Saltbush Bill- AB ( Banjo) Paterson
Now is the law of the Overland that all in the West obey —
A man must cover with travelling sheep a six-mile stage a day;
But this is the law which the drovers make, right easily understood,
They travel their stage where the grass is bad, but they camp where the grass is good;
They camp, and they ravage the squatter’s grass till never a blade remains.
Then they drift away as the white clouds drift on the edge of the saltbush plains:
From camp to camp and from run to run they battle it hand to hand
For a blade of grass and the right to pass on the track of the Overland.
For this is the law of the Great Stock Routes, ’tis written in white and black —
The man that goes with a travelling mob must keep to a half-mile track;
And the drovers keep to a half-mile track on the runs where the grass is dead,
But they spread their sheep on a well-grassed run till they go with a two-mile spread.
So the squatters hurry the drovers on from dawn till the fall of night,
And the squatters’ dogs and the drovers’ dogs get mixed in a deadly fight.
Yet the squatters’ men, thought they haunt the mob, are willing the peace to keep,
For the drovers learn how to use their hands when they go with the travelling sheep;
But this is the tale of a Jackaroo that came from a foreign strand,
And the fight that he fought with Saltbush Bill, the King of the Overland.
Now Saltbush Bill was a drover tough as ever the country knew,
He had fought his way on the Great Stock Routes from the sea to the Big Barcoo;
He could tell when he came to a friendly run that gave him a chance to spread,
And he knew where the hungry owners were that hurried his sheep ahead;
He was drifting down in the Eighty drought with a mob that could scarcely creep
(When the kangaroos by the thousand starve, it is rough on the travelling sheep),
And he camped one night at the crossing-place on the edge of the Wilga run;
‘We must manage a feed for them here,’ he said, ‘or half of the mob are done!’
So he spread them out when they left the camp wherever they liked to go,
Till he grew aware of a Jackaroo with a station-hand in tow.
They set to work on the straggling sheep, and with many a stockwhip crack
The forced them in where the grass was dead in the space of the half-mile track;
And William prayed that the hand of Fate might suddenly strike him blue
But he’d get some grass for his starving sheep in the teeth of that Jackaroo.
So he turned and cursed the Jackaroo; he cursed him, alive or dead,
From the soles of his great unwieldly feet to the crown of his ugly head,
With an extra curse on the moke he rode and the cur at his heels that ran,
Till the Jackaroo from his horse got down and went for the drover-man;
With the station-hand for his picker-up, though the sheep ran loose the while,
They battled it out on the saltbush plain in the regular prize-ring style.
Now, the new chum fought for his honour’s sake and the pride of the English race,
But the drover fought for his daily bread with a smile on his bearded face;
So he shifted ground, and he sparred for wind, and he made it a lengthy mill,
And from time to time as his scouts came in they whispered to Saltbush Bill —
‘We have spread the sheep with a two-mile spread, and the grass it is something grand;
‘You must stick to him, Bill, for another round for the pride of the Overland.’
The new chum made it a rushing fight, though never a blow got home,
Till the sun rode high in the cloudless sky and glared on the brick-red loam,
Till the sheep drew in to the shelter-trees and settled them down to rest;
Then the drover said he would fight no more, and gave his opponent best.
So the new chum rode to the homestead straight, and told them a story grand
Of the desperate fight that he fought that day with the King of the Overland;
And the tale went home to the Public Schools of the pluck of the English swell —
How the drover fought for his very life, but blood in the end must tell.
But the travelling sheep and the Wilga sheep were boxed on the Old Man Plain;
’Twas a full week’s work ere they drafted out and hunted them off again,
With a week’s good grass in their wretched hides, with a curse and a stockwhip crack,
They hunted them off on the road once more to starve on the half-mile track.
And Saltbush Bill, on the Overland, will many a time recite
How the best day’s work that he ever did was the day that he lost the fight.
Love Song to a Yabbie – Grahame Watt
We were sitting by a waterhole, my girl and I, one night,
When we heard a yabbie singing a love song clear and bright.
“If I could hold your claw gently and gently touch your feeler,
I’d be your for ever more and evermore sand you would be my sheila.
I’d get down on my sixteen knees, for me it’s just frustration,
I feel for you, my shell goes weak, you are my own crustacean.
