An Australian will bet on any thing that moves or looks as though it might. When there is no better way to risk a shilling, he will bet which of the flies on a pub ceiling will first light in his glass of beer. By staid and proper standards, all Australians are mad, and among the maddest of them this year are Frank (at right in the picture) and John Livingston, two bachelor brothers of the small, pastoral town of Mount Gambier. Right now these Australian brothers are betting $150,000 to nothing that England can win a series of sailboat races to be held next September off the coast of North America. They are doing it by footing a good part of the bill for a potential challenger which, under the rules of America's Cup racing, must be designed, built and manned by nationals of the challenging nation—in this case Great Britain. About the only thing the Livingstons themselves will be allowed to do with Kurrewa V after she is launched in Scotland's Holy Loch later this month is watch her sail.
If Kurrewa should be picked over Anthony Boyden's Sovereign to race against an American defender and should then defeat that defender, thus proving the first challenger ever to win the cup, the glory will go to England; to the Royal Thames Yacht Club, which issued the challenge; to David Boyd, the Scotsman who designed her; to Owen Aisher, the Englishman who directed her campaigning; and to the British yachtsmen who served as her crew. Why, then, are these two men from the other side of the world plunking down so much when they have so little chance of gaining even a round of applause for their trouble?
In explaining why Australians do anything it is important, first off, to bear in mind that theirs is a far and different land, where the sun leans to the north and the south wind blows cold. In Australia, swans are black; fish climb trees; kangaroos and wallabies bound around with offspring in their pockets; and clownish kookaburra birds fill the mornings and the evenings with idiotic laughter. Should men be ordinary when their country is not?
The Livingston brothers, like the awesome land around them, are not bound by precise laws or awed by 20th century boojums and taboos. Like most Australians, they are irrepressible and unstoppable, as restless as a fleck of spit on a hot griddle, going from here to there, it often seems, simply for the sake of moving.
Frank Livingston is 63 years old. His brother, John, is 62. Yet neither of them considers himself quite old enough to think of marrying and settling down. Three weeks ago, in the middle of an Australian summer day, under a brazen sun, with the temperature 102� and the wind nil, Frank and John Livingston went hunting for an old groundwater hole in a parched sheep pasture. Lifting a piece of corrugated roofing off the waterhole, they uncovered a fox. The fox took off, with John Livingston after it. Being some 60 years younger than its pursuer, and no doubt feeling the heat, the fox never had a chance. John Livingston caught it in 30 yards, gave it a swat, and sent it on its cringing way. Watching the chase, Frank Livingston remarked, "It does me good to see John moving around again after his heart attack."
The brothers were born to wealth and have become still wealthier by bouncing from one place to the next and from one fanciful gamble to another. Their connections, financial and social, are worldwide. Down under (and also up this-away) they are members of many social organizations, notably the Royal Yacht Squadron, a British club so exclusive it did not admit Sir Thomas Lipton to membership until the year of his death at 81. The Livingstons are acquainted, of course, with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and consider among their close friends Sir E.M. Conolly Abel Smith, K.C.V.O., C.B., and many other of Britain's fine sailors. They are good friends of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and of John Kettelwell, the prominent angora goat rancher of South Africa. Among their many American friends they include Boatbuilder Bill Luders of Stamford, Conn., Reporter Joe Sheehan of The
New York Times
and Lawyer Howard Wright of Pasadena, Calif. and the Transpacific Yacht Club. They like North American Indians, Papuans, Orientals, Continentals and Bushmen. They have never met an Eskimo or a Tierra del Fuegan, but hope to.
The Livingstons consider the Right Honorable Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, a pal, and among their less prominent intimates there is a wild variety of Melbourne sophisticates, Sydney bustlers and Queensland cowpokes. The brothers have a particularly high regard for Bob Loudon, the Queenslander who manages their Yarraden cattle ranch (or "cattle station," as Australians call it). Loudon is a reincarnation of the leather-hided cowboys who once rode the spreads around Laramie—a good cattleman and a practitioner of the art of throwing a bull Australian style.
In Queensland you do not, as the phrase goes, "take the bull by the horns" to throw him. Instead, you chase the bull on horseback, and when he tires, you grab his tail, taking one turn with it around your hand for a surer grip. As your horse's forehooves come down at the end of a stride, you swing your offside leg over, slide down the horse's flank, planting your feet solidly on the ground. Feeling his progress checked, the bull will turn to charge you, and in trying to get his horns where his tail is, he will topple over. Since this action usually takes place on range where big eucalyptus trees grow 10 or 15 yards apart, there is a certain element of risk. The Livingstons like that.
Another of the Livingstons' Queensland friends is Walter Lawrence, whose cattle station once abutted theirs around Mount Mulgrave, although, quite frankly, of late Walter has proved to be something of a disappointment. A few years back, while still in his prime—a mere 70 years old or so—Walter quit ranching and took up living in cities the year round. In the old days whenever Walter radioed out from the bush for a plane to come get him, the word would spread through the town of Cairns that Walter was coming. When he got to Cairns. Walter would travel from pub to pub, announcing drinks for everybody and enjoying himself tremendously. At such times the nights in Cairns were long and gay. When Walter's daughter was married at his cattle station, as John Livingston remembers, "everybody in Queensland was invited but most of them didn't have a month to spare."
The Livingstons grew up in the profitable but erratic business of sheep raising. They know how to dip sheep, how to shear them and how to care for them in sickness and in health. They know how to contend with rabbits and the other blights of the land. From birth they have known the long summers of the range, where the blue sky hangs overhead week on week and the sun bears down until its dry heat reaches deep into the skin. They also know what it is like to be constantly moist, for their two major cattle holdings—each roughly the size of the King Ranch in Texas—are situated in the tropical north corner of Queensland, where the only way to dry a shirt during the wet season is to hang it on a line and let the rain beat the moisture out.