In the first installment i introduced you to a runaway child who had ambitions of becoming a famous bushranger.
Young Joseph Markham left the family home in Ballarat Victoria in the dead of the night.
Aged fifteen Joe is about to leave a huge impression in Australian history he just doesn’t know it yet.
He borrowed his fathers horse and rode the short distance from Ballarat to Bendigo arriving on the morning of 23rd of July 1846 and got a job loading wagons at the local general store.
His boss Mr Clarence Denning thought the world of Joe and treated him like the son he never had.
Joe worked at the store for just on three years and everything was going well and Joe actually thought about settling down living a quiet life but that all changed in May 1849 when when a posse of wild horsemen rode into town.
The riders yelled and hollered all the way down main street, Joe didn’t know what all the noise was about until he heard the words GOLD GOLD GOLD.
The precious metal was dug from the ground on 10th May and from that moment the nations wealth grew and Joe’s life changed forever.
A week later an old Chinese man named Huong Long galloped into town on a camel who for some reason took an instant dislike to Joe.
The feelings were mutual and Joe taunted the beast endlessly until while he was chatting to Mr Long the camel delivered a kick to Joe’s chin leaving behind a three inch long tender gash that would become the amateur bushranger’s soul patch.
The wound required twenty stitches and continuously wept, Joe would rub the spot continuously seeking respite from an itch that would never go away.
When the Chinaman finished his business in town Joe offered to tag along on the return trip to the goldfields.
Mr Luong was happy to have the company but he warned Joe to stay away from his camel or he would be left behind plus another kick to the head could be fatal.
Joe promised to be on his best behavior and for the most part he was true to his word.
Along the way Mr Long confided in Joe telling him how an evil man named Percy Carruthers stole his mining permit forcing him and his fifteen year old daughter Knut Fu to work in his mansion on the edge of the fields.
Carruthers ruled with an iron fist forcing the miners to pay him 10% of all the gold that they dug from the ground under the blazing desert sun.
Joe was boiling with rage when the party of three reached the goldfields but he got to met the elegant Knut Fu and it was she who christened Joe with what would become a famous moniker when her father told her how his travel companion got his chin wound.
Squirming with laughter the daughter pointed at Joe ‘You “Camel Toe Joe” and a legend was born.
While Mr Long was unpacking the camel Carruthers made an appearance ordering the Chinaman and his daughter to return to his house and prepare his midday meal then he turned his dead eyes in Joe’s direction demanding to know who he was ‘My name is Joseph Markham and i am here to help Mr Long out of his predicament, if you return his mining permit and let them go about staking a claim like everyone else than i will turn the other cheek but if you fail to do so i will be forced to bring you down good and proper’
Carruthers stands 6′ 3″ inches and weighs over 13 stone and he doesn’t take kindly to young whipper snappers voicing their opinion ‘Well Joseph let me tell i am the sole authority around these parts no you now go away before i throw you in the stockade to learn some manners’
As the stand over merchant delivers his sermon a dozen of his henchmen step forward and surround Joe but he shows no fear in fact he spits in Carruthers direction’ You and your flunkies don’t scare me Carruthers, mark my words you are a dead man walking so saddle up and disappear before i put you out of your misery’
Carruther’s face turns beet red ‘ Throw him in the stockade and throw away the key, lets see how long he lasts without food or water’
50 yards away the camel has been watching proceedings unobserved, with an angry snort he trots away into the undergrowth.
After cooling his heels in the brig for a few hours Joe is mighty thirsty, thankfully the temperature has dropped but it is still stifling in his tiny cell.
‘Please if you send me an angel to help me escape from this hell hole i promise to behave myself and become a better man’
Joe’s nostrils twitch when a nasty smell wafts in through the bars of his cell window maybe a ‘roo or wombat has perished in the heat, taking a gander out into the night he is surprised to see a long lashed animal looking back at him.
‘Jesus haven’t you heard about bathing in a little water now and then? You smell like a quoll has crawled up your arse and died’
Sighing in frustration the camel sidles sideways revealing a coil of rope slung over one of his humps ‘ Holy shit you are one smart camel aren’t you? Come closer so i can tie an end to the bars and then pull with all your strength so i can get the fuck out of here’
‘Oh and by the way i sorry about my wise arse remark about your personal hygiene and i probably deserved your toe kick to my face but if you bust me out of here i promise to buy you a big cake of soap and all the food you can eat, so what do ya say mate?’
The camel doesn’t reply he just snorts in disgust but lets Joe uncoil the rope in preparation of a jailbreak.
Joe suspects that Mr Long and his daughter had a hand in suppling the rope and he is grateful to them, even though he has never tied a knot before Joe ties the knot securely around a bar and gestures to the camel that he is ready.
As the camel gets into position Joe strokes the small cleft on his chin, the wound id still tender and tingles as Joe as keeps a wary eye out for any guards who might foil his escape.
The camel digs in his back feet in the dirt to gain traction then the beast slowly walks forward, the bars buckle and with a snap they are ripped from the window frame, joe climbs out and lands on the frame of metal bars and the camel takes fast into the desert while behind him Joe hangs on for grim death.
