THE BLOKES I USED TO KNOW
© Jim Kent
Winner, 2022 Bronze Spur Award, Drovers’ Camp Festival, Camooweal, Queensland.
By the hearth I sit alone and pass the time away
rememb’ring blokes I used to know, it seems like yesterday,
still I see their faces in the mists of long ago,
blokes I tramped with on the track and blokes I used to know.
Bandy Bill the Bullocky who lived by Dingo Creek,
hauling timber from the scrub beneath the mountain peak;
cracking whip and rattling chains and always in a rush,
language blue as some declared would make his bullocks blush.
Shadows in my memories, I sense them always near,
blokes I met along the way that distant yesteryear –
mates who shared their tucker bags when yours was empty bare,
men who tramped that lonely track refusing to despair.
Dozer – why they called him Dozer I was never sure,
legacy the name, some said, from years before the war,
union rep in shearing sheds along the western track.
Labour scabs and squatters ever fearing his attack.
Weary feet in dusty boots and billy can and swag,
often too so sadly true that empty tucker bag,
tramp we must for times were tough and work was hard to find –
lost along the rutted track there’s friends I left behind.
Scottie from the highlands far, a little bloke and slight,
like a bantam rooster but by golly could he fight!
Bested Sharman’s champion in a Queensland country show –
in a stoush or argument he was the bloke to know.
I see them now as they were then, those mates along the road,
blokes who wearied by your side and shared your heavy load,
men who hoped and dreamed as I but knowing dreams were dust,
mateships on that endless track the only truth or trust
Jumbo Jack the shearer’s cook, a decent sort of bloke,
shared his baccy readily if none you had to smoke;
working Darling River sheds a squatter’s daughter wed
shearer’s cook no more he is, the station boss instead.
Endless dusty plains we crossed, the rivers mostly dry,
camped along the road beneath a cold and frosty sky,
blokes I met along the track were friendships made to last.
faces haunt my twilight, ghostly spectres from the past.
Thorny Bob, remembered well the verses that he’d quote,
some by famous balladists and others that he wrote,
nights beside a camp fire ‘neath the canopy of sky,
list’ning to his poetry and tales of days gone by.
Ever on the wallaby the years too quickly fled,
working here and working there and shearing every shed.
Many names forgotten now, their faces linger yet,
shadows in the misty past that time cannot forget.
Ginger fast upon his feet to dodge the local law,
cheeky bugger said of him, they’d lock him up for sure,
prankster though, no evil bloke, and quick at repartee,
taking mickey out of blokes who claimed authority.
Lock of life is rusted now, the key has gone astray,
sun has set, the shadows cast, the ending of the day –
hour glass is slowing, quickly running out of sand.
endless night is falling fast across the waiting land.
Bill the Breaker, Sam and Chappie – Dave and Sandy too.
Baldy, Stue and Surly John and others, quite a few,
billy tea and damper, warming camp fire burning low,
waiting in the shadows, all those blokes I used to know.
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