How We Won the Ribbon [poem by Will Ogilvie]

[Editor: This poem by Will Ogilvie was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

How We Won the Ribbon.

Come and look around my office —
Floors are littered, walls are hung
With the treasures and the trophies
Of the days when I was young ;
Rusty spur and snaffle idle,
Polo-stick and gun and bridle,
In a sweet confusion flung.

There ’s my saddle when a rover —
(That ’s the bridle hanging up)
Queensland-built — a Lachlan drover
Swopped me for a Kelpie pup.
By the Lord, it makes one ponder
When one thinks those spurs up yonder
Helped to win the Mulga Cup !

There ’s the bar I used on Wyndham
On the day you watched him “clear”
With the four-in-hand behind him —
Yet they ’ll say it ’s too severe.
See that bunch of faded ribbon?
It belongs to Jock M’Kibbon,
But he always leaves it here.

And there ’s just a little story
Hanging to that bunch of blue ;
I ’m not claiming any glory
When I spin the yarn to you —
Yarns go best when pipes are glowing;
Here’s tobacco; set her going —
And remember this is true . . .

Pearl of price for hunter’s duty
Was the grey mare Heart’s Desire,
With the Snowdons’ strength and beauty
And a dash of Panic fire ;
And I never knew her failing
At a dyke, a ditch, or paling —
She could jump her height and higher.

Now, the rider courted throwing
Who would touch her with the spurs
When the Snowdon mare got going
With that sweeping stride of hers ;
She was restless, hot, and heady ;
She had smashed one man already.
And the fright had made her worse.

But her owner, nothing fearing,
Brave as ever man could be,
Saw the yearly Show was nearing
While he nursed a crippled knee ;
So he called me, did M’Kibbon :
“We ’ve a mortgage on the ribbon —
Will you ride the mare for me?”

* * * * * *

They had sent their speedy sprinters
Round the fences, one by one,
And the air was thick with splinters
Till you could n’t see the sun ;
Such a striking, swerving, baulking !
Saddles empty, riders walking !
Not a round was cleanly done.

And the grey mare. Heart’s Desire,
Stood and watched and seemed to know;
Fretted when they galloped by her,
Tossed her lean head to and fro ;
Then they called to me, “Get ready !”
And M’Kibbon whispered, “Steady. . . !”
But the crowd yelled, “Let her GO !!”

Now, beyond the five-foot palings.
As I set the mare a-swing.
From below the grand-stand railings
Someone’s child crept in the ring.
And we never saw the youngster
Till the mare was right against her
Shortening stride to make the spring !

So I loosed her head and drove her
With the red spurs ripping wild ;
It was take the lot — and over
Or God help the tiny child !
And I watched as though in dreaming
Where the snow-white dress was gleaming,
And the babe looked up and smiled !

But I knew the mare I rode on —
Could a leap be found too far ,
For the quarters of old Snowdon
And the heart of Blazing Star?
Here she had the chance to show me —
And the shod hoofs flashed below me,
Half a yard above the bar !

Then the dust-clouds ! Had we cleared her ?
Then the light shock as we land ;
Then — the crowd stood up and cheered her
On the ring fence and the stand ;
But my brain was sick and spinning
And I slung my chance of winning
As I took the mare in hand.

But they crowded round to hold her,
And they tied the badge of blue
In a knot upon her shoulder
That they dared me to undo !
So I left the prize upon her.
And I think she won the honour
When she saved the lives of two.

* * * * * *

And I journey Life’s gay road on,
But I linger when I pass
Where the best and gamest Snowdon
Takes her last sleep in the grass
With the wattle-boughs above her ;
And when others toast a lover
Then I pledge her in my glass.

Now, they reckon me a rider
In the showyard and the shire,
But I never faced a wider
Jump, a tougher or a higher
Since I rode for Jock M’Kibbon
On the day we won the ribbon
With the grey mare, Heart’s Desire.

Will Ogilvie.

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 183-187

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