The paint chipped ledge above the fire was where it always lay,
I know because he placed it there when grandma passed away.
Though ragged and now water stained, it held his life you see,
that album full of photographs, he often shared with me.
Each picture told a wondrous tale, which granddad told with zest
and though he stretched the truth at times, I loved those stories best.
My fav’rite was about the year he drove a bullock team,
from Maitland to the border town of Gundy it would seem.
“That year dad made the journey north with Ma and all the kids,
I was the eldest, at the time, of all his billy lids.
Apprentice bullocky I was and worked along with dad,
deliv’ring stores on two large drays pulled by two teams he had.
A motley lot of beasts they were, though each had roles to play;
the polers, pins and body beasts and leaders pulled that dray.
I fought the flies and blist’ring sun and choked on thick red dust
and natur’lly I learnt to swear, much to my Ma’s disgust.
I learnt to bellow crude commands and ‘ply the greenhide goad,
whilst taking time to clear the dust by spitting on the road.
The neck of each beast bowed down low beneath its wooden yoke,
but when the teams were bogged right down, it was no flam’in joke.
Despite the many obstacles that near brought us undone,
I’d managed to get through them all; that’s all except but one.
Till then I felt I’d pulled my weight and clung to that belief,
but when we reached the Whelan Creek my theory came to grief.
The McIntyre had run a bank, which filled the Whelan Creek,
and did not look like dropping for at least another week.
Dad didn’t plan on staying put, so took to looking ’round;
another way of getting through was what had to be found.
We searched for hours along its bank, then found this giant tree,
which towered some three hundred feet, but hollow as can be.
The girth was darn gigantic lad, though only one foot thick,
then dad revealed how that old tree would surely do the trick.
For hours dad gathered fire wood and placed it ’round its girth,
inspiring Ma and all us kids to do our two bob’s worth.
Dad’s theory was if he could fell that tree across the creek,
we’d walk the teams right through at dawn. Hang waiting ’round a week.
By morn the girth was all but gone; dad’s wedges did the rest,
and with his kelly struck them home; his theory passed the test.
The old tree creaked and gave a groan then crashed on to its side,
across the creek just as dad planned while we watched on with pride.
Within the hour dad walked his team into that hollow tree,
us kids and Ma we watched in awe. It was a sight to see.
Dad said to give him half an hour then I should follow suit
and though the team showed nervousness, we followed in pursuit.
Dad safely out the other side then waited patiently,
expecting any moment-like, to see the team and me.
But when a half hour passed on by, he figured something wrong
and thought I should be out by now; what’s taking him so long?”
He set back off into the tree to have a look about,
though couldn’t find a sign of us so thought he’d cooee out.
I heard the echo in the dark and cooeed back to him,
till finally dad found us all, stuck up its only limb.”