One morning Mathew was ill and Peter told Mick to ride into Struan and ask the doctor to come out. Nikola had been particularly well-behaved for some time so deciding to use him and feeling that with a fourteen-mile road on which were several hills it didn’t much matter whether Nikola bolted or not, Mike once more slipped a racing bridle over the horse’s head, lifted the saddle onto his back, tightened the girth and with a cheery shout put toe to stirrup and swung for the saddle.
Nikola sprung away but Mick’s leg was over his back and Mick had the reins firmly held against his neck. The horse broke into a gallop but Mick still minus one stirrup grasped a rein with each hand and sawed violently at the brute’s mouth – fighting desperately to get his head down Nikola raced along the farm avenue and swung round a sharp corner where a threshing plant was working.
As the horse came round the bend the engine whistle went and Nikola still at a gallop swerved madly across the road – Mick slipped and went flying out of the saddle, but unluckily his boot caught in the stirrup and off went Nikola like a thing possessed with Mick’s body half dragging the ground, half floating on air behind. Badly scared the horse even at the tremendous pace he was going attempted once or twice to lash out at the dragging object but the Fates had not finished with Michael. His boot gave and the lad a mass of tatters, blood, and bruises tumbled into a senseless heap.
Mick was tough and soon a mass of rags and mud rose painfully to his feet, limped a few steps and halted to shake a vengeful fist at the distance before him whilst a foul torrent of sea language flowed from a badly bleeding mouth. A few minutes later two Cape boys brought a foam covered horseback along the road to where a white-faced man and half a dozen coloured labourers were gathered round Mick enquiring if he was hurt.
“Is it hurt I am – don’t I look hurt? But by the Holy pipes that played before Moses, there’s a devil that’s going to be hurt worse still.”
Unfastening one end of the reins Mick took a firm grip of it in one hand and with a long quince cutting in the other proceeded to give Nikola the benefit of muscles toughened by years of work on oar and rope. Rearing, screaming the horse tried to charge Mick – a slash over his eyes turned him – Nikola wheeling round attempted to kick – the supple quince stick stung him hard – the horse made a dash but the rein only allowed him to run in a circle – several of the onlookers arming themselves with switches assisted heartily in the process of chastisement but Mick grimly held to the post of honour until so weary that he could no longer lift the stick.
Mick had a cigarette whilst Nikola saddened and humbled stood shivering by – a man held the horse’s head and Mick aching and groaning was lifted into the saddle – the man at the bridle released his hold – Nikola lifted his head, gave a snort, bucked violently and with his bit well between his teeth tore away.
Mick helpless as a babe sat firmly in the saddle – all right you – he muttered “its a good road and a long one – I’ve got my feet in the stirrups and you won’t get me this time.”
As he spoke far in the distance he saw a speck – larger and larger it grew resolving itself into a wagon with its long team of sixteen oxen. The road was narrow, strong wire, ostrich proof fences ran on either side – Mick felt that death was very near and as he rode a string of prayers Catholic, Anglican and Dutch Reformed streamed from his lips the while he fought like a devil to win control over Nikola – in vain – could he pass the wagon – alas the two damned fools of boys in charge were already standing waving their arms thinking to stop Nikola whilst their oxen straggled behind them completely blocking the road – a hundred yard left – a second or two more – Mick with a scream to God to help him flung himself from the saddle, Nikola swerved and with a wonderful glorious bound took the fence and cleared it.
A quarter of an hour later Mick limping and stumbling, crying with pain and rage, a horrible sight of mud, rags and blood led a well-rested well-fed horse from a lucerne field into a road.
“Kill me you Devil!” he shouted to the horse “But you won’t get me funky.”
Nikola rolled an enquiring eye backward and tensed ready for the third lap. Up galloped Peter Van Der Walt – “Thank God you’re not yet dead then Mick – Let’s change bridles and you can ride home on Star, I’ll take Nikola – Mathew’s better and doesn’t want the doctor.”
Mick answered – “We’ll change bridles but I’ll stick to Nikola – get the curb chain tight as you can whilst I cut a couple of sticks.”