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William C. F. Cowan p3

A resilient outback woman…

Mr Cowan wrote about a woman he met at a remote cattle property. After kindly feeding him and the other ringers, she sat with them. He noticed she had a portion of one finger missing and he asked her about it. She said she was in the galley, or kitchen, and was about to make some damper, which is a type of bread baked with three ingredients: self-raising flour, salt and milk.

He writes: Mrs K. said, “I picked a basin out of the cupboard to dip the flour out of the bag and as I put in in to the mouth of the bag, I stood almost paralysed as I knew that I had my hand on a snake coiled on top of the flour in the bag and before I could pull my hand free I felt the snake fasten on to my finger. I quickly pulled my hand back and the snake, still hanging on to my finger, came out of the bag. In the dim light of the hurricane lamp I could see that it was a brown snake, which as you know is very venomous”.

She went on to tell us of what I thought was a most courageous thing to do. There was an axe for chopping up the logs for the fire standing against the wall. She said, “I simply grabbed the axe as the snake fell to the floor where with a few blows with the axe I killed it and then I put my finger on the wooden bench table and cut off the bitten point of my finger. I tore an old petticoat into strips and bandaged it up to stop the bleeding”.

He writes: As we left on our journey next day I am sure the rest of the blokes [other fellows] thought the same as I did, that we were leaving a wonderful, patient, hospitable and courageous woman with all the qualifications and adaptability to be called a high ranking pioneer of outback Queensland in the far off days of yesteryear. Hail Mrs K! We know heaven would be waiting for you and would be blessed by your presence.

-continued next page.