocking down a cheque. Brody's Buckjumper was taking a rest at Barraba, for during these six years no man save Jim Brody had been able to ride him.

The cowboys of Selby's Wild West were accounted great riders, and Jim Brody went to see them. When Jim saw the buckjumpers in the show, ridden by Selby's cowboys, he smiled. At the conclusion of the performance Hasty Jim sought out Colonel Selby, the proprietor.

“Call them buckjumpers,” said Jim to the tall Colonel, six foot or more, as he looked up into his face with an assurance that fairly took the American's breath away. “Why, they're only fit for schoolboys to ride.” Colonel Selby glowered down upon the small man, and after showering a choice selection of words upon him, said:

“You've been drinking. Guess you won't tackle one of them horses yourself.”

“Bah!” said Jim. “I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll back myself for fifty pounds to ride each of your buckjumpers in turn, and produce a horse that no one in your show can stick on for five minutes.”

“Where'll you raise the fifty?” said the Colonel.

“Will you wager? “said Jim.

“Money down,” said the Colonel.

“Yes,” said Jim, “and the match to come off next Monday.”

“Done,” said the Colonel. “It'll be a draw, at any rate, I guess.”

Jim Brody wired to Henry Mace explaining what he had done, and requesting the owner of Barraba to post the money for the match.

Jim Brody arrived at Barraba twenty-four hours after his wire was delivered, and was received in a manner that left no doubt in his own mind that his chums firmly believed he would win the wager hands down.

“Of course it's Brody's buckjumper. He's sure to do the trick.”

This was the exclamation that followed the reading of Brody's wire by Henry Mace.

But there were difficulties in the way. Owing mainly to the persuasive powers of Hasty Jim, Brody's buckjumper had been coaxed to leave the homestead, and had duly arrived at the station, where he was to he trained to Sydney. The station having been reached, the limit of the buckjumper's good nature appeared to have gone. Brody's buckjumper had never seen a horse-box, and he had many objections to being immured therein. He was coaxed and patted and pushed and pulled, but he refused to budge from the platform.

“He'll have to go in,” said Jim. “How's it to be done.”

A consultation was held, the horse meanwhile standing cool and collected on the platform.

Brody's buckjumper was blindfolded. Then Jim went to his head and used persuasive arguments. By dint of coaxing of a superior order the horse was induced to adventure into the box. Jim had to remain with him. This was imperative, for no sooner had his owner left than the horse made the sides of the box rattle and creak and groan in a manner that betokened speedy dissolution of its timbers. So Jim Brody and his buckjumper travelled the five hundred odd miles to Sydney in the same compartment, and the train also bore many of Hasty Jim's mates and the boss of Barraba, Henry Mace.

Sydney was safely reached, and Brody's buckjumper actually walked quietly out of his box. The horse was put up at Kiss's Bazaar, and the watchman in charge never forgot that night, for Brody's buckjumper behaved in a most unhorselike manner, and during the course of his acrobatic performances, punched the sides out of his loose-box.

“What's up?” said Brody, as he came into the stable yard next morning and gazed upon the terrified watcher.

“Take him away,” I gasped the man. He's no 'oss, he's a limb o' the de'il.”

Jim Brody laughed, and said to himself “I reckon the Wild West won't hold him to-night.”

There was a big crowd at Selby's Show that night. A genuine match of this description was bound to draw the horse-loving colonials, and they rolled up in their thousands. Colonel Selby smiled as he saw the heavy tram-loads deposited at the Moore Park stopping place, and looked upon the streams of people coming over the open space.

“This is the best thing I've struck for some time,” said the Colonel to himself. “Six newly engaged raw 'uns for Brody to ride. I reckon he'll be about chewed up when he's tackled two of 'em.”

The Barraba men were well posted in the Wild West Show front seats, and the Boss was amongst them.

Colonel Selby had stipulated that Jim Brody should appear first. A loud cheer greeted Jim as he stepped into the open ground where the six horses were placed.

“All ready saddled!” said Jim. “This is an easy job.”

The cowboys smiled, Colonel Selby smiled, and his advance agent fairly hugged himself.

Jim selected a horse, and quick as a cat sprang on to his back. The horse gave a mild exhibition, and Brody dismounted. Four more horses were easily disposed of, and the Colonel looked glum.

“The last will settle him,” he said.

Brody had a tough job with number six, but it came off all right.

“You've done your share,” said the Colonel. “If one of my men can't ride your horse I'll shut up shop.”

“Don't be rash,” said Brody. “If one of the six can stick on, I'm done.”

When Brody's buckjumper appeared the men from Barraba yelled, and their excitement was intense. They were requested to keep silent or leave the show.

The six cowboys looked at Brody's buckjumper and smiled. The Colonel fancied the bet already won. If only one of his men could stick on he would win.

The cowboys were eager to begin. The first man walked boldly up to the horse, and Brody's buckjumper awaited him patiently. He had no sooner touched the saddle than he felt himself hurled into space and landed in Colonel Selby's arms.

“Try another,” said Brody.

Number two was allowed to mount. He shared the fate of number one. Three other cowboys were made to “see stars,” and then Texas Bill, with a smile on his face, said, “I'll settle him.”

“Try,” said Brody.

Texas Bill was a genuine cowboy. He sat out the first shock and the second, but at the third attempt he turned a double somersault, and landed in the reserved seats.

Then the applause burst forth, and Selby's Wild West Show became a pandemonium of noise.

“It's a swindle,” said Colonel Selby; “you can't ride that 'oss yourself.”

Jim Brody gave no reply, but, mounting his horse, rode him quietly round the enclosure. The settling took place next morning. Colonel Selby paid his fifty like a man, and offered fifty more for Brody's horse. Hasty Jim, however, declined to be tempted, and the bay horse can still be seen at Barraba, where he will live and die as “Brody's buckjumper.”

Brody's Buckjumper by Nat Gould was published on 17 April 1897 in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.