Today I am going to tell you some summaries and analysis of a humorous short story written by a most iconic Australian writer. We will also explore the characters, techniques and themes that writer used to make the readers get stick to the story until end. By the way, the title of our most popular short story is “The Loaded Dog”. Sounds interesting and excited, isn’t it? Common, let us begin.
Henry Lawson is the hero of our title that means he was the writer of ‘The Loaded Dog’. Lawson is the most iconic Australian writer and bush poet along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson. Besides, he is the best-known among Australian fiction writers and other poets during colonial period and is called as “Australia’s greatest short story writer”.
The story line or plot overview states that three easy going gold miners with their dog invents a new approach in order to catch a lot of fishes in bulk quantity and the farcical consequences they face when the invented technique of catching fishes backfires in a spectacular way resulting from leaving a bomb cartridge unattended.
‘The Loaded Dog’ was first published ‘Henry Lawson’s short story collection titled ‘Joe Wilson and His Mates’, which consist of a comedic farce called “The Loaded Dog” in 1901. Same as his other writings, the humorous story line was based on the profiling activities of three colonists who made their hard living on the rugged frontier. However, the short story had continued to gain increased popularity just because of story’s universally recognized humorous narration in a simple setting of Australian bush. Especially, the specificity and sensitivity of the location (Australian Bush) the writer chose gives the touch of Australian origin in bringing the characters and their very hard living situation to life.
Reader’s Perception after reading the story of ‘The Loaded Dog’
The story concerns the backdrop of gold rush shows the theme of struggle, fear, control, perseverance, and control. After finishing reading the full story, the reader visualize, and understand the characters and their responses to significant aspects of life, and also realizes the harsh realities and struggles of living in Australian bush. These realities are the main culprits of creating significant experiences in the story since the characters face the hardships, love, and mate ship. Also, the narration part is the backbone of any successful story. In our story the pacing ability of the narrator immerse the readers into the story while making understanding the characters, feel more life-like. The readers experience the significant mate ship through the characters; David Regan, Andy Page, Jim Bently, and their young retriever dog, Tommy. Tommy was described with great visual metaphors such as a big, four footed mate, foolish, and overgrown pup, who was always drooling round them, lashing his heavy tail to their legs.
What exactly the story of ‘The Loaded Dog’?
Dave Regan, Andy Page, and Jim Bently are the three easy going gold miners were in search of rich gold quartz reef at Stony Creek, the vicinity where the gold quartz was supposed to exist. But they don’t know where exactly the gold mines are located like either ten feet or hundred feet depth and in which direction. So, the three miners decided to sink a shaft at Stony Creek. A young retriever dog, Tommy was also accompanied them in their travel. In their journey to find gold mines at Stony Creek, they stuck with baling water as a large solid rock and water blocks their way. Hence, they decided to use time-fuse and blasting powder, old-fashioned techniques used to blast solid rocks and such other hard materials. Following up their thought, the three miners decided to catch fish by making explosives in a cartridge in a skin of strong calico, sewn mouth, and bound tightly at the end of fuse. To make the cartridge water-tight they dipped it in the melted tallow. They filled the sewn cartridge with some other blasting materials such as dry dust, wad and ram with stiff clay, and small pieces of broken bricks. Then got the hole drilled and also ensured that the hole was dry and dropped in the cartridge. Now they lit the fuse and came out of the hole and waited for some time until the cartridge blast. The result was a shaft with an ugly pot-hole and broken rock. Finally, the three fishing enthusiasts could see plenty of fish in the creek including cat-fish, cod, fresh water bream, and blue fish etc. The butchers or the third party who trade on meat, were always fond of the fish and collect the fish from Dave and Andy in exchange with the meat. Especially they were fond of Andy’s and Dave’s fishing style, Andy would fish for constant three hours at a stretch. That’s Amazing! So, the three friends use to make business with the butchers whenever they caught extra fishes like more than they could eat.
One day in the mid-winter, the creek was low and while Andy, Jim, and Dave were working on sinking shafts, they found a dangerous form of mining where they could catch a lot many fishes but it involves creating a new vertical tunnel much deeper into the mine. To do that, it requires big explosives to put in the holes. Before that they tried to pick up fish by baling water out of smaller holes and muddying up the water in the larger ones until the fishes rose up to the surface. But Dave warned the other two about the cat fish with sharp spikes. In spite of Dave’s warning signs of cat fish, Andy and Dave, both scooped out the cat fish with hand and got pricked. The pain from the pricked spikes of cat fish was lasted for two nights and gave a severe pain in the shoulders, stomach, hands etc.
