The Mulga Cup

© Peter O’Shaughnessy

Winner, 2019 ABPA Queensland State Championship – Humorous Section, Logan Queensland.

It wasn’t much, as race meets go, its only claim to fame
was how a great disaster struck and how they saved the game.
A challenge race, for brumbies, that some thought a strange setup
became a proper horse race and the outback’s ‘Mulga Cup.’
The locals soon decided on a place to hold the race
the old track at Wiluna was the perfect racing place.
They looked at lots of bush tracks, but the one they liked the most,
a dirt track in the mulga even had a winning post.

They built a mulga shade house, with a tin roof, for a bar
and floored it with some gravel and a little bit of tar.
The bookies made a betting ring and then they had to vote
to let the ‘Country Women,’ run a proper ‘Tin Cup Tote.’
The ladies from the stations all got out their fancy gear
for most of them had dresses that they wore just once a year
and women from the township wore, as country women must,
the best of their regalia, with joggers, for the dust.

And stockmen, clad in satin shirts, who loved the hectic pace
were, most of them, the riders, when they ran this outback race.
For though the jockeys worked out on the stations round about,
the smarter ones, thought racing had, dumb rules that they could flout.
When someone said, “They must be weighed,” they heard the jockeys’ wails
until they found the stewards used, a set of bathroom scales.
This didn’t really matter much, as not one carried weights
it only served to stop them, changing horses with their mates.

The start was in the mulga scrub, a half a mile away
the starter, elevated, on a vintage bullock dray.
A winning post was fenced right off, as such posts often are,
to keep the punters off the track, as they came from the bar.
Two stewards were located, just behind the finish line,
one steward was a copper and the other ran the mine.
These worthies made their judgments from an elevated stand
constructed out of empty drums, half buried in the sand.

The starter had some problems with the field in disarray,
for most of them were brumbies that they’d captured for the day.
So when the horses settled and the starting band was set
the punters in the shade house just had time to lay a bet,
as then things got exciting, though nobody saw them jump,
all hidden in the thick, red dust behind the mulga clump.
With people cheering loudly, though they couldn’t see a horse,
the jockeys started fighting for positions on the course.

As jockeys traded punches and the crowd became engrossed
the race became chaotic as they thundered past the post,
so things were such a shambles, no one saw the stewards’ fall
and not one person noticed, no damned stewards there at all.
A surging crowd had pushed against, the stewards’ shaky stand
and then before you knew it, both the stewards hit the sand.
They both leapt up, and dusted off, with horror on each face
because, from where they landed, they could never see the race.

But stewards aren’t so stupid, so they made a quick ascent,
though neither had the faintest clue who’d won the great event,
‘til Bert, the senior steward said, “This next bit should be fun.
We’ll let the jockeys sort it out, I’m sure they’ll know who won.
First past the post will take his place, here, near the finish line
we’ll hoist the flag, to say OK, and things will turn out fine.”
This worked quite well, they weighed them all, then put up ‘Correct Weight’
‘Mine Host,’ trained by the publican, stood by the winners’ gate.

The mob rejoiced. Who cared who won? The jockeys all got drunk
the winning punters had a ball, some losers did the bunk.
All hit the bar and quickly got, as ‘full’ as they could get
and most agreed this ‘Mulga Cup’, had been the best one yet.
But still today, wild rumours float, around the outback pubs
in shearing sheds and cattle yards and outback racing clubs,
that even though the stewards put, the winning numbers up,
the pair of them had never seen, the finish of ‘The Cup’.

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