OUT ON THE WESTERN SHORE
© by Terry Piggott
Winner, 2012 ‘Golden Cockatoo Award’, Charlee Marshall Festival, Banana Shire, Queensland.
I sat there by the campfire with the billy on to boil
and watched the twilight shadows creep across the parched red soil.
As fading rays of sunlight dipped below the distant peaks,
I marveled at the ghost gums that surrounded nearby creeks.
Where golden blossoms mingle with white quartz seams in the clay,
of twisting ancient creek beds from that other bygone day.
This country holds me in its spell and will for evermore,
enthralled by rugged scenery - out on the Western Shore.
I look out from my vantage point and view the scene once more,
majestic rolling ranges fringe a landscape I adore.
An ancient land of mystery that differs from the south,
once steeped in tribal secrets handed down by word of mouth.
I think of past corroborees and stamping of the feet,
the chanting of the women; kylie’s click a rhythmic beat.
Then comes a sense of sadness for a lifestyle that’s no more,
yet still I sense their presence here - out on the Western Shore.
Then as I look down to the south, I see a quartz-strewn plain,
with green around the edges after recent heavy rain.
Here kangaroo’s are grazing on the lush green native grass,
they’re in the shadow of the hills, below a mountain pass.
And off into the distance I can see a large gum creek,
it’s dry and sandy now, but things could change within a week.
For storms can quickly turn to flood; then streams will roar once more,
from those rushing flooding waters - out on the Western Shore.
My mind begins to wander back to when the white men came,
prepared to risk their very lives for fortune and for fame,
I see their grimy faces and their tired and bloodshot eyes,
tormented by the elements and swarms of crawling flies.
But only death will stop them as they press ahead so bold,
for rumors that have reached them tell of fortunes made from gold.
The strongest set a solid pace that’s matched by many more,
they’re heading to the latest rush - out on the Western Shore.
I dream I’m out there with them rushing for the latest find
and sense the deep exhaustion that now plays on each man's mind.
They curse the rugged harshness of this unrelenting land,
but still push ever onwards over hills and desert sand.
With aching limbs and heaving chests they top the final rise
and see the field below them stretching out before their eyes.
And soon they’re shown big nuggets and assured there’s plenty more,
still hidden deep within the earth - out on the Western Shore.
I stir then from my daydream as I sense the billy’s boiled,
still thinking of old timers and how hard they must have toiled.
I look around my camp again and in the fading light,
I see the clumps of spinifex on ridges to my right.
Then hear a nightjar screeching as it readies for the kill,
soon followed by a butcherbird’s sweet haunting moonlight trill.
It’s time to then unroll the swag and settle down once more
and spend the night beneath the stars - out on the Western Shore.