Henry Lawson on the Australian "Bush" - Peter Myers, November 6, 2001; update July 16, 2003. My comments within the text are shown {thus}.

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HENRY LAWSON Autobiographical and Other Writings 1887-1922

Volume Two of Collected Prose Edited by COLIN RODERICK


{the following are extracts of prose essays by Lawson}

{p. 24} SOME POPULAR AUSTRALIAN MISTAKES {published in The Bulletin, 1893}

1. An Australian mirage does not look like water; it looks too dry and dusty.

2. A plain is not neessarily a wide, open space covered with waving grass or green sward, like a prairie (the prairie isn't necessarily that way either, but that's an American mistake, not an Australian one); it is either a desert or a stretch of level country covered withwretched scrub.

3. A river is not a broad, shining stream with green banks and tall, dense eucalypti walls; it is more often a string of muddy water-holes - "a chain of dry water-holes", someone said.

4. There are no "mountains" out West; only ridges on the floors of hell.

5. There are no forests; only mongrel scrubs.

6. Australian poetical writers invariably get the coastal scenery mixed up with that of "Out Back".

7. An Australian Western homestead is not an old-fashioned, gable-ended, brickand-shingle buildingwith avenues and parks; and the squatter doesn't live there, either. A Western station, at best, is a collection of slab and galvanised-iron sheds and humpies, and is the hottest, driest, dustiest, and most God-forsaken hole you could think of; the nanager lives there - when compelled to do so.

8. The manager is not called the "super"; he is called the "overseer" - which name fits him better.

9. Station-hands are not noble, romantic fellows; they are mostly crawlers to the boss - which they have to be. Shearers - the men of the West - despise station-hands.

10. Men tramping in search of a "shed" are not called "sundowners" or "swaggies"; they are "trav'lers".

11. A swag is not generally referred to as a "bluey" or "Matilda" - it is called a "swag".

12. No bushman thinks of "going on the wallaby" or "walking Matilda", or "padding the hoof"; he goes on the track - when forced to it.

13. You do not "hunp bluey" - you simply "carry your swag".

14. You do not stow grub - you "have some tucker, mate".

15. (Item for our Alstralian artists). A traveller rarely, if ever, carries a stick; it suggests a common suburban loafer, back-yards, clothes-lines, roosting fowls, watchdogs, blind men, sewer-pipes, and goats eating turnip-parings.

16. (For artists). No traveller out back carries a horse-collar swag - it's too hot; and the swag is not carried by a strap passed round the chest but round one shoulder. The nose (tucker) blg hangs over the other shoulder and balances the load nicely - when there's anythng in the bag.

17. It's not glorious and grand and free to be on the track. Try it.

18. A shearing-shed is not what city people picture it to be - if they imagine it at all; it is perhaps the most degrading hell on the face of this earth. Ask any better-class shearer.

19. An Australian lake is not a lake; it is either a sheet of brackish water or a patch of dry sand.

20. Least said about shanties the better.

{p. 25} 21. The poetical bushman does not exist; the majority of the men out back now are from the cities. The real native our-back bushman is narrow-minded, densely ignorant, invulnerarably thick-headed. How could he be otherwise?

22. The blackfellow is a fraud. A white man can learn to throw the boomerang as well as an aborigine - even better. A blackfellow is not to be depended on with regard to direction, distance, or weather. A blackfellow once offered to take us to better water than that at which we were camping. He said it was only half-a-mile. We rolled up our swags and followed him and his gin five miles through the scrub to a mud-hole with a dead bullock in it. Also, he said that it would rain that night; and it didn't rain there for six months. Moreover, he threw a boomerang at a rabbit and lamed one of his dogs - of which he had about 150.

23, etc. Half the bushmen are not called "Bill", nor the other half "Jim". We knew a shearer whose name was Reginald! Jim doesn't tell pathetic yarns in bad doggerel in a shearer's hut - if he did, the men would tap their foreheads and wink.

In conclusion. We wish to Heaven that Australian writers would leave off trying to make a paradise out of the Out Back Hell; if only out of consideration for the poor, hopeless, half-starved wretches who carry swags through it and look in vain for work - and ask in vain for tucker very often. What's the good of making a heaven of a hell when by describing it as it really is we might do some good for the lost souls there? 1893 Bulletin

{p. 57} THE GOLDEN NINETIES {published in The Australian Star, 1899}


"THEY take things easy in Fremantle," said the captain of the s.s. Parloo. ...

We had made quite a long voyage from Sydney. We stayed one night in Melbourne, where the writer had a week's business to do, and a small army of friends to see, and three days at Port Adelaide, where he had no business, and didn't know anybody. But the captain, officers, and crew had head office, homes, wives, and sweethearts there. They had only debts in Melbourne, perhaps. The principal industry of Melbourne at that time (in '95-'96) was debts.

Adelaide, has, I think, the most Australian Zoological Gardens in the world. The most noticeable thing in Port Adelaide seemed to be the train running through the main street, with the stoker ringing a bullock bell (at least, it sounded like one) in front to scare off furniture vans, etc. It suggested the ridiculous idea that the South Australian railway system was about to be put up for sale by auction, and would presently be going, going, gone!

By the delay in Adelaide we missed the last heavy gale; and I was very sorry for

{p. 58} it, and greatly disappointed. The glass kept going down, and the wind and the sea getting up all the way from Melbourne, and I felt more hopeful every time the joker of the ship's company remarked cheerfully that the glass was still falling ...

Albany hasn't changed much since 1889-90, when the new town was built. There were one or two old families popularly supposed to exist there then, but they kept to themselves. It should be interesting to study the effects of nearly half a century of utter loneliness and isolation upon their temperaments. There were a few common white aborigines, who were supposed to have been, and doubtless were, more or less, the slaves of the one or two first families in the days before the advent of the first steam engine (a portable vertical, connected with a brickyard, which arrived somewhere in the mid eighties, and caused a sensation amongst the natives, black and white), and have been ever since for aught we know. The seeker after information, local, historical, genealogical, or otherwise, was met with growling monosyllables, ominous in tone, and warning frowns, which may have been intended for his good. For the rest Albany was a camp of Tothersiders and new-chums - tradesmen, labourers, and clerks; the train was running to Perth then, and things

{p. 59} were going ahead in the building line in Albany. Road-makers - and the Lord knows where those roads were made to, or why they were made - went out into the wilderness, lived on kangaroo when rations gave out before the contract was completed - and made cheques. Nice, soft, juicy new-chums, poor devils ! went into the bush, fencing, clearing, running wire for contractors, and cooking for camps; and shed their skins, like snakes, because of the heat and the mosquitoes; and broke their hearts - and went mad, some of them - because of the terrible loneliness and the Past; and died, and were buried or not, as it happened. Or they fought out their own salvation, and got away East - never dreaming that, a year or so hence - as counter-jumpers, clerks, etc., in eastern cities - they might be scraping, and scheming, and stinting all the day, for the price of a steerage ticket to the Golden West, and lying awake, think, think, thinking over it till the small hours, to fall asleep and dream that they had got it in a lump sum. We were lonely Tothersiders then, and the first families didn't seem aware of our existence, and we clung together - never dreaming that in two or three years we would rush the country in thousands and swamp out the sand-groping element as completely as if it had taken to the outer wilderness and committed suicide. But I mean to do the sand-gropers justice later on.

