Last of the lasts


Today was an avalanche of the fuckers – tees, elles, ays ‘n esses like an angry swarm of hornets from dawn to dusk. Amongst them, was the getting to of the holy grail of them all, last post. Which didn’t keep me awake last night, but could have. The thing was, I’d seen it yesterday, driven right past it, a rust-coloured length of 79 ml drill-pipe, baking in the mid-day sun. At the time, I had no idea it would take on such ginormous proportions. But it was too late.  

There was nothing remarkable about it. It was just a damned lump of steel, one of many thousands the old Aussie-Driver and me had thumped into the ground over the past two decades or so. Even so, I  couldn’t get it out of my mind. It would lay like a snake in the grass, daring Murphy to initiate a frayed cable or burst hydraulic line before I got to it. What it didn’t know was that I’d faced down a similar dilemma fifty years ago, and won through. It was just a matter of planning.

At 15, I’d made a deal with dad. Correction. Dad dealt, I nodded. Whatever. I could drop out after the school-certificate exams provided I pulled my socks up. Fine. The next day, I made a red-texta cross mid-November ’72 on the fridge calendar. Big mistake! Each morning it mocked me like a devil’s eye. If I cowered behind the family size Kellogg’s cornflakes box, it even spoke! Ha! 63 days to go!

In the end, the answer was simple, just as it proved to be in the here and now, five decades later. Back then ‘socks’ was the key word. Ooh yeah! They needed to be pulled up big time. Which tended to tip the scales to even-steven. After all, sixty odd days was infinity. But when socks sink to the depths that mine had, 60 days was 60 very busy ones spent pulling them back up!

Of a night, instead of study and homework, I’d been sneaking out to join Pete, Scotty and sometimes Jayne from across the street for midnight raids at Wordsworth’s Strawberry’s on the outskirts of town (Young). Not so much for strawberries. Rather, for the adrenalin rush of barking dogs and torchlights, and the inevitable scramble for cover. On one memorable occasion, the moon shone bright on Jayne’s left buttock after we vaulted the barbed wire perimeter fence. On the long walk home, it was gentlemen first, of course.  

Barrett’s chicken-farm /cherry orchard was fair game too. This one for payback. In the dead of night, with insider knowledge for access, the fun of it was to pelt eggs into the stinking lava-flows beneath banks of chicken cages. In our minds, there was rough justice in every sunken bum-nut for the tortuous few weekends Scotty and I had spent shovelling chook-poo for four dollars a day. A paltry wage, but nevertheless, more than enough for a regular supply of Viscount tens, and the occasional Alpine twenties. Jayne preferred menthol. Sometimes I paid, other times Scotty or even Pete who was most often skint. Nothing was ever said. But I knew, and they knew, that it was all about keeping Jayne puffing along with us in the shadows. Each one of us shared the titillating memory of her torn levis and moonlit left buttock!

Then there were garbo-bin nights of a Wednesday (don’t ask!), patches of dry grass in vacant allotments screaming for a match, and tin roofs that ached to be rocked. When I think back on those heady days, my socks had sagged so low, they were swallowed by my shoes.   

So…. with similar strategy foremost in my mind, I packed my sangers this morning and headed off with Lachie for work. Lachie was another last. He gets the gong for last worker. Rob’s plan was to be last, but when he decided to travel on late September, it was Bradley, Bruggo (John), Oscar, Graham, then Lachie. Further back, there was Dylan, Brett, Denise, Becky, Shane, Lou (Louise), Matt, Paddy, Josey, Mike, Paddy # 2, John, Ben, Mark, José, Paddy # 3, Anthony, Shaun, Will, Rudi, Kate, Tessa, Jeff, Joe, Chris (# 1,2 and 3), Xandra, David, Marta, Veronica, Adrian, Tina, Ingar, Jeremy. These were the ‘stayers’ amongst the many more, the ones that at least got beyond sunset, day one!

When Lachie and I arrived at last job – a bore-enclosure cum cattle-cooler, there was no Kellogg’s cornflakes box to be seen, nor round-shouldered kelvinator with a devil’s eye stamped mid-November ’72. But the same mocking laughter was everywhere. It was then that I forged a strategy.  

While Lachie welded, I fired up the tractor and drove last post first! Then I mixed it up all through the morning. There would be no last post in mind until I got to it. In desperation, Murphy slipped underground, and began to relocate rocks. But it was all too late. Last post was driven, and the nasty little imp went sniveling back to Limerick.  

Now you know why you’re a fencer


Some time ago, I wrote a song. Two actually, but for now, it’s all about the one. As you’re about to discover, one’s enough! Back then, it wasn’t so much about smiling faces on the cover of the ‘Rolling Stone’. Rather, there was a tangle of unruly words that bugged the bejeesus out of me until they all fell in line. Soon after, they were entered into the 2021 ASA (Oz songwriters Asc) contest in Lyrics (To Hang Yourself By!!)   And…surprise, surprise, made the top thirty! (Which probably put a smile on the faces of the other 29 entrants too!)  

       Meanwhile, I toyed with some simple chords and melodies, then recorded myself on my I-phone. If my song made the top ten on ASA’s virtual awards night, I’d be ready for Starmaker the following year at Tamworth.

       The recording proved to be a gift to the world. Not a soul on earth, apart from Heidy the Huntsman who scurried behind the sliding kitchen door, will ever again witness such a performance. To my ear as I barred F sharp and E, then fingerpicked A to Asus with arthritic fingers, I was John-boy crooning ‘Flower on the Water’ or ‘Raining on the Rock’. My phone said ‘no, you are Darren Lockyer croaking for assistance from the depths of Brisbane’s sewer. (Apologies to Darren since he at least croaks in tune).

       And so… Now that I’ve heard me, I’ve to decided to post, and bury. Read if you want, have the noose handy.  

                                                                         Bush Beddin’ Down

Here I rest at day’s end,

Watch the sun go down,

Mm mmm, go down

Through the gidgee the cries,

To and fro, the galahs,

The sounds o’ the bush beddin’ down.

There’s a click and a whirr, that ol’ fan just ain’t right,

First moths flitter into the light

They’re the sounds that sooth when you’re left all alone,

The sounds o’ the bush beddin’ down

There’s a fresh cross the causeway,

Seems years since she’s run,

Mm mm, seems years

Sweet water, sweet memories,

I hear laughter again,

‘long the banks where our first love began

And the echoes grow faint

As the brolgas take flight,

And the supplejacks sigh as the day turns to night,

And the shadows come creeping once more,

Like old friends, they’re keepin’ the score.

Down the flat, the thud of hoof-beats,

Soft on the loam,

Mm mm, comin’ home,

Comes old Gypsy like clock-work,

She seeks higher ground,

A sandy-patch to rest her weary bones

For wherever our song began,

There’s a place it surely ends,

And the moon and the stars above,

Hold the rhythm of the last refrain

And they say all good things must pass,

Mm mm, let ‘em go,

Set me free, this old husk,

Let me be….

Free at last

So when the sun’s dippin’ low,

And the night breezes blow,

You’ll hear my laughter,

‘mongst the sounds o’ the bush beddin’ down

We’ll be laughin’,

With the sounds o’ the bush beddin’ down.