They are mustering cattle on Brigalow Vale Where the stock-horses whinny and stamp, And where long Andy Ferguson, you may go bail, Is yet boss on a cutting-out camp. Half the duffers I met would not know a fat steer From a blessed old Alderney cow. Whilst they're mustering there I am wondering here - Who is riding brown Harlequin now?
Are the pikers as wild and the scrubs just as dense In the brigalow country as when There was never a homestead and never a fence Between Brigalow Vale and The Glen? Do they yard the big micks 'neath the light of the moon? Do the yard-wings re-echo the row Of stockwhips and hoof-beats? And what sort of coon Is there riding old Harlequin now?
There was buckjumping blood in the brown gelding's veins, But, lean-headed, with iron-like pins, Of Pyrrhus and Panic he'd plentiful strains, All their virtues, and some of their sins. 'Twas the pity, some said, that so shapely a colt Fate should with such temper endow; He would kick and would strike, he would buck and would bolt - Ah! who's riding brown Harlequin now?
A demon to handle! a devil to ride! Small wonder the surcingle burst; You'd have thought that he'd buck himself out of his hide On the morning we saddled him first. I can mind how he cow-kicked the spur on my boot, And though that's long ago, still I vow If they're wheeling a piker no new-chum galoot Is a-riding old Harlequin now!
I remember the boss - how he chuckled and laughed When they yarded the brown colt for me: "He'll be steady enough when we finish the graft And have cleaned up the scrubs of Glen Leigh!' I am wondering today if the brown horse yet live, For the fellow who broke him, I trow, A long lease of soul-ease would willingly give To be riding brown Harlequin now!
'Do you think you can hold him?' old Ferguson said - He was mounted on Homet, the grey; I think Harlequin heard him - he shook his lean head, And he needed no holding that day. Not a prick from a spur, nor a sting from a whip As he raced among deadwood and bough While I sat fairly quiet and just let him rip - But who's riding old Harlequin now?
I could hear 'em a-crashing the gidgee in front As the Bryan colt streaked to the lead Whilst the boss and the niggers were out of the hunt. For their horses lacked Harlequin's speed; The pikers were yarded and skies growing dim When old Fergie was fain to allow: 'The colt's track through the scrub was a knocker' to him - But who's riding brown Harlequin now?
From starlight to starlight - all day in between The foam-flakes might fly from his bit, But whatever the pace of the day's work had been, The brown gelding was eager and fit. On the packhorse's back they are fixing a load Where the path climbs the hill's gloomy brow; They are mustering bullocks to send on the road, But - who's riding old Harlequin now?
First published in The Bulletin, 11 December 1897.