The Phantom Mob by Will M. Fleming

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Yes; I'm Harry Black - "Mad Harry" - and I often hear 'em say :
"Oh he's off poor chap; don't heed him - he has seen a better day.
He was king of all the drovers on a dry and dusty track;
He tried it once too often; it's Mad Harry - Harry Black."

I had got a mob of cattle out beyond the back Paroo,
When stock routes were the paddocks and fences far and few,
And the track was dry as wisdom, and the days were scorching hot,
The beasts were dropping off like flies - I thought we'd lose the lot.

And my mates were turning cranky - day and night without a drink -
But I kept 'em to the music, and I never slept a wink.
I had to keep 'em goin', or the beggars, beast and man,
Would have perished like a bettle in an empty billy-can.

I woke and found, one mornin', there was not a hoof alive,
But I rode around the bodies and started on to drive.
They were bloomin' hard to manage, but I kept 'em all the same,
For whoever knows Mad Harry will admit that he is game.

And I took 'em on my lonely, kept 'em movin' on the track,
Till the fellows who had left me one by one came sneakin' back.
And I never swore or cursed 'em - simply let 'em take a hand,
Till the curious way they watched me brought me round to understand.

I was drivin' ghosts o' cattle - not a live hoof in the lot! -
And they'd never camp a moment, though the day was blazin' hot.
And at night they never rested, always movin', movin' round,
With a restless sort o' movin' and a moanin' sort of sound.

Till at last I swore at Murphy, cursed Joe Cowly to his teeth,
And I saw their lips a-grinnin' and a skeleton beneath!
I cursed 'em both as useless, and then all at once I saw
They had travelled with the cattle, and were livin' men no more.

Ghost o' men and ghosts o' cattle, I could see 'em through the day
In a strange and curious fashion and a hazy sort o' way.
And at night they gathered round me till my flesh was all a-creep,
And at last - I couldn't help it - while they watched I fell asleep.

Then they went and left me sleepin' - went and left me where I lay,
And I swore an oath I'd find 'em if I looked till Judgment Day!
Yes, I'm Harry Black - Mad Harry - and I never can forget
Those pikers from the back Paroo - I'm lookin' for 'em yet!

First published in The Bulletin, 4 May 1905;
and later in
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 4, 2011 9:38 AM.

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