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Out Where The Shearer's Go

Horses two, one lean and wiry,
Packed, and ambling slow,
And one they ride, both fresh and fiery,
Firey with plenty of show.
Ever out to the northward steering,
Past Victorian farm, and clearing,
Out to the sheds of Queensland shearing,
That's where those riders go.

Hobble chains from the pack side swinging
Jingle quaint and low,
Billycan lid and pannikin flinging
Back the hot sun's glow.
Shod hoofs harp on the metal beating,
Out in the tracks that are ever keeping
Due northward, to the lone shed sleeping,
That's where those shearer's go.

Ever heading to cross the border,
Even months ago,
Travelling there in wild disorder,
Riding fast and slow.
By the shop door they've been stringing,
Some of them whistling and others singing.
And some are laughing, I can hear it ringing
That's how those shearer s go.

Over the border, and each one taking
Track so well they know,
Leading out to " God forsaken "
Out where the jumbucks grow;
Ticked and fluked and a cough that's wheezy
Fleeces small and caked and greasy,
And where only the bosses' job is easy,
That's where the shearer's go.

Out where the bullock teams are tracking
Stores from the town below,
Out where the drover's whips are cracking,
Out on the overflow.
Out where the winds breathe mournful tune,
Thro' the flagged reeds by the deep lagoon,
A ghostly place by the light of the moon,
That's where the shearer's go.

Out in that sundried rainless region,
Out in that land of woe.
Out where the victims of thirst are legion,
Whose bones bleach white as show.
Out where they found in the mudholes baking
Never a drop for their hot thirsts slaking,
Out in the land that's all forsaken,
That's where the shearer's go.

Out on the dry plains dusty level,
Out where the hot sun's glow,
Out where the wind-borne sand holds revel,
Out where the hot winds blow.
Out where the scrub is thin and stunted,
Out where man is by hard death haunted,
Only faced by the bold and undaunted,
That's where the shearers go.

T.D.B., Broadford.


From the Victorian newspaper the The Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times Thursday 25 August 1898 p. 4.

Dave de Hugard writes:
'I am familiar with some of the bullock yoking terms used but I wasn't sure about 'clamper'. 'Poley' indicates that the horns have been either been removed although the bullock may have been bred that way. 'The Polers' are the two bullocks right at the back attached to the pole. The next bullocks (either two or four) also attached to the pole are the 'pin bullocks' and 'clamper' it seems is another name for them.

Anyway I located an article called 'The Plod Essay: The Remarkable Memory of Charles Street' which is worth a read. The following is an extract:'

What follows is some of what Mr Street told Joe Chambers on 1976. Note the detail. Some might call it trivia; I call it history coming to life:

"I drove Bullocks when I came to this district first. I usually had fourteen bullocks in the team, although you didn't use them all at once - usually ten or twelve at a time. Herefords made the best bullocks for long journeys in summer since they didn't need as much water as other breeds and they travelled faster. The two bullocks at the back of the team were called 'polers'. Their job was to swing the heavy wagon pole to change direction. The next four bullocks were called 'clampers'. Then came the 'body' of the team - two, four or six depending on the size of the team - and then the two 'leaders', who were specially trained to obey the signals of the driver ('gee-off' to the right and 'come here' to the left). The driver always walked on the left-hand side of the team and carried his whip in his right hand. The whip was made of greenhide, the lash about six feet long and the handle usually just a piece of sapling. When the driver moved his whip to his left shoulder the team stopped. I never hit the bullocks with the whip, only cracked it over their backs ...

Peter Neilson writes:
'Now, perhaps, we can read this poem as a keen but unconcious observation on the dreadful maltreatment of "the delicate desert" made "God forsaken" by the placing of hardhoofed animals onto unsuitable country, documenting the awful existences so-created for the animals ("ticked and fluked and wheezy/Fleeces small and caked and greasy"), the shearers (...where man is by hard death haunted,") and the country ("Out where the wind-borne sand hold revel,")'


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory