Everything you read in this poem is true. The poem is dedicated to Kenny Kershaw, a bloke I first met some years ago while pig shooting on an outback property in western New South Wales. One of the greatest characters I have ever known. All men find themselves a victim of their own circumstance, as did Kenny. He lived his life as he lived it and made no apologies for it. Everyone who knew him just called him Kak or ‘Kaks’.
Pronunciation of place names and other relevant terms:-
Gilgunnia – Gil-gun-ya,
Tooheys- A brand of beer
Carton- A slang term for a box of beer.
Over many years I’ve wandered and I’ve often stopped and pondered,
On reflection, at the characters I’ve met,
Who break the vast monotony of the kangaroos and botany,
In the outback, with it’s crimson silhouette.
He was somewhat quite symbolic of the classic alcoholic,
Either way, his life was full of tales,
And we never really minded for the laughter he provided,
He had a heart the size of New South Wales.
He was care-taking a station where he gained his reputation,
Near ‘Gilgunnia’, along the Kidman track,
He arrived without a penny and was introduced as Kenny,
Those of us who knew him called him Kak.
My very first encounter with this somewhat down and outer,
Saw him sponging our tobacco and our beer,
At either night or morning when the sun was down or dawning,
Like a genie from a bottle he’d appear.
He lived in stark surrounding of filth and mice abounding,
With spider webs and soot for his décor,
And battled for a dollar in this dank and lonely squalor,
Where the fleas and roaches duelled upon the floor.
The weekly Monday ritual was the sight of the habitual,
Mailman, with his ready made supply,
Who’d bring the liquid fare, and was equally aware,
That within a day or two he’d drink it dry.
Sometimes when really lonely, he would venture to the only,
Hotelier, the pub in Nymagee,
But his smell could overpower so they’d make him take a shower,
On arrival, lest the other patrons flee.
Some local farming neighbours looked upon him for a favour,
While away, to watch out for their spread,
To their somewhat stunned derision he had made a large incision,
In their wine supply, then ‘flaked it’ in their bed.
A savage urination after gross intoxication,
In a bedroom, of the Nymagee Saloon,
Left the owners tongue a cracking, and Kenny promptly packing,
For the journey, home to ‘Wilkerboon’.
In a drunken type meander, he sought the old verandah,
On a building, on the other side of town,
That night while he was sleeping, a fire started creeping,
From his cigarette, and burnt the building down.
This old and lonely hermit never worried for a permit,
Or a licence, to drive a motor car,
And his rusty old caboose wasn’t registered for use,
On the road, as other motors are.
For the long and thirsty hike, nursing on his motor bike,
Was a carton, from the Nymagee hotel,
But he crashed out near ‘Glengarry’, and he had no way to carry,
It’s contents, so he drank them where they fell.
He named us in his own, distinctive gravelly tone,
‘Wooden-spooners’, cos we always stirred the pot,
But he loved the room divided and the arguments provided,
Always grateful, for the company he got.
Each year upon returning he’d have the fire burning,
To welcome us, with dinner on our plates,
And we’d listen to his news, and speak our point of views,
The ‘flat foot’, with my other shooting mates.
He had no solid savings, he lived upon the shavings,
From the government, to fund his meagre life,
Yet he’d find a way to pay, and never turn away,
From anyone, he thought was in some strife.
A year or two elapsed, when we heard he had collapsed,
And passed away, several months before,
With a ‘tooheys’ and a smoke this lonely hearted bloke,
Left us, and was gone forevermore.
He taught me I believe, to give and not receive,
I never fully realised at the time,
That you reap the barren soil in the manner that you toil,
And judgement is the benefit of the grime.
Our friendship is to me, what it meant to he,
Mateship isn’t easy to explain,
It seems clearer everyday, ever since he passed away,
And hopefully, I’ll meet him once again.
© Steven Smith 14 July 2001