Aussie Yarns


This Cocky, he seldom saw his nearest neighbour. But he bumped into him one day and they were yarning. You know with cockies, and on the sheep stations, too, you don’t get much but mutton to eat. You get it for Christmas and Easter, and you get it for breakfast and cold for lunch when you’re out on the plains, and you have it hot when you get back. You get a bit tired of mutton. And no sort of meat can you eat without Worcester sauce, of course. Well, these cockies were yarning and one said, ‘By Christ, I had a marvellous dream the other night. I dreamt we had some beef steak. It looked lovely and we was just going to cook it and eat it when we found we was out of Worcester sauce. But in my dream I had a motorcar, and I got in my motorcar and drove off to Wogga. Fifteen mile there and fifteen mile back again to get the Worcester sauce, and got home just at tucker time, and that steak was done marvellous’.

The other cocky said, ‘That’s funny, I had a dream, too. I dreamed I was in my hut asleep under my blanket and there come a scratching at the door. Got up and opened the door and there in the moonlight was a little woman all dressed in white. She had a diamond crown on her head, an’ I seen it was that Pommy princess, what’s her name? Margaret! And she said to me, “Can I come in?” I said, “Yes, Ma’m, you’re welcome.” So I let her in and she said, “I hear that you Australians are all right when it comes to that.” I said, “Well, we’ll see if what you heard is true.” It must have been, ‘cos she stayed about half-an-hour and left humming to herself. She was well pleased, and so was I.

I pulled the old blanket over meself and I was just going off to sleep when there was a scratching at the door. I went and opened it and there was this tall woman all in black, and I seen in the moonlight it was that film-star Sophia Loren. She said, “Can I come in, please?” And I said, “Well, Miss, you can come in but…er…it’s only fair to tell you I just had a visitor. Still, we’ll see what we can do.” We seem to have done all right ‘cos she went off humming to herself and well pleased, and so was I. So I pulled the old blanket over meself and I was just dropping off when there come another scratching. So I went and opened the door and there in the moonlight and starlight stood a little woman. She wasn’t dressed in white or black, or nothing else much, but she had a lot of hair over here. It was Brigitte Bardot and she was in trouble and she was crying. And she said, “Can I come in, please? I must have some company.” I said, “Well, Miss, you can come in but I think I’m only good for a bit of conversation.” So she sat on the edge of the bed for about half-an-hour and went off still crying’.

So his friend said, ‘Was that the end of your dream?’ ‘Well, yes it was, as a matter of fact.’ So the other cocky said, ‘Why the hell didn’t you send for me?’ And his mate said, ‘Well, to tell you the truth I was going to. In my dream at the back of the farm I had an aeroplane, and I got in my aeroplane and I was at your place in a few minutes, and your missus told me you’d gone to Wogga for some Worcester sauce’.

