DIGGER SMITH by C.J. Dennis
I've knowed ole Flood this last five year or more;
I knoo 'im when 'is Syd went to the war.
A proud ole man 'e was. But I've watched 'im,
An' seen 'is look when people spoke uv Jim:
As sour a look as most coves want to see.
It made me glad that this 'ere Jim weren't me.
I sized up Flood the first day that we met --
Stubborn as blazes when 'is mind is set,
Ole-fashioned in 'is looks an' in 'is ways,
Believin' it is honesty that pays;
An' still dead set, in spite uv bumps 'e's got,
To keep on honest if it pays or not.
Poor ole Dad Flood, 'e is too old to fight
By close on thirty year; but if I'm right
About 'is doin's an' about 'is grit,
'E's done a fair bit over 'is fair bit.
They are too old to fight, but, all the same,
'Is kind's quite young enough to play the game.
I've 'eard it called, this war - an' it's the truth --
I've 'eard it called the sacrifice uv youth.
An' all this land 'as reckernized it too,
An' gives the boys the praises that is doo.
I've 'eard the cheers for ev'ry fightin' lad;
But, up to now, I ain't 'eard none for Dad.
Ole Flood, an' all 'is kind throughout the land,
They aint' been 'eralded with no brass band,
Or been much thought about; but, take my tip,
The war 'as found them with a stiffened lip.
'Umpin' a load they thought they'd dropped for good,
Crackin' reel 'ardy, an' -- jist sawin' wood.
Dad Flood, 'is back is bent, 'is strength is gone;
'E'd done 'is bit before this war come on.
At sixty-five 'e thought 'is work was done;
'E gave the farmin' over to 'is son,
An' jist sat back in peace, with 'is ole wife,
To spend content the ev'nin' of 'is life.
Then comes the war. An' when Syd 'esitates
Between the ole folk an' 'is fightin' mates,
The ole man goes outside an' grabs a hoe.
Sez 'e, "Yeh want to, an' yeh ought to go.
Wot's stoppin' yeh?" 'E straightens 'is ole frame.
"Ain't I farmed long enough to know the game?"
There weren't no more to say. An' Syd went -- West:
Into the sunset with ole Aussie's best.
But no one ever 'eard no groans from Dad.
Though all 'is pride an' 'ope was in that lad
'E showed no sign excep' to grow more grim.
'Is son was gone - an' it was up to 'im.
One day last month when I was down at Flood's
I see 'im strugglin' with a bag uv spuds.
"Look 'ere," I sez, "you let me spell yeh, Dad.
You 'umpin' loads like that's a bit too bad."
'E gives a grunt that's more than 'alf a groan.
"Wot's up?" 'e snaps. "Got no work uv yer own?"
That's 'im. But I've been tippin' that the pace
Would tell; an' when 'is wife comes to our place,
An' sez that Dad 'is ill an' took to bed,
Flat out with work - though that ain't wot she said --
I ain't surprised; an' tells 'er when I'm thro'
I'll come across an' see wot I can do.
I went across, an' -- I come back again.
Strike me! it's no use reas'nin' with some men.
Stubbon ole cows! I'm sick uv them ole fools.
The way 'e yells, "Keep yer 'ands off my tools!"
Yeh'd think I was a thief. 'Is missus said
I'd better slope, or 'e'd be out uv bed.
'E 'eard us talkin' through the open door,
"Oo's that?" he croaks, although 'e tries to roar.
An' when 'is wife explains it's only me
To 'elp a bit: "I want no charity!"
'E barks. "I'll do me work meself, yeh 'ear?"
An' then 'e gits so snarky that I clear.
But 'e'll do me. I like the ole boy's nerve.
We don't do nothin' that 'e don't deserve;
But me an' Peter Begg an' ole man Poole,
We fairly 'as our work cut out to fool
The sly ole fox, when we sneaks down each day
An' works a while to keep things under way.
We digs a bit, an' ploughs a bit, an' chops
The wood, an' does the needful to 'is crops.
We does it soft, an' when 'e 'ears a row
'Is missus tells 'im it's the dog or cow.
'E sez that it's queer noises for a pup.
An' -- there'll be ructions when ole Flood gits up.
It ain't all overwork that's laid 'im out.
Ole Pride in 'im is fightin' 'ard with Doubt.
To-day 'is wife sez, "Somethin's strange in 'im,
For in 'is sleep sometimes 'e calls for Jim.
It's six long years," she sez, an' stops to shake
'Er 'ead. "But 'e don't mention 'im awake."
Dad Flood. I thought 'im jist a stiff-necked fool
Before the war; but, as I sez to Poole,
This war 'as tested more than fightin' men.
But, say, 'e is an' 'oly terror when
Friends try to 'elp 'im earn a bite an' sup.
Oh, there'll be 'Ell to pay when 'e gits up!