© Brenda Joy, 2012

Winner of ‘The Bronze Spur Award for Bush Verse’, Camooweal, Drovers’ Camp Festival, 2013.

The aged Georgina River glows with pastel tones of dawn
where outback magic overflows in fragile mists of morn.
The curlews fill the air with cries that help the heart attune
as sunlight paints the cobalt skies above the calm lagoon.

The streak of green when budgies swirl in symphony of flight,
where brolgas dance their courtship twirl in daytime’s brilliant light,
where cattle graze on common ground as lazy hours pass —
a cool oasis has been found in country wide and sparse.

The ancient Aborigine used river’s route for trade,
from Flinders Range to Gulf-land sea, but little change was made
to rugged, wild Georgina’s course, nor was she ever tamed
by those who drove with just the Horse.  Her beauty’s still acclaimed.

And now as brumbies come to drink in shades of afternoon,
an elder comes.  He makes me think he’s anxious to commune.
He rests beside my camping spot and looks across my way.
He doffs his hat and smiles a lot.  I go to bid G’day!

A drovers’ annual event is being held this week.
He’s come to relive times he’s spent; some mates he’s come to seek.
He doesn’t know if they’ll arrive to share some rum and beers;
they might not even be alive — they’re well past eighty years.

The border town of Camooweal had once been his domain
and through his musings I can feel he’s come back ‘home’ again.
And oh the stories he can tell; the seeds that he can sow —
I’m mesmerized within the spell of tales of long ago.

So many memories to share through yarns he can relate,
for here on common land was where the wanderers would wait
till news was sent from Kimberley of mobs that must be moved,
then droving Boss* would oversee the plant* that he’d approved.

The droving years were raw and rough beset by dust and heat;
the days were long, conditions tough and contracts hard to meet.
A month along the stock route track to stations far away
before the gruelling journey back with nine-mile-treks each day.

Ten weeks with beasts upon the trail from Aussie’s vast north west
to southern market town or rail, put character to test,
for mounted up from dawn’s first light, through months of work and strife,
a swag upon the ground at night — that was the drover’s life.

And yet he brings a world alive, where Man would bond with Horse
combining skills to help survive that dry and barren course,
of mates who shared their taxing job, of stockmen to admire,
of wielding round a rushing mob, of yarning round a fire.

His eyes assume a distant glaze.  Immersed in sounds and smells
he drifts within a dream-like daze of hobble chains and bells.
His yarns have helped me understand the overlander’s role
and how the love of Outback land can stir the very soul.

And as he dreams of younger days where ghosts of drovers’ sigh,
the sunset casts its blood-red rays across the western sky.
Georgina’s clear reflections shine with effervescent light
as Nature’s shadows intertwine to greet the star-filled night.

The ‘Boss’ Drover was the man or woman who signed a contract with a station owner and undertook the responsibility of delivering a given number of beasts to a pre-determined location by a certain date.
A ‘plant’ comprised up to 12 drovers, a cook and a horse tailer (carer) and it could have in excess of sixty horses.

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