THE DROVER'S BLANKET
- A Bush Poem -
Welcome to another of my bush poems. This one is included in 'A Drover's Blanket' which is the sequel to 'Gunnedah Hero'. This poem plays an important part in this novel. It is written by Molly Swenson during some tough times as she waited for her boyfriend, Smokey Danson, to return from the long paddock in 1910, during the biggest drought in Australian history. Want to know what a dover's blanket is? Well, you will have to read Gunnedah Hero, and then the sequel, A Drover's Blanket. You will then realise why I gave this title to this book.
Oh, by the way, Molly had this poem published in the Gunnedah Gazette way back in 1911. Gunnedah is a large town in a farming area of New South Wales, Australia - precisely 630 kilometres from my house. This newspaper still exists today, and I mention the original editor in the story. In fact, it was he who gave the nickname 'Gunnedah Hero' to Smokey Danson back in 1911. His great-great-granddaughter, Lauren, is also mentioned.
And, guess what? The Gunnedah Gazette recently contacted me and asked for copies of my books. They are doing a special article about yours truly and offering my books as prizes to their readers. Naturally, I said YES, and have sent them all sorts of information. For those of you living outside Australia, both 'Gunnedah Hero' and 'A Drover's Blanket' mention actual town names that do exist. So, all of those folks living in and around Gunnedah, New South Wales, will be curious to see the name of their town mentioned in my books.
‘The Drover’s Blanket’
No rain had come for ages, and no water for the grass,
they prayed and waited ages for the toughest drought to pass.
For five long years they suffered long, a dry and dusty land
with a hundred lean and hungry head and pastures made of sand.
Those farmers were no quitters and wanted them alive,
so a drover bravely mounted-up and headed on the drive.
That drover hit the longest road, with three dogs and a pack,
and often he would wonder if he’d ever made it back.
At fourteen years it was a job for only toughened men,
but that’s the way they bred them at ‘Wiralee’ back then.
With the leanest herd he slowly trod each and every day,
not knowing what he’d find ahead, he’d never been that way.
The trip was hot and lonely, for stock, his dogs and he,
a sweltering sun and arid land was all there was to see.
With water scarce and feed so short the stoic drover rode,
step by step he pushed them up the longest lonely road.
With only dogs and cattle there, he camped out all alone,
it was a rugged life to lead but never did he moan.
Though days and weeks passed him by, the drover had one aim,
to save his herd at any cost and revere the family name.
‘Twas letters from a girl that kept his heart so young and free,
the maiden that he cared for, ‘twas one from Yanergee.
Her poetry and words of hope spared him from the pain,
he read her letters every day; she wrote a sweet refrain.
One early mornin’ as he woke, a sudden danger struck,
an angry, deadly serpent was hoping for some luck.
But Sam, his dog, she challenged it, to her there was no fear,
alas, his bravest kelpie died and the drover shed a tear.
He took a bough and smashed it down, with anger and intent,
and finally the snake lay dead, exactly as he’d meant.
‘Twas just on dark a visitor arrived upon the scene,
to angry snarls from his dogs, came a man so lean.
He was a travelling swagman – a shifty bloke indeed,
right off, the dogs mistrusted him and sensed a dirty deed.
‘Twas luck and two loyal dogs that did the job that night,
that snivellin’ rogue swaggie left in fearful fright.
Often days were blessed with luck, others weren’t to be,
there was the day he nearly died, but death he didn’t see.
When Bill and Bono came in time and saved that drover’s life,
those wiley drovers saved him and delivered him from strife.
And then, just down from Gunnedah he had a lucky break,
once again, it was his dogs that found a golden stake.
But with the gold he found a note; it really was a plea,
it came from two dead miners and ‘twas a last decree.
The last note in their diary had given him a name,
Henry Swenson was the one, a man of wicked fame.
That Swenson cove had shot them both four decades well before,
the drover had no choice at all, he had to see the law.
His prayers were finally answered at a spot called ‘Wattle Tree’,
the heavens smiled and opened up, there was some rain to see.
Oh, what a joyous sight it was to see that luscious rain,
the drover and his dogs enjoyed an end to all the pain.
That rain came down in buckets, it really did let go,
with joy they trudged onward as rivers began to flow.
The drought had also broken back at home at ‘Wiralee’,
his Pa’s advice had made him soar, at last he felt so free.
“Son, flog our herd for a hefty price then turn and head on back”,
to end so many days he’d spent, drovin’ a dusty track.
It wasn’t just the rain that made the drover smile with glee,
at home there was a girl he liked, the lass from Yanergee.
And that’s the way it happened then or so it has been said,
when a tough, courageous drover took a lean hundred head.
His dogs and packhorse rode the longest, lonely dusty drive,
‘twas certainly adventurous and made the drover thrive.
He’d seen a lot and met some folk, he’d even found some gold,
that journey back in 1910 had made him brave and bold.
The drought has caused us endless pain; I hope it’s surely over,
but now I pray for one more thing – to see the bravest drover.
I’m grateful for his spirit, ‘twas like a sun’s bright ray,
that drover kept my heart alive and did it every day.
Oh, how I want to meet with him and offer all my glee
he doesn’t know how much he gave a lass from Yanergee.
Molly Jane Swenson
Clancy's comment: Hope you enjoyed this bush poem. It certainly has more relevance when you come across it in 'A Drover's Blanket'. So, why not head up to 'A Drover's Blanket Reviews' and see what folks have said about this novel so far. Mind you, it was only released a few weeks ago. And, then head to my book shop at the top right corner and buy a paperback or e-Book. Bear in mind that this is a sequel, so you will certainly need to read 'Gunnedah Hero' first. Not only but also, if you buy a paperback version, I will write something really charming on the inside of it.