THE SHEIK OF THE SCRUBBY
© Brenda Joy
Winner, 2014 Dusty Swag Award, Yea Victoria.
Today, as always, life moves on but some find it hard to move on with it. This poem tells of such a man –
They all called him ‘The Sheik of the Scrubby’
for he’d been there far longer than they.
No one honestly knew where he’d come from –
he would alter his story each day.
But his face bore the lines of the loser
and each wrinkle could tell a sad tale.
Broken marriage, lost love, disappointment,
all his plans had been destined to fail.
And his form showed the stress of the bushy,
shattered limbs and with skin crusty red.
From the stoop and the limp through rough riding
it was clear a hard life had been led.
There were many had taken 'The Sheik' down.
For their profit he’d toiled for a quid.
He’d lost face and lost purse as he'd stumbled
over each doubtful deal that he did.
So he vowed he would turn round the tables,
take his future into his own hands
and he scraped up the funds for first payment
on some acres of pastoral lands.
Then he 'owned all the world' and its spaces
for his horses could graze on his plot
and he took over lane-ways and paddocks –
no one came by to say he could not.
But with progress in came the new settlers,
sub-divisions and subsequent rules.
How he scorned all their 'smart' urban habits.
To The Sheik they came over as fools.
For their aim was just peace and seclusion
whilst he aimed to raise horses for gain,
so he kept using water and grasses
within miles of his legal domain.
His own land had held promise of water
but attempts to sink bores had all failed,
then the drought that had dried up the country
saw his high expectations derailed.
They still called him The Sheik of the Scrubby,
but each year he was forced further back,
as new owners denied him the access
to a pump, or a dam, or a track.
With free-rein he'd survived through the nineties,
despite weather and dingoes and boar.
Now restricted, demands for foreclosure
by the Bank, proved to be his last straw.
He accepted the sum put on offer
before property values would soar,
unaware he would lose all his power
once the land was not his anymore.
He was forced to take on rustic labours
with his horses not fetching their price
now that bikes were preferred for the muster.
Opportunity rarely comes twice.
He no longer goes roaming the precinct
and the next generation won’t know
of the ups and the downs of this bushy.
With the change his set ways had to go.
He abandoned his dreams and ambitions
and his face shows this sorrow and strain.
Still too young to ride into the sunset,
but too old to start over again.