Chinese, imported on terms of agreement similar to those for the alleged breach of which unfortunate Afghans were gaoled lately at Bourke, cooked, gardened, etc., on the few small sheep stations, and were assisted with the shearing by the local blacks. The Chinese and the blacks (this from personal experience and observation) were treated with greater consideration than the casual white - if he were shown any consideration at all. But King Billy, I am glad to believe, is more or less privileged and kindly thought of all over settled Australia; and - well, John Chinaman's patience is an unknown quantity, and hath sudden and unexpected endings; the station super., knowing this, riding out into the wilds at sunrise, and leaving his wife alone in the lonely homestead all day, is haunted by the thought of the Chinese cook in connection with the carving knife. The Chinese cook and the carving knife are too handy to each other in lonely places to make it worth while showing one's superiority over the cook on every possible occasion.

Alleged aboriginal names end in "up", along the line from Albany; there are "Marbleup", "Kendinup", and - there's a place called "Chokerup". The bush round there looks just the place for it. By the way, speaking of black names, the blacks round King George's Sound use the words "boomerang", "nulla nulla", "baal!", "budgeree", etc., and new-chums - and most Tothersiders, I believe - think they are speaking from their own language; whereas those terms were brought by the whites from the East, and the blacks themselves, no doubt, take them as English words. They, of course, have a different dialect from that of the aborigines of old Eastern Australia.

There was a blackfellow at Kendinup, who could speak French, and, what is more than can be said of many English people who profess to read and speak it, he could understand it. He had been aboard a French whaler for a couple of years.

Fancy King Billy as a Jack Tar - two years before the mast!

This blackfellow's history must have been a strange and interesting one; but personal histories, in old West Australia, which may have been strange and interesting ones, were generally veiled in obscurity, as dark as Billy Rex himself - or the history of that dark country. The French blackfellow was, perhaps, the finest specimen of his race that I had seen. He stated that he had had enough of civilisation - he craved for no more of it. He preferred to live as his fathers had

{p. 60} lived, and eat 'possum when there was no kangaroo nor fish, nor wild fowl, and wear a 'possum-skin rug for an overcoat, and a blanket in cold weather - and crouch under a wretched mi-mi (a break-wind of three strips of bark and a bough) in the cold and rain of winter, rather than camp comfortably in a galvanised iron hut, with a brick fireplace and a load of wood supplied. He wore only the 'possum-skin rug when I saw him; he opened the homestead gate for me with the air of a kingly courtier of ye olden tyme, bowed me through Frenchily, or, rather, like a Spaniard - and standing erect as the king himself, with his right hand extended before him, palm upwards, he cadged sixpence, and a pipe o' tobacco.

There are many fine-looking half-caste girls, they say, living wild with the blacks in the outer bush. It is said that the best-looking and most intelligent are crosses between the blacks and Chinese. I happened to know one of the latter (civilised). Her strange and wonderful beauty might have made a sensation on any stage, and money for the popular and enterprising manager.

These girls were seldom or never brought into the stations, or near camps, when the tribe came down from the north or east, into Albany or the nearer bush, for the shearing, or with native weapons, skins, precious wood, etc.; the girls were left somewhere out of reach of civilisation. The ugly gins came in, though, and, arranging their kangaroo tails, rugs, or native weapons (manufactured specially for sale to the new-chums, and thus, indirectly, for export) to the best advantage on doorstep or threshold of camp or hut, they'd squat on their hams, get out their pipes, and be prepared to wait patiently and silently for a day or so, or until such time as the spirit moved you to buy - or kick them out of that. The blacks seem to believe that the spirit moves as slowly in us as it does in their own dusky bosoms - judge us from themselves, in fact, just the same as we judge one another. I've noticed the same thing with the Maoris, and suppose it's the same with native races all over the world. I learned to sit, for an hour, if need be, in a cow-like but, on my part at least, unembarrassed silence, with a row of Maoris, who I knew had some, to them, important communication to make, or wanted to buy something of me.

Things are arranged, out at the ends of those roads from King George's Sound, and in connection with the native women, in various ways, which could not, very well, be set down here. Contracting parties take, or used to take, out parcels of old clothes and damaged tobacco as "presents" to natives' roosters.

As late as '90 - or was it the end of '89? - there were, in connection with the spearing of an explorer bushman, and after considerable bush hardship, difficulty and danger, captured and brought into Albany the remnant of a tribe of mongrel, dwarfish blacks, whose appearance gave rise to considerable curiosity, even amongst the local "sand-gropers", and was thought to be sufiiciently important and interesting to be paragraphed in the local newspaper, for the stories of the existence of such a tribe of blacks had, up till then, been regarded as fairy tales. And these didn't come from the interior either; but from a waste of sandy, spiky, scrubby country near the west coast. Shows how much we know about our own country, and what a wide field De Rougemont had.

There was a blackfellow in Albany who used to make his rude weapons of wood and stone at a carpenter's bench, and with such tools as he could cadge or borrow - including files and a grindstone. When the English or French mailboat was signalled he'd gather the remnants of his tribe, and retire to the scrub to make up - and, maybe, hold a dress rehearsal. Thusly, the first sight that greeted the wide eyes and open mouths of eager new-chums - come ashore for an hour's