At this situation, Dave had come up with an idea, which is cool and quite useful but the negligence nature of the three put them into a tragic situation. Let us know what it is! Just continue reading…
Dave said, “Why not blow up the fish in the big water hole using cartridge?” Before we get into learning other two persons opinion on Dave’s proposal, I would like to discuss few interesting facts about the nature of our characters in the story.
Dave Regan is an easy going, mischievous, and youngest person of the trio. He was very much interested in putting the other two person in various shenanigans. Jim Bently is the self-serious member of the group and often behaves cranky. Whereas Andy by nature straight forward man often jammed in between Dave and Jim.
Whatever may be they were up to by nature, at the end Andy puts Dave’s ideas and new theories into practice if he was able to do, even bore the blame if he fails in putting the ideas into practice, or makes chaffing of his friends if they fails.
Following up the Dave’s idea of using cartridges had come into picture of catching fish. Andy prepared a big cartridge, three times bigger than the usual one which is earlier used for fishing at Stony Creek. Jim Bently gave his support saying that the cartridge was big enough to blow out the river at bottom level and he also dipped the cartridge in melted bees wax in order to make it water tight before using for explode. Dave said that they need to wait until the cartridge is well water tightened and the scattered fish (because the fish get scared of the device when placed inside the water) must noising round again. The ideas was to sink the cartridge of blasting powder into the water with an open end fuse which was attached to the float on the surface.
To make the cartridge rigid and solid enough in order to increase the force of explosion, Dave suggested Andy to bind the sail canvas strip used for making water bags with multi layers of stiff brown papers (also confirmed that the papers are dried well under sun), which used in gun crackers. And then Andy sewed a covering of two thicknesses of canvas over it, and bound the thing from end to end with stout fishing-line. Now the cartridge was a formidable bomb but still Dave and Andy were on doubt of the cartridges working efficiency. Therefore, Andy again sewed another layer of canvas around the prepared cartridge and dipped in the melted tallow. Now he rounded it with fencing wire and again dipped in the melted tallow and made it stand against the tent-peg, leaving the fuse loosely around it. Leaving the cartridge to the tent-peg, Andy and Dave left to the camp-fire to check the potatoes (which they kept for boiling) are cooked or not and to prepare some chops for dinner. Here comes the big, foolish, overgrown up, four footed young retriever dog into the picture. Our three fishing enthusiasts loved the dog for his good heartedness and foolishness but they use to tie him up when they really wanted to enjoy their swim.
Tommy, the retriever dog was always interested in what Andy, Dave, and Jim are doing!! Apart from it, tommy’s main job in life is retrieving things. As always Tommy watched Andy all day since morning while making the cartridge and hanging it to a tent-peg unattended. To its curiosity, Tommy grabbed the cartridge of explosives in his mouth and started playing with it. Meanwhile, while the dog running to the campfire, accidentally the fuse got ignited. Jim first looked behind and was shocked looking at Tommy. Jim started shouting ‘Run! Run!’ and warned Andy and Dave to look their behind. Seeing the lit cartridge explosive, the three miners tried their best to flee. But to Tommy, the panicked attempts of three men were like a game of chase. Dave and Jim were good fast runners compared to Andy. They started shouting at each other to run faster and to split at least they all do not blow up at a time altogether. But since they are in confusion and tension, they couldn’t follow each other’s instructions and still running together. Andy’s legs were shaking with jolt but still his legs started moving before his brain did and he followed Dave and Jim. The Tommy followed Andy. The live fuse in the mouth of Tommy was swishing in all directions, stinking, spluttering, and hissing. But still Dave and Jim shouting at Andy not to follow them and go in another direction and on the other hand Andy shouting at Tommy to go home leaving the cartridge but nothing was working out. At this point Andy’s brain began to work and started thinking fast, which was stimulated by the crisis: tried few self-defence tricks like tried giving running kick at the dog but the dog dodged, snatched up stones and sticks from the ground and threw at the dog and ran again. With the panicking attempts made by Andy, the dog, Tommy thought that he was mistaken about Andy and hence left Andy. But Tommy again bounded after Dave. As a last attempt, Dave tried grabbing the cartridge from the dog’s mouth and flung it as far as he could. But the Tommy was more delighted and excited about the game of chase thinking that the game turned to game of fetch. Hence, the dog ran behind the cartridge and brought it back. Frustrated Dave cursed and roared at the Tommy, who seeing Dave’s behaviour thought that Dave was offended and left him. But ran after Jim who was well ahead. To get away Jim climbed up a sapling (a young, skinny tree) as much high as he could. As it is a young sapling Jim couldn’t managed to stay safely up at the top as the top of the tree bended down and broke. So, Jim could only manage to stay just ten to twelve feet away from the ground and on the tree. On the other hand, Tommy was holding the cartridge nicely and safely as if it was a kitten and capering at the foot of sapling with the attempts of leaping and whooping in between. Jim tried to climb high and high to the top of the tree but finally the broken branch fallen to the ground and Jim ran away immediately when he touched the ground. Tommy swooped and followed Jim again. After few moments Jim found digger’s hole which is about ten feet depth and decided to land in it safely on soft mud. Tommy who was following Jim stopped over the edge and looked at him with a sardonic smile for a moment. Jim again started shouting feebly that ‘Go away’, ‘Go away’…
