© Dennis Scanlon, 2007

Winner 2008, Oracles of the Bush — Serious Section, Tenterfield, NSW.

Bob and Sue have bought ‘The Gorge,’ north west of Charters Tow’rs.
Wild country up towards the Gulf where short trips can take hours.
Four gorges running parallel, with rubber vine are filled;
Steep cliffs — deep bog holes — crocs and snakes — could easy see you killed.

The contract said five thousand head were running on the place —
The fences and the floodgates were all down — a damn disgrace.
They’ll muster all the cattle — cut the long hair from their tail,
Then load some onto road trains — take ‘em to Cloncurry sale.

Four mates from Viet Nam turn up to stand with Bob again:
A ‘bang tail muster’ sounds like fun to these young fearless men.
Two are on horseback – know the ropes — while one is on a bike,
The fourth one flies a ‘chopper,’ he’s simply called ‘Mad Mike.’

‘Mad Mike’ had proved his worth in ‘Nam, he wasn’t scared of strife;
He’d put that ‘bird’ down anywhere, to save a precious life.
Since comin’ home he earned a quid — flew tourists to the Reef
Today his chopper and his skills will muster Bobbys’ ‘beef.’

And so begins the bang tail muster — Mike soars through the air.
He chases cattle from the scrub — two horsemen waiting there.
Sue navigates and works as ‘spotter’ — finds the hiding mobs,
Bob with his mate on trail bikes, clean up all the risky jobs.

Six hundred cc’s in a bike can give a man some grunt;
Bob’s mate is quite a wild man, and he loves a dang’rous stunt.
A strong young bull breaks from the mob; ‘Mate’ will not let him go,
He guns the bike and with a yell, he turns on quite a show.

He’s wheeled and jumped a fallen tree: is by the young bull’s side.
When feral bulls get proper mad they don’t run off and hide !
The young bull snorts and charges in — his sharp thick horn cuts deep:
Bob’s mate will have a dreadful scar — forever his to keep.

The scar though will come later but right now ‘Mate’ feels the start
Of sticky warmth across his thigh: his art’ries torn apart!
Through all his time in Viet Nam his blood was never spilled
But here today this tough young man might easily be killed.

A dirty red bandana should not ever bandage make
But when blood’s flowin’ on the ground, tough measures you must take.
‘Mate’ has to get to Bobby or he’ll die there with the bike:
He’ll bleed to death in no time flat, without more help from Mike.

Leg tied up tight he guns the bike — a ten foot gully clears
And speeds towards the strong loud sound of Bobby changin’ gears.
He jumps the swollen, muddy creek and scrambles up a ridge
And sights young Bob with sixty cows, just near the Ten Mile bridge.

Bob quickly sees his mate’s in strife: the blood — the pallid face,
He grabs his two way — finds no signal — not a flamin’ trace!
‘Don’t move from here — I’ll go for height — I’ll get a message through,
And Mike will call the Flying Doctor — then he’ll come for you.

That big bike’s valves are screamin’ as Bob powers up the hill,
Jumpin’ rocks and boulders — fallen trees — escarpments ‘till
At last he’s got a signal — gets a message through to Mike:
‘Go to the bridge at Ten Mile Creek, ‘Mate’s’ dyin’ on his bike.’

Mike peels the chopper off the cattle, in the rubber vine;
Sue checks the map: ‘Go ninety south and we’ll be in a line.’
‘He’s in the gorge beside us and he’s just across the ridge —
I’ve got a sighting on the map: I see the Ten Mile Bridge.’

Mike banks — the chopper groans beneath the stress that he’s applied,
Blades beat the air — it ‘belly rolls’ — is damn near on its side.
‘G’ forces pin him to the seat: adrenalin pumps fast
And then — the Ten Mile Bridge ahead — ‘dear God, please help him last.’

Sue quickly straps ‘Mate’ to the seat — Mike guns the rotor blades;
The Chopper leaps from Ten Mile Bridge and banks with steepened grades,
Towards a small bush clearing, just ten miles further west.
The Flying Doctor and Mike’s God will have to do the rest.

--------- ---------- ----------

Ten years have passed since ‘Mate’ went down: he comes back every year,
To catch a Barra — shoot a Croc — enjoy the odd cold beer.
The bang tail muster brought them in just on ten thousand head:
There’s fences, floodgates, laneways, yards: more civilised instead.

‘Mad Mike’ now calls ‘The Gorge’ his home — he’s got his office there;
‘Cause chasin’ cattle’s much more fun than Reef trips in the air.
Young Bob and Sue have got four kids, their days are filled with joys.
The locals still all talk about — the ‘Viet Nam Bang Tail’ boys.

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