My shearing days are over, though I never was a ‘gun’,
I could always count my twenty at the end of every run;
I used the old “Trade Union” shears, and the blades were bogging full,
As I drove ’em to the knockers and I chopped away the wool;
I shore at Goorianawa and never got the sack,
From Breeza out to Comprador I always could go back,
But though I am a truthful man, I find, when in a bar,
That my tallies always double — but I never call for tar
Now shearing on the Western Plains, where the fleece is full of sand
And clover-burr and bindy-eye, is the place to try your hand:
For the sheep are tall and wiry where they feed on Mitchell grass,
And every second one of them is close to the ‘cobbler’ class,
And a pen chock-full of cobblers is a shearer’s dream of hell,
So loud and lurid are their words when they catch one on the bell;
But when we’re pouring down the grog, you’ll hear no call for tar,
For a shearer never cuts them — when he’s shearing in a bar
At Louth I got the bell-sheep, a wrinkled tough-woolled brute
Who never stopped his kicking till I tossed him down the chute;
Though my wrist; was aching badly, I fought him all the way;
I couldn’t afford to miss a blow, I muse earn my pound a day,
So when I took a strip of skin, I’d hide it with my knee,
Turn the sheep around a bit, where the right- bower couldn’t see,
Then try and catch the rousie’s eye and softly whisper “Tar”
But it never seems to happen when I’m shearing in a bar!
I shore away the belly wool, and trimmed the crutch and hocks,
Then opened up along the neck while the broom swept the locks,
Turn deftly swung the sheep around and dumped him on his rear,
Two blows to clip away the wig (I also took an ear)
Then down around the shoulder and the blades were opened wide
As I drove them on the long blow and down the whipping side,
And when I tossed him down the chute, he was nearly black with tar,
But this is never mentioned — when I’m shearing in a bar!
Now when the season’s ended and my grandsons all come back
In their Vanguards and their Holdens (I was always on the track’)
They come and take me into town to fill me up with beer,
And I sit on a corner stool and listen to them shear;
There’s not a bit of difference – it must make the angels weep
To hear a mob of shearers in a bar-room shearing sheep
The sheep go rattling down the chute and there’s never a call for tar,
For they still don’t seem to cut them — when they’re shearing in a bar!
Then memories come crowding and they roll away the years,
And my hand begins to tighten and I seem to feel the shears;
I want to tell them of the sheds, the sheds where I have shorn
Full fifty years, or maybe more, before these boys were born;
I want to Speak of Yarragreen, Dunlop or Wingadee,
But the beer has started working and I’m wobbling at the knee,
So I’d better not start shearing — I’d be bound to call for tar,
Then be looked on as a blackleg — when I’m shearing in a bar!

‘It concerns a fellow I knew name of Hamilton. There’s a saying along the western line of New South Wales if someone gets too excited in an argument his opponent will say ‘Hold on Hamilton’! And this story is sort of the origin of that saying. There’s also another saying ‘Mean as hungry Tyson’ that refers to a historical character, a multi-millionaire he was by the time he finished. Cattle owner. He had an enormous station. He was very very mean, Tyson. I s’pose you have to be if you’re gonna be a millionaire. He was so mean he wouldn’t even let his dog drink out of a mirage.

