© David Fatches
Winner, ‘Nandewar’ Poetry Competition, Narrabri NSW 2015.
He lies beneath the pepper tree beside the wooden gate
patiently waiting there to greet his master his best mate.
He listens for the rumble of the noisy old school bus
to once again cavort and play and make a welcome fuss.
He’s yearning for a whistle or those happy, cheery calls
and dreams of chasing after sticks or catching tennis balls.
He sees a dust cloud rising from way down the valley road
and hears the groaning motor as it grumbles with its load.
He watches as it twists and turns towards his old abode,
now drops into a gully where a little river flowed
and now it comes back into view and climbs the dusty hill.
He gives a stifled tail wag with his ears pricked forward still.
His look of hope too quickly fades the bus goes rambling on,
it mostly stopped beside the gate – where is his master John?
He drops now to the ground beneath the shady pepper tree
with lolling tongue and panting breath he wonders where is he?
He longs to hear his voice, his word, the games they’d always play.
It’s been so long since he’s been home, why does he stay away?
Now gazing from the work shed door, Tom watched the setting sun
he’d been up since daybreak now his work was nearly done,
he heaved a heavy sigh, “He’s back down there again,” he said,
a furrow now on his brow as he gently nods his head.
It’s nearly been a year today so quickly time does fly
he knew the reason why a tear was swelling in his eye.
He looked towards the quad bike in the corner of the shed
and cursed the day he bought it with its coat of shiny red,
a fourteenth birthday present for his hearty, carefree son,
a stripling lad who helped when work was to be done.
It was a fitting gift for such a helpful farmer’s boy
a happy active lad the bike gave him such fun and joy.
He had such fun with Skip his dog when rounding up the stock
to handle breakaways with Skip he’d very quickly block,
the boy and the dog were such a good and clever team
and how his heart would swell with pride and how his face would beam,
to watch his son with Kelpie dog, such clever roundup skills,
a daredevil upon the bike just riding for the thrills.
He’d let the boy have his way riding just to let off steam
and Skip would ride upon the back with John, they were a team.
Collecting letters from the mailbox somewhere for a ride
or any excuse and more not to learn for school inside,
persuasion never needed now for doing little chores
he’s always happier on the bike than being back indoors.
So on the bike he now sets out with his devoted Skip
to check the bore beyond the ridge, a fifteen minute trip.
He takes the trail along the ridge just for a bit of fun,
with many rocks to weave around towards the western sun
he charges over mounds and leaping for the extra thrill,
while cunning Skip balances there trying not to spill.
He rides in reckless fashion seeking thrills on his machine
around a boulder strikes a rock in blinding sun unseen
and catapulting through the air with metal’s crunching crash,
the blinding sun shines dazzle was all over in a flash
and Skip is whining now beside the prone form lying there
he gives a nudge to comfort, Skip then licks a face so fair.
Now with the setting sun and Dad begins to wonder where
it’s but a fifteen minute trip he should be back from there.
The tragic twilight searching that goes on throughout the night
the anguish of the finding that long pitiless airflight
a mercy dash too far away, the fickle hand of fate
that steals the life of one so young a lad so good and straight.
How do you tell a dog his master won’t be coming home
and never more to romp and play and never more to roam?
Obedient and willing, ready for his master’s calls
whether rounding up the stock or chasing tennis balls,
a farmer’s son and dog who shared a very special bond
now Skip the dog does not know John waits in the land beyond.
He gave a sigh and shook his head what was a man to do?
He never knew how boy and dog could share a love so true.
Now gazing at the pining form beneath the pepper tree
he’s patiently lying there, lying still as still can be,
now underneath that pepper tree old Skip won’t have to wait,
he hears his master’s whistle from beyond the wooden gate.