The Story of
Tommy Dodd and “The Rooster”

Guy Boothby

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

The Story of Tommy Dodd and “The Rooster”

“Keep back, in the yellow! Come up, on Othello!

Hold hard, on the chestnut! Turn round, on The Drag:

Keep back there, on Spartan! Back, you, sir, in tartan!

So! steady there! easy! and down went the flag.”

Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Men in all ranks of society, from cabinet ministers to hotel clerks, are apt to underestimate the true importance of Little Things. Women never do, because it is their business in life to overestimate everything. Though these statements may seem paradoxical, when you’ve studied the sad history of Tommy Dodd and “The Rooster,” my meaning will be as clear as noonday.

Jack Medway’s Love Affair was a case in point; for if he had paid proper attention to small matters, he would not have cuffed “The Rooster” in Bourke Street, nor emphasized the insult by calling him a “dirty brat”; then most assuredly he would have married the girl of his heart, instead of a certain vivacious widow who now bullies his life away. Of course people bursting with common sense will deem it impossible that a rebuke given to a street-arab in Melbourne could affect the destinies of four people three years afterwards in North Queensland; nevertheless, without a shadow of doubt, such was the case. Just let me explain a little before you watch the course of events for yourself.

In the first place, Tommy Dodd was a racehorse, and one who had earned fame for himself on every course in Victoria from Mosquito Creek to Cape Howe. That he was not originally intended for the turf was evident from the fact that he made his first appearance in Government employ; and it was not until he had nearly killed four telegraph messengers and two important citizens that he was deemed unfit for the public service. Then he was put up to auction, and Lazarus Levi secured him for a quarter of his real value. He was a most accommodating quadruped, and with not more than nine-stone-six on his back was able, when his owner so desired, to make even crack performers look ridiculous. He had one fault, however, and that was —— But I’ll tell you about that directly.

“The Rooster” was another curiosity. His body was the body of a child, his face was the face of a lad; but his knowledge of the world, and the racing world in particular, could only have been gained in generations of experience. A great love for Tommy Dodd, and an intense hatred for the before-mentioned Mr. John Medway, of Barcoola Station, were among other of his peculiarities.

Now it so happened that after Jack Medway was appointed manager of Barcoola, he fell in love. I don’t push this forward as anything extraordinary; but, as the statement of the fact is necessary to the proper narration of this story, I am bound to repeat, Jack Medway was in love, and Gerty Morris was the object of his affection. He also respected a dashing widow, named Leversidge.

The trouble dates from the issue of the first advertisements in connection with the Barcoola Races. At this yearly festival every owner, manager, jackeroo and rouseabout, within a hundred miles of the course, makes it a point of honour to be present. Then, for the space of a week, life is one whirl of shows, picnics, dances, and meetings. But above all the races reigned supreme.

One Sunday afternoon in Dr. Morris’s verandah The Ladies’ Bracelet was discussed, and Gerty Morris half hinted that Medway should enter a horse for it in her name. Naturally he jumped at the chance, and after summing up the strength of the most likely entries, cast about him for a nag.

(At this point the curtain should fall upon Act I., with rosy limelight effects, suggestive of Dawning Love and High Ideas.)

When an owner runs a horse to suit his book he should not grumble if his method is discovered; for stewards do sometimes see crooked running, and when they do they are apt to make things troublesome for that owner. Perhaps the proprietor of Tommy Dodd had met with some misfortune of this sort, for that sagacious animal suddenly disappeared from the southern racing world, and was seen therein no more.

A month later a mob of horses came up to Queensland, and at the sale a long, lolloping chestnut gelding, name unknown, was knocked down to Medway for twenty pounds. Though he was not aware of the fact, he was now the owner of the famous Tommy Dodd.

After the sale, driving home from the township, Beverley, of Kimona, nearly annihilated a drunken atom lying on the track. He picked him up and drove on. Next day, ascertaining that he possessed racing experience, he put him on to exercise The Gift. The Gift was his entry for The Bracelet, under the nomination of an unknown Alice Brown, in whom everybody, of course, recognised the before-mentioned Miss Gertrude Morris. That atom was “The Rooster,” who had followed Tommy Dodd from the south. And here again Fate played up against Jack Medway.

(Curtain on Act II.: subdued lights and music suggestive of much Mystery.)

A week later the entries of the Barcoola Jockey Club’s Autumn Meeting were announced, and Mr. J. Medway’s Young Romeo, and Mr. R. Beverley’s The Gift, were in the list of competitors.

The training of both animals was proceeding satisfactorily, and the owner of Young Romeo, alias Tommy Dodd, informed Miss Morris that the bracelet she so much coveted must certainly become her property. Beverley had written to her that morning to the same effect.

“The Rooster” ferreted about until he discovered his equine friend’s abode, and at the same time learnt all he cared to know about the owner.

