SHE ONLY SPEAKS IF YOU LISTEN
© Kevin Pye
Winner, 2016 Dunedoo Written Bush Poetry Competition, Dunedoo NSW.
As I gazed upon a wagon, long retired from heavy work,
I imagined there a teamster, goading cattle west of Bourke.
As they strained their leather harness, hauling bales of western wool
while the master bushman Mills was always keeping contracts full.
Grey and splintered spokes adrift, could speak of times of overload
built three tiers in height and swaying, Triple A the stencilled code.
Roads of yellow talcum dust that rose from cloven oxen’s hooves,
choked the creaking brakes and clogged the hubs that groaned through ruts and grooves.
Hughie sent some raging storms to bog soft tracks and flood low creeks,
foiling homeward journey plans, detained somewhere – sometimes for weeks.
Days ahead held no respite, a heavy toll on man and beast
both yoked down by need to work, their schedules due at railheads east.
Rusting rims now hang askew, no longer forged to spotted gum –
wear and tear and dry rot too have claimed each rotting axle drum.
Sixty years of idleness have claimed demise for her today;
glory days of outback ways are slowly lost in her decay.
Books of prose reveal his love for Cloud and Painter, Curly too,
Spirit charged black Friesian steers, who were the best in Dudley’s view.
Giant leaders Plum and Butler, could be ‘stirry’ when approached,
Polers, Scarlet, Cobbler, Rager, ‘cracks’ that never had been coached.
Tall Spruce paired with Placid Sultan, were broad-horned and inky black
with the roan ones, Chalk and Ginger, up-front leaders of the pack.
Eighty bullocks working strongly, Dud recalled each one in time
with decisive recollections, harnessed eights in working prime.
See him saunter by the wagon, twirling smoke from bent-stemmed pipe,
plaited greenhide snakes past Pigeon, Painter feels a gentle stripe.
One last job up north of Gulgong takes him up Mendooran way,
where the summer grass is sweetest, they’ll camp by the Castlereagh.
Red hot coals I vision glowing and the billy boiling well,
tea leaves (measured by the handful), brew an aromatic smell;
charcoal tarts and fresh cooked brownies are all rising up tonight
while the stew pot’s steaming over with a wild duck shot in flight.
This old drover’s life had pleasures that his writing lives to show
under crystal starlight banners, Milky Way a splendid flow.
There’s a cork line sitting loaded for the Yellow Belly’s bite
and it bobs upon the ripples, each reflecting clear and bright.
Nearby hobble chains are jangling where the horses nibble grass
while his cattle lie contented, two with bells of chiming brass,
till the dawn wakes up tomorrow, when they’ll leave the T.S.R.
for their five miles steady eastwards, to agist on “Old Menah”.
There are bales from “Happy Valley” as he works his way back home
where he’ll farm “Wilgowrah’s” creek flats, to the west of old Mount Frome.
There’s a mob of steers to fatten on the hills at “Windamere”
making time in warm conditions while the weather’s fine and clear.
When this canvas of our country, comes alive from times now past,
I am gazing on a relic standing sadly there downcast;
this old wagon in the hayshed speaks to all of those who hear,
telling stories of her lifetime, in Australia’s yesteryear.
To a raconteur and bushman, well revered in our outback,
I pay tribute to his spirit as he travels Heaven’s track.
Camels, bullocks, horses, donkeys, Dud could tame and train them all
and deserves his place in history – now renowned in Stockman’s Hall.
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