{p. 61} run, and racing up the jetty to see whose foot would be the first on Australian soil - would be a dusky warrior chief in all his native glory. A 'possum-rug on his shoulders, a fearsome and wonderful arrangement (that would have put any fashion of Paris hats in the shade) of sticks, reeds, grass, clay and whitewash on his head, and his noble, savage lineaments "picked out" to an alarming extent with whiting and red raddle and ochre (cadged from one of the house painters). Standing erect, motionless and silent, seemingly impassive as the Sphinx; boomerang, stone tomahawk, etc., in left hand, spear (grounded) in right, and the remnant of his tribe ("Mrs Williams" - ugliest gin in the known West, Old Sally, and Dirty Dick) grouped at his feet. Describe a circle of new-chums and tourists - some dressed in the latest London fashion - the majority with open eyes, and mouths and ears stretched to the limit - and awe, or respect, if anything, in their expressions - and one or two saloon passengers, or "jokers", who saw through the thing at the first glance, and are enjoying the show from behind, as well as in front - and willing to pay for the extra fun - all of which noted by and well known to William Rex, who, if the spirit moved him, and he thought it safe and judicious, from a business point of view - would acknowledge or recognise the superior intelligence of the aforesaid keen observers amongst his possible patrons by solemnly, slowly, yet momentarily closing down the whitewashed lid of the awful bloodshot optic that was on their side. That wink "doubled-up" many an observant humorist - to the surprise of more sober fellow-passengers, who couldn't see what there was to laugh at. The gins offered rugs and weapons for sale with one hand - holding the other, all the time, rigidly extended, the wrist resting on a drawn-up knee - never for a moment drawing in the black and yellow begging claw - and they, or Dirty Dick - or, perchance, a hireling half-caste (in the character of a slave), if such suited the passengers' fancies, or imaginations - answered questions and interpreted when absolutely necessary from a business point of view. It was understood, or supposed to be understood, to be beneath the dignity of the dusky chief to hold converse directly with the pale-faced strangers, whose fathers had slain his warriors, and laid waste his hunting-grounds. To the white natives the scene was common-place, of course, and passed unnoticed, and unchuckled at; but the elaborate simplicity of it all was very restful and comforting to me. Billy himself could see and enjoy the humour of it - after he had carefully secured the "gate" from the gins; otherwise, he regarded the whole thing from a strictly business point of view, as hinted above. There seems sometimes a touch of Scotch in King Billy. I was his first victim, but later on, when I got to know him - and he me - he said he'd get me a genuine stone tomahawk, such as the blacks used, by means of a blackfellow who was going north-west to join a party of blacks, who were in touch with a tribe of the interior - so I shouted for him now and then. But - well, I left before the weapon had time to be passed south, and so I remain undecided as to whether there is or is not a touch of Irish in King William, also.

I have invented - or altered - the names for the Last of Their Race. Mrs Williams may be living yet - and she made determined attempts to get out a summons for "damfamation" of character against a friend of mine, who, innocently, and at the suggestion of a better-informed, but totally unprincipled brother humorist, addressed her as "Miss" Williams. She subsequently tried to settle the matter out of court, too, with a billet of hardwood. Take the ugliest Chinaman (and there are some fairly plain ones) in Lower George Street, give him a coat of lampblack mixed with turpentine - or black lead (never mind the polish), and you'll have a fair idea of Mrs Williams, who was so enthusiastic concerning her fair fame. But there I'm

{p. 62} not trying to score a point at the expense of my black countrymen. This "ad.", if I know anything of human nature - and King Billy still runs his little "silver coin" show - will bring him extra sixpenses - and good luck to him! the lowest and most degraded, most cheerful, humorous, and by me at least, and least of his subjects, mostly kindly-thought-of of monarchs.

WEST AUSTRALIA BEFORE THE BOOM { part of THE GOLDEN NINETIES, published in The Australian Star, 1899}

... If I cannot hold my readers through a serial, or series of sketches, without recourse to such old newspaper tricks as, say, leaving the hero or heroine in peril of life or honour at the end of each instalment, then I do not deserve to hold them. And if - as some editors think, but I do not believe - the Australian reader only wants sex-problem, sensation, or local news and scandal, then it is part of my duty to try and cure him. It might cure him of me, but I'll take my chance. In short, I intend to write as I think - to write what I believe to be true, and Australian.

I've been analysing my strong and enduring sympathy for those black countrymen-o'-mine, of King George's Sound especially, and I've come to the conclusion that it is partly on account of the following incident. I was sitting at the door of the loneliest hut in the most desolate waste of bush, watching about the saddest Australian sunset that I think I had ever seen burn to ashes; I had nothing to read, and no one to listen to, and no hopes of a mail, and was feeling oh! so lonely and desolate-hearted, when I was aware of King Billy, with a broad grin, and a bundle of newspapers and letters from home, which he had brought ten miles from the nearest point on the railway line. I don't think I ever got or shall ever get a cheaper "thick"-pennorth and stick o' bacca worth of joy.

One peculiarity I noticed with the blacks was that, when coming into the station, if in a party, they'd divide into two; if only one black and a gin, they'd come, though abreast of each other - that is at equal distances from the homestead - they'd come with about half a mile of flat or gully between them, and cooeey and screech to each other across that space till obliged to come together at their goal; it must have been wearing on their lungs; while there was no possible reason that a white man could fathom why they couldn't walk together and yabba quietly and

{p. 63} comfortably. Then, again, they or some of the party always made a circle, and came into the station from the scrub behind, while there was no apparent reason why they shouldn't walk up to the front door in a body.

The gins carried, in place of matches, a piece of lighted bark, which they damped slightly in the mud whenever they came to a water-hole, to make the fire bite, or draw, I suppose - to keep it in.

Speaking of gins reminds me that when they want to cadge, or beg a favour of you, or have a row with you, they will often spend a day edging on the most likely one of their party. I think this is true of most dark races. Whenever I saw a circle of Maori women squatting round one for any length of time I knew that something was brewing. When dealing with savages, whether black or white, never explain before doing a thing, else you'll have bother. Do what you want to do, and explain afterwards, if you like. This is a golden rule, I think, the world over, and if you want to get on you ought to tie it to your tongue, so to speak, with a strong piece of string.

{p. 68} "THE RUSH" { part of THE GOLDEN NINETIES, published in The Australian Star, 1899}

{p. 69} Horsemen, footmen, and pack-horses - and a circus! All going to Gulgong {Lawson's birthplace} from all the world. I don't remember what sort of swags the diggers carried in those days, or how they dressed, but I remember always the gold dish, and the pick and shovel. I can't call to mind whether I went in a spring-cart, or a dray, or was carried in front of someone on horseback, but have an idea that I was stowed amongst the bedding on top of a load, at least part of the way. Rows of lighted tents, huts going up in the moonlight for diggers' wives and families; tree-felling and pick-pointing at sunrise. The palmy days of Gulgong, far away and unreal to me now as a "transformation scene". The memory of it all impresses me very much in the same way as did the first Christmas pantomime I saw as an intensely impressionable bush boy. And big, boyish, jolly-faced, and good-hearted diggers. And a "money-box"! - the contents of which later on, when times grew hard on us, went (I remember being given to understand) towards the purchase of a new baby brother, whom I hadn't asked for, and didn't want.

I had childish but decided opinions re the foolishness of taking babies as a gift, let alone buying them; but perhaps I was prejudiced on account of my money-box.

