The Boss’s Boots [poem by Henry Lawson]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]

The Boss’s Boots

The shearers squint along the pens, they squint along the ‘shoots;’
The shearers squint along the board to catch the Boss’s boots;
They have no time to straighten up, they have no time to stare,
But when the Boss is looking on, they like to be aware.

The ‘rouser’ has no soul to save. Condemn the rouseabout!
And sling ’em in, and rip ’em through, and get the bell-sheep out;
And skim it by the tips at times, or take it with the roots —
But ‘pink’ ’em nice and pretty when you see the Boss’s boots.

The shearing super sprained his foot, as bosses sometimes do —
And wore, until the shed cut out, one ‘side-spring’ and one shoe;
And though he changed his pants at times — some worn-out and some neat —
No ‘tiger’ there could possibly mistake the Boss’s feet.

The Boss affected larger boots than many Western men,
And Jim the Ringer swore the shoe was half as big again;
And tigers might have heard the boss ere any harm was done —
For when he passed it was a sort of dot and carry one.

But now there comes a picker-up who sprained his ankle, too,
And limping round the shed he found the Boss’s cast-off shoe.
He went to work, all legs and arms, as green-hand rousers will,
And never dreamed of Boss’s boots — much less of Bogan Bill.

Ye sons of sin that tramp and shear in hot and dusty scrubs,
Just keep away from ‘headin’ ’em,’ and keep away from pubs,
And keep away from handicaps — for so your sugar scoots —
And you may own a station yet and wear the Boss’s boots.

And Bogan by his mate was heard to mutter through his hair:
‘The Boss has got a rat to-day: he’s buckin’ everywhere —
‘He’s trainin’ for a bike, I think, the way he comes an’ scoots,
‘He’s like a bloomin’ cat on mud the way he shifts his boots.’

Now Bogan Bill was shearing rough and chanced to cut a teat;
He stuck his leg in front at once, and slewed the ewe a bit;
He hurried up to get her through, when, close beside his shoot,
He saw a large and ancient shoe, in mateship with a boot.

He thought that he’d be fined all right — he couldn’t turn the ‘yoe;’
The more he wished the boss away, the more he wouldn’t go;
And Bogan swore amenfully — beneath his breath he swore —
And he was never known to ‘pink’ so prettily before.

And Bogan through his bristling scalp in his mind’s eye could trace,
The cold, sarcastic smile that lurked about the Boss’s face;
He cursed him with a silent curse in language known to few,
He cursed him from his boot right up, and then down to his shoe.

But while he shore so mighty clean, and while he screened the teat,
He fancied there was something wrong about the Boss’s feet:
The boot grew unfamiliar, and the odd shoe seemed awry,
And slowly up the trouser went the tail of Bogan’s eye,

Then swiftly to the features from a plaited green-hide belt —
You’d have to ring a shed or two to feel as Bogan felt —
For ’twas his green-hand picker-up (who wore a vacant look),
And Bogan saw the Boss outside consulting with his cook.

And Bogan Bill was hurt and mad to see that rouseabout
And Bogan laid his ‘Wolseley’ down and knocked that rouser out;
He knocked him right across the board, he tumbled through the shoot —
‘I’ll learn the fool,’ said Bogan Bill, ‘to flash the Boss’s boot!’

The rouser squints along the pens, he squints along the shoots,
And gives his men the office when they miss the Boss’s boots.
They have no time to straighten up, they’re too well-bred to stare,
But when the Boss is looking on they like to be aware.

The rouser has no soul to lose — it’s blarst the rouseabout!
And rip ’em through and yell for ‘tar’ and get the bell-sheep out,
And take it with the scum at times or take it with the roots, —
But ‘pink’ ’em nice and pretty when you see the Boss’s boots.

‘Rouseabout’ and ‘picker-up’ are interchangeable terms in above rhymes, as also ‘boss’ and ‘super’; the shed-name for the latter is ‘Boss-over-the-board.’ The shearer is paid by the hundred, the rouser by the week. ‘Pink ’em pretty’: to shear clean to the skin. ‘Bell-sheep’: shearers are not supposed to take another sheep out of pen when ‘Smoke-ho,’ breakfast or dinner bell goes, but some time themselves to get so many sheep out, and one as the bell goes, which makes more work for the rouser and entrenches on his ‘smoke-ho,’ as he must leave his ‘board’ clean. Shearers are seldom or never fined now.

Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 168-173

Editor’s notes:
tiger = [it is unclear what “tiger” is a reference to in this poem] [unknown]

Wolseley = a Wolseley sheep shearing machine (invented by Frederick Wolseley) [See: The Western Mail (Perth, WA), Saturday 12 November 1910, page 19; The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company (accessed 27 June 2013)]

yoe = an archaic term for an adult female sheep, a ewe

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