© Donald Crane

Winner, 2012 Outback Section – Coo-ee March Festival, Gilgandra, NSW.

Am I wrong when I yearn for the old times,
For the days of bush hobbles and pack?
Do you think me inane to be pining
And be wishing once more to be back
In the saddle again and be droving
Down the routes where I spent half my life?
There to battle again with the seasons,
The long stages, dry spells and the strife
When the drummy ground un-nerves the bullocks,
And the crack of a stick through the night
Is enough to cause panic among ’em
And to put the whole mob into flight.

You can ask any drover — they’ll tell you,
There is nothing they dread more than when
On the road with a mob of fresh bullocks,
That gets spooked by some noise and its then
That it’s every last man to the saddle,
For if ever, there now is the need
For a mad headlong dash through the darkness
To catch up with and steady the lead.
Other times there are troubles aplenty,
Testing hardships and hazards abound;
Three day sickness or blight or stock crippled
As they traverse the hard stony ground.

On the wings of the mob ride the drovers,
See their hard working dogs on the job,
With the blight blinded stock and the lame ones,
Nursed along at the tail of the mob.
Down the Murranji track through thick lancewood,
Other times on the vast treeless plains,
Cursing thick choking dust in the drought years,
Cursing mud and the slush when it rains.
Half a lifetime of years on the stock routes,
Makes a man grow more stoic and tough,
Putting up with life’s vagaries calmly,
And accepting the smooth with the rough.

But — for every rough trip there are others,
Better days when the seasons are grand,
When ahead are three months of good pasture
With a mob of ‘dry’ cattle in hand.
Far away from the rush of the city,
As The Bard wrote in verse long ago,
That ‘The life of the drover has pleasures
That the folk in the towns never know’.
It’s a love of the wide open spaces,
Of the carefree days spent there alone,
Living life as the King of the stock routes,
With a time worn old saddle for throne.

See the mob moving off in the morning,
At the first hint of dawn in the east,
Stringing slow as the boss drover counts ’em,
With an eye on the health of each beast.
See a thousand odd bullocks now feeding,
Spreading wide on the Mitchell grass plain,
Then at sundown — the mob on the night camp,
Horses hobbled and turned loose again.
See the ‘broken in’ mob camping, peaceful —
And the only night sounds to be heard
Are the far distant howl of a dingo
Or the overhead flight of night bird.

’Round the blazing campfire see us lazing,
With a brigalow log burning low,
As we yarn ’bout the old times recalling
Stirring trips that we did long ago.
High above through the lunar lit darkness,
Where a billion odd stars — shining bright,
Add a touch of romance to the setting
For a feast of bush cuisine to-night.
With the camp ovens full of good tucker,
Keeping warm ’side a billy of tea,
This old drover knows no place that’s better;
Yeah, where else would a man want to be?

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