You’re the yabbie that I love, I’ve gone and flipped my flippers,
We could settle in the mud and raise lots of little nippers.”
My Hat! – Will Ogilvie
The hats of a man may be many
In the course of a varied career,
And some have been worth not a penny
And some have been devilish dear;
But there's one hat I always remember
When sitting alone by the fire.
In the depth of a Northern November,
Because it fulfilled my desire.
It was old, it was ragged and rotten
And many years out of mode,
Like a thing that a tramp had forgotten
And left at the side of a road.
The boughs of the mulga had torn it,
It's ribbon was naught but lace,
And old swaggie would not have worn it
Without a sad smile on his face.
When I took off the hat to the ladies
It was rather with sorrow than swank,
And often I wished it in Hades
When the gesture drew only a blank;
But for swatting a fly on the tucker
Or lifting a quart from the fire
Or belting the ribs of a bucker
It was all that a man could desire.
When it ought to have gone to the cleaner's
(And stayed there, as somebody said!)
It was handy for flogging the weaners
From the drafting-yard into the shed.
And oft it has served as a dish for
A kelpie in need of a drink;
It was all that a fellow could wish for
In many more ways than you'd think.
It was spotted and stained by the weather,
There was more than one hole in the crown,
And it made little difference whether
The rim was turned up or turned down.
It kept out the rain (in a fashion)
And kept off the sun (more or less),
Bt it merely comanded compassion
Considered as part of one's dress.
Though it wasn't a hat you would bolt with
Or be anxious to borrow or hire,
It was useful to blindfold a colt with
Or handle a bit of barbed wire.
Though the world may have thought it improper
To wear such old rubbish as that,
I'd have scorned the best London-made topper
In exchange for my old battered hat.
‘Clancy of the Overflow’ by A.B. (Banjo) Paterson
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just “on spec”, addressed as follows: “Clancy, of The Overflow”.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of “The Overflow”.
Harry Morant by William Henry Ogilvie
Harry Morant was a friend I had
In the years long passed away,
A chivalrous, wild and reckless lad,
A knight born out of his day.
Full of romance and void of fears,
With a love of the world’s applause,
He should have been one of the cavaliers
Who fought in King Charles’s cause.
He loved a girl, and he loved a horse,
And he never let down a friend,
And reckless he was, but he rode his course
With courage up to the end.
“Breaker Morant” was the name he earned,
For no bucking horse could throw
This Englishman who had lived and learned
As much as the bushmen know.
Many a mile have we crossed together,
Out where the great plains lie,
To the clink of bit and the creak of leather –
Harry Morant and I.
Time and again we would challenge Fate
With some wild and reckless “dare”,
Shoving some green colt over a gate
As though with a neck to spare.
At times in a wilder mood than most
We would face them at naked wire,
Trusting the sight of a gidyea post
Would lift them a half-foot higher.
And once we galloped a steeplechase
For a bet – ’twas a short half-mile
While one jump only, the stiffest place
In a fence of the old bush style.
A barrier built of blue-gum rails
As thick as a big man’s thigh,
And mortised into the posts – no nails –
Unbreakable, four foot high.
Since both our horses were young and green
And had never jumped or raced,
Were we men who had tired of this earthly scene
We could scarce have been better placed.
“Off” cried “The Breaker”, and off we went
And he stole a length of lead,
Over the neck of the grey I bent
And we charged the fence full speed.
The brown horse slowed and tried to swerve,
But his rider with master hand
And flaming courage and iron nerve
Made him lift and leap and land.
He rapped it hard with every foot
And was nearly down on his nose;
Then I spurred the grey and followed suit
And, praise to the gods – he rose!
He carried a splinter with both his knees
And a hind-leg left some skin,
But we caught them up at the wilga trees
Sitting down for the short run-in.
They grey was game and he carried on
But the brown had a bit to spare;
The post was passed, my pound was gone,
And a laugh was all my share.
“The Breaker” is sleeping in some far place
Where the Boer War heroes lie,
And we’ll meet no more in a steeplechase –
Harry Morant and I.
BLUE the Shearer (copyright Col Wilson)
My body clock is on the blink, I don't know what the time is.
It's hard to turn my mind to what the subject of this rhyme is.
I haven't had a drink for days I'm stone cold, rigid sober.
I just go to pieces at the start of each October.