A shot rings out narrowly missing Joe who loses his hold on the metal toboggin and falls off leaving him open for the guards to take another shot.
The camel is tempted to leave the annoying little shit behind but he is loyal to his master Mr Long so he doubles back and squats down onto the ground and Joe wastes no time jumping on, clinging to a hump the pair of desperado’s disappear into the night under a barrage of bullets.
For three days they stay at an old abandoned copper mine ten miles out of town and whilst boy and camel recuperate they form an unlikely friendship.
When the sun rises on a fourth day Joe to eager to sneak back to the goldfields and free Mr Long and Knut Fu from the tyranny of Carruthers plus the miners deserve to be able to dig for their livelihoods without having to hand over the gold they toiled to dig from the dirt to a brute and his henchmen.
As they travel back to the fields realizes that he has to call the camel something ‘Hey how about i give you a name to make Mr Long proud?’
Getting no reply Joe continues on ‘What about Mildred now that is a good name, you look like a Mildred to me’
The camel rolls his eyes in contempt ‘Okay so you don’t like Mildred what about Clarence?
Raising his front right leg the camel wriggles his toes signaling to Joe that he better come up with a better alternative or he will receive another kick’ Joe rubs in the furrow on his chin ‘Ok calm down i was only joking;
‘Wait i have it , what about Archibald? From now on you will be forever known as Sir Archibald Camelus, what do you think?
The dromedary paces back and forth considering the title bestowed upon him ‘Come on make a decision because we need to get back and rescue Huong Long and Knut Fu’
The camel smiles and squats so Joe can climb aboard’ Sir Archibald it is then, now hot foot it so we can return the goldfields to the miners and put Carruthers six foot under where he belongs’.
Ten miles away the two guards who fell asleep after drinking a bottle of rum allowing Joseph Markham to escape custody swing silently in the breeze.
They were hanged at first light the morning after the escape on the orders of Carruthers and now their bodies are on display reminding everyone on the goldfields what will happen to them if they to even think about deceiving the mine overlord.
From the balcony of his huge house on the edge of the fields Carruthers points to the bodies of twenty two year old Peter James and Samuel Jacobs a eighteen year old father of two as he begins an address to the 800 or so miners gathered around the diggings’ Disobey me at your own peril now get back to work before i skin you all alive’
The miners quickly disperse but an under current of resentment ripples through their ranks, it is now only a matter of time before they fight back and thankfully a bushranger in the making is about to offer a helping hand.
Inside the mansion Huong Long and Knut Fu clean and polish every surface they are now nothing more then slaves. Huong is tempted to rush forward and shove Carruthers over the balcony to the mob below but he hasn’t got the courage.
All he can do is hope that Joseph will return soon and help them return to a normal life away from the boss man and his evil ways.
One yards away Joe and Sie Archibald peer over the crest of a sand dune to see if the coast is clear, Joe rubs the cleft on his chin with worry and sorrow, his weary eyes moisten at the sight of two innocents who were hanged all to appease the ego of the evil overload Carruthers.
Joe realizes that he wont be able to bring down Carruthers by himself, if peace is to exist on the goldfields he will need to enlist help from the miners and together they will organize an uprising never seen in Victoria.
Skirting the edge of the encampment Joe Joe sidles up to a group of around twenty miners having morning tea ‘G day i don’t know if you blokes have heard the news? On the other side of the fields there is a lot of talk that Carruthers is planning on increasing the levy that he illegally takes from all the miners, it is an outrage, why should that prick be profiting from all your hard work ?’
‘He needs to be eliminated before he can inflict anymore pain and misery on you and your families, we need to stand united as one and bring justice to the goldfields, spread the word.’
The miners begin to talk amongst themselves and Joe strides away satisfied that he has planted a seed, hopefully the seed will germinate and when it does the proverbial will stick nourishing Joe’s masterplan.
For two days Joe mingles unobserved with the miners whispering in the ear of anyone who will listen and a rumbling of discontent soon grows in intensity threatening to explode like a powder keg.
As he patrols the fields high up in the saddle of his stallion Carruthers can smell and almost taste the tension in the air, he is surrounded by six of his best men and he warns them to keep and eye out for trouble his manager an ugly Irish brute named Shamus O’ Dwyer riding beside his boss is nervous but puts up a brave front.
‘I need to attend to some business down near Darling Creek Shamus, if the miners cause any trouble shot to kill’
With those cowardly words Carruthers high tails it back to his mansion leaving his underlings in mortal danger.
At the mansion Mr Long is in the kitchen cooking whilst his 18 year old daughter Knut Fu is busy wiping every surface clean under the watchful eye of the housekeeper Molly Taylor a 36 year old woman from Boston who arrived in Australia three months prior chasing her dream of striking it rich but she soon found herself completely out of her depth.
The heat and the flies took a huge toll on her health and sanity and her skin blistered under the blazing sun but lucky for her she was rescued by her boss and given shelter and a job.
