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Bullocky Bill and His Old Red Team by Edward Dyson

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From a river siding, the railway town, 
Or the dull new port there three days down, 
Forward and back on the up-hill track, 
With a creak of the jinker, a ringing crack, 
Slow as a funeral, sure as steam, 
Bullocky Bill and his old red team. 

Ploughing around by the ti-tree scrub, 
Four wheels down to the creeping hub, 
Swaying they go, with their heads all low, 
Bally, and Splodger, and Spot, and Jo. 
Men in the ranges much esteem 
Bullocky Bill and his old red team. 

Worming about where the tall trees spring, 
Surging ahead when the clay bogs cling; 
A rattle of lash and of language rash 
On the narrow edge of immortal smash. 
He'd thread a bead or walk a beam, 
Bullocky Bill with his old red team. 

Climbing a ridge where the red stars ride; 
Straddling down on the other side, 
With a whistle and grind, and a scramble blind, 
And a thundering gum-tree slung behind. 
But they always get there, hill or stream, 
Bullocky Bill and his old red team. 

Engines or stamps for the mines about, 
Tools for the men who are leading out; 
Tucker, and boose, and the latest news 
Back where the bunyip stirs the ooze. 
Pioneers with the best we deem 
Bullocky Bill and his old red team.

First published in The Bulletin, 28 December 1895, and again in the same magazine on 22 April 1931, and 27 December 1983;
and later in
Rhymes From the Mines and Other Lines by Edward Dyson, 1896; and
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002.

The Teams by Henry Lawson

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A cloud of dust on the long white road;
   And the teams go creeping on,
Inch by inch with the weary load;
And by the power of the green-hide goad
   The distant goal is won.

With eyes half-shut from the blinding dust,
   And necks to the yokes bent low,
The beasts are pulling as bullocks must,
Till the shining rims of the tire-rings rust; 
   While the spokes are turning slow.

With face half hid 'neath a wide brimm'd hat
   That shades from the heat's white waves,
And shoulder'd whip with its green-hide plat, 
The driver plods with a gait like that
   Of his weary, patient slaves.

He wipes his brow, for the day is hot,
   And spits to the left with spite ;
He shouts at "Balley," and flicks at "Scot,"   
And raises dust from the back of "Spot,"  
   And spits to the dusty right.

He'll sometimes pause as a thing of form
   In front of a lonely door,
And ask for a drink, and remark "'Tis warm," 
Or say "There's signs of a thunder-storm;"
   But he seldom utters more.

But, ah! there are other scenes than these;
   And, passing his lonely home,
For weeks together the bushman sees
The teams bogg'd down o'er the axletrees,
   Or ploughing the sodden loam.

And then when the roads are at their, worst,
   The bushman's children hear
The cruel blows of the whips revers'd
While bullocks pull as their hearts would burst,  
   And bellow with pain and fear.

And thus with little of joy or rest
   Are the long, long journeys done;
And thus -- 'tis a cruel war at the best 
Is distance fought in the lonely west,
   And the dusty battles won.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 21 December 1889;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
The Children's Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1913;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1924;
New Song in an Old Land edited by Rex Ingamells, 1943;
The Boomerang Book of Australian Poetry edited by Enid Moodie Heddle, 1956;
Songs from Lawson by Henry Lawson, 1957;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
Bards in the Wilderness edited by Adrian Mitchell and Brian Elliott, 1970;
Poems of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1973;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
The Essential Henry Lawson edited by Brian Kiernan, 1982;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
Henry Lawson: An Illustrated Treasury compiled by Glenys Smith, 1985;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
The Book of Australian Ballads, 1989;
A Treasury of Bush Verse by G. A. Wilkes, 1991;
Australian Bush Poems, 1991;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002; and
Anthology of Bullock Poetry compiled by Janice Downes, 2006.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

The Bullocky's Xmas Carol by W.T. Goodge

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"It's a merry (bally) Christmas 
For a bullocky, by Jove; 
Gee, back, Strawberry! way there, Diamond! 
   'Nough to sicken any cove! 
Got a surplus, this 'ere Gov'ment! 
   If they had to drive these loads 
They would spend their bally surplus 
   On these (bally) country roads!" 

"Mind that (bally) saplin' Baldy! 
Strike me pink, but this is sweet!   
They must think the only roadway 
   Is in (bally) George's Street! 
It's a merry (bally) Christmas 
   But it ain't no (bally) joke; 
With the roadways left in this way 
   For a bally country bloke."

First published in The Queanbeyan Age, 20 December 1907

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Poetry Library

See also.

Bullocky Bill's Experience by Allan F. Wilson

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I was a careless countryman,
   Just fresh from out the scrub,
Until I was induced to join
   The new athletic club,
Which I reckon quite suffices
   To explain the reason why
I wears a plaster on my cheek,
   A beefsteak on my eye.