I've seen it come. I've seen it go. You think I'd be inured,
To this yearly aberration. The pain that I’ve endured,
The sense of devastation. Oh! The object of my raving,
Is nothing short of torture. It's daylight bloody saving.
If God had wanted daylight saving, as part of the creation,
It would have been included, and saved this aggravation.
It would have saved the need to think of ways to bug the voters
From the torture of invoking those unneeded daylight quotas.
But no, our civic fathers must decide to legislate,
To introduce disruption to the people of our state.
Daylight saving haters, (and there must be more than me)
Must suffer through the summer, this vile iniquity.
It's not like me to mention any Government duplicity,
But does it have a lot to do with saving electricity?
What does daylight saving do? I mean, what is it for?
Does it give us less daylight? Does it give us more?
This matter's occupied my mind. Why fix what ain’t broke?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s some nightmarish joke
Thought up by a Government looking for excuses,
To take our minds off stuff-ups and electoral abuses.
Which is more important? How our Parliament’s behaving?
Point scoring and back stabbing? Or daylight bloody saving?
Threats of war, cost of living, education, drought?
Daylight saving gives us something REAL to whinge about.
Country kids who bus to school, the mums and dads who send them,
Faded tattered curtains, and the women who must mend them.
Farmers, and their cows of course. Poor defenceless fowls,
Folk who find that daylight saving's murder on their bowels.
People living in the west, who must endure quite soon,
The never ending, scorching, daylight saving afternoon.
Parents of those little kids, who can't sleep in the light
Ask those people what they think. I bet they'll say I'm right.
So now you know my theory. An electorate tormented,
Can't concentrate on trivia. That's why it was invented,
Just to take our minds of politicians' raving,
And that's the only reason friends, why we have daylight saving.
SINCE THE COUNTRY CARRIED SHEEP by Harry ("Breaker") Morant
We trucked the cows to Homebush, saw the girls, and started back,
Went West through Cunnamulla, and got to the Eulo track.
Camped a while at Gonybibil - but, Lord! you wouldn't know
It for the place where you and Mick were stockmen long ago.
Young Merino bought the station, fenced the run and built a 'shed',
Sacked the stockmen, sold the cattle, and put on sheep instead,
But he wasn't built for Queensland. and every blessed year
One hears of 'labour troubles' when Merino starts to shear.
There are ructions with the rouseabouts, and shearers' strikes galore!
The likes were never thought of in the cattle days of yore.
And slowly, round small paddocks now, the 'sleeping lizards' creep,
And Gonybibil's beggared since the country carried sheep.
Time was we had the horses up ere starlight waned away,
The billy would be boiling by the breaking of the day;
And our horses - by Protection - were aye in decent nick,
When we rode up the 'Bidgee where the clearskins mustered thick.
They've built brush-yards on Wild Horse Creek, where in the morning's hush
We've sat silent in the saddle, and listened for the rush
Of the scrubbers - when we heard 'em, 'twas wheel 'em if you can,
While gidgee, pine and mulga tried the nerve of horse and man.
The mickies that we've branded there! the colts we had to ride!
In Gonybibil's palmy days - before the old boss died.
Could Yorkie Hawkins see his run, I guess his ghost would weep,
For Gonybibil's beggared since the country carried sheep.
From sunrise until sunset through the summer days we'd ride,
But stockyard rails were up and pegged, with cattle safe inside,
When 'twixt the gloamin' and the murk, we heard the well-known note -
The peal of boisterous laughter from the kookaburra's throat.
Camped out beneath the starlit skies, the tree-tops overhead,
A saddle for a pillow, and a blanket for a bed,
'Twas pleasant, mate, to listen to the soughing of the breeze,
And learn the lilting lullabies which stirred the mulga-trees.
Our sleep was sound in those times, for the mustering days were hard,
The morrows might be harder, with the branding in the yard.
But did yu see the station now! the men - and mokes - they keep!
You'd own the place was beggared - since the country carried sheep.
First published in The Bulletin, 4 March 1893.
TURBULENCE – Murray Hartin
Here's a tale of Billy Hays from out near Alice Springs
A wild young ringer, he'd done some crazy things
He'd bucked bulls over fences, rode a colt up Ayres Rock
See his legs weren't made for walking they were made for riding stock
A legend round the rodeo from Allaroon to Broome
An untried horse at 6am was saddle broke by noon
No form of equine foolery he wasn't game to try
Only one thing ever spooked him,
He was way too scared to fly.
