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Jack Riley’s story

Just prior to his own death in 1930 John Pierce Jr. , the late Jack Riley’s employer, retold this following story which Jack Riley had once shared with Banjo Paterson. “A station-bred horse gone wild, was running on the Leather Barrel Mountain, on the road to Kosciuszko from Groggin. The horse had defeated every attempt to catch him, although all of his 'running mates' had fallen victim to the stock man's strategy. The wild one had become a legend, as elusive as smoke, as defiant as lightning. However, his continuous challenge was too much for the stock men. His capture became a matter of necessity, a needed balm for a wounded proper pride. So a council of war was held and a plan of campaign was devised to trap the outlaw. A yard was built in a strategic position across tracks near a creek which the horse habitually crossed, and duties were assigned to each member of the chase. Came the great day and the hunting party found the magnificent outlaw high on a ridge. They deployed to sweep in upon him from many angles with the intention of compelling him into the yard. But they had underestimated their quarry. He broke into a furious gallop but, for once, abandoned his normal run to the creek and broke away to hurtle down a precipitous slope that no rider had ever braved. It was as though he had sensed the plan. As he flashed down that cliff- it was a little less, any how- and as he weaved through the thick timber and the scrub and dodged the wombat holes, we said goodbye to him, we didn't think any man could follow him down. But Jack Riley, the 'stripling' no longer, pulled his hat down over his ears,
and with a wild yell charged down after the outlaw while his friends held their breath. Riley vanished from sight in flurry of heels and a shower of dirt and hardly a man among the hunters thought to find him alive. More circumspectly, the others made their way down to the trap yard across the creek trail. There, to their amusement, was the horse, yarded and winded, and there too was Riley coming back up the slope. Riley was not very talkative about what had happened from the time he disappeared from view until the time he ended his chase. But he did vouch-safe a hint: "See here, now," he said (Riley always prefaced any statement with that phrase). "I went so fast down the slope the wind got in me eyes and the tears blinded me." And, blind, he had ridden past the yard, into which his quarry had careered head long, and was unaware of the capture until his breeze- tortured eyes had cleared. It is difficult to imagine what Riley rode like down that slope, Mr Pierce said. The lash of branches, the menace of boulders, the clawing brush must have made it a nightmare, but John enjoyed it. This article was reported in the Melbourne newspaper, The Argus, on 15 January, 1949.
“The Man From Snowy River’ Country of North-Eastern Victoria & Southern NSW