The first time I attended
   I was standing at the bar,
And watching what the "fancy" term
   An "amicable spar."
When someone jogged my elbow,
   And a bull-necked kind of chap
Proposed that he and I should have
   A friendly little "scrap."

I'd no kind friend to warn me,
   So incautiously consented.
I never yet did aught that I
   So fervently repented.
I hear him say, "Put up your 'ands!"
   And then I knew no more,
But when I came to life I was
   A-weltering in my gore.

How often have I wished that I
   Had left that club alone.
My head feels like a pumpkin,
   I've an ache in every bone.
My nose is broke, my teeth are loose,
   And I can scarcely see.
I pass: I'm off this game -- no more
   Athletic clubs for me.

No, nevermore I'll pass that door --
   That is, if I survive;
To-morrow I withdraw my name
   If I am still alive.
In this here role of chopping-block
   I fail to see the fun.
I've had my share, henceforth I swear
   Athletic clubs I'll shun.

Oh, if a kindly Providence
   Would gratify my whim,
I'd love to yoke the bull-necked chap,
   And drop the thing on him.
I'd pay him back with interest
   For what he's done to me;
I'd teach him what bull-punchin' means,
   I'm game to guarantee.

If I but had him in the team,
    His neck beneath the yoke,
He'd find old Bill can still infuse
   Some strength into his stroke.
And when his tender cuticle
   Began to chip and fly,
He'd p'raps repent the monument when
   he popped me in the eye.

Ah, well, who knows? Some day, perhaps
   (Heaven send it may come true),
He'll come a-moochin' round the bush
   In search of work to do.
And if it should be my good luck
   To drop across him there,
I'll bet a merry quid I'd find
   Some way of getting square.

First published in Melbourne Punch, 11 December 1906

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

An Old Master by C. J. Dennis

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We were cartin' lathes and palin's from the slopes of Mount St. Leonard,
With our axles near the road-bed and the mud as stiff as glue;
And our bullocks weren't precisely what you'd call conditioned nicely,
And meself and Messmate Mitchell had our doubts of gettin' through.

It had rained a tidy skyful in the week before we started,
But our tucker-bag depended on the sellin' of our load;
So we punched 'em on by inches, liftin' 'em across the pinches,
Till we struck the final section of the worst part of the road.

We were just congratulatin' one another on the journey,
When we blundered in a pot-hole right within the sight of goal,
Where the bush-track joins the metal. Mitchell, as he saw her settle,
Justified his reputation at the peril of his soul.

We were in a glue-pot, certain --- red and stiff and most tenacious;
Over naves and over axles --- waggon sittin' on the road.
"'Struth," says I, "they'll never lift her. Take a shot from Hell to shift her.
Nothin' left us but unyoke 'em and sling off the blessed load."

Now, beside our scene of trouble stood a little one-roomed humpy,
Home of an enfeebled party by the name of Dad McGee.
William was, I pause to mention, livin' on an old-age pension
Since he gave up bullock-punchin' at the age of eighty-three.

Startled by our exclamations, Daddy hobbled from the shanty,
Hobbled out and over to us on his old rheumatic pins,
Shadin' his old eyes and peerin' here and there around the clearin',
While we watched his consternation with half-sympathetic grins.

"Eh!  Wot's happened now?" he quavered, in a weak and shaky treble,
Gazin' where the stranded waggon looked like some half-foundered ship.
Then the state o' things he spotted, "Looks," he says, "like you was potted,"
And he toddled up to Mitchell. "Here," said he, "gimme that whip."

Mitchell, bein' out o' patience, flung a glance of anger at him,
Followed by some fancy language of his very choicest brand.
Then old daddy seemed to straighten.  "Now," he yelled, "don't keep me waitin'!
Pass that whip, you blarsted blue-tongue!"  Mitchell put it in his hand.

Well! I've heard of transformations; heard of fellers sort of changin'
In the face of sudden danger or some great emergency;
Heard the like in song and story and in bush traditions hoary,
But I nearly dropped me bundle as I looked at Dad McGee.

While we gazed he seemed to toughen; as his fingers gripped the handle
His old form grew straight and supple, and a light leaped in his eye;
And he stepped around the waggon, not with footsteps weak and laggin',
But with firm, determined carriage, as he flung the whip on high.

Now he swung the leaders over, while the whip-lash snarled and volleyed;
And they answered like one bullock, strainin' to each crack and clout;
But he kept his cursin' under, till old Brindle made a blunder;
Then I thought all Hell had hit me, <i>and the master opened out.</i>

And the language! Oh, the language!  I have known some noble cursers --
"Hell-fire" Mac and "Cursin': Brogan -- men of boundless blasphemee,
Full of fancy exclamations, trimmed with frills and declarations;
But their talk was childish prattle to that language of McGee.