Well if I was meant to fly he said
I'd have feathers and a beak,
You fly and waste a day and I'll drive and waste a week
I hear they're safe as houses and mechanically they're sound
But I don't see no rope or bridle so aye, I'm staying on the ground
One day Bill got a call from his mate in Adelaide,
He'd got his girl in trouble and the wedding cards were played
He said, Mate I don't care how you do it you can beg or steel or borrow
But Mate you're gunna have to catch the plane, coz the big day is tomorrow.
Billy cursed and spat it "That dopey bloody coot!
He knows I'll jump on anything that's coming out a chute
I've caught stallions that'd kill you, caught bulls gone off their brain
But I never thought there'd come a day I'd have to catch a plane!"
Bill legged it to the airport and thought "Well this is it"
The lady at the counter asked "Where would you like to sit?"
He said "You know that black box thing they always seem to find
"Well you can stick me right in side it if you wouldn't bloody mind"
She gave a friendly smile and "Sir I'll just take your bag"
He said "I don't bloody think so, 'n by the way it's called a swag."
Bill was sweatin' buckets when they finally cleared the strip
He had his seatbelt on that tight he was bleedin' from the hip
But when they levelled out he stopped shakin at the knees
Looked around , relaxed 'n thought "This flyin' game's a breeze"
We clipped his belt undone, stretched out in his seat
Well he couldn't stretch that much 'cause his swag was at his feet.
Then the captain crackled something, Bill asked the hostess what was said
"Sir you'd better buckle up there's some turbulence ahead:
Turbulence - what's that?" "Sir it's pockets caused by heat
"And when it gets severe it can throw you from your seat."
"Throw me, I'll be buggered," Bill pushed his seat right back,
Wrapped his legs around his swag and stuck his left hand through the strap
He jammed down his Akubra, he was ready now to ride
Then things got pretty bumpy and Billy yelled "Outside!"
The plane she dropped a thousand feet, bounced up five hundred more
When his head hit the roof, his backside hit the floor!
"I've rode all through the Territory and never come unstuck
So give me all you've got big bird - buck you bastard buck!"
And while the passengers were screaming in fear of certain death
Billy whooped and hollered 'til he near ran out of breath
You'd have thought that canvas swag was welded to his ass
And before the ringer knew it he's bucked up to business class
There seemed no way to tame this creature, it had ten gears and reverse
But that didn't worry Billy, he just bucked on through to first
He did somersaults with twists on this mongrel mount from hell
He yelled out to the pilot "for Christ sake ring the bell!"
Bill was bleeding from the bugle, he had cuts above both eyes
If you weren't there on the spot ya probably think I'm tellin' lies
He'd been upside down and inside out, done flips and triple spins
Ya might a' seen some great rides in your time but hands down Billy wins
The flight returned to normal, Bill was flat out on the deck
Still stuck to his swag but he looked a bloody wreck
He pulled himself together, stood up straight and raised his hat
He said "I've had some tough trips in me day but never one like that."
"an eight-second spin in Alice proves your made of sturdy stuff
But I was on there a near a minute and I reckon that's enough."
The first class folk were dumbstruck at this crazy ringer's feat
but Bill just grabbed a crownie and walked back to his seat.
Now years have passed and Bill's long give the buckin' game away
Too many breaks and dusty miles for far too little pay
Now plane's are not a worry, in fact he'd rather fly than ride
"N when you talk about his maiden voyage his chest puffs out with pride
"You can talk about your Rocky Neds or that old Chainsaw bloke
I'd ride 'em both without a rope and roll a bloody smoke
There's cowboys 'round who think they're hot, well they ain't tasted heat
"Til they've ridden time on Turbulence at 30,000 feet."
THE GEEBUNG POLO CLUB by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson
It was somewhere up the country in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives of the rugged mountainside,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash -
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.
It was somewhere down the country, in a city's smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called the Cuff and Collar Team.
As a social institution 'twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode 'em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them - just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken - just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player - so the game was called a tie.
Then the captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him - all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal - and missed it - then he tumbled off and died.
By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There's a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, "Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here."
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub -
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.