The Darkest Side of Hell

© Tom McILveen

Winner, 2019 John O'Brien Bush Festival, Narrandera NSW.

We are privileged to live in such extraordinary times -
or at least that’s what our politicians say!
We’re protected from atrocities and terrorising crimes,
with the Middle East a million miles away!

Yes, but what about our farmers? I can hear you asking me...
are they living in this paradise as well?
Or has God somehow forsaken them, despite their silent plea,
and condemned them to the darkest side of hell?

Where the demons gorge on carcasses of wasted, rotting sheep,
and the angels seek forgiveness for their sins.
As across the barren wasteland shrinking shadows freely creep,
and the fickle wheel of fortune slowly spins.

Out beyond the Great Dividing Range, you’ll find the beating heart
and the lifeblood of this country’s inner core.
Where our farmers battle Old Man Drought, who’s tearing them apart –
as they bleed like they have never bled before!

They’re a proud and independent breed, conceived in dust and toil,
and accustomed to this country’s vast extremes.
They were spawned from pioneering stock and weaned on diesel oil,
and then raised on broken promises and dreams.

There’s a bloke I knew in Tamworth who was feeding hungry stock
from a trailer that he towed behind his ute.
He was down and out and busted, with his property in hock
to the banks who really couldn’t give a  hoot.

To protect his anonymity, we’ll call this fellow Joe–
(he was married to my dearest Little Sis.)
Though his family had been there for a hundred years or so –
he had never seen it quite as bad as this!

What was truly bugging Joe, was knowing this could be the last
and the final straw to break the camel’s back.
All the local farms and businesses were disappearing fast,
with a hardy few still taking up the slack.

When I asked how he was faring, he replied ... ‘ I’ve had enough
of pretending things are gonna be all right.
I am absolutely buggered mate, and running out of puff –
but at least I won’t have gone without a fight!

I am tired of broken promises and trying to explain
our predicament to bureaucratic fools.
They’ve been chasing rates and taxes and are driving me insane,
with their stupid bloody legislative rules.’

‘Yeah, but what about your cattle Joe?’ I asked the other day,
‘are you keeping any breeding stock at all?’
‘I have had a flamin’ gutful mate, of buying grain and hay,
when the yarding prices only ever fall!’


When I heard that Joe had died, I placed a candle on the shelf
and then toasted him with billy tea and rum.
He had been out shooting sheep and turned the rifle on himself,
as he waited for the rain that wouldn’t come.

We are losing many more like Joe, as listed numbers soar,
and the wives and children suffer grief and shame.
Are they merely a statistic or fatalities of war–
or are we the overprivileged to blame?

We can pass the hat or spend a quid on outback holidays
to support the farms and businesses that bleed.
We can buy a bale and help them in a thousand other ways...
to sustain them through their darkest hour of need.

Yes, but what about our farmers? I can hear you asking still.
Are we more concerned with foreign refugees?
When we pass that hat around, it’s you and me who foot the bill,
when we’re sending our donations overseas!

It’s a wake up call Australia! Come and gather round with me,
from whichever state or city you may roam.
Let us feed the hand that feeds us, and I’m sure you’ll all agree...
that Australian charity begins at home!


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