We weren't found under cabbages when I was a child. We were bought from Chinese hawkers - not the vegetable variety, but those who went round with boxes of drapery, fancy goods, cotton, needles, tape, etc., slung to the ends of their poles. I hated and dreaded the sight of a Chinese hawker, for I firmly believed that he hawked babies under the top shelves of his boxes. By the way, if you fancy you are a strong man, try the weight of the ordinary, weedy, bush Chinaman's loaded baskets; you'll get a surprise, and some idea of what practice can do in the way of weight-carrying.

There now! In my desperate hurry to get on with the Golden Nineties I've stumbled backwards into the early seventies, and drifted into my first childhood - if not the second. Best give it up this week, and start with a clean sheet next Saturday.

Gulgong, by the way, is a hot, dry, barren, hopeless little pastoral town, with patches of gravel and funnel-shaped holes where the shafts were, and the Bathurst burr flourishing all over the spaces between. And, of course, the goats; they came with the first of the rush, and haunt the old diggings longer than anything else. But far and faint, and faint and far, comes the echo of Gulgong - Gulgong in the Roaring Days!

DROUGHT-STRICKEN {published in The Worker, 1900}

A dusty patch in the Dingo Scrub,

That was cleared and ploughed in vain -

(What matters it now if the soil be soaked

And the bush be dark with rain?)

A heap of stones where the chimney stood,

And a post on the boundary line -

For forty years of my father's life

And fifteen years of mine.

It is so hard to make city people understand. If you went out into the dry country now you would wonder not only how sheep or cattle, or even goats, could survive in the drought, but how strong men could live through it. Strong men die often in the heat wave - and what of the women and children out there ?

It is a blazing desolation. No sign of crops, no sign of grass, the sods bake white and crumble to dust on the ploughed ground - the surface under the scrub is as bare as a road, and as dusty. Imagine it! nothing but dust and sand and blazing heat for hundreds of miles! All road, all dust. And where is the water? that is one of the first questions that occur to you; for there is no more sign of water than there is of grass. The water is at the "bore", or in a muddy hole down the creek, or in a dam or tank, with a screen of saplings and boughs over it sometimes, to lessen evaporation. The water is thick and yellow, or the colour of dirty milk, and warm. They have to drink it. And what if the last gallon evaporated, and the next water five, ten, fifteen, or twenty miles away? Well, they'd have to take the stock to the water and camp there, or cart it for household purposes on drays in tanks and barrels. And if the nearest water wasn't within reach? what would they do then? God knows! - I don't, but God generally sends a shower at the last moment. What do you know of it, who step a few feet to your tap or filter for a clean, cool drink?

"The country looks awful !" they say, and that expresses it. But you couldn't realise the drought unless you saw it - and then you couldn't realise it unless you lived through it; and even then - well a man does not know what he can go through and leave behind him as an evil dream. The country in the drought is dreadful - it is enough to terrify a new-chum; but I heard someone say that men

{p. 95} could get used to the infernal regions,and, after going through several droughts, I am inclined to believe it.

It blazes all day - you can see the white heat flowing, dancing, dazzling - and it is stifling all night. Often the smothering hot night is worse than the fiercely glaring day. I had a fancy that one could hear the drought; you've heard the something devilish in the roar of a fire where a fire should not be? - a house on fire - well, it seemed something like that.

Haggard eyes stare vainly at every sign of a cloud for rain. The great white sun rises with almost the heat of noon; and so, day after day, week after week, month after month, until people cease to hope, or even to waste words suggesting that it might rain soon.

"Whenever are we going to get a little rain?" says the baked, gaunt Bushwoman, wearily - and that is all. What do you know of it, you who have not sacrificed the best years of your manhood, the youth of your sons and daughters, and every trace of girlish beauty in your wife's face, trying to make a home in the Bush? What do you know of it, who have not been ruined by the drought time and time again? What do you know of it, who did not depend for a year's provisions on the crop that was scorched from the surface as it sprouted~ or the cows and steers that starved to death one by one before your eyes?

And what do the well-meaning good people of the city know of the Bush people who suggest making them objects of charity! If I went into a bare, drought-stricken Bush home to-day, I would glance round and understand it all, but I wouldn't know what to say. I'd be no longer in touch with them - I'd not be suffering with them. I wouldn't attempt to sympathise with them (except perhaps in the case of a quarrel with a neighbouring squatter), for they have no use for sympathy, and the strangeness of it would embarrass them. I'd sit and feel very ill at ease, and I could not meet the Bushwoman's haggard eyes, that look one through and through and size one up; for I'd feel the poor weak citified creature I am. I'd as soon think of striking my father in the face, were he alive, as dream of offering that Bushwoman food and clothes for her family, or putting my hand in my pocket and offering her husband money. If I did so I'd probably be shown the shortest track to the boundary, and so be let down lightly. And, in the evening, they would sit down, in their dusty rags, to their meal of damper and meat, or damper and tea - and brood over a new wrong, an unexpected insult.

No! These Bush people must be helped wholesale - by the Government, by the public, by the people. Every spare penny should be spent on water conservation and irrigation, in sinking tanks and putting down bores, in locking our thousands and thousands of miles of rivers - almost at sea level - where oceans of water waste away after each flood time. To attend to these things is a national work, for the benefit of the whole nation; to neglect them is a national crime - it is suicidal.

The big squatter, bank, or company, with many stations, have a margin for drought losses. There may be rain on one run to make up for the losses through drought on another; and one good season often makes up for several bad ones. It is the small squatter, cockatoo, selector. or farmer who suffers so cruelly, and, in time of drought, they should not be called upon to pay an instalment of one penny an acre on their barren lands. I know how they slave and how they suffer.

I was "brought up" well "inside" in "good country", yet the scrub round our selection was dotted with dusty little patches, with the remains of a fence, a heap of chimney stones, and the ruins of a hut - all that was left of twenty, thirty, forty years of white slavery through blazing droughts.

{p. 304} BERMAGUI - IN A STRANGE SUNSET {published in The Bulletin, 1910}

BERMAGUI: Where The Mystery was - and where mystery is. Sunset, and a sad, old mysterious bright gold fan-like to dull copper one. Red flag with broad white cross; gloomy and half fearful, half threatening in sunset glare.

Sort of jumbled curve of bay - sand, rotten rock and beach scrub and tussock. As if it were meant to be a clean curve with white sand. But juttings-out of rotting earth and sand and bastard rock that were not "points" nor anything else were left - mixed up with scraggy bush and scrub and coarse tufts that Nature forgot, or hadn't time to shove away and tidy up. Scene started in a hurry, left half fin-

{p. 305} ished, and - forgotten. Blue hill - or bastard mountain - to the west, running down to pygmy peak at the end of it: Mount Dromedary - and looks like it. Tired, sulky, obstinate old Dromedary in the dusk, shutting out daylight. Point same rotten clay or rock topped with a fringe of bastard, scraggy, half-dead trees. Stacks of sleepers, sleepers, sleepers and sawn timber alGng darkening clay road. Jumble of sand, and mongrel scrub, and tussock, and Beach Hotel. Sort of regular jumble of weatherboard shanties. All secm to facc sunset with guilty, guilty, glazcd and glaring eyes turned towards where, far out at the end of the Mountain, Lamont Young's party were lost - or not lost - nearly thirty years ago. One house, back half behind clump of decent trees to the left, with only one guilty, glassy, brassy eye visible from deck. Showing well above jumble of houses on hill at the back, one small, oblong, weatherboard, bare, verandahless "cottage" with two eyes more glassy, more glaring, more blaring, and guiltier than all the rest, against sunset.