Then, remembering the insult of three years before, he saw a chance of revenge. He was quick-witted enough to notice the rivalry between Beverley and Medway, and he quite understood that both men had staked their life’s happiness upon the issue of the race. He knew more about Tommy Dodd than any man living, so he took Beverley into his confidence, and revealed the animal’s one peculiarity. That gentleman gave him a sovereign to hold his tongue, and as Young Romeo was the only horse he feared, he now saw his way clear to victory.

(Here Act III. terminates, with much red fire and music suggestive of conspiracy.)

It is all nonsense to say that a good day’s sport cannot be enjoyed without grand-stands, electric scratching-boards, and telegraphs. The Barcoola Jockey Club possessed none of these advantages, and yet their races were always wonderfully successful. The fact is, in North Queensland the horse is the consideration; but the farther you go south, the nearer you get to directors’ meetings and bank overdrafts — consequently, the more iniquitous and black-guardly the sport becomes.

Jack Medway drove his party on to the course in great style, and pretty Gerty Morris sat beside him, looking the picture of health and happiness. Beverley watched the waggonette draw up in a good position, and smiled sardonically. (The Gift was as fit as hands could make him: Young Romeo was his only enemy; and armed with “The Rooster’s” knowledge, he knew he held him safe.)

Now, the secret was very simple after all. Years before, when Tommy Dodd was in Government employ, he had been put to a good deal of torture by one small telegraph boy, whose peculiar pleasure it was to flay him daily with a green hide whip. When this amiable young gentleman had succeeded in rawing the horse’s sides to his own satisfaction, he still further goaded the poor brute by raising the hide as if to strike, yet never letting it descend. The result of this was that, even in his racing days, Tommy Dodd could never be persuaded to pass a lifted whip. This was “The Rooster’s” secret, and the sequel you shall know directly.

The races opened splendidly. A Bush Handicap of 30 sovs., half a mile, was won after a determined struggle by Mr. Exton’s Headstrong, 7 st. 2 lb., totalisator dividend, £3 10s. The District Plate went to Mr. Goodwyn’s Endymion, 6 st. 10 lb., totalisator dividend, £5 6s. After that, hampers were opened, and every one went to luncheon. Dick Beverley lunched with the Barcoola party, and made himself vastly agreeable to all concerned — his rival included. The Bracelet Stakes was the first event after luncheon, and the two men went away to dress.

Young Romeo had been excellently prepared, and for old association’s sake took to the process very kindly. “The Rooster” kept The Gift out of the way till he was wanted, on the plea that he was “a mighty nervous ‘oss to ‘andle.”

After weighing in, Jack Medway offered Beverley a level fifty against his mount. “I’ll take you,” said Beverley, and strolled away to saddle.

Every one was pleased with the appearance of Young Romeo. He carried himself prettily, and swept over the ground with that easy gliding motion characteristic of a thoroughbred. His rider looked and behaved well in the saddle, so the ladies were unanimous in their praise. The Gift was not a handsome horse, but he had a wear-and-tear appearance that was better than mere beauty, and more than one who could judge of horse-flesh slipped away to put “just a saver” on him. The remainder of the field were a very so-so lot indeed.

As the rivals passed the Barcoola party in their preliminary canter, Gerty Morris scanned both men carefully, but could not make up her mind which she preferred. However, Medway had openly promised her the bracelet, so he had that in his favour. His colours were white jacket, red sleeves and cap; and she had worked a tiny sprig of ivy on the collar, of which he was inordinately proud.

After a little delay at the post, the flag dropped to a good start. Warrigal was the first away, with Endymion and The Gift in close attendance; Young Romeo was unfortunate, and brought up the rear with The Jackeroo and Blush Rose. As they passed the windmill, Endymion changed places with Warrigal, and Young Romeo came up to fourth place. Then The Gift forged to the front and led by a length. On entering the dip, Medway pushed Young Romeo to second place, and remained there watching events until they came into the straight. The crowd, thinking all was over, commenced shouting, “The Gift wins,” “The Gift in a canter,” “The Gift,” etc., etc., etc., until Jack Medway thought it time to make play, so he set sail in pursuit. Young Romeo was full of running and overhauled his rival foot by foot; when fifty yards from the post they were locked neck and neck. Both were doing all they knew. Then “The Rooster’s” secret flashed through Beverley’s mind, and instantly he raised his whip, but did not strike. Next moment he was past the post with a couple of lengths to spare. To every one’s surprise, Young Romeo, on his right, had shut up like a concertina just as he had it all his own way. The bracelet was the property of Miss Brown.

Next day we were informed that Gerty Morris had accepted Beverley, of Kimona, with her parents’ full consent, and, strange to say, at the dinner given to celebrate that wonderful event she wore the bracelet of the famous race. Medway was among those invited, but he declined the invitation on the plea that business demanded his presence elsewhere.

“I often think that if he knew everything he would be the first to regret having hurt ‘The Rooster’s’ feelings that night in Bourke Street. They say he is not having a very happy time of it with his wife — once the Widow Leversidge.”

Now don’t you think I’m right about the importance of Little Things?

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005