© Trevor Shaw

Winner, 2011, ‘Urban Country Music Festival Poetry Competition’, Caboolture, Qld.

We own this little grazing farm a few k’s out of town,
where we run some cross-bred Brahmans, on pastures mainly brown.
The kids have all escaped the nest, so we run it by ourselves.
We think that we’re still young enough, not fit yet for the shelves,
though we contract men to muster; to help us draft and brand;
to assist with really heavy work related to the land.
We have this very special word – compatibility
and, in the yards, it blossoms for my darling wife and me.

There’s one job she enjoys the most, and she has a special camp
for when we’re trucking cattle, right beside the loading ramp.
She waves her hat, whistles, “shoos” to keep them on the trot,
and beams with satisfaction, when we’ve loaded up the lot.
When last we sold, we had to deal with a stroppy sort of sod
that wouldn’t load, ‘til the driver jabbed him with a cattle prod.
Impressed, I was, with the speed with which he made that mad beast shift.
I had to buy one for the wife – the perfect birthday gift.

So, I powered up the internet and googled “cattle prod”
and chose a *Hot Shot model with a polycarbon rod,
or shaft: “highest voltage output; battery input low;
maximum spark and battery life” – seemed just the way to go.
I transacted it on Bpay; settled up by credit card –
then dreamed of all the action, when she used it in the yard.
When next in town, I bought four “C” size batteries from the store.
She’d get a working cattle prod – what wife could ask for more?

The parcel came.  I signed for it and took it to the shed,
assembling it correctly, once the manual sheet was read.
The batteries were inserted.  I flicked the “On/Off” switch.
My desire to see it functioning became an urgent itch.
The vice was zapped, some fencing pliers and items made from wood.
The little arc spat brightly and the buzzer worked real good.
I tried it on a window frame.  I tried it on a stump.
‘Twas then I thought, ”I need a beast to try it on its rump.”

Our lap-dog Pomeranian was stretched out, near the car.
I thought about it … changed my mind.  Some fun can go too far!
But I had to know how well it worked.  I could have bought a dud.
If I gave my wife a lemon, my name would turn out mud.
We didn’t have a yarded beast.  Why muster one for fun?
I pondered on my problem – the solution came as one:
“C” batteries hardly run a torch; four-in-line might make one glow.
I couldn’t do much damage, if I tried it on my toe!

I found a stool.  Removed a boot and then removed the sock.
I warned my little pinkies to prepare for one small shock.
I targeted my biggest toe; leaned back against a post.
I’d only try a little burst … one second at the most.
Holy Moses!  Bloody Hell! I’d never felt such pain.
“Turn it off!  Turn it off!”  The message left my brain,
but my hand was locked in spasm with the prongs wrapped ‘round my toe,
‘til I crashed down on the concrete floor, jarred up and let it go.

God knows how long I lay there, as an aching, foetal mound.
Things worked through my senses, as I slowly came around.
My toe was maimed forever, of that there was no doubt –
the throbbing ache surpassing any previous bout of gout.
Disbelief, confusion had occupied my head
for something on the Richter Scale had shaken up my shed.
No mortal could have made this mess.  I viewed it in a trance:
substantial consequences of performing St Vitus’s Dance.

There were paint tins strewn across the floor, some with the lids ajar,
with turps and oils and kerosene, and a dash of Stockholm tar.
An upright set of storage shelves had fallen on its side,
while I bike I’d volunteered to fix, had taken its last ride.
The bench-top, where I often worked, sustained a cavity.
The tools upon my shadow wall, had succumbed to gravity.
But, the worst thing that had happened; that reduced this man to tears:
I’d vibrated through my home-brew stash, and wrecked a hundred beers!

The shed looked like a war zone and I’d surely been to war.
Battered, bruised and bleeding, every part of me was sore.
A small man with a sledge hammer was pounding in my head.
If I hadn’t fallen over, I might have woken dead.
Gingerly, I packed the cattle-prod back in its box,
so enlightened from enduring, up to now, the worst of shocks.
I’m a walking crock of knowledge with a new philosophy
on the powerful combination of four batteries, labelled “C”.

Well, that episode’s a mem’ry.  As they say, “We’ve all moved on.”
Though, I must admit, my fear of buzzing things still hasn’t gone.
My wife just loves her present – she is fearless in the yard –
now, when a beast won’t budge, instead of “shoo”, she yells, “en garde!”
Peppi Pomeranian gives her wand its due respect.
I think he must have told her how, that day, the shed was wrecked.
When she threatens to give me a prod, things get done in no time flat.
Then, I really think I liked it best, when she waved her battered hat.

*Hot Shot Cattle Prod – brand name.

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