Darkness falls. Flares glaring on wharf and deck. Long sawn timber swung aboard and below with amazing clumsiness and carelessness. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Snatching hatfuls of cargo from every little port. Too lightly laden. Chancing it and running across from Maoriland in perhaps the most dangerous seas in the world, in little more than ballast. I knouJ it and have known it for many years. Way back in Dann's time - Clark Russel speaks of it. Rotten ships started off round the world - too deeply laden. Down here, in Lawson's time, coffin ships from Newcastle to Sydney have dropped into a trough and through the bottom like a kettle filled with bullets. And men drowned like rats in same kettle with lid cramped on. Now it's all haste, razor-edged competition, and greed. I've been round the Cape, from Durban to Sydney, where the Waratah was lost, and know something about something.

I'd rather be in one of our little Mallacoota or Cunningham cutters with a comfortable belly full of cargo, off Gabo, in a sea, than in some of our long, high, narrow, top-heavy, too-lightly-laden, speed-greedy liners, in the long, greasy, devilish beam roll. The little cutter sits upright, anyway, and climbs like a cat. Think of the liner turned turtle ! Hundreds, men, women, children, lads and lasses, trapped, helpless - the most horrible death you could imagine at sea. When she swamps, there's light, at least, to the last, and a chance for it.

But we're sketching Bermagui. Sawn timber. Chaff goes ashore. (Points and trees dark and dreary). More cheese comes on board. Cheese, butter, eggs, sawn timber, calves, pigs, and sleepers, and in the season, wool! We can't get away from wool.

Pigs and calves slung aboard anyhow here, without the benefit of the bosses.

Someone, catching me furtively taking notes, asks:

"Taking an inventory of the live stock?"

"Yes," I say.

So I was - both in the cattle hold and the saloon. But that later. But let's get out of this.

Light on Montague Island like star in the East. Moonlight.

Passed Ulladulla in my sleep, but it sounds like cheese, butter, eggs, calves, pigs, pumpkins, and, in the season, wool.

Same as Cunnamulla in Queensland always suggests mashed pumpkin or pumpkin pies to me.

Hatches left off, with chain round, to give air to stock. Roaring of young bulls, blurring of calves, grunting and squealing of pigs in cattle hold - and ditto in saloon smoking-room, for they're drinking a bit. If we only had a donkey, and

{p. 306} a sheep or two, and a goat, we'd be complete for'ard. Sailor says there's queer cattle in the saloon sometimes.

Roused by strange noise just as I was dising off. Thought it was comic steward doing a bit of ventriloquism, or imitating animals, or the chief, for the edification of his mates - they all doss here - just as we were going to sleep. It was the fore cabin steward with the jim-jams in his sleep. Most uncanny sounds I ever heard.

About the saloon - there's a thing that will be altered when this strikes the proper person. On one line in the fore~cabin it is written everywhere in brass and paint and worked on the mats- "Second Class Ladies", "Second Class Gents"; on the other "Males", "Females". Stony fact. Goes a bit further than "Men" and "Women", doesn't it?

Morning bright and glorious. Off Port Hacking. Rockdale over beyond, chimney visible. Shelving cliffs: cutter between the heads - sails dark-brown, clay-coloured, light brown with touch of yellow, yellowish grev, and grey, and tawny, and almost black as they turn to the sunlight or away: small boats fishing outside. Strong morning breeze. The heads at nine o'clock.

And so Australia. No meadows and fields showing fair down to the sea, nor aught, as in other lands, to hint of the grcat wealth of love and riches within her. Shelving rock coast, capped with hopeless and forbidding, dry coastal scrub - you'd never dream of what was behind and within. Australia, my Australia; and I hold her mine as no man ever did, or ever shall.

1910 Bn

{p. 306} YANCO : 1916-17 {published in The Bulletin, 1916}



Hand the snow was lightly fallin'

Hon 'er shoulders all the while.

(The first syllable in "shoulders" as in show in "showers")

THAT was some twenty seven years agone, going at Christmas time in a special holiday train over the Blue Mountains, and the singer a slight, rather undersized Bushman of the Nearer West, as it was then, of the better class, who leaned back luxuriously in his seat in the second-class carriage and enjoyed his singing. Lux- uriously, I say, because it might have been a relief from the everlasting saddle way

{p. 307} of travelling. ...

The whisky flasks went round, and the bottled ale went round; and very soon, Christian names like Bill and Jim and Jack went round; and blokes and coves and fellers and chaps were given nicknames that lasted them to the journey's end, and sometimes beyond it; amongst men who'd never seen each other in their lives before, and might never meet again; and the brotherly joke went round at each other's expense; and there was all the best of good-fellowship, and we all were mates.

We never bothered about "refreshments" on those journeys - we were too healthy and happy to eat - only to "scoff" a sandwich or two occasionally, or tear at the leg or wing of a cold fowl; and that only out of politeness to the giver, perhaps some lovable and provident elderly party of the jovial, well-to-do digger persuasion. The sight of stout, black-coated persons, of full habit of life, seriously, earnestly and even nervously anxious at their soup - with napkins up to their fat white throats - in the refreshment rooms, always filled me with a strange sort of pity. The others regarded them (or didn't regard them) with utter indifference, or as beneath contempt - or above it, if you like.

But a peep into first class carriages, when we got out to stretch our legs, mostly revealed stout, red-faced squatters, of the old school, who lived on their runs, and had their women folk in reserved carriages away from them; and jolly, goodnatured, healthy, and honest-looking commercial travellers, telling their yarns and cracking their jokes, whereof the humour redeemed the "smut". And young honey moon couples evidently in a bad way.

In the next compartment for'ard of ours and the next compartment for'ard of that again there was a merry party of all sorts - young fellows from the city, but mostly in what is called the "humbler walks of life"; but they weren't humble; they were too care-free to be humble, or anything else except happy - or to think about it. They had a keg of beer with a wooden tap, in the next compartment, and it had a place on the seat, no matter which one of them had to stand, or squat on the floor in turn. They took great care of that keg of beer; they called it, affectionately, "Bobby", and the contents their "tanglefoot" - "Our Tanglefoot" - and their humorist, or joker - there was always one in those days - rested his arm and head lovingly on top of Bobby and dozed between taps. He was privileged to sit next to Bobby.

