© John Davis
Winner, 2016 FAW NSW Inc Lambing Flat Regional – Writing Competition, Young NSW.
Dear Sir, Thank you for your letter; I thought that I had better
pen an answer to you Banjo, while I’ve time to write a line.
I got it from a joker who was born down near Bemboka;
he’s a pen mate from the Lachlan, and a lifelong friend of mine.
It was good to get indeed and very riveting to read
all about romantic notions of a western drover’s life.
But the stock aren’t slowly stringing and I’m not riding, singing,
for the drought is on this country, and the land is full of strife.
There are few friends to meet me, and not many voices greet me,
but the heat and dust and flies here are a bane on all our souls.
There are no breezes blowing and there is no water flowing;
with the river just a chain of stinking, stagnant muddy holes.
There’s no vision really splendid; or sunlit plains extended
when the western wind is howling and the choking dust storms rise.
Then the glorious wonder of the stars is rent asunder
because blinding clouds of dust conceal them from your grit filled eyes.
The noxious air that’s gritty, spreading foulness in your city,
would present a scent like flowers you compare to Cooper dust,
when we face the constant battle of moving starving cattle
as we struggle ever onwards, for to find them grass we must.
And words so uninviting of your gutter children fighting
would be like a Sunday service when you hear us drovers curse.
The carnage and the slaughter when we’re short of feed and water,
with a dozen dropping daily, and sometimes it’s even worse.
The starving cattle stressing make it hard and damn depressing.
It’s a harder cross I’m bearing than your ceaseless tramping feet,
though each day we pray for rain and pray to see green grass again
only days of dust clouds follow and the ever stifling heat.
If the hurried people daunt you and rushing by they haunt you
you should see the pain and anguish in a stockman’s eyes and face.
With his stock now mostly dead; though he’d tried hard to keep them fed
and it seems despite the battle old man drought has won the race.
If their eager eyes look greedy; they’re undersized and weedy,
that’s a better sight to witness than the clouded eyes of death.
While from throats of dying cattle you listen to the rattle
watching their courageous struggle just to take another breath.
Now, do you really fancy that you’d like to change with Clancy
out here droving in the west where dusty seasons mostly go?
I don’t think that you would make it, your heart, this land would break it
and you’d have to earn a living with a packhorse plant in tow.
I must say before I close that I enjoy the life I chose,
though it’s hard I go to battle seasons, changing every day.
And there’s just one other thing, while I can hear those horse bells ring
there’s no hope that I’d consider living any other way
So keep your round eternal of your cash book and your journal
for that’s not another string that I need added to my bow
And if you think it a pity, that I don’t like the city
I’m afraid that’s how it is; signed, Clancy of the Overflow.