THE MIGHTY QUEENSLAND BLUE
- Gunnedah Hero -
Welcome to the fourth and final bush poem that is included in my award-winning novel, Gunnedah Hero'. This poem tells the tale of one of Australia's toughest dogs - the Queensland Heeler. There are blue ones and red ones, but both are amazing with cattle. They are brilliant work dogs. I've had several of them, and their ability and loyalty is incredible. In the poem below, you will read two names: Banjo and The Bulletin. Banjo was a nickname for one of Australia's finest poets and authors - Andrew Barton Paterson. Want to know how he got the nickname Banjo? Well, you will find out by reading Gunnedah Hero ... Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
The Bulletin was a major Australian newspaper last century, edited by another great poet, activist and writer, J F Archibald. This newspaper was known as 'The Bush Bible', and it travelled far and wide. Why, because many articles were poems and short stories written by shearers, farmers and ordinary working-class people. The newspaper contained a mass of information and entertainment, hence each edition was passed on 'down the track' from one itinerant worker to another.
THE MIGHTY QUEENSLAND BLUE
I’ve been a drover for a bit; I’m known quite far and wide,
seen lots of steers, some sheep and dogs; I take ‘em in me stride.
But all them days have finished now; they’re surely done and past,
hot years of sun and endless miles and days that never last.
Now I’m glancing back in time ‘cause I have lots of time to look,
at all the years spent drovin’; and so many years it took.
Indeed I’ve seen some funny things but also seen some sad,
met heaps of cheery shearin’ coves, and very few were bad.
Old memories come a floodin’ back as I sit here alone,
I’ve never found meself a wife, but who am I to moan?
This life has bin so good to me, by God I’ve seen so much,
the droughts, and floods and fires were the saddest, roughest touch.
Me favourite was the cattle – as they offered such a dare,
the sheep were fine yet lazy but they never quite compare.
Musterin’ the bush steers was a job that I adored,
but movin’ sheep was boring and was something I abhorred.
A million yarns and tales to tell, a mind that’s fadin’ fast,
my fondest memories are the ones that always seem to last.
They were the ones of cattle dogs – I surely had a few,
some were kelpies, some were blues, and some were mongrels, too.
Of course, I had me favourites - as we drovers always do,
the best of all was mean and thick – a clever Queensland Blue.
I got him as a lively pup from near the ‘Murray Down’,
a top dog, yes indeed he was, he never made me frown.
Straight away I called him ‘Biff’ because he loved a brawl
and even as a fluffy pup he took on one and all.
Right from the very start I knew I had a special mate,
that pup and me we got on fine, but other dogs he’d hate.
Already I’d had two dogs but my Biff took up the lead,
me collie and me kelpie had no choice left but to heed.
Lookin’ back it was a laugh to see that young dog fight,
to take on bigger, tougher dogs was really his delight.
There was a time I do recall somewhere near Dandaloo,
when a smart young cove, a shearer, who also had a blue
bet me all his shearin’ pay his dog could outdo mine.
I pondered it, I looked at Biff, he winked and barked, ‘It’s fine!’
So after shearin’ time that day we found an empty pen,
and stood against a wiry fence with all the other men
and when the Ringer counted three I unleashed my top blue,
and quickly those two met as one, boy oh boy, they flew.
The whole damn crew sat starin’ as the dust rose in the air,
both our dogs were snarling, they were such an angry pair.
By God they took it serious, it was indeed a fight,
the winner he would stand alone, the loser would take flight.
Some shearers wagered money and yet some were not so keen,
as both them angry heelers set to fight a duel so mean.
I backed me dog with all I had which ‘twas a decent sum,
I knew me Biff could beat his dog and leave the shearer glum.
The other dog was bigger but not quite as smart as mine,
my Biff he gave a whoppin’ bite that made the canine whine.
Then in he went straight for the throat; it was an awful scene,
the big blue dog, he took a dive; no longer was he mean.
His owner looked quite horrified; his dog was dead indeed,
as sadly in the dust he kneeled while Biff paid him no heed.
That shearer bloke from Dandaloo had learned a lesson too,
like others did that awesome day when Biff beat his big blue.
The crowd thought my dog was real mean; so angry and so tough,
but then they saw a side of Biff that surely wasn’t gruff.
There was a kindly part of him that was as soft as snow,
a touch of friendly kindness that touched that crew, ya know.
That shearer sadly sat alone a-thinkin’ of his plight,
when Biff got up and strolled to him later on that night.
Me dog just sat beside him and he gave a mournful glance,
then raised a paw and rested it upon the shearer’s pants.
The whole damn crew stopped chattin’ and just stared at him in awe,
wonderin’ if he was the dog – the one that day they saw.
A dog that fought a battle against a bigger, meaner foe,
and sure enough he was the same, as Biff expressed his woe.
The shearer sadly looked my way then back at Biff, me blue,
he offered him the strangest look then gave a pat or two.
Everybody was amazed, ‘cause it was the oddest day,
but geez, I’d seen it all before; his softer side I’d say.
I’d many dogs before this one, but none had been so true
as Biff that tough old heeler; the almighty Queensland Blue.
We worked together as a team, ten years of joyful bliss,
but now he is the only one I really, dearly miss.
By God, he had a gentle heart, a spirit soft but tough,
so many times he rescued me when things got really rough.
One day he saved me from a snake; so close was I to strife,
this was the last I saw of him; the day he lost his life.
Then some months later came a note; it was from far outback,
was such a movin’ letter from a shearer down the track.
His words were quite prophetic and they surely made me grin,
thinking of the very day when my blue had a win.
‘Twas from the very shearer who had lost his dog that day,
a man who I could not forget; we all recall that fray,
and in his note he offered praise so seldom shearers do,
in bold black print he called old Biff: ‘The Mighty Queensland Blue’
And pinned onto his letter was an extra printed page,
a story of a long gone fight which surely bore some age.
‘Twas written by our Banjo and was writ’ with wondrous style,
a page from out ‘The Bulletin’ had come a lengthy mile.
I sat and read his every word; a wondrous job he’d done,
he’d penned a whole damn story ‘bout the day old Biff had won.
And little did I know our Banjo sat and watched that day,
when my Biff flogged the bigger blue; it was a sight, I say.
Clancy's comment: There ya go. Enjoy it? Great imagination , eh? Now, you might like to click on 'Gunnedah Hero Reviews' above and see what folks think about this novel. You might also like to head to my book shop to the top right of this page and buy a paperback or e-Book. When you do, you will see where these poems fit into the story. As the little cutie says above, 'Don't be shy'. Oh, if you do buy a paperback version, I will be more than happy to write some charming message inside it.
Another great Aussie dog