In a trance stood messmate Mitchell; seemed to me I must be dreamin';
While the wondrous words and phrases only genius could loose
Roared and rumbled fast and faster in the throat of that Old Master ---
Oaths and curses tipped with lightning, cracklin' flames of fierce abuse.

Then we knew the man before us was a Master of our callin';
One of those great lords of language gone for ever from Outback;
Heroes of an ancient order; men who punched across the border;
Vanished giants of the 'sixties; puncher-princes of the track.

Now we heard the timbers strainin', heard the waggon's loud complainin',
And the master cried triumphant, as he swung 'em into line,
As they put their toes into it, lifted her, and pulled her through it:
"That's the way we useter do it in the days o' sixty-nine!"

Near the foot of Mount St. Leonard lives an old, enfeebled party
Who retired from bullock-punchin' at the age of eighty-three.
If you seek him folk will mention, merely, that he draws the pension;
But to us he looms a Master -- Prince of Punchers, Dad McGee!

First published in The Bulletin, 4 August 1910;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918;
Old Ballads from the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987;
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis by C.J. Dennis, 1988;
Favourite Poems of C.J. Dennis by C.J. Dennis, 1989; and
Anthology of Bullock Poetry edited by Janice Downes, 2006.

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

The Song of Old Joe Swallow by Henry Lawson

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When I was up the country, in the days o' long ago,
Along ov Jimmy Nowlett with the teams I uster go;
Then the reelroad wasn't heered on, an' the bush was wild an' strange,
An' we useter draw the timber from the saw-pits in the range;
An' we useter load provisions for the stations, an' we'd go
Thro' the plains an' o'er the ranges in the days of long ago.

Chorus:   Then it's yoke up the bullicks and tramp beside 'em slow,
          An' saddle up yer horses an' a-ridin' we will go,
             To the bullick-drivin', cattle-drovin',
             Nigger, digger, roarin', rovin'
          Days o' long ago.

Once me and Jimmy Nowlett loaded timber for the town,
But we hadn't gone a dozen mile before the rains come down,
An' me an' Jimmy Nowlett an' the bullicks an' the dray
Was cut off on some risin' ground while floods around us lay;
An' we soon run short of tucker an' terbacca, which was bad,
An' pertaters dipped in honey was the only tuck we had.

           But it's yoke up the bullicks, &c.

An' half our bullicks perished when the drought was on the land,
An' the burnin' heat that dazzles as it dances on the sand
When the sun-baked clay an' gravel paves for miles the burnin' creeks,
An' at ev'ry step yer travel there a rottin' carcase reeks --
But we pulled ourselves together, for we never used ter know
What a feather-bed was good for in those days o' long ago.

But in spite ov barren ridges an' in spite ov mud an' heat,
An' the dust that browned the bushes when it rose from bullicks' feet,
An' in spite ov cold an' chilblains when the bush was white with frost,
An' in spite ov muddy water where the burnin' plain was crossed,
An' in spite of modern progress, and in spite ov all their blow,
'Twas a better land to live in, in the days o' long ago.

Oft when the moon was shinin' o'er the ranges like a lamp,
An' a lot of bullick-drivers was a-campin' on the camp.                        
When the fire was blazin' cheery an' the pipes was drawin' well,
Then our songs we useter chorus an' our yarns we useter tell,
An' we'd talk ov lands we come from, and ov chaps we useter know,
For there always was behind us other days o' long ago.

Them early days was ended when the railroad crossed the plain,
But in dreams I often tramp beside the bullick-team again:
Still we pauses at the shanty just to have a drop er cheer,
Still I feels a kind ov pleasure when the campin'-ground is near;
Still I smells the old tarpaulin me an' Jimmy used ter throw
O'er the timber-truck for shelter in the days o' long ago.

Oh, I've been a-driftin' back'ards with the changes ov the land,
An' if I spoke ter bullicks now they wouldn't understand,
But when Mary wakes me sudden in the night I'll often say:                                                 
"Come here, Spot, an' stan' up, Bally, blank an' blank an' comeeerway."
An' she says that, when I'm sleepin', oft my elerquince 'ill flow
In the bullick-drivin' language ov the days o' long ago.

The pub will soon be closin', so I'll give the thing a rest;
But if you drop on Nowlett in the far an' distant west
If Jimmy drops a doubleyou instead of ar an' vee,
An' if he drops his aiches then yer sure to know it's he.
An' yer won't forgit to arsk him if he still remembers Joe
As knowed him up the country in the days o' long ago.

First published in The Bulletin, 24 May 1890;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
Humorous Verses by Henry Lawson, 1941;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;
Poems of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1973;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989; and
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

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