The Road to Danahey’s [poem by John O’Brien, 1954]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, 1954.]

The Road to Danahey’s

The rambling road to Danahey’s it goes by hill and plain,
It wanders in among the trees and wanders out again.
It does a lap around the map just as it feels inclined,
And through the West they all confessed that road was hard to find.

“It’s not too good to find,” they said, “it sort o’ twists along,
But keep on keepin’ straight ahead and then you won’t go wrong.”
And every man drew out a plan with all the filigrees
Of track and lane to try explain that road to Danahey’s.

So when the man himself I met enthroned upon his dray,
I sought the salient facts to get about the winding way.
“Now briefly show me where to go,” said I to Danahey,
He waved a hand around the land and thus directed me:

“You go down past the Catholic church and round be Mrs. Flynn’s,
Then keep on straight for twenty perch to where the road begins”.
And lest I might not grasp aright the landmarks thus discussed
He did a reel across the wheel and drew it in the dust.

“This here,” said he, “’s the Catholic church, that there is Mrs. Flynn’s,
Down here along, say forty perch, is where the road begins.
Ye folly that, ’twill land you at Mrs. Brady’s little store,
You’ll know it be a pepper-tree she have outside the door.

“Now carry her upon your right and go on straight along,
Keep goin’ till at last you sight a milepost pointin’ wrong;
The peg has been uprooted clean, it’s leanin’ be a tree
Two miles from there, but this is where the beggarin’ thing should be.

“Well, anyway, ’tain’t your concern, it don’t do any harm;
You ups and takes the left-hand turn to Tom McDonough’s farm;
From there to here is five miles clear, or p’raps it may be more —
You’ll know it be a pepper-tree he have outside the door.

“Upon your left you carry that, and through the fence you pass,
And then you come to Casey’s Flat with cattle out on grass.
Good colours, too, beef through and through, and nigh a hundred head,
Man, on their deep broad backs you sleep, like in a feather bed.

“Now keep them cattle on your back and, mind you, if in case
You’re sorta bushed and off the track you ask at Regan’s place;
That’s Peter’s lot, not Dinny’s what the Ryans owned before —
You’ll know it be a pepper-tree he have outside the door.

“But Dinny’s house is miles away, around by Bindyguy —
You’ll know it be, now what’ll I say, you’ll know it be —,” Said I,
“I’ll know it be the pepper-tree.” Said Danahey, “You’re wrong,
No pepper-tree at all have he — he have a kurrajong.

“Now mind, the track he used to go is not too good to find,
It’s right enough for them that know but them that don’t, you mind,
Might lose their way or get astray and end where it begins,
For that there track will land you back down here at Mrs. Flynn’s.

“So don’t take that, forget it like, and make sou’-east be east,
There’s four or five roads here but strike the one that’s used the least.
Go right along, you can’t go wrong; keep keepin’ straight ahead,
Take every track that branches back from what you’re on,” he said.

“From there you see six miles away an openin’ in the trees,
And if you don’t go all astray you’ll get there by degrees.
You can’t go wrong, go straight along, there’s two tracks you might take
And both ’em steer doo west from here — but one’s the firebreak.

“Then make for old MacPherson’s pub; there’s no pub there, you know,
But Mac he had one in the scrub some twenty year ago.
Now run a line to where the pine is growin’ pretty dense,
Go straight along, you can’t go wrong, until you hit a fence.

“Now run that fence down twenty chain to where the wires is cut,
’Twill let you out in Kelly’s lane not four mile from me hut.
At any rate you’ll strike the gate; the house is pretty poor —
You’ll know it be a pepper-tree that grows outside the door.”

And then my noble Danahey rose slowly to his feet,
He lit his pipe triumphantly — the lesson was complete:
A maze of lines and cryptic signs and leads and runner-ups,
Like visions high imagined by a spider in his cups.

He gripped me warmly by the hand and friendship lit his eye.
Said he, “I hope you’ll understand, before I say good-bye,
That when you stray along that way, you’re always welcome quite
If bushed ye be, five miles from me, to stop there for the night.”



Published in:
John O’Brien. The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1954

Editor’s notes:
in his cups = a phrase referring to someone being drunk
kurrajong = several species of Australian trees in the genus Brachychiton

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