My indulgence - after many years of writing bush poetry that few people ever hear - here are some of my favourites. If you enjoy Aussie style ballads and tall tales maybe you'll find something you like.
Lonesome George (RIP c1850-2012)
In the islands of Galapagos I chanced to be one day, For an interest in the wildlife had made me come this way. But nothing had prepared me, when I finally reached this goal, For a meeting with a local of whose species he was sole.
And as I introduced myself, I’m sure he shed a tear, As if he knows he is the last, the very last one here. And he’s desperately, sadly, tragically, awfully lonely, He’s Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni.
His name is George, poor Lonesome George, desperate in his fate, He’s never wined, he’s never dined, he’s never had a date. I thought “What can I do? It can’t be true, he must have his own true love” And packed off to Isla Pinta, for a search on his behalf.
I knew that if I could find a mate to win poor George’s heart, He would be a happy tortoise, and perhaps new life would start. No more desperately, sadly, tragically, awfully lonely, For Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni.
So I searched the hills and valleys most keenly for my purpose, “Surely, somewhere here’ I thought ‘there must be another tortoise.’ But time flew past, I had no luck, but I needed to be sure. Was there a chance, a tiny chance, twas no matter now how small?
A month went by and on that isle I turned over every stone, But in the end I had to concede what George has always known. That he’s desperately, sadly, tragically, awfully lonely, He’s Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni.
So I returned to Park Darwin, which Lonesome George knows as home, And said “George the tortoises are gone and the truth must be known, We left our wild goats and black rats as our sad introduction To a legacy that has led to your species’ destruction.
And I know at last when you’re gone there’ll be no more of your kind, It is so sad but so true and it still plays on my mind, For you’re desperately, sadly, tragically, awfully lonely, You’re Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni.
Derek Pugh 1999 Postscript: Lonesome George died in 2012, the last of his species.
The lost city of the Incas? Well it isn’t any more. There’s another one further out, they’ve started to explore. And now to Macchu Pichu the tourists come in waves, For the Andean ambience that every adventurer craves.
Well here I was at last. I had paid my $10 fee, At the end of the Inca Trail, the city here to see. I’d climbed a million ancient steps in air as thin as wafer, Struggling along the gringo trail of purple toilet paper.
But that was past and through the mist I could see the fabled stones, And the ghosts of virgins sacrificed and kings upon their thrones. So I and my fellow travelers, kept pushing through the throng, Of other weaker travelers, whom the train had brought along.
(Three terrible, wearisome days we’d trudged along the path, Our sweat had flowed, we had felt the pain, our lungs had had to gasp. We knew we’d earned the right to enter Macchu Pichu’s door, But to climb the hill on a tourist train we thought was rather poor.)
“Never mind,’ I said to my friends in a spiritual frame of mind, “Let’s check out this magic city for which we’ve done the climb. So with a little hesitation (for we’d heard the Boys Own stories) We explored the piles of rocks which had seen far greater glories.
It was still a wonder to me that despite tales of yore, No one really knows what happened here before the Spanish war. It was ‘discovered’ in 1911, thickly overgrown, By a Yankee bloke named Bingham who searched for a different town.
“This is it” he said “ I have found my city of old” Only to be disappointed that there wasn’t any gold. For the Incas had abandoned it, for reasons lost in time. Long before the Spanish came to see what they could find.
But the Macchu Pichu magic still remains there to this day, And it’s proved an El Dorado in a different kind of way, For every tourist worth their salt travels to come up here And the day we were there, of course, they'd come from far and near.
But like most of them the altitude lay like lead inside my brain, And at night sleep would escape me through the dully throbbing pain. And I know why the Incas left their city here to die, Twas for no other reason, than it’s just too bloody high.
I thought that if I’d stayed there I would one day acclimatize, But other adventures await a traveler like me who's wise, So with the sound of the train whistle echoing all the while, We sat back in our first class seats and descended the trail in style.
Derek Pugh (Quito, 16/10/99)
A Bull Ballad
Well I’d mortgaged all my station and pawned my wedding ring, And bought a stud Brahman bull, who would help me with his thing. I’d nearly 200 heifers just waiting for this bull, All of them in their prime, but not a single womb was full.
And the day I introduced them, I never had a doubt, Of breeding 200 head more, before the year was out. I put him in the paddock and behind him closed the gate, And settled down to watch, as the heifers met their mate.
I sat and waited as time flew past, half the bloody day, But he just nuzzled flowers and looking the wrong flaming way. “What’s wrong with him?” I ranted. “Can’t he see them on the hoof? Their big brown eyes, their swinging hips. I bet he’s bloody poof.”
Later the week the vet flew in to see if he could say, Why the bull wouldn't help the cows get in the family way. Well, he poked and he prodded, and tested every part, Even used a bloody stethoscope to listen to his heart.
And he took all kinds of samples to later analyze, And he measured certain bits, to determinate their size. Through all this the bull just stood, with a peaceful sort of gaze, A gentle beast, my flamin’ oath, that nothing seemed to phase.
