Back to Bush Poetry

All Them Gates
by Janine


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He shuffled slowly on his way along the dusty track,
Corks a-bobbing on his hat, swag upon his back;
His hair was grey and matted, the filth was glad to cling,
His shirt was stained, his trousers torn, his shoes tied up with string

The sun was rising higher and its rays were beating down
Bouncing back in shimmers from the barren outback ground;
The swaggie's breath grew painful as he fought against the heat,
Sweat began to soak him;  there were blisters on his feet.

And as he was despairing, calling curses to the sky,
A sound began to build up from a distance in reply;
He peered across his shoulder, certain he would find
A station ute approaching, with a swarm of dust behind.

"Ya want a lift/" the driver grinned amid the choking cloud,
"I wouldn't mind the company - the silence gets too loud;
Throw yer swag up in the back and climb in front with me-
I'm headed for the local pub - we'll be in time for tea."

The ute was old, suspension shot, the gear box close to death;
The swaggie found it luxury;  leaned back to catch his breath,
Removed his hat, gave a sigh, and fanned his burning face,
Stretched his legs as best he could in such a crowded space.

It looked as though the ringer - the owner of that car -
Had travelled many miles himself, and set up his own bar;
Beneath the swaggie's feet there rattled many empty cans,
Marked with every brand of beer known to modern man.

That ringer was a talker, friendly as they come;
The swaggie learned he liked his beer but got real sick on rum;
They bumped and shuddered on their way between the stunted trees,
The motion really jarred them but at least there was a breeze.

With the ringer raving gaily and the swaggie half asleep,
Everyone was happy - but it all fell in a heap,
The ute was stopped, the swaggie roused, the ringer saying, "Mate,
You'll have to liven up a bit and open up that gate".

The swaggie only blinked; he never shifted his backside,
"You didn't mention any gates when offering a ride -
Do the bloody job yourself, you're young and you are fit.
The exercise will do you good;  might wake you up a bit."

The ringer scowled...then shook his head and gave a sneaky smirk;
Appeared to find it funny as he went about his work;
Got out and opened up the gate, got in and drove on through,
Got out to shut the gate again - and so the trip ensued.

Fourteen gates were opened and fourteen gates were closed,
The ringer did the whole darn lot, the swaggie sat and dozed;
The sun was sinking lower, the shadows growing long,
The swaggie thought he'd had a win - the swaggie was quite wrong.

Just on dusk they reached the pub, journey's end at last;
And finally the ringer turned and let out quite a blast -
"I'm taking you no further!"   The ringer's voice was rough.
"You got your ride, you've had your fun, and I have had enough!

"So get on yer shanks pony and stay out of me way!
You thought you found a fool in me - but now it's time to pay!
Don't bother lookin' for your swag - it isn't in the back -
I left it by the fence post at the first gate on the track."