{p. 310} .... I turned in, and this time I woke to sunlight.

Dry gullies; bleached and fire-blackened logs and stumps; blazing water courses - just ashen clay-gutters in the scalded ground, where water seldom comes and never stays an hour; unutterable scrub. The posts of the very fences, where they are,

{p. 311} are wooly grey, and seem old, as old as the dead trees, and as forgotten. On clearer slopes for miles and miles the grass from the last rains is dry beyond dryness, and tough beyond toughness; and everywhere, the bleached pale gold of stubble. And the land seems old, old - and older to me. God! ours is the oldest land on earth - it is old beyond anything.

I didn't wake in time for Cootamundra, and was dressing just as she was moving out of the station ...

Wheat! Wheat! Wheat! Wheat on both sides as far as the eye can reach, and, everywhere, if I'm not mistaken, the bronze of Farrar's wheat. The harvest is nearly off, but some of the strippers are only just beginning. The sun is well up, but the homes are still at rest, excepting where blue smoke from a kitchen chimney hints of a hearty breakfast. This is not sordid, slaving, Cow-Cocky country. It is WHEAT!

Presently the "commercials" begin to come out, to wash and dress, and they look mean enough for anything. Thick-necked for the most part, some baggy under the eyes, viciously ill-healthy and ill-looking - complete absence of soul - soul or feeling dead long ago if it ever lived. Stonily suspicious of everybody and of each other. And they all know it, and they all know each knows they do. And they eat breakfast, dinner, and tea at the right stations for nothing, and take whiskies there - at all possible stations in between and from flasks - which they stonily pass to each other on the train - for nothing: for the best whisky has no effect whatever. It couldn't on such natures.

We change at Junee. ...

{p. 312} Wheat, wheat, wheat; wheat, wheat, wheat; seas of it on both sides, and all to feed a great, ant-swarming, useless city like Sydney, or to be sent abroard to feed the soldiers of nations murdering and ruining each other for hateful Greed, "Commerce" or "Trade"! As well feed and whisky those "commercial" travellers.

Narrandera, seeming from the train a "real" township, or, much rather, village with hints of rocky outcrops, ivied red brick, picture-book little churches, and real homes and greenery, without the assistance of irrigation. I must run up to that little town in a week or two, and take it in. And so to Yanco, and Leeton - the Irrigation Area - to a new life in an old dead land that is being brought to life again.

1916 Bn

AMONGST MY OWN PEOPLE (NEW SERIES) {published in The Murrumbidgee Irrigator, 1916}




Here, haphazard I set them down -

First impressions of Leeton town;

After a year and a year are past,

I wonder whatever shall be the last?

[New Songs]

FIRST impressions are often erroneous - and so are last. Consider the ideas, or notions, of your childhood concerning the flatness of the earth, the stars, the wicked ness of pointing at the moon, and the awful unknown danger thereof - and Santa Claus. When we were children we used to think that the sun rose from behind the hills at the back of our hut, set behind the hills some few miles across the river, beyond the creek ("crick" we called it) and then went all round behind the circle of Mudgee hills, and rose again next morning from the back of our hills. It took him all night to go round. So much for Jirst impreSsionS - And probably, in my dotage I'll have a fixed conviction that my relatives are trying to poison me for my money - and so much for last impressions.

Coming down, there was a very stout man in our sleeping carriage, with folds under his stone-cold eyes, and an unhealthy, bilious appearance. I took him for a hide-bound, soulless, bounding commercial traveller - such as are so prevalent nowadays - because, I suppose, there were several in the carriage and I thought he belonged to them. (Jumped to the conclusion, you see, as we are always doing now, and as men should never do - though women might do it safely sometimes, yet.) I found him to be a quietly jovial, well-to-do latter-day digger, or miner, with a quizzically observant outlook, and a large flask of the best whisky in his kit bag. I know that the whisky was good. So much for the infallibility of intermediate, or middle-life first impressions.

But, if you don't take first impressions while they're fresh, and write them down, you sometimes end by getting no impressions at all; they fade so quickly ...

{p. 313} A travelled and observant Australian, set down uninformed for the first time in the middle of Leeton's business street, would be sorely puzzled to place the town - if you understand. It isn't a farming town, and it isn't "cow-cocky", and it isn't a wool, or out-back shearing town. ...

But presently the observant Australian stranger would get an uneasy and increasingly haunting idea that all was not right with him. That he was awake yet not awake. That it was a bad nightmare in daylight. That he has been dropped into a disguised Hell - or the other place or, worse still, into Nowhere. There is something hauntingly wanting - something weirdly unreal about the place; and a red dust storm coming up shakes his nerves altogether, until a long-forgotten mining mate from North Queensland, or West Australia, or Broken Hill, or shearing mate from Bourke - whom he at first takes for a spirit belonging to this weird new world he has been shanghaied into - looms through the dust and sets him right.

And the thing that has been half unconsciously haunting him is the absence of a pub or of all signs of a pub. It was uncanny - supernatural to him.

Yes. The barber's shop is here - and a sociable barber's shop it is - and the grocer's shop, draper's, butcher's, baker's, news-agent's, ironmonger's, etc., etc.; and very cheerful and kindly people they seem. And the dentist, chemist, doctor, and schoolmaster - reserved men for the most part, I should think, with a good deal of reserve force. (Country schoolmasters have a great deal as a rule - they have to.) And the saddlers, bootmakers, etc., with their earnest and sometimes extreme political opinions, as in most towns - mostly socialistic, I suppose. And the usual i'characters" and hard cases - and, of course, the average amount of general human cussedness that needs an outlet occasionally. The ministers are here - quiet men who know a great deal and say little, I expect; and the policeman is here. It must be an awful dull job for a policeman in a town like this. The churches, creeds, my old friend the Salvation Army, and my older friends the Ungodly are here. Yes, all things are here that are in most country towns - and more; but, lo and behold! the pub is not here, my brethren.

And verily I say unto you that a Place is not natural without the Pub. If it isn't unnatural it soon becomes so.

{p. 315} II


{p. 316} I saw, studied out, and dreamed of the possibillities of water storage in the Bourke and other districts twenty-five years ago, and wrote about it hopelessly for years; and, from what I have seen of the channels and farms about Leeton, and read and heard of this scheme, I think, no matter what brain conceived it originally (the man is probably dead, or forgotten and neglected now) that it is too gigantic, and pregnant with promise for the future prosperitry and welfare of, not only our own little area, but all Australia, to be handled by the little men we have in power today. ...