At last the vet stood back to speak, and scratched his head a bit, “There’s nothing wrong with the bull mate, he should be fighting fit. If I was a bull built like that, I’d be in those cows like Flynn, But of all the cows you have, there’s not one that interests him”
“It’s not that he can’t do it, he’s got everything he’d need, But there’s nothing that’ll turn him on, or make him do the deed. And there’s not a vet in Australia who could do the trick, There’s only one last chance” he said. “An aphrodisiac.
I laughed because I’d not heard of a bovine Spanish fly, But the vet was serious, and said I at least should try. He knew of an old lady, a guru up in the hills, Of far off northern India, who’d make for me some pills.
So I grabbed my old rucksack, and threw in a change of jocks, And went to see a doctor, for some shots against the pox, And caught the next Garuda, leaving Darwin that same day, And landed in Calcutta, with a map to show the way.
At last I climbed the hill where the old lady stayed, I wondered at her calling and the reason for her trade. What makes a person a guru and choose a hermit’s way, Living high in the mountains on a bed of mountain hay?
And then it was I saw her, and now I think I know, She had a look of peace and calm, an inner sort of glow. She must have been 80 years or more, but she said to me: “Come on in and sit down luv, and have a cuppa tea.”
I said, “ Now just hang on a minute, something’s not quite right, How come you speak like Aussies and your skin is kinda white? Don’t tell me I've been taken, that it’s all a flamin’ con, Just wait til I see that vet, I’ll punch his flaming scone.”
Well she was Australian, from a town called Bungadell, She’d left in 27, cos she couldn't stand the smell, And she’d lived here ever since, making her potions and pills, For customers like me, who climbed up to her in the hills.
And she made for me some tablets and said they’d special powers, “They’ll make the bull take notice and stop him sniffing flowers, But be safe, and only give him two - Cos any more,” she said, “Might make the bull wake up for sure, but shag till he was dead.”
Well like a fool I rushed off home, and wanting to be sure, Took out the box of tablets and hurriedly gave him four!. In a flash the bull was up, and I don’t mean on his feet, And chasing after heifers like hyenas after meat.
In a trice 200 cows lay exhausted from their plight, But still the bull was looking round, with carnal appetite. And then he charged with a thunderous roar and he busted out the gate, Looking for other morsels he could try and impregnate.
The last I saw of him was a cloud of dust on the track, But he became famous and reports came trickling back, Of a love crazed Brahman bull attacking a herd of cows, Somewhere down in the Mulga Scrub, a thousand miles from ours.
So if you see my Brahman Bull, in your travels down the track, And the spark in his eye has faded, kindly send him back. To me he’s worth a fortune, I could make myself a mint, I've still got lots of pills, to put back in his eye that glint.
By Derek Pugh (1989)
MacArthur: Lest We Forget (MacArthur has long history, since he was first 'identified' by Andrew Bleby and Rob Bath, and numerous items have been written in his honour. This was mine - 26 years ago!)
The cockies of the outback, and in the town of Bungadell, Remember ’27 and their deliverance from hell. For that year is special, and in their minds is fixed, A date for them to celebrate – January 26th.
Now Bungadell’s a quiet town, out past Bunker’s Run, And the folk there have to work hard, and life has little fun. But every anniversary out comes the old bush base, The lager phone and banjo, the violin from its case.
And people come from everywhere, to stomp and dance and sing, As Bungadell’s musicians let loose and do their thing. The council puts on fireworks, the ladies do their cakes, And some folkies from the city come down to flog their tapes.
But then there comes the serious bit, and all the revelries pause, And old Clancy’s grandson, Jacko, rises to the cause, And bids the crowd remember and they will without a doubt, The day MacArthur farted and saved the town from drought.
“Now all yous know,” says Jacko, swigging on a beer. “If it wasn’t for MacArthur, we’d none of us be here. Our town was down, the sheep were dead, and we were counting out, Until the day MacArthur farted and saved the town from drought.
“MacArthur was our saviour, and generous to a fault, He cleared that dam, and made it rain, with one tremendous fart, And I’d like all yous to join me in silent reverie, Then go on back and have a dance and raise the brewery”
A heavy silence settled on all those that were there, As each person remembered and gave a silent prayer. MacDougal’s son from Piper’s Flat was seen to shed a tear, And Mulga Bill, now ninety two, sat quietly in his chair.
MacArthur was a quiet man, but a champion of his day, He’d move anything you needed if it was in your way. His career went on through earthworks, defence and deep cut mines, And a run of TV adverts, for the multi-national, Heinz.
And when MacArthur left us for that tuckerbox in the sky, The farts he left behind even Murdock couldn’t buy. There’s one in the vault of the Bungadell Bank, for use in last resorts, And one turns up at the Nationals, as a first place prize of sorts.
A third has been claimed by the CIA, in an empty vegimate jar, And the ruskies have one in Moscow, in case of a third world war. And the rumour’s around, that’s been denied, that Bob has one in caucus, And uses it occasionally to control the gov’ment circus.
And Bob does try to pay attention to anniversary time. He sadly missed the 60th, but the next year fell in line, When he threw a massive party on that important date, On the 26th of January, 1988.