Hamilton was a very handsome feller; he was a bit Tom Jonesy, a bit loutish, but still. He always wore a very fanciful muffler, I remember. Fancied himself with the girls, but he fell on hard times and he was humping his bluey through one of Tyson’s property, and he called in at the homestead and he said, ‘Do you want any horse-breaking done?’ So Tyson said, ‘No, I have Abos to do me horse breaking. Don’t have to pay ‘em much’. He said, ‘D’you want any shearing done?’ He said, ‘No, I’ve Japanese to do the shearing’. So Hamilton said, ‘Have you got any rabbitting?’ ‘Cos he noticed an awful lot of rabbits about the place. Rabbits were so thick on Tyson’s place ‘cos he hadn’t hired any rabbiters for years. The rabbiters told Hamilton on his way that rabbitting on Tyson’s place you had to put your hand in the burrow and pull some rabbits up before you could get your ferrets in. Anyway, Hamilton said, ‘Have you got any rabbitting?’ Well, Tyson looked at him and said, ‘How much?’ ‘Well,’ said Hamilton, ‘I’ll tell you what, I‘ll clear your rabbits for ten pounds a paddock’. Well, of course, that was ridiculous, ‘cos Tyson’s paddocks were big, and he knew it was six months work, but still he could never resist a bargain like that. So he said, ‘All right, I’ll try you for one paddock. But only for one, mind you’. So Hamilton said, ‘Yeah, all right’. So early next morning Hamilton harnessed a horse, got up on the sulky with a crowbar, a shovel and some traps, and set off for Tyson’s back paddock. He come back lunchtime, he said, ‘Well, your paddock’s clear, boss, I want me ten pounds’. So Tyson thought that’s bloody impossible. He went driving out to see what it was like. He went to his back paddock. No sign of a rabbit anywhere, not a trace. So he said, ‘Hey, my lignum paddock’s in a bad way would you like to clear it for the same price?’ So Hamilton said, ‘Right’. So next morning same deal. Off he went to the lignum paddock, come back lunchtime, ’Your paddock’s clear,’ he said, ‘I’ll have me money’. So Tyson said, ‘Well, hold on’, and he drove out, had a look, couldn’t see anything. He thought,’ My Christ, this is a good thing. So he come back and he said, ‘Well, I‘ll get you to clear one more paddock, That big L shaped paddock’. So Hamilton said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it’. So Tyson had a daughter called Effy. It was a good name for her. He said to Effy go and see how he does it. There’s something as queer as a two-pound note here. So off went Hamilton, and Effy dogged his tracks at a convenient distance. She come back, she said to her Father, ‘Too right it’s queer. She said, ‘D’you know what he does? He had a tin whistle, he stood by the creek there, and he took it out his tin whistle and he started to play it and all the rabbits come streaming out of their holes, come tearing towards him, and he just stepped aside and the whole lot went into the drink.’ So Tyson said, ‘By golly, a whistle like that’d be worth something, wouldn’t it? And he thought and thought and he said to Effy , ‘I’ll tell you what, if you can get that whistle off him I’ll give you ten bob’. She said, ‘I’ll have a try.’ And there was Hamilton sitting on the step of his hut and she said to him, ’It’s pretty boring round here, isn’t it?‘ So he said, ‘Oh, it’s not so bad.’ ‘Well’ she said, ‘there’s no dances, or no music or nothing. Are you fond of music? He said. ’Yeah!’ She said, ‘Do you play?’ ‘Well I play the tin whistle a bit.’ ‘Go on,’ she said, ‘can I see it?’ So he showed her the whistle ‘That’s a good whistle,’ she said. ‘Must be worth a bit. I bet you keep a good eye on a whistle like that’. He said, ‘Well, yes I do as a matter of fact. I even take it to bed with me.’ ‘Go on,’ she said. So along about midnight. She thought she’d earn her ten bob. She crept into Hamilton’s hut, he was fast asleep, She felt under the pillow for the whistle. Couldn’t find it. Then she felt down the blankets a bit. He woke up. He said ‘I know what you’re after, you’re after me whistle, aren’t you?’ She said, ‘I’d like to see it. D’you think you could play me a tune on it?’ So he said ‘I wouldn’t be surprised at that’. So he said ‘Roll in’. So she rolled in and he played her a tune she hadn’t heard played before in her life. She thought this is great stuff. She was so pleased with the tune he played her on the whistle that she gave him the ten bob and she left the hut. The next morning Tyson says to her, ‘So, how d’you get on?’ She said, ‘Well, was no good, dad, I couldn’t find the whistle he had it hidden away too well.’ So he said, ‘It’s no good trusting any responsible job to you. I’ll have to get your mother to do it. He said to his wife, he said, ‘Look if you can get that whistle off that feller I’ll give you a quid’. So she said, ‘Well give it to us now’. He give her two ten bob notes. So she tried, course it was the same game. She found the whistle but she wanted him to play it and it was the type of concert that she’d never heard before. She stood on her head with it. So next morning the same trick. Tyson says, ‘Did you get the whistle?’ She said, ‘No, I couldn’t get it, he’s got that whistle hidden away pretty good when you come to it’. So he said, ‘Oh God, I’ll have to try and get it meself’. So midnightagain he crept into Hamilton’s hut and he was feeling round, feeling round, and Hamilton woke up, and he said ‘Hey is that your whistle?’ Hamilton, he said, ‘Yeah, er..yeah…um.. have you ever come across a whistle like that before? So Tyson said, ‘Well, not quite like this one’. So Hamilton said, ‘Well, roll in and see how it plays’. So Tyson rolled in and it was a cultural revelation, and to give you an idea of the ecstasy old Tyson was in when he stepped out of the bed he give the feller a fiver. It’s the only time in history that’s ever been recorded.