And I see the after-glow of the sunset, lurid - ruby-red - through the distant line of timber - redder than I have seen it for years, and pointing far to the North-West, where, hundreds of miles away, lies a bare patch in the blazing scrub, with a white-ant eaten and fast decaying house and a few, gey, furry fence posts on it - the remains of a drought-ruined selection that I knew well - only too well - and all that was left for twenty-five years of my father's life and seventeen of mine.

{p. 317} ... But then came the last "great drought", as far as we were concerned, of the middle 'eighties; and it was lopping off the boughs of the "native apple trees" (so called because their blossoms were white and trunks grey and gnarled like old fruit trees) to keep the "milkers alive"; and then came the pleuro (the "ploorer") and "strangles" in the

{p. 318} horses, and the blight in the eyes of men, women and children, and cattle, and in orchards and vineyards (it had been rust, or "smut" in the wheat the year before), and even the Chinamen on Lawson's Creek gave it up, and I remember being given the young pumpkins from the withered vines, and whatever withered vegetables were left, and carting the stuff home gratefully to try to feed the few remaining "ploorer" stricken milkers. And they died, and all things were dead and hope was buried deep out of sight in the baking, barren soil. And the little foreigner died at his work. They said it was something the matter with his heart, but I could have told them that myself. They gave it a Latin name; but, heart disease, or a broken heart, it's pretty much the same. I saw him afterwards. The scarred and knotted hands, with their broken, twisted, blackened and thickened finger-nails - the hands that had never owed any man one penny, or taken a penny from any man except for work honestly done; the hands that had often given in illness and trouble, seemed to me to be still groping for the tool they had dropped when the cold faintness and blindness of death came on him in that blazing heat; and the knit in his white forehead (he was a fair Norse) above the mark of his hat rim, seemed deeper than it had ever been in life; as if life had stricken the strong man so hard that death could not smooth out the mark. The young doctor told me that the post mortem had helped deepen that knit, but I didn't think so. It was the last swift thoughts for those he had left behind him.... And, next day, against such a ruby red sunset as I see across our park to-night, I stood beside his grave where the clay sods from deep below the sub-soil had already baked dry in the heat of the last great drought that had ruined him; and I felt bitter, and very bitter - because of many things - for he was my Father.

The "grant" has been thrown open for farming since then, but nothing ever grew again on the old selection, and little grew at all on the "grant"; it was years too late, and the district was given over to a little useless (for Australia) vinegrowing; and the almost as useless well-to-do "cow-cockyism". The grant and selection are now a stud farm for the Mudgee race-course, and hopeless, useless, cigarette-smoking weeds they call jockeys, spit and blaspheme about the old home where we toiled and suffered through hardship, sickness, death and trouble, and my father burst his heart. And the stud farm will be a success no doubt. Yes! I'm pretty bitter against what they call "sport", or racing, in Australia.

Oh, yes! We have much to be thankful for down here, and not so much to grumble about as far as I can see yet. Those brave farmers of the barren and waterless lands had no time for grumbling, or discontent, or cliqueism, or the mischief made by women's tongues, even if their women (my mother was one of them) had had the time and inclination to make it. They had only time to help each other, or to try to help each other when the worst came. They fought, and fought to the bitter end, and there were not a few who died with their boots on. I am groping in the dark yet, as far as our Area is concerned, and there may be many doubts and disappointments in store; but the hateful, lurid, drought sunset has gone from the sky-line, and the night is cool, and there is a grateful breeze fanning, and young lovers steal past, and the water is creeping, creeping (I can feel it and smell it), creeping along the channels and gutters, bringing life and prosperity, and ultimate rest and peace to an old, dead land, by plain and commonsense methods which, in spite of the apparent magnitude of the scheme, are as old as China, and as simple.

1916 Murrumbidgee Irrigator

{p. 319} A LETTER FROM LEETON {published in The Australian Soldiers' Gift Book, 1916}

Dear Old Benro,

This is part of the Murrumbidgee, N.S.W., Irrigation Area, known as Yanco - I suppose you've heard of it (lt's been heard of a good deal lately) - anyway you'll see it when you come Home. It is a spread of green, all chequered off, with little homes, and trees, and clear, green-fringed canals and channels - just like English brooks - you've seen them - set in the midst of a bare, scorching, dusty red and parched yellow Dead Land that's a lot older than Egypt. You've seen Egypt - Desert, Nile, and oasis ? - Well !

They've put me in a little place on a two-acre block, with an orchard, and gum saplings growing along the back fence, and a clear "channel" with raised banks at my front and back gates where you can let the water in onto the ground. I'll hold it down anyway till one of our crippled mates comes back who knows more about fruit trees than I do. He won't want to know much. You know something about fruit anyhow, having peddled it often enough. I can tell a peach tree by eating a peach off it; or chewing a leaf - but that's about all. But some of our farmers, or settlers, know less.

It's hot here in February, and last Saturday was the limit. It was a corker. It's so hot here just now that you can wash out your pants and hang them on the line

{p. 320} and run around the house and take them down dry. And, considering "the cottage is a small one" and you have to sprint to avoid shocking the ladies, it must be something of a drying climate. ...

{p. 322} (As I write comes the news of the great Russian victory at Erzeroum the other day, when your late pals the Turks got such a drubbing. I'm damned glad for Ivan because I stuck to him ever since the outbreak of the War - all through; but I'm half sorry for our friends the Turks, not only because they were such good pals at Gallipoli, but also because we know something of the Armenians, Syrians, lowclass Yids and lying Greeks. However, Russia will look after them and - it's the fortunes of war.)

As a complete contrast to the story of poor Austin comes the bright little story of my other friend, Cecil Hartt, ("the Harttist") who is in Harefield Hospital with you as I write. ... none the worse but for the loss of a foot! If he'd lost eighteen inches off those long legs of his he'd still be a decent height. Besides, he doesn't draw with his foot, you know, and never did, notwithstanding what some low down shirking rival artists might have hinted to the contrary. And now he's comfortable in that great Harefield Hospital, amongst all pals, and with Australian nurses to fuss round and see that he doesn't get all right too soon. And his work in demand by leading London illustrated papers! And his own little wife and his own big boy and his own little camp waiting for him down at Manly, where he'll think of Anzac, no doubt, when he gets into the surf again.

He told me, writing from the hospital in Egypt (Hellopolis or something) that his heart was aching and breaking to be home in Australia again ...

{p. 323} Then, for a space, you'd be ready to hug the first stray Turk you came across, and drop a tear over his shouder for the sake of the good old (they'll seem old then) the good old times you had with him.... Perhaps, after all, the chaps are happier who went home in Gallipoli for the last time and are buried side by side with their brave and dearly beloved enemies. Allah is great! - And Christ was very weary, and must have suffered both kinds of home-sickness more than once. I suppose Allah got the hump often enough too.

