"Come on, George; let's do this slowly. A long breath in..., hold..., now slowly exhale. That's it. Again; in, hold, out. That's it mate. Keep going and whatever you do, stay as relaxed as you can. I'm going to try and catch at least one of those blasted horses."
Harry jumped to his feet and trotted into the bush. Catching a horse was now a matter of life and death.
A normal morning; some scrub cattle to muster, early sunrise over gum trees, kookaburras laughing and cockatoos flying around. But as the two stockmen rode along the dingo fence the morning changed.
The eastern brown snake was unseen until too late. It struck at George's horse; up went the nag and down went the rider. When his shoulders hit the ground, George rolled the wrong way; the snake was waiting. Sinking its fangs into his calf, it delivered a deadly truck load of poison. One of the most toxic land snakes in the world was trying to claim a victim.
Harry's horse also shied; but Harry came off his saddle on purpose. With a side arm he shot the snake; but the gun shot then added to the drama. Both horses now reared in panic and took off into the bush. These four legged animals were used to snakes, and gun shots, but this morning it just all seemed too much and they did not want to hang around. Catching one of them was now the only way to save a stockman's life.
It was a long way back to the homestead and by the time they walked there George would be dead. Keeping him calm was now essential; inhale long, deep and slow, hold, exhale slowly. It was important because the faster the blood moved, the faster the poison hit the system. And right now these men needed time to slow right down.
Harry returned with both mares quite quickly and with just as much speed, but not panic, he helped George into the saddle. "We've got to get going, mate. Just hang in there buddy; we'll get help soon."
"Pray for me, Harry."
"I have been doing, mate."
"Out loud. I need to hear it; I'm scared."
"Father, I need You to protect George and help him to stay calm. Stop this poison, Lord, and keep my mate safe. We need Your help here..."
The prayer came to a fast end when George once again fell from his horse. His breathing was now far from calm. Little gasps and grunts were a bad sign. His bowel vacated and, as Harry leaped to his side, he suddenly went into a major convulsion.
"George, come on mate. Oh God; help me. What do I do Lord?"
The victim's eyes suddenly shot open and fixed firmly on his friend's face. With surprising clarity his words struck Harry's heart. "I'm frightened mate. I think I'm going to die!"
"Come on; I'll get you back on that horse."
"I'm not going to make it."
"We've got to try."
"Harry, I'm not ready to die."
"You don't have to die, George. You may have to leave this place; but you don't have to die."
It was two hours later when Harry rode back into the homestead. His dead mate was over the saddle of the second horse.
He cried as he told the boss what had happened; who quickly took a step forward and put his arm around the stockman's shoulders. "A bad time, mate. Rotten luck all round, hey?"
"Not all round, Red. At least one good thing came out of it."
"Hey, what you talking about? He's dead!"
"Yeah. An' I reckon that's as bad as it gets; except for one thing. Just before he breathed his last breath, he accepted Jesus as his Lord."
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