Burnt Norton (John Trelawneys Ride)

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Oh ’twas on Bardunyah Station, where the men are really men,
Where a paddock’s just a horse-yard if it’s less than ten-be-ten,
Where the nags are wild as widgies on the old Tarcoola side –
Well it’s there that John Trelawney rode his famous fatal ride.

For the boss was a rough old manager of the tough bombastic type,
And no-one (bar this jackaroo) dare give him any tripe.
He says to us one day, "Yer know it seems to be the craze
To have a motor-bike or two (or three) about the plaze;
And though I bar this mustering and droving with a bike
It should be just the shot for riding fences and the like."

And all the tussy-jumpers there (a score or so there was)
Give up a mournful moan and cursed the whole idea because
By nag it takes a week to ride a fence – a pleasant lurk –
While a bike goes round in a day or so, and the rest of the time you work!
But he sends down for this motor-bike, and he makes it understood
That he didn’t mind what the price was – just so long as she was good
And when the monthly mail come up, there, riding on the load,
Was a Dominator Norton, yes a twin–six–hundred Norton – hottest motor on the road.

Well, we wheels her to the office and the boss he storms outside:
"Does any lazy bludger here know how this thing to ride?"
Up steps this wild young jackaroo with whiskers on his dial,
And dirty plug–tobacco teeth that devilized his smile,
And bluey, bleary, bloodshot eyes through mixing rum with beer –
The bloke that kissed the boss’s wife and fought the overseer.
He was always up to something and he always had the sack –
My word he was trimmer was this jackaroo called Jack.
"My dear beloved boss" says he, "I like a bit of fun,
And I can ride a motor–bike – I’ll take it for a run."
"Well ride her out to Dingo Well and give the troughs a check,
And I hope you prang the flamin’ thing and break yer crimson neck."

He piles aboard and revs her up – our ears were nearly bust –
Then off he roars amid applause and a thundercloud of dust.
He thundered down the homestead track and never thought to stop,
He went clean through the homestead gate – then dropped her into top.
Then he roared along the mail–track, which widened by a chain,
And he thrashed her over ranges and he tore across the plain,
And he burns into Kingoonya, where he taps a keg o’ wine,
Then he buzzed the Tea and Sugar there along the Western line.
Then he tears right up to Oodna’, where he comes across the Ghan,
And he rides beside her shouting caustic comments to the van,
And he tore up all the Nor–West – from Maree down to Cook –
And wherever he rode the countryside for miles around was shook.

And he rode that Norton faster than was ever rode before
(Even faster than a Yank retreat I witnessed in the war).
And rooted up more mulgas than’d take a year to fell,
And started up more bushfires than you’d see this side of hell,
And he left a trail of wreckage over half a mile wide –
Y’know, they’re still repairing fences on the old Tarcoola side!
You can still see half the damage that this wild young joker did:
You can see the rows of sandhills that he threw up in a skid,
And the shearing-sheds he flattened (though they’re mostly mended now)
You can even see the crater where he hit his fatal cow.

Yes, he hit a cow, poor Johnny. Starve the lizards – what a prang!
For the poor old thing exploded with a loud atomic bang
That was heard from Perth to Brisbane! Well, you should have seen ‘em run
When a large atomic mushroomic cloud arose and blotted out the sun;
And the noise was so terrific that, from Katherine to Bourke,
The wharfies asked for ear–plugs – and then refused to work!
It razed the nuclear base at North West Cape to a heap of dirt,
So the Septics panicked – and all America went on Red Alert!
And, as for the jackaroo, well now we like to sing his praises
‘Cause both poor Jack and that murderous cow got blown all to blazes!
And that is the end of this sad, sad yarn – but no (at least not quite)
For you ask about the Norton. Ah, well – she was burnt all right!

© Graham Jenkin