Mean George

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

George never had a muscle in his body. It was all gristle and sinew.

He stood six foot four with a long narrow head, black close set eyes looking over a large thin ’eagle’ beak nose, narrow lips, narrow shoulders, long arms and legs…, and no fat, definitely no fat.

George was as long and lean and hard and mean as a stock-whip. He enjoyed a scrap and was very good at it. If two men came at him, he enjoyed it more, sort of ’evened it up’, he would say. George would rather fight than argue, because he won more fights than arguments.

Most men in the valley avoided arguing or fighting with George for the one usually led to the other. George was a reckless rogue who thought nothing of pinching a chook or a pig from somebody’s back yard, or a few traps from a trap line he found in the bush. He liked the taste of pigeon too, but was pretty crafty about it.

Of course in this valley he was a poacher too. His hunting wagon was an old model A Ford coupe with no cab or bonnet remaining on it. George was always creating some sort of mayhem or other in the valley but he usually left the forestry blokes alone. Despite all his faults Mean George was intelligent, pleasant to talk to, and friendly – so long as you didn’t cross him.

A crazy old possum trapper had been into the forestry office making a complaint to Stumpy. He had a line of traps set from a forest road into the bush, along a ridge, Stumpy knew just where. Well, somebody was sneaking up there and flogging the possums out of the traps – worth ten dollars a first grade skin – this sort of behavior was just not on – and besides, the thief was also shooting pigeons on the same ridge – the trapper had found the feathers and feet.

The old bloke put up quite a performance. The thief was running him broke and besides, anyone finding pigeon feathers along his line would blame him.’ He demanded action. Stumpy promised to look into it, but catching poachers in that vast area of forest was a pretty hit and miss affair.

It was an absolute accident that Stumpy found Mean George a couple of weeks later, parked up in his hunting wagon at the very end of the old trapper’s line. It was quite obvious that George had just come out of the bush. There was a bulging sugar bag in the open car beside him and he was about to head for home, the engine was already running.

Stumpy pulled up and reluctantly walked to George in his car, Stumpy had the wind up, he could see his block being knocked off at any moment now. But he had. a duty to do, he had to ask Mean George the questions, he had to have a look in that bag – he only hoped that when it came George would be kind to him and drop him with the first punch.

The conversation began. ‘G’day George, shooting pigeons or poaching possums? What are you doing?’ George peered up with those wicked eyes over that hooked nose. ’What am I doing? I’m stuffing off!’ With that he revved his engine, spun his rear wheels, and shot off down the road in a shower of metal.

Stumpy was so angry he forgot to be scared. He leapt into his truck, but by the time he’d turned it-round and got going, he knew George would be miles away, all evidence would be dumped and hidden. But he charged after him anyway – a futile effort.

After a few miles Stumpy gave up and began to laugh. That wasn’t a bad answer George had given, it had been an easy let out for everyone. He had no evidence on George, but he had no bruises to show either! – After the event the crazy old trapper bad no more trouble on his line, so things turned out not so bad after all.