So Hamilton turned up next morning at the office and he said, ‘Well, your place is clear enough of rabbits, I’m moving off now, and that’s thirty quid you owe me‘. So Tyson said, ‘Well, thirty quid for three days work, that’s not on, you know’. So Hamilton says, ‘What d’you mean it’s not on? You contracted to pay me ten pounds for every paddock I cleared of rabbits’. ‘Yeah, I know but..I’ll tell you what I’ll do,’ said Tyson. ‘I’ll give you double or quits. Double if you can get some water into my water tank, because there was a bit of a drought on at the time. And if you can’t do it you don’t get anything.’ So Hamilton said, ‘Okay, I’ll put some water in your water tank, that’s all right’. So Tyson says, ‘How you gonna do it?’ ‘Get everyone on to the veranda, your wife, your daughter, and all the station hands, and set ‘em all on the veranda there and I’ll show you how it’s done’. So everyone was mustered on the veranda, sitting round, and Hamilton took out his whistle and he started to play and he stopped playing for a moment and he said:

‘Oh, the boss’s daughter come to me bed,
All for to try me skill,
I pulled her in and rolled her well,
And the tank is still to fill, fill, fill, the tank is still to fill.’

And a little drop of water started running from the pipe. So he played some more on his whistle and stopped playing and sang:

‘Oh the boss’s wife come to me door,
All for to try me skill,
I pulled her in and rolled her well,
And the tank is still to fill, fill, fill, and the tank is still to fill’.

And the water started running quite steady. Hamilton played a bit more and he stopped and he said:

‘Oh, Old Tyson himself come to me bed,
All for to try me skill, I pulled him in…’

‘Hold on Hamilton!’ said Tyson, ‘You can have your blasted money, and get off me property’.

They used to say that the heart of the Australian nation was the…nomad tribe the…um.. shearers, station hands, drovers, swaggies; always on the move across the continent. At Dubbo one of these fellers, contract horse-breaker he was, and…uh… he was making for the coast. He’d come from, oh, back of Nyngan somewhere..umm..very dry country. Ate nothing but…uh…mutton and Worcester sauce, and.. uh.. before he got to the coast he got to a cocky’s place. It was coming on night and..uh..he knocked on the cocky’s door asked if he could put him up for the night. And the.. uh.. cocky says ‘Yes I can put you up.’

So..uh..this horse-breaker he come in and..uh..there was the missus. The cocky was an old feller but the missus was young and pretty and.. uh.. she looked at this horse-breaker the horse-breaker looked at her, and she set about setting the table. They had some salt pork and green beans, and by golly that was about the most delicious meal this horse-breaker ever had. He’d never had such a thing before in his life. Only thing was they were rather light eaters so he didn’t get much.

She put the rest of the stuff away in the old meat safe, just a kerosene thing with holes, you know, punched in it and bit of fly netting over it. And…uh..they decided they’d turn in. The old cocky said they always turned in early. Well, they had only the one bed so the horse-breaker stretched out along one edge of the bed, and the missus stretched out along the other edge with the old cocky in the middle, and the cocky was soon snoring. But the horse-breaker and the missus they couldn’t get to sleep, and she’d sigh and he’d sigh and so it went on. Pretty soon she reached over the old feller found the horse-breaker’s hand and give it a squeeze, and he squeezed back and so it went on. By the middle of the night there come a terrible squawking the old cocky’s jumped up in bed, ‘By Christ it’s that blasted fox.’ And he grabbed his gun and ran out in his nightshirt. And the missus said to the horse-breaker, ‘Now’s your chance, Dick!’ ‘Too right’ he said, and he rolled across the bed, jumped clean across that woman, run over to the meat safe and ate up the rest of that meat.

That’s horse-breakers for you’.