© Terry Piggott

Winner, 2015 Bronze Swagman Award, Winton Queensland.

His old camp ovens on the coals to slowly cook the stew
and on the side the billy boils to make a bushman’s brew.
He sits back thinking of the past; the good times and the bad,
recalling all the ups and downs that through the years he’d had.

Where once he’d dreamt of mates and gold those thoughts have long since flown,
instead he thinks of chances missed in all these years alone.
His youthful days were filled with fun and life had been a blast,
he’d thought that it would never end – how quick that time had passed.

Old age had seemed a long way off no need to worry then,
for there’d be time to settle down and be like other men.
And though he’d known some girls back then too soon they used to part,
there’d only been one girl he’d met, who really touched his heart.

A smile lights up his weathered face with thoughts of Peggy Lou,
a girl he’s loved for fifty years although she never knew.
A brush of lips upon his cheek and promise in her eyes,
yet foolishly he’d walked away and missed the greatest prize.

He breaks the spell to move some coals to keep the heat just right,
then looks up to the heavens where the stars are shining bright.
Although he loves this peaceful life there’s something missing now
and loneliness a stranger once has found a chink somehow.

He wonders when this mood will pass for surely it can’t last,
and tells himself the face that haunts belongs back in the past.
He missed his chance he knows that now and rues mistakes then made,
for youth is such a fleeting thing – if only he had stayed!

He’d had a choice when still quite young to turn his life around
and love can be a fickle thing for some like him he’s found.
He’d never felt the same again for any other girl,
to touch her hand was all it took to set his heart awhirl.

So many years have since passed by, yet still she’s on his mind
and loneliness now stalks his camps and can’t be left behind .
He stokes the fire and checks the meal and pours a mug of tea,
then watches shadows from the flames dance on a nearby tree.

And though he’s lived alone for years and loved the bushman’s life,
he senses now the loneliness of those without a wife.
No one to share your secrets with; or mateship to enjoy;
he’ll never be a hero to his little girl or boy.

Alone there in the wilderness his thoughts drift on and on,
reliving all the memories of things that are long gone.
An old man now who ponders where his life had gone astray,
and all the while the billy boils his mind now far away.

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