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The Ugly Side Of Drought

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:49 pm
by Terry
Having just read Duncan’s poem brings back memories of the worse one that I’ve seen
Some of you may have seen this poem some years ago.
It’s hard to imagine that things were as bad as stated in this poem, but there is no exaggeration.
I was out on Ashburton Downs Station at the time prospecting; the sights I saw there that year have left a lasting impression on me – I believe that a station in the area had to shoot 1000 head of cattle that year as well.

THE UGLY SIDE OF DROUGHT

With a scorching north wind blowing there are starving cattle lowing,
as the barren landscape shimmers in the grip of lasting drought.
There’s still water here for drinking, though the food supply is shrinking,
if it doesn’t rain here soon those meagre pickings will run out.

You see corpses of dead cattle who have lost their final battle,
leaving putrid bodies out near all the waterholes around.
And the stench out there hangs heavy; death has claimed its gruesome levy
and their carcasses bear witness where they lay upon the ground.

Empty sockets sightless staring though by now they’re long past caring,
you still see that ghastly grimace with teeth bared and lips drawn back.
Tortured slowly by starvation, death had come before salvation,
and these grisly images lie sadly all along the track.

The remaining stock tramp weary over miles of pads quite dreary,
on their painful daily journey to get water at the mills.
Then they trek to where they're feeding, looking for the food they’re needing,
somewhere near the far horizon out among the distant hills.

You can hear their mournful bellows as they call to ailing fellows
and survivors move like zombies as they stagger on alone.
Like the living dead they’re trying to delay their day of dying,
but their gaunt and weary bodies aren’t much more than skin and bone.

Night time hears the dingoes howling and already they’re out prowling,
they can hear the heartfelt bawling of a calf down by the mill.
With its mother dead or dying, this small calf is weakly crying
and the predators are closing quickly for an easy kill.

Clouds that promised to bring showers and the hope of springtime flowers,
have bypassed this thirsty country and are drifting south again.
And the scavengers are flocking to a scene of death quite shocking,
with the situation hopeless in this land that cries for rain.

Then once more our hopes are lifted, for the weather pattern’s shifted
and forecasters are predicting that a change is on the way.
But the weather gods prove fickle and there barely comes a trickle,
any rain that might have fallen dried up early in the day.

Many birds have now stopped calling and the snakewood leaves are falling
as the country suffers badly with most life now under stress.
And the chances now diminish, the wet season will soon finish,
with perhaps a two week window is the bureau’s latest guess.

But the skies are always clearing leaving station folk here fearing,
that the drought is just beginning and the worst is yet to come.
All their hopes have slowly faded, most will not survive unaided,
overdrafts have neared their limit; this could mean the end for some.

******

© T.E. Piggott

Re: The Ugly Side Of Drought

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:38 pm
by Maureen K Clifford
Oh Terry this moved me to tears yet again - especially these lines -
The remaining stock tramp weary over miles of pads quite dreary,
on their painful daily journey to get water at the mills.
Then they trek to where their feeding, looking for the food they’re needing,
somewhere near the far horizon out among the distant hills.
That is such a graphic picture and so true, when all the feed within miles of the water holes has long gone it is just heartbreaking seeing the carcasses and stumbling animals - a bullet is a merciful end, but how it rips the guts out of a man/woman having to deliver that final coup de grace :(

Re: The Ugly Side Of Drought

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 3:03 pm
by Shelley
Heartrending words indeed, Terry - all the more so because of their truth.

A graphic and poignant word picture.

Cheers
Shelley

Re: The Ugly Side Of Drought

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 2:11 pm
by Terry
Hi Maureen & Shelley

I'll never forget that time, you'd pass a mill and there were dead an dying cattle everywhere,
it seemed they'd stagger back for water and lie down never to get up again.
I remember one particular mill as we were going down to 'The Dead Finnish' and cattle were crammed up dead right alongside the troughs, and others were trying to clamber over their bodies to get at the water - sometimes collapsing on the the ones already dead.

I know that this is an awful thing to talk about, but sometimes people need to know just how bad it can be at times for farmers. We were just prospecting and believe me we found it really confronting, with dead and dying cattle everywhere not just around the mills.

The outback can have its beauty, but it has its cruel savage side as well.

Terry