ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Robinson lives in
He grew up in Tweed
Heads, where he attended
His grandmother was an author, Winsome Smith, so he believes that he inherited writing from her in a way.
This book, like several others he plans to write, comes from stories he made up, and drawings and games he played as a child. So he knows them pretty well and hopes that you as a reader enjoy them as much as he has over the years.
he face looking back at him from the small bathroom mirror looks so old now. The lines on his face each tell a different part of life’s journey. At 96, William Miller’s journey is still continuing. With his youth long gone, all William has left is to wait for death. But before William finally goes to the grave, he wants to be unburdened from his sins and wrongdoings from a lifetime ago.
As he stands there, he takes in a deep breath. His body is tired and sore. But his mind is still sharp. Which is a good thing, for William has been waiting for this day for over 70 years and finally it has come. Turning away from the mirror, the old man looks around the small, cramped bathroom. He looks at the bath, then the toilet. Even with those simple, daily household items, the unit in which he lives is more than what he feels he deserves. He has lived in the unit for 40 years, and every day starts out much like this one. The exception being that this day may be his last one there. But no matter what, this day will be the day to change everything and will finally bring a long-awaited closure to the old man.
The secrets of a past life, a time long since passed will all come out, and even with his simplistic thinking, he knows that even Australian history will be different after this day. He is nervous and excited about this day. After months of trying to find someone to listen to what he has to say and being rejected, finally, a few days ago, William found a newspaper reporter who was willing to listen to him. He just wants peace and hopes that this day will bring him that peace. He also hopes that at his advanced age, the reporter won’t turn him over to the police before fully hearing what he has to say and believing him.
“Lord, I give myself to you. Please, Lord just let my judge be you,” he mumbles.
With his prayer said and done, he walks out of the bathroom. His old legs throb with pain. Slow baby steps get the old man into the small, narrow hallway. Using the walls to keep himself balanced, he makes it into the lounge room, furnished in old, mismatched furniture in a state of disrepair and with the old wallpaper peeling off the walls. Above an ancient, large, wooden radio sits an old oil painting of a depiction of drovers herding a large flock of sheep towards a watering hole. The painting is more than just an oil painting to William. It catches his attention every morning when he walks into his lounge room – it means so much to him. It represents his time, how he lived his life in his younger days. Back then life was harder, yes, but also simpler. It was a time where a man had to be as hard as the land; a time when a man needed to be tough to live; a time when a man was measured by his action and not his words alone; a time that forged Australian legends.
But today, the painting means more than it has to him ever before. Looking at it, he loses himself in memories of his youth. Back then, in those days, that was William’s time. He longs for that time again. Even with his memories not being completely happy ones, they are his memories. In fact, William’s bad memories will be the focus for him today. Those bad memories have made William Miller into who he is for certain. But those bad memories that have haunted him for so long will now finally be put right.
Looking at the picture is such a powerful thing for him. It is so symbolic for him that in many ways, the picture and the old man complete each other.
A loud knock breaks William’s focus on the painting. Turning towards the front door, he takes two painful steps towards it as a second knock can be heard. Wasting no time, he pulls open the door.
“Mr Miller?” asks the thin man standing outside the unit.
“Yes,” William replies, looking the man up and down, studying him.
Noticing the old man looking at him and knowing he is being studied, he feels uncomfortable. Being a reporter he is used to people looking at him strangely and observing his actions.
“I’m John Simpson from the Daily News.” John introduces himself, holding out his right hand.
William is far from impressed by the man standing in front of him. From first appearances, John Simpson is not what William would call a man’s man; he does, however, look like a journalist. And for William that’s enough. Really he’s just glad that John has shown up to meet him.
On the other hand, from what John heard on the telephone, William is exactly what he’s been expecting. An old man with a story; this is nothing new to him; it seems that all the old-timers have a story about something.
“Come in,” William offers.
William moves side-on, allowing John to come inside, and then closes the door. Once inside, John can’t help but notice that William is a man of no great wealth; he seems to be living below the poverty line. Looking around, he can see the old man lives cleanly, but the place is in such a state that he feels unclean just standing there. This feels like another bleeding-heart story to John. It seems that these are the only kind of stories he gets working for a free local newspaper. Certainly from John’s observations, William is in need of some good luck. This old man seems so lost. The human side of John feels for him while the reporter side of him just wants to get out of there and find a real story to write about.
Hobbling past John, William falls into an old armchair that sits across from an equally old and ragged two-seater lounge chair. He gestures for John to sit across from him. Removing his buttoned-up trenchcoat, John pulls out a notepad and pen from his side pocket and throws the coat over the back of the double-seater. Now John is ready for whatever the old man wants to say.
Sitting there, John can feel the springs in the old cushions poking his rear as he tries to get comfortable. Whatever he is going to hear, he hopes it won’t take too long as his discomfort is getting worse by the minute.
“So, Mr Miller, what do you want to talk about?” asks John, trying not to show his discomfort.
Finally, this is William’s chance to gain his redemption. After so long, he can’t believe it’s time.
“Tell me, Mr Simpson, what do you know about bushrangers? Especially a bushranger by the name of Daniel William Longstreet?” the old man asks, feeling strange about the name passing his lips.
“Daniel Longstreet? As in Mad Dog Danny, the Kid Bushranger?” John inquires.
William nods his head with a smirk on his face. It is a strange and unexpected question but a serious one. The name is so deeply rooted in Australian culture, and very few people mention the bushranger lightly. Daniel Longstreet is feared and loved even more than Ned Kelly. To this day there are mixed feelings about him.
“He was one of the most feared and infamous bushrangers in Australian history. He was also only 16 years old when he took to being a bushranger. He was shot and killed by Superintendent Adam Craig in 1881 in the famous Willis Street shootout,” explains John.
“What if I told you that the historical account of Daniel Longstreet’s end is somewhat false?” William asks, looking right into John’s eyes, as if speaking to the reporter’s soul.
This really isn’t grabbing John –old bushrangers are not news, even Daniel Longstreet. It is 1960 and the day of the bushranger is long over. But John can see that this old man has nothing and is lonely. So he decides that it won’t hurt to spare half an hour to listen. Maybe the old man witnessed Mad Dog Danny in action or knew the infamous bushranger. Besides, all John has to do is write up a story about a local girl who believes she’s seen an angel in a wheat field –not real journalism at all, just another feel-good story.
“Alright, then. What makes you say that what’s in the history books is wrong?” he asks, writing something in his pad.
“Give me a moment,” William replies, standing up.
Painfully, William hurries out of the room and down the hallway. Now alone, John looks around the lounge room; there isn’t much to look at. He isn’t by any means a wealthy man himself, but he is better off than this old man appears to be. He can’t understand how anyone lives like this. He wonders why the old man has been left to live like this and where his family is.
William reappears, holding an old, rusty tin. From the faded print, John can make out the name Weetbix on the side of it. William walks over to John and hands it over before returning to his armchair.
John can feel that there’s something in it that has a bit of weight to it. And whatever it is, it’s moving around. More importantly, he figures that the contents of the tin will lead to what the old man wants to tell him.
“In that tin, Mr Simpson, is my past. It’s a past that I’m not proud of but it will also rewrite history,” William explains.
That sparks John’s interest. What can be in the tin to make this old man say that it will rewrite history? He opens the tin and discovers what is giving it its weight. Reaching inside, he pulls out an old Colt .45 six shooter. Holding it, he feels uneasy. He has never held a gun before. He doesn’t like them and this gun makes him feel very uncomfortable. Also in the tin is a photo with an old newspaper clipping and an old, yellow piece of paper, a letter maybe. John isn’t sure now what to expect; it seems that this simple bushranger story now has a little meat to it. But still it doesn’t seem overly newsworthy, even to be published in a free newspaper.
“That gun is one of the two guns used by Daniel at the Willis Street shootout,” William informs John matter-of-factly.
Placing the gun back in the tin, John is pleased to no longer be holding it. Seeing the folded piece of paper, he pulls it out. Unfolding it as gently as he can, he notices the photo inside the tin.
“My God!” John declares, looking at the photo.
The photo is very old and damaged – it is a photo of Daniel and Oliver Longstreet. The two brothers are standing outside an old stable. Looking at the photo, John picks that Daniel is the one on the right, standing next to a barrel.
Looking at the photo is haunting; there are very few photos of Daniel Longstreet and even fewer of his brother. To see one with both brothers in it together is even rarer. This photo is an original, one that you just don’t see. It is rumoured that there are photos in existence of the brothers together. Clearly, John will have to rethink his previous thoughts about this old man as being someone who just wants attention.
“That photo was taken a few days before the infamous bushranger failed the AMP coach robbery,” William explains.
“So, I take it you knew the Longstreet brothers?” John interjects. He is starting to get a little more interested.
Hearing that makes William smile. Clearly John doesn’t get what he’s trying to show him. That’s okay. In a way he is finding this much easier than expected.
“Read the letter,” he orders.
John quickly picks up the letter and unfolds it with great care. He starts to read it.
I find it unfair and very unjust that you have condemned me for actions that were taken after the system of law failed my family and me. Why is it that you have the police hunt me down and arrest my family when the real villains in this matter have been allowed to continue their lives and given protection by the law?
Sir, you have left me with no other recourse but to take these actions. The blood of the New South Wales police officers that I have killed and will kill rest on your hands, not mine. You and the police have declared an unjust war against us and we will defend ourselves to the end. Until my family is released, I will continue to kill and rob. I offer this as a one-time chance for you to do the right thing, Sir.
Daniel W Longstreet
John looks up at William. This letter is interesting because it is widely believed that Daniel Longstreet couldn’t read or write, yet here is a letter written by Daniel Longstreet. From the words and spelling, John can tell, as could anyone, that the person who’s written this letter was able to both read and write very well.
“I was under the impression that Daniel Longstreet couldn’t read or write,” explains John.
“That’s true. That letter was written by a friend,” William replies.
“Why am I here, Mr Miller?” asks John.
He wants to know what the old man has to say and he wants to know now.
“Daniel Longstreet didn’t die at the Willis Street shootout. The fact of the matter is that I’m very much alive,” William offers in response.
That is unexpected; hearing this old man claiming to be the infamous bushranger is almost laughable. There’s no way that he can be. But looking at him, John can see that the old man truly believes he is. Still, John decides to play this out a little longer to see where it will lead.
“It’s an historical fact he did die, so what proof can you offer to back up your claim?” John asks, preparing to write in his pad.
“Well, for one thing, his body was never recovered after the fire. Secondly, who in their right mind would make such a claim? I assure you, Mr Simpson, I am Daniel Longstreet!”
John doesn’t believe that this old man was once the notorious bushranger. How could he have been? For sure, he wouldn’t have been able to escape the law. Daniel Longstreet had killed at least 17 people, mainly policemen. He would not have been free or even go all these years undetected.
It is either the journalist or mystery lover in John, but for whatever the reason he isn’t ready to walk away just yet. John suspects that William is maybe a relative or a friend of the bushranger. He does after all have a photo and a private letter. This letter is known of, but no one has sighted it before.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” William asks.
“You must understand that it’s a bold claim you’ve made. Can you show me some more proof, something that can say with certainty that you are Daniel Longstreet? I don’t know. Something. Anything at all.”
Taking a deep breath, William Miller prepares to tell a story that happened a lifetime ago. A story that changed a family, a state and even a country, as well as himself.
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