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The Ringer Of The Shed (1891)

The following iines appeared in Brisbane "Boomerang" in 1891, and were recently reprinted in the Northern Worker:--

His boots were greased, he freely spat,
And likewise wore a coat ;
The brand-new strap around his hat
Proclaimed a man of note.
Back on his head his hat was worn,
As though he held the sun in scorn.

Up to the shed his horse he tied,
And to the boss he went--
He spoke in tones that swelled with pride,
"On shearing I am bent;
I am a woolhawk from the West,
You put me on ; I'll do my best !'

"You see I've come from o'er the plains,
And sheds--too small--I've passed,
The blokes in charge of 'em complains
That ninety is too fast ;
But here I think I'd like to stop
And 'help to cut the fleecy crop."

The hands were few, the clip was large,
The shearers scarce and bad ;
"All right !" rejoined the man in charge,
"I'll put you on, and glad ;
And here's the 'greement, come and sign ;
You'll find yourself at four and nine."

"Well," said the woolhawk, "four and nine,
It ain't too much per score
And find yourself ; and yet I'll sign,
These times yer can't get more,
But, any'ow, I'll bet me boots
You'll find I'm none er yer galoots."

* * *

The day is done ; o'er earth is flung
The mantle of the night ;
High in the hut the slush-lamp swung
And shed its misty light ;
While many a laugh and joke is heard,
And many a bold, blasphemous word.

But loud resounds above them all
The haughty voice of one
Who tells his tale in language tall,
Which he who reads may run ;
The list'ning shearers, wond'ring, eyed
The stranger, as he loudly cried:

"Down by the Lachlan I was born,
But West I've been a while ;
A Barcoo blow--my sheep is shorn--
My fleece I never spile.
The thigh I clears in two swift blows,
And up the whipping side I goes !

"When once I gets a start, a-ha !
I'm never known to stop ;
I've shored a thousand without tar--
Ho, not a blooming' drop !
I mean to be the ringer 'ere ;
I'll show you coves the way ter shear."

* * *

Up came the sun, and towards the shed
The jovial shearers stalk ;
The mighty ringers proudly led,
Behind the learners walk.
The woolhawk proudly marches in,
The boss cries, "Now, my boys, begin."

Each shearer picked his sheep, and caught,
And dragged it' to the floor;
For bellies bare the keener sought
To tote an easy score.
And wond'ring eyes were turned upon
The ringer from the setting sun.

With one great chop he skimmed the neck:
And sever'd half the ear ;
Nor did the hard horn serve to check
His swift and cruel shear ;
And not a moment paused, but sped
From head to tail, and tail to head.

He open laid the shoulder-blade
And tore along the side ;
An instant not his shears delayed
But sped through wool and hide.
Such, shearing, ne'er before had been
In any earthly woolshed seen.

A few bold blows laid clear the thigh ;
Then swiftly o'er the back
And through the wool his red shears fly.
And cleave a gory track,
Till fearful wounds are gaping wide
Along the dying creature's side.

And leaning hard against a post
Stock stood the shearer's boss,
And once he muttered "Caesar's Ghost !"
And once he signed the cross,
Then cried aloud, "Here, I say, stop ;
This ain't a blooming butcher's shop!

"You dog, you said that you could shear
You couldn't clip a mop:
A shearer you? No blessed fear!
I'll wager I could chop
The wool off better with an axe ;
Give up those shears ; clear out ; make tracks!"

And swiftly turned the Western man,
Nor showed he craven fear.
"I'll let you see," said he, I can
Wipe out the best man 'ere;
Oh, dash me eyes, and chaw me boots,
You air a set 'er d--m galoots!"

"Put up your props," the boss replied;
"I'm here to stand my ground."
"A fight! a fight!" the shearers cried,
And all came crowding round.
Then straightway to the fray they went,
And fought with fierce and wild intent.

And up and down the floor like mad
The boss and shearer fought.
A wild boar style the ringer had,
And closer quarters sought.
While every time the boss " got there";
The woolhawk beat the empty air.

It was in rushing thus he met
The boss's good left hand.
Which, followed by the right, upset
Him near the tarpot stand.
The tar turned over as he fell
And splashed his eyes and mouth as well.

'Twas over then, and loud the laugh,
As prone the woolhawk lay,
And keen and merciless the chaff--
"Oh, dash it all; get up! I say!
You are a ringer, that you are!
How do you like the taste of tar?"

In black and red from out the shed
The, shearer turned in shame;
Gone was the firm and stately tread
With which that morn he came;
And as he left with fallen crest
I, too, humped bluey for the West.

---Robert W. Gunn.


Republished in the Wagga NSW newspaper the Worker Thursday 1 June 1911, p. 4.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory