So, here I am with the team, three weeks into my droving job. The chilly nights have eased off a touch over the last week and so after the Boss goes to bed we dogs sit around the remains the campfire and discuss the day’s events. Butch, a cross-eyed sheep dog who has a keen knack for swinging on a cow’s upper lip if they give him any trouble, is a new addition. He’s from out East which accounts for his more relaxed, beachified attitude. It was Butch that decided we should tell a few campfire yarns and so we were introduced to the story of the Ghost Dog

‘The ghost dog,’ Butch began, ‘was first reported in July, fifty years to this day.’

I must admit even I looked over my shoulder into scrub.

‘The first sign of the ghost came on the stock route when a strange howling was reported in the middle of the night. Well the drover got up and looked about with his kerosene lamp and figured it was his imagination. Hunkering back down into his swag he was awoken some time later by the mooing of a thousand head of cattle, the whinnying of his horses and the barking of the six dogs tied up around the camp-fire.’

moonCome on, I complained, we’re not kids.

Butch gave me a wonky-eyed stare, ‘You want to hear or not?’

Whatever, I replied, noticing the other dogs all wiggling a little closer to each other.

‘Apparently a teenager from a near-by farm confessed to sneaking out after dark with a mate and scaring the cattle, but this didn’t account for the same thing happening night after night, for a week. By this time the boy and his friend had finished their school holidays and returned to boarding school.’

I didn’t want to ask, then what happened.

Butch gave a sly smile. ‘At the end of that week, the drover decided to set a trap. So he hid himself out near the cattle and waited with a rifle. Sure enough the cattle started calling out noisily and the dog’s tied-up back at the camp barked madly.’

Don’t tell me, the Ghost Dog appeared, I said smugly. The others might have been taken in by Butch’s story, but I wasn’t. I’ve been around. There’s no such thing as ghosts.

Butch scowled at me, ‘Yep, big and hazy he was and although the drover could make out the body of the dog, he could see straight through him, but he lifted his rifle and fired anyway and the dog disappeared, unfortunately, the cattle stampeded.’

What, I barked, that’s dreadful what happened to the cattle.

Butch lifted a hefty paw, ‘patience, Jack. The drover rushed back to the camp to saddle his horse and get his dogs, but when he got back all the dogs were gone, their chains lying on the ground with their collars. They were never seen again.’

What do you mean they disappeared and what about the cattle? I asked.

‘It took weeks for the cattle to be gathered up, as for the dogs they were never seen again.’ Butch suddenly disinterested, curled up on the ground, ‘time for some shut-eye.’

But you can’t finish a story like that, I complained, there has to be an ending.

‘Sure there is,’ Butch agreed.

The four other dogs gave whimpers of relief and waited expectantly.

Butch scratched an itch, ‘It happened right here. They say the Ghost Dog was killed by a truck while he was out droving and that every time a mob of cattle passes through this spot he returns. He scares the cattle and the drover, and then captures the dogs so that the same accident doesn’t happen to them.’

But where does he take the dogs? I asked.

‘Who knows…’

Now I didn’t believe him, no I didn’t believe Butch one little bit, but I noticed the other dogs shivered themselves to sleep and when the moon came out and the cattle started mooing and the drover got up to have a stalk around and check on things, I decided I’d keep an eye open, all night, just in case.