She knows that Mr Carruthers is a despised figure around these parts but he has always been kind to her but lately his mood has darkened so Molly has kept out of his way waiting for normality to return.
She shrieks in fright on hearing the front door slam and on seeing he look on his face she knows that something awful is troubling her boss and instead of fleeing she immediately takes charge and leads him down the stairs into the cellar until the danger passes.
‘Molly the danger as you call it isn’t going to go away, soon eight hundred plus angry miners are going to storm this place and try to kill me, they will probably burn the house to the ground so stay done here with me Molly and with any luck we can hide and live to fight another day.’
Molly isn’t keen staying down in the dank cellar but when she hears the mob outside start ramming the door she has second thoughts.
Mr Long notices Carruthers followed by his housekeeper sneak down the stairs to escape being lynches so he rushes over to the door to let the marauding mob inside so they can bring Carruthers to justice.
Outside Camel Toe is doing his best to calm the situation but he getting drowned out by hundreds of angry miners carrying rifles and axes intent on finding the deceiving mine boss and tearing him limb from limb ‘Listen i know that you are angry and wish to kill Carruthers but if you do that than none of you will ever see one single cent of the money that he stole from you so settle down, i will go inside and bring the arsehole out here and he can tell you where the money is then i will personally drag his sorry arse down to Melbourne where he will be charged with murder and extortion’
Most of the miners calm down but some are still out for blood ‘Why should we trust you with our gold, for all i know you could be in cohorts with Carruthers, i say say we storm the place and take what is ours and hang the mongrel from the nearest tree”
I guarantee you that i am on your side so how about if five or six of you go inside with me because if you rush inside like chooks with their heads cut there is bound to be casualties and that is the last thing we want to happen’.
The angry miner who spoke thinks for a second before nodding his head in agreement ‘Okay you have a deal i will go in with you, my name is Nathan Miller by the way’ he scans the mob then points at individuals ‘Jones, Smith, Johnson and um Banes at the back, lets go inside and catch the prick and find our gold.’
Despite being rammed repeatedly the front door stands firm so you motions for Sir Archibald to come over and deliver a swift kick and having first hand experience of the viciousness of a camel kick Joe stands clear but in the end a kick isn’t needed because with a squeak the door opens and a tiny Chinaman pokes his head out ‘Come quick, Carruthers has gone down to the cellar’
Down in the cellar Molly can’t take in what she is seeing, fifty or so sacks of gold nuggets take up most of the floor space ‘Now i know why you wanted to come down here you slimy bastard, you do realize that any minute no hundreds of angry miners are going to storm down here so hoarding all this gold that you stole from the miners has all been a monumental of of time, if i had a gun i would put a bullet in your head and be done with it’
‘Molly Molly Molly, i hear what you are saying but there is a lot more gold out there in this great state of ours and i do admit that it will be a shame to leave these sacks of gold behind but right now we need to leave before they catch us and God knows what the mob will do to us.’
There is no us or we Carruther’s this is all your doing not mine so be a man for once in your life and walk up the stairs and take your medicine.’
Shaking his head in disappointment Carruthers sprints over to a corner of the cellar than like a magician he disappears behind a partition.
Molly begins to investigate but then the door to the cellar shatters and seven angry men rush down the stairs but soon stop dead in their tracks when they notice the sacks of gold.
‘Eureka’ Miller hollers with joy’ Okay fella’s help me carry these sacks upstairs Joe can find Carruthers’
Camel Joe shakes his head in wonder, how can Miller be so stupid?’
‘Miller those sacks must weigh half a ton each, you and your mates guard the gold and later each and every miner can come down here and claim what is rightfully theirs but now has anyone seen Carruthers?’
Molly is growing frustrated because while the miners had eyes for the gold it gave Carruthers precious minutes to escape further into the bush.
Joe finally notices Molly motioning to him ‘About bloody time, Carruthers went that way’ the housekeeper jabs in the direction of the partition.
Knowing that Carruthers could be armed and dangerous Joe warily peaks around the partition and is astounded to see a tunnel with a train tracks going out the desert hundreds of yards in the distance.
Carruthers must have used some sort of pump trolley to make his escape but Camel Toe isn’t that worried, tomorrow Carruthers will be brought to justice.
Outside Shamus O’ Seamus and a dozen other of Carruthers henchmen watch proceedings with interest, O’ Seamus knows that there is a shitload of gold in that mansion and he aims to take it before the miners claim it back.
Carruthers has more than likely escapes otherwise he would have been brought outside by now, smiling like a cat that swallowed the cream the killer realizes that with Carruthers gone he will soon be a very rich man.
Sitting in the shade outside the big house MR Long and his daughter Knut Fu talk happily because now they are free to do as they please without threat of harm.
Sir Archibald stands beside them chewing on his cud surveying the countryside, he knows that the evil man is out there somewhere it is only a matter of time arsehole you will be caught.
Joe joins his friend and together the odd pair gaze out on the endless miles of orange dust ‘Tomorrow Carruthers tomorrow you are mine’
Part three coming soon.