© Brenda Joy

Winner, 2014 Dusty Swag Award, Yea Victoria.

Today, as always, life moves on but some find it hard to move on with it.  This poem tells of such a man –

    They all called him ‘The Sheik of the Scrubby’
    for he’d been there far longer than they.
    No one honestly knew where he’d come from –
    he would alter his story each day.

    But his face bore the lines of the loser
    and each wrinkle could tell a sad tale.
    Broken marriage, lost love, disappointment,
    all his plans had been destined to fail.

    And his form showed the stress of the bushy,
    shattered limbs and with skin crusty red.
    From the stoop and the limp through rough riding
    it was clear a hard life had been led.

    There were many had taken ‘The Sheik’ down.
    For their profit he’d toiled for a quid.
    He’d lost face and lost purse as he’d stumbled
    over each doubtful deal that he did.

    So he vowed he would turn round the tables,
    take his future into his own hands
    and he scraped up the funds for first payment
    on some acres of pastoral lands.

    Then he ‘owned all the world’ and its spaces
    for his horses could graze on his plot
    and he took over lane-ways and paddocks –
     no one came by to say he could not.

    But with progress in came the new settlers,
    sub-divisions and subsequent rules.
    How he scorned all their ‘smart’ urban habits.
    To The Sheik they came over as fools.

    For their aim was just peace and seclusion
    whilst he aimed to raise horses for gain,
    so he kept using water and grasses
    within miles of his legal domain.

    His own land had held promise of water
    but attempts to sink bores had all failed,
    then the drought that had dried up the country
    saw his high expectations derailed.

    They still called him The Sheik of the Scrubby,
    but each year he was forced further back,
    as new owners denied him the access
    to a pump, or a dam, or a track.

    With free-rein he’d survived through the nineties,
    despite weather and dingoes and boar.
    Now restricted, demands for foreclosure
    by the Bank, proved to be his last straw.

    He accepted the sum put on offer
    before property values would soar,
    unaware he would lose all his power
    once the land was not his anymore.

    He was forced to take on rustic labours
    with his horses not fetching their price
    now that bikes were preferred for the muster.
    Opportunity rarely comes twice.

    He no longer goes roaming the precinct
    and the next generation won’t know
    of the ups and the downs of this bushy.
    With the change his set ways had to go.

    He abandoned his dreams and ambitions
    and his face shows this sorrow and strain.
    Still too young to ride into the sunset,
    but too old to start over again.

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