Shanghaied

© Peter O’Shaughnessy

Winner, 2022 Humorous Section – Oracles of the Bush, Tenterfield, NSW.

Remember back when Captain Cook was looking for a crew?
They’d nip out round the pubs at night and shanghai one or two.
If some poor coot had nodded off, or fallen from his perch,
or had a bit too much to drink, or dozed off in the church –
the captain’s mob would pick ‘em up, asleep, or drunk, or what
and then, before they knew it, they’d be cruising on his yacht.

It wasn’t only Captain Cook. The others did the same.
The press gangs that the navy used thought mugging was a game.
The skippers had to crew their ships and pay rates weren’t too flash
and if the sailors wouldn’t work, they copped the dreaded lash.
So no one ever ‘volunteered’. The ships could get no men
and muggers had to shanghai crews. That’s how things were back then.

Now that is not the way they pick an Aussie shearing team,
but we all know that some of them will use old Cooky’s scheme.
I know because I saw it in a Meekatharra pub,
when Blowfly Bill – ‘the Shearer’s Chef’ – was flaked out in the dub.
A mate and I had scoffed a few when in walks ‘Teddy Gough’–
the shearin’ bloke. He looked upset. His cook had just pissed off.

Now Teddy’s team was due to start a shearing run next day
and ‘shearers cooks’ are hard to find up Meekatharra way.
As Goughy grumbled in his beer, he told a sorry tale
about the bonzer cook he’d had who’d been condemned to jail.
He’d sworn that he was innocent, so then said, “Stuff this mate!
I’m out’a here before the bloody rozzers seal me fate.”

So Teddy’s cook shot through – up north – to where they’d never look
and left the team a bit light on, as no one else could cook.
But then the bloke behind the bar let out a sort’a croak –
“I’ve had a blindin’ flash,” he said, “I know of just the bloke.
Yer’ve seen that mongrel in the dub. He’d be the best cook round.
That’s Blowfly Bill, and off the booze, the best I’ve ever found.

He likes ter hit the wallop, but he don’t go crook, or fight
and when old Blowfly’s off the grog – well he can cook alright.
He got the name down Leinster way for cooking flies in things,
as even shearers could not eat his ‘scones with blowfly wings’.
But keep the bastard off the booze – and bugs from what he cooks –
and he’s the sort’a bloke yer need. He’s great at pinchin’ chooks.

He come in here a month ago. He’s been full ever since
and if I can’t get rid of him I’m gunna do me quince.
I’ll tell yer what I’ll do for yer. Youse load him on yer truck.
I’ll get his gear and square his tab and wish the bastard luck.
A damned good cook I tell yer, though too partial to a beer.
Yer’d do the bloke a favour if yer’d get him out of here.”

Now Teddy seemed quite dubious. He didn’t want a drunk.
His last cook didn’t drink at all, but he had done the bunk.
So then he checked old Blowfly out. He didn’t smell the best –
but with a mob of shearing blokes – no worse than all the rest.
He tried to check his union card, but Bill just slumbered on
and mumbled that he’d love a drink, but all his dosh was gone.

But Ted was getting desperate. He dragged poor Blowfly out
and then to stop him waking up he tapped him on the snout.
With William snoring happily – a dream on his old mush –
they chucked him on the shearer’s truck and headed for the bush.
They travelled for a hundred miles. There’d be no going back.
The shed was at Moorarie on the Burringurrah track.

You’d have to wonder how Bill felt on waking up out there
and found that he’d been shanghaied and nobody seemed to care.
If Captain Cook had snared him, he’d be on the Spanish Main
not cooking stolen chickens for a shearing team again.
I never did find how Bill went, or if he tried to flee,
but there’s a cook – up north they think – the coppers want to see.


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