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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sterner Stuff

Work can be bloody hard out here, in amongst the dust
Heat is high, the days are long and strong fortitude’s a must.
But when things are going wrong and you’ve almost had enough
Something reminds you that those before had been made from sterner stuff.

 As we drill away at the dirt, to replace some ancient yard
The air powered rock drill jams, and the bit is stuck in hard
We swear and curse and heave and strain, till finally it comes free
But blokes who dug those holes without one, are from sterner stuff than me

Steel pipe cut to length with an electric powered saw
Replaces the wooden strainer posts that once were there before
One old jam log still stands, hand cut with nothing ‘cept an axe
Made from sterner stuff were those guys, and also, their backs

We drop out our steel pickets, pre drilled for easy tying
The air hammer used to knock them in was a brilliant bit of buying
And when we spied the hand drilled jam posts we gave a little laugh
Whoever manned the brace ‘n’ bit was made from sterner stuff

A nice new plastic water tank, to replace the one that leaks.
Built from many granite stones, gathered from nearby creeks
Inside was lined with mortar, a smooth finish of lime and sand
You’d have to be from sterner stuff, to trowel that on by hand

Paddocks mustered by planes and motor bike, that’s how we do it now
Before it was horses, and they even used bloody pedal power!
Trainer sheep wore bells, and pushbikes would copy the sound
But you’d have to be of sterner stuff, to pedal the things around

A simple solar powered subby pumps water at each trough
Best of all you can fix them, without needing to climb aloft
Tales of dangling from windmill towers, fill me full of dread
You have to be of sterner stuff, to fix a buggered head

Coolrooms replace meat safes, solar panels to power the lot
We’ve got internet and phones, and air con when it’s hot
And I made a comment to Grandpa, who ran the place before
“You were from sterner stuff,” I said, as he leant on the office door

He smiled and looked at paper piles scattered across my desk
Reams of bills and forms and records that never got any less
“It was a lot simpler in my day son, even when things were tough.
To put up with the bullshit these days, you must be of sterner stuff.”

“You’re getting the same for sheep as I was, but costs are ten times higher.
And paperwork, I can’t believe what it takes these days to prove that you’re no liar.
Audits and forms and surveys so they can track what you are doing
If you weren’t from sterner stuff it’d send you bloody loony.”

“You’ve got the hippies, greenies, do-gooders and others with concern
Who all want a say in your business, but the buggers never learn
Where’s there’s livestock there’s dead stock, despite our best attempt.
Sterner stuff is required, to cope with what they misrepresent.”

“So don’t despair young fella, I reckon you’re doing alright
 And things will get better, even if now they’re tight
Things are beyond your control, that’s how it is in this game,
But that stuff you reckon I’m made of, well, you’ve got just the same.”

This was a conversation I never had with Pa. He died when I was fifteen at age eighty something. By some weird co-incidence his first job off the boat from England as a fresh young twentyish year old, was as a water-man on Gabyon Station, Yalgoo, which essentially meant he would’ve built some the stone troughs and tanks that still stand here today. It’s a nice thought, and also explains why he was the best damn grano worker I’ve ever seen to this day. This is a conversation I like to think I would’ve had with Pa if he were still around today.

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sharon said...

bloody brilliant Michael.

Deb Brown said...

Brilliant! may we never lose the language! almost word for word how old timers still put it today!

Jim 'Ironbark' McDonald said...

Outstanding Tranty. Love the way you have with words. When is that coffee table book coming? Put me down for two! said...

Great Michael I'm so proud of you, Dad. Pa would be too.