© V.P. Read, 1984

Winner, 2013 Eaglehawk Dahlia and Arts Festival Alan Llewellyn Award for Bush Verse, Eaglehawk, Victoria.

They’ve written words romantic and they speak of us with awe,
regaling all our virtues in the golden days of yore.
I read their words and wonder, have they ever been outback,
or know the deprivations of a life lived on the track?

They’ve never seen a bullock team with axles in the mud,
or tried to cross a river when it’s coming down in flood.
And when the sun is burning with a vengeance from the skies,
they never pushed tired bullocks over stony flats and rise.

They make it sound exciting to sleep underneath a dray
with lonely dingoes howling ‘til the chilly break of day.
A victim of the weather, bitter winds and sleet and hail;
at times it gets so miserable a man prefers the jail.

The plagues of huge mosquitoes that can drive a man to tears,
and nights so long and lonely he relives old hopes and fears.
Is romance found in loneliness of months upon the track,
or do we work too hard to find the tenderness outback?

They make us sound courageous just for doing what we do;
but we don’t have an option, it’s our duty to get through.
We can’t give up and quit the job, for that would be a crime;
our handshake is our contract that we’ll make it there on time.

And once our work is broken, all too soon it gets around,
and they don’t take excuses that your bullocks have been drowned.
No matter lack of water, fires or dust storms bar our way,
we have to do our utmost to deliver on the day.

They ought to put their pens away and come with me awhile.
They’d learn the truth about our trade and then could write in style
of journeys where no roads exist; through virgin bush at best;
o’er mountains high and jagged where we scale the tallest crest.

It’s not a life I’d recommend for sane men to take on,
‘cause it can drive you crazy when all hope for peace is gone.
Our dreams have long departed for a cottage and a wife;
we know the years that we have left will all be full of strife.

Romantic! What’s romantic ‘bout the dark and loveless hours?
What woman would be fool enough to share a life like ours?
We know we’ll never have a son to carry on our name,
or, if we have a family, it’s only in a frame.

A teamster’s life’s a desperate one. It’s not a poet’s play.
Those fancy words on paper can’t describe our average day.
It’s sweat and blood and tears we shed; it’s death and fear and pain.
I’ll never know the answer why I load and leave again.

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