Have you ever followed harrers, when you couldn't see the team
For the blindin', chokin' dust that clung around you?
Have you ever tackled cleanin' when it's mostly dirt you're screenin'?
Have the rabbits or the locusts ever found you?
Have you ever reaped two bushels, with the price at one-an'-eight?
Did you ever think it worth your while to cart it?
Have you ever finished seedin', when the rain is all you're needin',
An' there never comes a blessed drop to start it?
Oh, the weariness an' wear
Of the waitin' an' despair,
When the crop is thin an' spare, an' when the drouthy days commence.
Then you view the land like Moses,
As each red-hot evenin' closes:
But it's bloomin' milk and roses when the crop's above the fence!
Have you stood an' watched the weather gather thickly in the west?
Have your spirits rose as skies began to frown?
Have the clouds that promised rain -- cleared, an' come, an' cleared again?
Have your fingers ever itched to tear 'em down?
Have you gone to bunk at evenin', when the clouds nigh touched the earth?
Have you listened for the patter on the roof?
Has the mornin' broken clear, with a hellish atmosphere,
That you swore, by all the gods, was waterproof?
When you're worn for want o' sleepin',
An' the weary watch you're keepin';
When the crop is slyly peepin', an' you're crazin' with suspense:
With the watchin' an' the waitin',
'Neath a sky like copper-platin'.
Oh, ain't it elevatin' when the crop's above the fence.
Have you ever felt the burden of a weighty over draft,
When your implements an' stock were up the spout,
When a drop of rain would make you, an' a wind from north would break you?
Have you tried to calmly sit an' see it out?
Have you interviewed the manager, an' crawled for all you're worth?
Have you waited his reply, with thoughts that burnt?
Have you ever tried a fake, for the wife an' kiddies' sake?
Has he told you that he's sorry -- but he durn't?
Oh, the strainin' an' the strivin',
An' the plannin' an' contrivin',
When the Bank has took to drivin', a' puts off polite pretense:
When it takes to plainly statin'
That it's gettin' tir'd of waitin' --
Tho', it's most accommodatin' when the crop's above the fence.
Have you watched your kiddies graftin' from the time they learned to walk?
Have you told yourself it isn't just nor fair?
Did you note the missus frettin', summer evenin's, when you're settin'
By the slip rails, try'n' to get a breath of air?
Worst of troubles that beset you -- has the rust been in an' e't you?
When you wouldn't cut for hay, altho' 'twas sense.
Then you've had good cause to rue it, as the reaper slithers thro' it,
Bag an acre! tho' it stands above the fence.
Oh, you dwellers in the city!
Can you spare one thought of pity
For the cockie and the grit he shows, when heart and mind are tense?
Tough old battlers all! Here's to you!
You were white men as I knew you --
Here's a Merry Chris'mas to you, and a crop above the fence!
First published in The Critic, 13 December 1902