Now Tommy takes off after Dave who was the only one in the sight as Andy hides behind a big log lying flat on his face. Then Dave rushed into a pub or small café or shanty which is not so far from the claim and located on the main road. There were many bushmen standing around drinking in the bar and veranda. He tried to explain about the pathetic situation that his dog was holding a live cartridge in his mouth and stop the dog’s entry to the pub by closing the front door. After knowing that the front door was closed, Tommy bounded around the hotel to find another way to enter and finally entered into the hotel through the back door. Seeing Tommy, all the men scattered with shouting and the Tommy was after all of them in his own friendly way still carrying live cartridge in his mouth and the fuse attached to it is spluttering. All the people in the hotel burst out of the hotel to save their lives. Being a young dog, he wants to make friendship with everybody out there and bounded one after another but people scattered out in fear, not knowing the intention of Tommy. The retriever, Tommy suddenly went in under the kitchen, there happened to meet a vicious feral yellow cattle-dog. This mongrel dog, whom the neighbours had tried for years to poison or shoot since the dog was been a neighbourhood problem for a while now. Tommy’s instinct suggested him to run away from the mongrel cattle dog, maybe he would have any past bad experiences with yellow one. So, Tommy saw his danger and ran away into the yard still holding the cartridge but half-way across the yard, the yellow mongrel caught up the Tommy and nipped him. Tommy in pain gave a terrified yell and rushed into the bush leaving the cartridge. Subsequently, the yellow dog followed Tommy to some distance and returned to check what Tommy had dropped. Immediately, the other undomesticated surrounding dogs including cold-blooded kangaroo dogs, spidery, thievish, mongrel sheep and cattle dogs, vicious yellow and black dogs, etc. surrounded the yellow dog to see what it had got!! The mongrel yellow dog sniffed at the cartridge twice and before the yellow dog tried to bite, the cartridge exploded so hard that the shack or nearby rattled.
In the blast, the yellow dog was killed and some of the other dogs were hurt badly. Since it was a very good blasting powder, which Dave had got it from Sydney, had created a big mess and huge impact in the surrounding including the undomesticated dog’s and horse’s life. When the dust and smoke was cleared away, the Bushmen found the remains of dead animals, seems panicking.
Apart from that the Bushmen and their wives who witnessed the spectacle laughed uproariously recalling the whole act and commotion happened. Eventually, Dave realized the situation and decided to apologize once the things had settled up and did apologize for the commotion, which had been created by his dog. While Tommy returned to its home with a longest, broadest, and reddest smile of amiability and his eyes tells that he had an apparent fun for one afternoon.
Andy chained the dog up and went on with his dinner preparations, while Dave went to help Jim to come out of the hole. Here after whenever the Bushmen sees Dave, they use to ask him about how fishing was going on. For instance: ‘’Ello, Da-a-ve! How’s the fishin’ getting on, Da-a-ve?”
The violence created in the story is a bit funny to the modern readers but there was a magic in writer’s theme, techniques, characters, etc. to make the readers stick to his story till end. Also the three significant and predominant characters were seen in almost all the Henry Lawson’s other writings.
Themes in the story
One of the main themes of the story is fear!! The dog takes the cartridge and puts everyone’s life in risk including himself unknowing of what the cartridge is going to do. All the three men, Bushmen in the hotel, etc. ran away with fear until the cartridge was exploded.
A ‘never give up’ attitude is a positive sign to a positive attitude but in this story we observe excessive perseverance which ends up in creating a lot of issues
The author uses literary techniques in the story to make it more realistic, descriptive, and engaging. The techniques include alliteration, simile, dialect, imagery, and repetition.
About the dog character: Till the end of the story, Tommy remains unaware of what he has done and what are the consequences for the fun he has for few hours holding the live cartridge in his mouth. Even the writer kept the dog’s character same as he was introduced in the beginning of the story. This again shows that the writer wanted to keep the story realistic. Also the reader does not sense that Tommy has learnt anything at the end. In fact, the dog was very much satisfied after the fun he had with everyone for few hours. He returned home happily. In conclusion, all these texts and characters use powerful visual techniques that let the reader understand the personas and their worlds clearly.