Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems



That Day at Boiling Downs

He was driving Irish tandem, but perhaps I talk at random –
I’d forgotten for a moment you are not all mulga bred;
What I mean’s he had his swag up through his having knocked his nag up;
He had come in off the Cooper – anyhow that’s what he said.

And he looked as full of knowledge as a thirty-acre college
As he answered to the question – “How’s things look the way you come?”
“Well, they were a trifle willing for a bit. There’s been some killing; In fact,
I’m the sole survivor of the district... mine’s a rum!”

Then we all got interested in the chap as he divested
Himself of a fat puppy that he carried in his shirt;
But he said no more until he had put down his swag and billy,
And had taken off his bluchers just to empty out the dirt.

Bits of cork were tied with laces round his hat in many places,
Out of which he gave the puppy some refreshment, and began –
“Sammy Suds was boundary-riding, quite content and law-abiding,
Till he bought some reading-matter one day off a hawker man.

‘Then he started to go ratty, and began to fancy that he
Was an Injun on the warpath; so he plaited a lassoo,
Shaved and smeared his face with raddle, and knocked up a greenhide saddle,
After creeping on his belly through the grass a mile or two.

“Then he decked himself in feathers, and went out and scalped some wethers –
Just to give himself a lesson in the sanguinary art;
Sammy then dug up the hatchet, chased a snake but couldn’t catch it,
Killed his dog, lassooed a turkey, scalped the cat and made a start.

“And he caused a great sensation when he landed at the station;
And the boss said, ‘Hullo! Sammy, what the devil’s up with you?'
‘I am Slimy Snake the Snorter! Wretched pale-face, crave not quarter!’
He replied, and with a shot-gun nearly blew the boss in two.

“Next, the wood-and-water joey fell a victim to his bowie,
And the boss’s weeping widow got a gash from ear to ear;
And you should have seen his guiver when he scalped the bullock-driver
And made openings for a horse-boy, servant-maid, and overseer.

“Counting jackeroos and niggers, he had put up double figures,
When ensued his awful combat with a party of new-chums,
All agog to do their duty, with no thought of home or beauty –
But he rubbed them out as rapid as a schoolboy would his sums.

“Out across the silent river, with some duck-shot in his liver,
Went the store-man, and a lassooed lady left in the same boat.
Sam then solved the Chinese question – or at least made a suggestion –
For he dragged one from a barrel by the tail and cut his throat.

"But, with thus the job completed, Sammy he got overheated
And dropped dead of apoplexy: I felt better when he did!
For I’d got an awful singeing while I watched this mulga engine
Doing all that I’ve related – through a cracked brick oven lid.

"And when now I find men strangled, or I come across the mangled
Corpses of a crowd of people or depopulated towns,
Or even a blood-stained river, I can scarce repress a shiver,
For my nerves were much affected that day out on Boiling Downs.”

Jack Mathieu

 Go Back to index

Go Back to index