THE PROSPECTOR'S DAUGHTER
© Terry Piggott
Winner, 2010 ‘Dusty Swag Award’, Murrindindi, Victoria.
“I guess I’ve had a real good life,” my old mate said to me,
while propped up by some pillows in his painful misery.
“I’ve known my share of troubles, but wont bother you with that,
I’d rather talk of good times if you have the time to chat.”
I’d dropped in for a visit after hearing he’d been crook,
they’d rung from Yunda station so I went to have a look.
He seemed quite anxious for a chat, although he wasn’t well
and I was glad to listen to the stories he might tell.
He’d had a go at many things and knocked about a lot;
he’d known some freezing winters and spent summers where it’s hot.
He paused for just a moment and a smile lit up his eyes,
recalling life out in the bush in heat and dust and flies.
“I spent a bit of time in Kal when I was in my prime,
then tried my luck out in the bush, around about that time.
And out there caught gold fever and have had it all my life,
it’s been a grand old lifestyle though it’s had its share of strife.
“I’d hit town once or twice a year and top up on supplies,
then have an ice cold drink of beer away from bloomin’ flies.
I’d buy some brand new clobber and with any cash to spare,
I’d spend a few days in the pubs, so they could get their share.
“I often worked on stations when the tucker bag got low,
but only for a few months then I’d head back to my show.
In those days stations had a shop for stocking up once more,
then full of hope I’d leave the place, just like those times before.
“I found some real good patches, back when prices were quite low,
but money didn’t matter much with nowhere else to go.
I valued hard won freedom well away from noisy towns,
but even so the mining life was full of ups and downs.
“One trip I met a barmaid; I wont bother with her name,
she was a lovely little thing and to my dying shame
I must have left her in the lurch, although I never knew,
which certainly is no excuse, yet what I say is true.
“I headed to the bush again the way I always did
and later heard the rumours that I rushed away and hid.
It would have been some twenty years before the truth I had;
a girl wrote me a letter and she claimed I was her dad.
“I met her shortly after and was nervous at the time,
I had an awful feeling, like I’d done some wicked crime.
She met me with a lovely smile that really warmed my heart;
a beautiful young woman and she looked so bright and smart.
“She saw that I was nervous and soon put my mind at ease
and after introductions she then did her best to please.
She didn’t hold with grudges; wouldn’t blame her if she did,
if she had heard the stories that I ran away and hid.
“She said before her mother died she talked a lot of me
and where I might be living if she cared to look and see.
She said I was a good bloke but would never settle down,
so moved back near the city in a small suburban town.
“She really is a pretty girl; a lovely nature too
and nothing like her old man if the things she said were true.
By now I hoped that she was right and really was my girl,
my heart was all a flutter and my head was in a whirl.
“She said she went to Uni and she had some work in town;
was living with an aunty just to keep expenses down.
I said I’d like to help her; she got cross at me for that,
she didn’t want my money, she just came to have a chat.
“We’ve kept in touch by post since then and sometimes meet again
the past is well behind us and I hope it’s eased the pain.
She’s never called me dad; of course I understand all that,
believe me I’m just thankful that she takes the time to chat.
“I always talk about her, being proud of her, of course,
but never talk about the past; most think it was divorce.
She doesn’t know that I’ve been crook; it’s best she doesn’t know,
she’s married with two children now and doesn’t need this blow.”
I didn’t like to tell him that his daughter knew his state,
young Jim at Yunda station knew of his impending fate.
He’d rang her ‘bout his illness and said things were looking bad,
she said she’d come and get him, after all, he is her dad.
He chatted on about the past, his voice now sounding weak,
I saw that he was tiring yet I knew he whished to speak.
But then we heard a motor car upon his rough old track,
he looked a little puzzled as it now approached the shack.
The car pulled up outside; a woman stepped in through the door,
surprise lit up the old blokes face, I saw his spirits soar.
The tears flowed freely down his cheeks; a scene that was so sad,
she put her arms around him, then, “I’ve come to get you dad.”
I quickly slipped out through the door to hide a looming tear,
I said I’d settle things outside while they packed up his gear.
And as they readied for his trip I said I’d mind his shack,
but knowing deep within my heart he’d not be coming back.