But this is a nice cheerful kind of letter of greeting to a pal - and, maybe, two pals - on the other side of the world! But never mind, we shall surely have those beers we promised each other to have within the year when, some nine months ago, you and Cecil marched unknown to each other to the ships to sail away to the War they call Hell, because you were too young and keen; and I dragged back through the wretched streets to the Hell they call "Peace" - because I was too old and deaf.

And if Allah forbids (he was a teetotaller, I believe - mainly because Christ didn't believe in prohibition, I suppose) and I do get away after all - as doctor's orderly (or disorderly), mascot, or Regimental Goat, or something - and we pass each other on the water, I'll get a wireless to you somehow. And if a submarine gets us I'll get a wireless to you all the same. And if, when that message comes to you, [you] feel a chilly breath on your cheek - and maybe faintly catch the faint and mournful strains of a harp at the same time - you'll know I've been elected; but you'll be sure I'll be doing my best under those depressing circumstances and keeping up a fire for you. lf, on the other hand, you feel a hot breath, and get a whiff of something like sulphur at the same time, you'll know that I'm amongst friends and old pals, and looking out a cool and shady corner against your arrival. But we'll meet before that.

Yours ever, HENRY LAWSON

1916 Australian Soldiers' Gift Book

{p. 354} THAT'S WHAT IT WAS {published in The Worker, 1893}

THE two travellers were lost on a lignum plain all day without water, and when they struck the track they were ten miles from the Government tank. They were pretty thirsty when they got there. The water in the tank was not fit to drink, but the caretaker's wife had some in a barrel which she had "cleared". The two mates drank as much as they could hold; then they rolled out their swags and lay down, each with a billy-full alongside him. They drank the cask very low. Towards morning they began to get uneasy. First one would retire a little distance from the camp and then come back and sit on his swag and think; then the other would go and have a look at the country, and come back after a while and sit down on his swag and think. They compared notes, and tried to remember what had disagreed with 'em. They couldn't make it out. By-and-by one went up to the house to get a bit o' meat, and, in the course of a conversation he asked:

"What did yer clear that blanky water with, Mum?" She said, "Epsom's salts."

The caretaker's children were healthy enough, but they looked a trifle thin and tired .

1893 Wkr

A TYPICAL BUSH YARN {published in The Bulletin, 1893}

THEY were two chaps named Gory and Blanky. Thev were tramping from Never mineware to Smotherplace. Gory was a bad egg, and Blanky knew it; but they'd fallen in with each other on the track and agreed to travel together for the sake of company. Blanky had £25, which fact was known to Gory, who was stumped.

Every night Gory tried to get the money, whicll fact was known to Blanliy, who never slept with more than one eye shut.

When their tracks divided, Gory said to Blanky:

{p. 355} "Look a-here! Where the deuce do you keep that stuff of yours? I've been tryin' to get holt of it every night when you was asleep."

"I know you have,-' said Blanky.

"Well, where the blazes did you put it?"

"Under your head!"

"The --- you did!"

They grinned, shook hands, and parted; and Gory scratched his head very hard and very often as he tramped along the track.

1893 Bn

CARRIERS {published in The Worker, 1893}

{This item has a special interest for me, because my own great-grandfather had a bullock dray around Bourke - in the Hungerford area - in the early 1890s. One day, his dray became bogged and he spent three days huddled under it in the rain. From this he caught pneumonia, and died - I believe in 1891 (Lawson went there in late 1892). He's said to be buried in the cemetary at Bourke, but the only grave I could find bearing his initials - "C.C." - has boughs around it as aborigines use. My grandmother was born in Bourke, and was nine when he died, after which the family moved to Sydney}

HUNGERFORD ROAD, February. One hundred and thirty miles of heavy sand, bordered by dry, hot scrubs. Dense cloud of hot dust. Four wool-teams passing through a gate in a "rabbit-proof" fence which crosses the road. "Clock, clock, clock" of the wheels, rattle and clink of chains, etc., crack of whips. Bales and everything else coated with dust. Stink of old axle-grease and tarpaulins. Tyres hot enough to fry chops on; bows and chains so hot that it is a wonder they do not burn through the bullocks' hides. Water luke-warm in the blistered casks behind. Bullocks dragging along as only bullocks do. Wheels ploughing through the sand, and load lurching from side to side. Half way on a "dry-stretch" of seventeen miles. Big tank full of good water through the scrub to the right, but a bound'ry-rider is guarding it. Mulga scrub, and sparse, spiky undergrowth.

The carriers camp for dinner, and boil their billies, while the bullocks droop under their yokes in the blazing heat; one or two lie down, and the leaders drag and twist themselves round under a dead tree - under the impression that there is shade there. The carriers look like red Indians with the masks of red dust - "bound" with sweat - on their faces; but there is an unhealthy-looking whitish space round their optics, caused by wiping away the blinding dust, sweat, and flies.

One man takes off his boot and sock, and empties half a pint of sand out of them, and pulls up his trouser leg. His leg is sheathed to the knee in dust and sweat; he absently scrapes it with his knife, and presently he amuses himself by moistening a strip with his forefinger and shaving it - to see if he's still a white man, perhaps.

The Hungerford coach ploughs by, amid a dense cloud of dust, passengers and all.

The teams drag on again, "like a wounded snake" that dies at sundown - if a wounded snake, that dies at sundown, could be revived sufficiently next morning to drag on again till another sun goes down, and so on.

Hopeless looking swagmen are met with during the afternoon, and one carrier - he of the sanded leg - halves his tobacco with them; his mates contribute "bits o' " flour, tea, and sugar, etc.

Sundown, and the bullocks about done up. The teamsters unyoke them, and drive them on to the next water - five miles - having previously sent a mate on to reconnoitre and see that the bound'ry-rider is not round; otherwise to make terms with

{p. 356} him, for a squatter's bore. They hurry the cattle down to the water and back in the twilight, and then under cover of darkness turn them into a patch of scrub off the road, where a sign of grass might be seen - if you look close.

Carriers with horse teams fare the worse, perhaps, in dry seasons, when bad chaff is sold by the "lb" and corn is worth its weight in gold.

The Carriers' Unions are being crushed, the Afghans over-run the country with their camels, rates are being cut down, and everything else is rising. Carriers have now to take provisions not only for themselves, but for the poor beggars whom they meet, and whom they cannot find it in their hearts to refuse. They are constantly had up for "trespass", and robbed and ruined under the pretence of "damages"; and, taking it all round, the wool-team doesn't "rumble" as cheerfully as some bards seem to imagine.

1893 Wkr

Henry Lawson on Socialism, Republicanism & Ethnicity: lawson.html.

Humphrey McQueen depicts Henry Lawson as a Fascist & Nazi: mcqueen.html.

Australian Bush Poems: bush-poems.html.

Write to me at contact.html.