The harmless and necessary cockie is a pronounced feature in the population of Australia. Until recently, he existed mostly in the neighborbood of small towns but the increasing demand for land has, of late, driven him further out, and he is no to be met with further inland. He was originally a Victorian product, but became crowded out and forced over the borders into the adjoining States, and is now becoming a power even unto Queensland.
The father cockie in usually thick-set, stout, and pot-bellied, but his progeny inclines more to the slab-sided, hoop-backed, crane species; owing I suppose, to the climate and diet. The latter is very varied, and comprises everything between boiled parrot and his neighbor's stud rams. "Cockie's Delight," better known, perhaps, as "Bullocky's Joy," occupies a prominent position on the table, and may be called the cockie's "staff of life." It is often thick enough to lean on. Another luxury only indulged in on gala day (deaths, etc.) is a composition known to the initiated as "cockie's blanc-mange." The ingredients are as follows: one native bear, two quarts of wheat, one tin "delight." Mix two latter thoroughly, stuff bear, and boil for half a day. Result, marvellous.
The female cockie when caught young and tamed, is sometimes quite presentable, but ages rapidly and turns yellow and flat-footed. When thoroughly broken they make good grafters, but are not of much use for household purposes, being more accustomed to turning winnowers or grubbing seedlings.
Cockies have always to scratch for a living. When they get past the scratching stage and begin to live, they cease to be cockies proper, and become farmers. However, very few ever accomplish that.
As a rule cockies are very religious and have no sense of humor. Was working with one recently in Condobolin district, felling scrub for sheep, and he used to swarm up the currajongs, singing "Nearer my God to Thee" in deadly earnest.
If you meet a man out back whom you fancy is a cockie, you can always dispel any doubts by asking him to run. When he moves quickly you can hear the wheat rattling inside him.
Cockies indulge in curious fancies at times. Worked for one who had a curious collection of carvings, representing some fowls on a roost. Going to work first day, I thought they were fowls, but, on knocking off for supper, there they were in the same position, and although I worked there for a month, they never came down off the roost, so they must have been carvings. I never inquired into the matter, however. In fact, I never had time.
"C. J. D."
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002|