© Kym Eitel
Winner 2012 ‘Oracles of the Bush – Bush Theme’, Tenterfield, NSW.
Gloomy silence hung over the homestead,
and the stockyards were empty and still.
Jack McLennan’s gut knotted and twisted
as a curlew’s sharp scream gave a chill.
He cared not that the stockmen were missing,
but oh where was his golden-haired Jess?
He sensed trouble and reached for his rifle.
Would he kill to protect her? Oh yes!
Jack McLennan was King of the ranges,
both respected and feared was his name.
There lived only one horse he’d not ridden;
that’s how Silver Wings earned wide-spread fame.
Not one rider had touched Silver’s saddle
for much more than three seconds each try.
Eighteen hands of steel grey, rippling muscle;
every man had been thrown to the sky.
But when Jessie, McLennan’s teen daughter,
leapt on Silver Wings’ broad, dappled back,
with her gentle hands, kind on the bridle,
the rogue softened to sweet ladies’ hack.
Yes, McLennan had two prize possessions,
his young daughter, gold haired and fire eyed,
and her maverick, silver winged gelding.
Jack would die to keep both by his side.
Silver’s stable was empty and eerie.
Both his saddle and bridle not there,
but the scuffle prints gouged in the saw dust
signed the start of a heart-breaking dare.
Wooden stable walls heard the men’s scheming
when the stockmen had got on the sauce.
With a skinful of booze and fake courage
they’d decided to ‘break’ the big horse.
They had led the grey, right up the mountain
to the yards up on Brumby Trap Peak,
and the hills came alive to their cheering.
Jess heard echoes from down in the creek.
Hoof beats splashed through the crystal clear water.
Teary Jessie rode hard on old Belle.
Jessie chased men and horse up the mountain.
Their intent, she had no way to tell.
Jack McLennan was bushman and tracker
and he followed with jaw line set hard.
If they so much as touched his sweet daughter,
he’d have no qualms in leaving them scarred.
Lizards sunning on logs saw them passing;
drunken stockmen with gelding in troupe,
and then Jessie on Belle, then McLennan,
only minutes between each new group.
Orange dingo eyes watched from a distance
as the grey gelding bucked, kicked and fought.
To remain on the beast was the challenge,
but the stockmen’s skills quickly fell short.
Sudden gunshots burst fire through the daylight.
Frightened men spun around with a whirl.
Hot adrenaline fizzed in their bloodstream,
but they scoffed when they saw just a girl.
Three drunk men and one young, slender female,
all alone on the mountain’s high spur,
and the fire headed girl sense new danger
as they turned their attention to her.
Two shy possums crouched, watching on, tensely.
Jessie leapt onto Silver Wings’ back.
Silver struck and slashed one stockman’s shoulder,
leapt the rails and escaped down the track.
Crazy laughter then rang through the tree tops
as the thrill of the hunt filled men’s blood,
and the wombats way down in their burrows
felt the hoof beats a-thunder and thud.
Cockatoos, from their nest, saw them racing.
Three drunk men hunting one anxious girl;
leaping logs, through the trees’ whipping branches,
dust clouds dancing in dizzying swirl.
Shining crows cawed and cheered for McLennan
who was hotly pursuing them all,
and they all witnessed Silver Wings flying;
horse and girl, sailed in mid-gallop fall.
Where the mountain side suddenly ceases,
jagged cliff faces form a sharp edge,
hoof beats clattered and crashed on the flintstones.
Silver stretched in a leap off the ledge.
Jess’s hair formed a floating gold halo
as her Silver Wings soared through the sky.
Did a curlew’s cold scream fill the valley,
or did Jessie let out one last cry?
Jack McLennan was law, judge and jury,
with no witness, no court and no plea.
Sweet revenge, just a squeeze of the trigger -
as the Winchester boomed. One. Two. Three.
But then what does a man have to live for
once his princess is taken away?
Once he’d carved a fourth notch on the rifle,
one more gun shot boom echoed that day.
Oh, if only the possums had told him
of the secret the bush creatures kept -
for brave Silver Wings once was a brumby
and he twisted, right after he leapt.
Silver knew every ledge, trail and rock slide.
As a colt, this was his turf to roam.
He had landed below on an outcrop,
caught his breath, and then carried Jess home.
Jess was dying to tell Dad her story,
so she hoped he’d be home now from town;
how her horse really had wings of silver,
as though angels had carried them down.
Eerie silence hung over the homestead,
and the stockyards were hauntingly cold.
Both her father and rifle were missing -
how she needed her father to hold.
Oh, if only the wombats could tell her,
and if only the dingoes could speak,
and if only the crows could caw English,
they would clear up the secret, so bleak.
There’s a brumby trap up on the mountain,
sun bleached rails, white as skeleton bones.
Are those spine tingling screams really curlews,
or McLennan’s ghost’s heart-breaking moans?