It would have been in the late 60's I read a book called `The Spurs Are Rusty Now` it was written by R. H. Conquest. From memory it would have been set in the depression era it was about a young bloke who had to leave home at an early age he went droving etc. was a top rough rider and I thought he was a real hero.
I wanted to be just like him when I got older a drover, a rough rider, a bush man.
I knew a lot of old blokes who I thought the sun shone out of. I would listen to their stories for hours and never get bored. Even as an adult I enjoy yarning to old timers about how the bush used to be. I wonder if youngsters will enjoy yarning to me one day. I am often asked if this poem is true, I will let the reader or listener believe what ever they wish. The book I refer to, if I remember correctly finished with the same words as this poem.
I have always thought of this poem as one of either my best or it's my worst, as a written piece I've probably broken every rule there is to break, but that doesn't really worry me it is written from somewhere deep within where every day rules don't apply. It was written back in about 1995 and I guess because it comes from the heart, I hesitated before posting it.
THE SPUR'S ARE RUSTY NOW
As a kid I would follow the old man around,
I would worship, the very ground,
upon which he walked.
I would sit and listen as he talked,
talked of droving and yester year,
Bar room fights and having no fear.
He told me stories, of good horses and good men,
with a child's mind I can't remember when,
that I decided I would be a stock man too.
Working hard being straight and true.
Enthralled with every story I would listen for hours on end,
Like an obedient dog, I'd jump up every time he'd send,
send me to the fridge for another beer,
or go straight to his side when he said "Come 'ere."
I would sit for hours on the stock yard rail,
Watch the old man though he seemed a little frail,
Working with young horses. They were butter in his hand,
watching him astride a colt, was really something grand.
And if one should chance to buck,
he just cursed and said "My own bad luck."
But I thrilled to watch him ride,
I couldn't bear to leave his side.
So it was I cried when I was sent away to school,
"Go get an education boy, don't be a fool."
Holiday time when I got home,
I ran to see the old bloke, he lived alone.
He taught me how to work a forge, how to make a set of shoes,
although he was a patient teacher, he said I really didn't have a clue.
He was a man of the country, a man of the bush,
a man who hated the city push.
A man who befriended a lonely kid,
a man who just done what he did.
Some said he was a drunk, some said he was unfit,
that a youngster, shouldn't be allowed to sit,
to sit and listen to his talk.
By his side be allowed to walk.
Don't mind the hypocrites son, those of little endeavour,
one good thing, I've learnt, they don't live forever.
I am what I am, I should have done better,
I'm sorry lad I was never a real go getter.
Always tell the truth, don't ever tell a lie,
Then he'd fill his pipe and light it, and give a contented sigh.
He'd been in the war, in Changi they said ,
he never spoke of the dying wouldn't speak of the dead.
One's imagination could only glean,
thoughts of the horrors that he'd seen.
Remember me boy, for the good not the bad ,
the thought of him going made me sad.
As a horseman he had no equal,
as a friend there would be no sequel.
He told me once he was pleased to have me by his side,
I didn't answer, only smiled, but I fairly glowed with pride.
He impressed me a lot, a little of him rubbed off on me,
a bit like him was how I wanted to be.
One night he'd been telling me stories of drover's,
When he said "Come 'ere kid" I ran over
"I've something to give you lad" he then said to me.
I could hardly wait to see what it might be.
Then he handed me a pair of spurs, not just any spur,
These spurs he said "Are not for using by coward or cur."
The spurs come hand made from a bloke on Wave Hill,
"Look careful boy, the makers mark is on them still."
Spurs he said are not for abuse, loss of temper is no excuse.
You don't put possum tracks on the shoulder, if you use 'em right.
Wear 'em all the time son, but use them very light.
As I grew older he told me what to expect in life,
"Work hard boy, dodge trouble and strife.
Drink in moderation, watch the demon rum,
have patience lad, good things will come.
Horses not dogs are a mans best friend,
look after them, they'll stick to you in the end.
Always grease your saddle, keep soft the bridle rein.
"Curses son, my beer is empty again."
When you leave school get a job in a cattle camp,
spend nights in a swag, tired aching with cramp.
Learn about people, learn about life,
don't be like me boy take yourself a wife.
Look after her well lad; she'll give you a home,
It aint much fun growing old alone."
I took the old blokes advice when I left school,
went out into a world, that I found cruel.
I ended up on a station away out back,
did a little droving along the track.
I would wear my Wave Hill spurs with pride,
many wanted to buy, many tried.
Of course I would never sell,
but on stories of the old man I would dwell.
He was my hero, in shining armour a knight,
riding tall and carrying a light.
To light the way on the darkest road,
he would always help me with my load.
Well I got a letter one dreadful day,
saying the old bloke had passed away.
He'd gone the way he would have wanted to go,
Quietly without too much of a show.
Tears welled up in my eye,
why did he have to die.
There was so much more, I wanted to ask,
in his praise I'd hoped to bask.
The old man could not be dead,
there was to much left unsaid.
He said to me always be honest and true,
perhaps then others, will do the same for you.
I went home to see his grave,
he would have wanted me to be brave.
There should be no tears to waste,
death should not leave a bitter taste.
Remember the good times, the things we done,
thanks for caring and your friendship son.
I attended to his saddle, fingered his bridle rein,
cried because they'd never be in his hand again.
I went and fed his horse, his mate
he wouldn't have wanted me in a state.
He was at Eternal rest, buried down by the creek,
when his horse’s came to water ,with them he could speak.
The grave was beneath a giant Bloodwood tree,
it was were the old man often spoke to me.
You know I never knew my dad,
but I feel that if I had,
perhaps he would have been, like the old bloke
and maybe when he spoke.
He'd tell me things, like the old man, he would be,
there to share his time with me.
So much of what the old man said had turned out right,
I still think about his words at night.
It was some years later before I went back to his grave again,
the country side was green and there was misty rain.
I'd gone to make sure beneath that giant tree,
something was there that ought to be
And sure enough 'neath a shady bough,
is a grave, and above the grave,
hang a pair of spur's,
The Spur's are Rusty Now.
© Corin Linch