Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems




We had many problems set us when Coolgardie was a camp,

When the journey to the goldfields meant a coach-fare or a tramp;

We had water questions, tucker ditto, also that of gold,

How to clothe ourselves in summer, how to dress to dodge the cold.

We marvelled how the reefs occurred in most unlikely spots,

For the topsy-turvy strata tied geologists in knots;

But though we plumbed the depth of many mysteries and myths,

The worst we had to fathom was the prevalence of Smiths.

To say they swarmed Coolgardie was to say the very least,

For they over-ran the district like rabbits in the East;

The name predominated in the underlay and drive,

The open-cut and costeen seemed to be with Smiths alive;

Where the dishes tossed the gravel they gathered from afar,

They clustered at the two-up school and at the shanty bar;

And while Jones and Brown were just as thick as herrings in a frith

If you threw a stone at randon, you were sure to hit a Smith.

There were Smiths from every region where the Smiths are known to grow,

There were cornstalk Smiths, Victorian Smiths, and Smiths who eat the crow;

There were Maori Smiths, Tasmanian Smiths, and parched-up Smiths from Cairns;

Bachelor Smiths and widower Smiths and Smiths with wives and bairns.

Some assumed the names for reasons that to them were known the best

When silently they packed their ports and flitted to the West,

Till every second man you met to yarn or argue with

Was either a legitimate or else a bogus Smith.

It really mattered little till the days the big mails came,

And then began the trouble with that far too-frequent name;

For the Smiths rolled up in regiments when the letter "S" was called,

To drive the post-officials mad and prematurely bald.

Shoals of Smiths demanded letters that were never to them sent.

Wrong Smiths got correspondence which for them was never meant;

And many a Smith, whose facial calm shamed Egypt's monolith,

Bought jim-jams with the boodle sent to quite a different Smith.

The climax came one Christmas Eve, the mail was on its way,

And the post-officials yearned to block the Smiths on Christmas Day;

So they faked an Eastern telegram by methods justified,

Upon it put no Christian name and tacked it up outside;

It was from a Melbourne lawyer, and addressed to "Smith Esquire"

It was stamped "prepaid and urgent", so t'would confidence inspire,

And when Coolgardie sighted it and marked its pungent pith,

There was pallid consternation in the habitat of Smith.

"Our client has informed us you are over in the West,"

Ran the message, "and she threatens your immediate arrest;

She hears you're known as Smith, but says you needn't be afraid

If you'll come and face the music and redeem the promise made."

The population read it, and before the daylight came

A swarm of Smiths rolled up their swags and took a different name.

They declined to "face the music" and return to kin and kith,

Amd the maidens who were promised still await the absent Smith.


1926,  E.G. Murphy ("Dryblower") also known as Edwin Greenslade, 



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