[Editor: This poem is from Bill Bowyang’s column, “On The Track”, in the The Townsville Daily Bulletin, 1932. It could be considered as a late addition to the “Bulletin Debate” started by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.]
That a drover’s life has pleasures the townsfolk never know
Is just poetic fancy from the days of long ago,
And the chap who wrote that bull-dust was dreaming whilst asleep,
And was never down this river with a mob of travelling sheep.
Far down the Diamantina where the sandhills crouch and guard
In a never ending series like the panels of a yard,
The river-flats are destitute except for bones that bleach,
And sun-charred stumps of lignum as far as the eye can reach.
The barren flats are desolate, the sandhills stark and bare,
And the only vegetation is the buck-bush growing there,
With scanty growths of never-fail scattered near and far,
And stunted clumps of gidyea where the river channels are.
Day after day the blinding sun strikes with its heat and glare,
Till a twisted gnarled old gidyea seems to the eye most fair,
And its scanty shade is welcome to the weary man and horse.
As they rest beneath its branches by a drycaked watercourse.
Where every day is torture with flies that sting and buzz,
And a man is tired and lifeless in everything he does,
Where night is just a living hell with things that creep and sting,
This is the life of which we read, of which the poets sing.
That the drover’s life has pleasures the townsfolk never know
Is wild poetic nonsense from the days of long ago,
And the champing, stamping drover’s horse which seemed to be the rule,
Is changed from poet’s fancy to a sulky lop-eared mule.
Where stock grow daily thinner and stumble in their tread
As they vainly search for nourishment with staring eyes and red,
Till at last in hopeless misery and weakness down they lie,
Give one despairing hollow groan and all unheeded die.
The wondrous open rolling plains o’er which the horsemen ride,
are just a flight of fancy of the days which now have died,
And the rushing streams of water when the river is in flood
Is just a row of channels filled with flowing mud.
Yes, a drover’s life had pleasures the townsfolk never knew,
But that was in the good old days when men were straight and true,
But in these days of crawlers, low wages, lower scabs,
Rolling plains of pebbles and mud-holes full of crabs.
You’ll find that it has terrors that townsfolk ne’er will know,
And should you go a-droving you may chance to find it so,
For the Diamantina River is a hell on earth that’s lost,
And you’ll think the same as I do that the game’s not worth the cost.
Though now those days are over I still at times recall
The endless days of sandhills and the dust storms sudden squall,
And I’ll never more go droving where you never get a mail,
And I count myself dead lucky that I’m here to tell the tale.
Windorah. “Bogan Boy.”
The Townsville Daily Bulletin (Townsville, Qld.), Friday 24 June 1932, page 4
gidyea = scrubby Australian acacia which grow mainly in dry inland regions and have unpleasant-smelling blossoms
[Editor: Corrected “myelf” to “myself”.]