The Cattle Pastures

© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2015 Rolf Boldrewood Literary Award, Dubbo NSW.

Our History was once unique, enshrouded by a strange mystique
which lingered like a verdant veil around its progeny…
a primitive and ancient place of granite rock and vacant space,
where Dreamtime legends merged with prehistoric fantasy.

Beyond a treacherous ravine there lay a wondrous vast terrene,
where Dharawal had lived since primal ‘Dreaming’ had begun.
Beneath the sacred mountain crest, the hallowed ground was duly blessed
and titled Yandel’ora by the Goddess of the sun.

A place where time did not exist, surrounded by a ghostly mist,
creating rainbow colours through prismatic drops of dew.
Refracting violet and green, with red and orange in between
the indigo and lilac tinged with hazy shades of blue.

The Aborigines had planned, as keepers of this hallowed land,
to generate new pastures where the sun refused to shine.
Beneath a canopy of shade, where mildew moulded and decayed,
they cleared around the stringybarks and stately turpentine.

They’d burnt the bush and singed the trees, as if attempting to appease
the Gods presiding over this mercurial domain.
When every leaf was smoked or charred and blackened trunks forever scarred,
the Shaman would begin to dance to conjure quenching rain.

As new-sprung shoots of grass emerged, the famished fauna had converged
to graze upon the lushness of this lavish sheltered place.
The open pastures proved ideal for cattle who had come to feel
at home amongst the kangaroos in tranquil open space.

These stock that came from foreign shores, to supplement depleted stores,
had soon become accustomed to their alien abode.
No longer need they fear the stroke of flogging whip and dreaded yoke,
nor struggle with the burden of an unrelenting load.

Endowed with hardy hoof and hide, they quickly bred and multiplied
without endemic predators to keep their numbers down.
In pristine wilderness and scrub, through eucalypt and wattle shrub,
they milled and strayed to grasslands, that would soon become renown.

The Yandel’ora Pastures teemed with birds and animals that seemed
unusual and foreign to the migratory herd.
The lorikeets in reds and blues and sulphur crested cockatoos
had screeched in indignation as the roving cattle stirred.

A magpie’s sweet melodic tones had lulled the dull persistent drones
of bawling stock competing in this symphony of sound.
The antics of a romping calf had made the kookaburras laugh,
as tiger quoll and platypus sought refuge underground.

A dingo, wallaby and crow, united by their common foe,
had eyed the bold intruders with suspicion and dismay.
Their trampling hooves and hacking horns uprooted brush and scattered thorns,
to open up the virgin bush allowing passageway.

Devouring everything in sight, they seemed to have an appetite
that proved to be insatiable in search of daily fare.
Reluctant to migrate or roam from fertile fields of silty loam,
they thrived in Yandel’ora with its hot and humid air.

The herd continued to inbreed from Africander Zebu seed,
descended from Bos Indicus and Taurus bovine strains.
Exotic lines improved and crossed, with necks and shoulders still embossed
and traces of the Drakensberger running in their veins.

For seven years they were concealed, until their presence was revealed
by native Dharawal within the Yandel’ora zone.
With cattle in such short supply the government was keen to try
and claim this wild nomadic herd to complement their own.

The scrubbers’ coats were brown and white, with some as black as tarry night,
embellished, brindled, gold enhanced with spots of grey and red.
Their silky hides and dewlap necks were splashed with streaks of coloured flecks,
in contrast to domestic stock that pioneers had bred.

Malicious stock were culled and shot and carcasses were left to rot –
a cruel and grim reminder of the prevalence of man.
Australian cattle breeds endured, had procreated and matured
to interbreed according to a predetermined plan.

Those cattle pastures are today, now decomposing in decay
and poisoned by the chemicals that spew from urban drains.
With trees removed and forests cleared, the Mother Bush we once revered
is desecrated now – although her legend still remains.

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