(A sequel to The Swaggy’s Dilemma)
I dropped the steers at Comongin and didn’t lose a one
Then loaded wool at Quilpie for the easy Roma run
Where I hustled up a back-load of bits of this and that
And hurried home to Brown-eyes with a feather in my hat.
Come and kiss me – Did you miss me? – Come fill my arms sweet Jane
Then it’s bye, dear – do not cry, dear – it’s time to roll again.
Months went by in dusty days as I hauled those loads about
And met old mates in thirsty towns and shared the bushies’ shout
The work was hard, the miles were long, but that’s a trucky’s due
A rolling life of grit and grunt, and gristle in the stew
Wheels a-jerking, hands a-working, we’re making up the time
CB crackling: “Hi there, Jacklin – I’m comin’ down the line.”
I was on my final run that year – the Yantabulla haul
When I slipped while climbing from the cab and took a nasty fall
My head felt like a bar-room floor and I sat down sick in the sand
And this bloke in a clapped-out Jag pulls up to lend a country hand.
“Bugger me dead! – it’s you,” he said, and lit up with a grin
His crooked smile went back a while – it was old ‘John and Kim’.
He poured a shot of swaggy rum and passed it down to me
“This’ll put the ginger back,” he said, “it’s nature’s recipe.”
I didn’t know what brand it was and didn’t care to ask
But it sure put my ginger back, it was magic in a flask
It cleared my head as swaggy said – I stood up straight and true
And feeling grand, I shook his hand, and thanked him through and through.
Now swaggy hadn’t changed that much and he wore the same old shoes
A pair of wrinkled R & Ms that had surely paid their dues
But he stood a little taller now as if he’d had a break
Like a man of means, I thought, a fellow with a stake
For you can always tell when a man’s done well, you’ll see it in his stance
If he’s standing tall you can be sure an’ all there’s money in his pants.
It was good to see old swaggy-jack and catch up with his news
And to hear about his downs and ups and listen to his views
He spoke a little looser now and his words were not so slow
He was quite the conversation’ist as swaggy speakers go
And talked about the dust and drought and his dried-out billabong
And sheep and dips and the price of nips and Dusty’s latest song.
When he spoke about his horse and house and comfy feather bed
I wondered where this fitted in with that swaggy’s grog-filled head
“So what’s the score?” I asked as the Swaggy wiped his chin
“Have you settled down at last and given up the gin?”
He smiled at this and nodded, Yes, and then he laughed out loud
“It’s been a grind, but I don’t mind, my Shirl she’s done me proud.”
“I met her at that ‘lection see, that one we talked about.
“She was the polling-clerk and helped me fill me ballot out.
“She said I remembered* her of a hubby long since dead
“An’ would I like to take his place an’ settle down instead?
“She looked okay in the light of day, and her teeth were clackin’ sound,
“So I thought, Why not, and we tied the knot, and now I’m fully bound.”
“She put me on the water-cart, it was very hard at first,
“And I nearly died a hundred times, a hundred times from thirst.
“But the heebie-jeebies left me and I’ve been mostly sober since,
“And I only drink occasional of this nature’s medicince.”
He pressed his lips to his flask of nips and raised his chin on high,
And drained the lot in one last shot and winked a blood-shot eye.
“Well, I must be getting on,” I said and looked up to the distance,
“It’s been a pleasure catching up, and thanks for your assistance.”
“She’ll be right, old mate” he said as he hopped back in his car,
“That’s what friends are for I reckon; friends from near or far.”
He grinned a grin, I waved at him, and he took off in his Jag
This country-jack who’d settled back, and carried his last swag.
© Laurie Meintjes 2001