© Terry Piggott

Winner, 2017 Bush Poetry Competition – Cervantes Art Festival, Cervantes, Western Australia.

I close my eyes and see it still, the old brush hut below Flat Hill,
a makeshift camp at best you’d say, yet it was home for us back then.
And there for years we lived our dreams of finding precious opal seams,
the Coober Pedy of those times, a magnet to us opal men.

An arid place with little rain, this outpost on the Gibber Plain,
the kind of spot they used to say where only fools and dreamers came.
Relentless heat and cloudless skies with dust and over-friendly flies,
yet those of us who lived out there soon grew to love it just the same.

Though nearly broke we made a bid and bought the hut for twenty quid,
then camped out there beneath the stars and lived on bread and bully beef.
We battled hard to make ends meet and learnt to cope with summer heat,
our shack was hot throughout the day, though dusk at times would bring relief.

I see it now with chinks of light that peeped through cracks when viewed at night;
we slept on beds we’d scrounged somewhere, while light came from a miner’s lamp.
A tucker box to store things in as mostly food came in a tin,
a simple life enjoyed by us while living in that old bush camp.

I think back to our first good find when money worries plagued my mind,
we’d battled on with funds so low, without a patch we’d soon be gone.
Our mine was on a nearby hill, down eighty feet and sinking still,
until a line of trace appeared and gave us hope to carry on.

With care I’d gently swung the pick, then came that longed for glassy click;
with pounding hearts we’d stared in hope, at where I’d aimed that final blow.
There glowing in the feeble light a glint of colour shining bright;
with shaking hands I’d chipped away and soon a seam began to show.

A careful tap then down some dropped and for a moment breathing stopped,
a magic scene had met our eyes, with gleaming opal there below.
Bright shades of red and sparkling green, breathtaking hues could then be seen
and getting bigger all the time – a thrill that only gougers know.

Excitement echoed down the drive this patch would keep our hopes alive,
we’d battled on as best mates do determined that we would make good.
Though secretly I’d feared the worst, it seemed for months our luck was cursed
and we were doomed to struggle on, as some old timers said we would.

For hours we’d slowly worked away whilst taking turns throughout that day,
with each new piece we’d pause to look and prayed the seam went on again.
The pile of gems had slowly grown as down that mine the hours had flown,
perhaps at last we’d made the grade and now were truly opal men.

That patch no doubt had saved the day, without more cash, we couldn’t stay,
the old brush hut had brought us luck that carried on in years ahead.
No fortunes found but still we’d stayed, the life was great and bills were paid
and there was sadness when I left to chase new dreams elsewhere instead.

I stir at last, the daydream ends, of opal days and long lost friends,
as young men then we’d grown up fast and fell in love with life outback.
I’ve moved on now and years speed by still chasing rainbows in the sky,
though memories are always there, of life out in that old brush shack.

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