[Editor: This poem by Curlew was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]
All the riding-gear is rusty, all the girths and straps are dusty,
And the saddle ’s old and mouldy where it ’s hanging on the wall ;
While the stockwhip and the bridle on their pegs are hanging idle.
And old Boko comes no longer to the sliprails when I call.
No, because his bones are lying where I lay beneath him dying
When the game old stock-horse blundered at the jump, and broke his neck ;
And I got a woeful smashing when the poor old fellow, crashing
Through the timber, crushed me under to a bruised and sightless wreck.
With his single eye to guide him, very few could live beside him,
Though he was no thoroughbred, but just a poor old grass-fed moke ;
And we held the reputation, crack scrub-dashers on the station :
You could track us through the mulga by the timber that we broke.
And the day we got the buster was just after bangtail-muster;
I had asked the super.’s daughter to become head-stockman’s wife :
She had answered, “I am ready. If you ’ll promise to be steady ;
If you ’ll give up drink and fighting, Jack, and lead a decent life.”
And from that our quarrel started — both grew angry and we parted,
And that night I started drinking at the shanty on the Flat
Where the o.p. grog is snaky ; and next day all wild and shaky
I rode over to a picnic that I knew she would be at.
She was there all mirth and gladness, but I masked my sullen madness —
Held aloof, and would not see the sorrow growing in her eyes;
All around were gay and busy, but my brain was hot and dizzy,
When an old man kangaroo went bounding past across the rise.
Spurs and bits and stirrups jingled, shouts and glad confusion mingled,
While we urged the dogs and horses, fresh and eager for the fray ;
Horses, too, with plenty breeding, but the old bush nag was leading, —
Once we left the open country Boko showed them all the way.
Dead Box Rise and She-oak Hollow taxed their horsemanship to follow ;
At the old marsupial fence I had them pounding at their top ;
Half-insane and wild with liquor, still I led and urged them quicker,
Though the rest were pulling up and some were calling out to stop.
It was only reckless flashness, only harebrained drunken rashness ;
I looked back and laughed to see them drawing rein away behind ;
Then I turned and spurred him to it, but he struck and toppled through it, —
When they dragged me from beneath him he was dead, and I was blind.
When I woke to know my blindness, then I woke to know her kindness,
For she stood beside my bed and bandaged up my shattered brow,
Whisp’ring, “Let me help to bear it. I was wrong and I will share it.
Won’t you have me, for I love you just as much as ever now ?”
And she would have shared my sorrow through this night that has no morrow,
But I loved her far too well to let her be a cripple’s bride ;
And at times when I am able just to ramble to the stable,
Where I sit and dream of Boko and of many a merry ride, —
I can hear her children playing ; I can hear the horses neighing;
I can hear the stockwhips cracking when the cattle reach the yard ; —
But my sightless eyes may glisten — all the world is one dark prison.
And the gates to light and gladness shall be never more unbarred.
* * * * * *
For the riding-gear is rusty, and the racing-tackle musty,
And though Boko’s bones are bleaching, there are colts upon the plain —
Fiery colts just fit for breaking; but my heart is sadly aching,
For I know that I will never ride nor show the way again.
A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 156-159
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