I was perched upon a wooden bench beneath a bottle tree
when this worn out wiry ringer stopped to rest his gammy knee.
I’d been touring through the outback and had sought to sit a spell
while the missus spent her hard earned cash and some of mine as well.
His grey hair was to his shoulder and his unkempt beard grey too
and he moaned, “Me old knee’s knackered and there’s nothing they can do.”
He’d suggested that a fall way back, while duffing some stray steers,
was responsible for his bad limp and pain all through the years.
“So it’s fair to say the adage then … crime does not pay …. is true
and the walking stick you carry mate is proof enough for you.
“With respect to that … perhaps old mate, but not the case always,
you see … once I beat the system … but back in my younger days.”
This old codger had me spell-bound, as a tale was on the boil,
and I figured if I stayed around he’d give me the good oil.
Bony fingers forced his hat back, which was battered, torn and old,
then he rubbed his wiry whiskers as the story did unfold.
“Old man Smythe from Yukeabilla sought assistance for his herd
as his property was bare of feed and he had just got word
that agistment was available down south at Myabode,
so he mustered all his cattle and he took them on the road.
“With his son Dave on the payroll they pushed past the neighbour’s block,
but they somehow gained an increase to the numbers of their stock.
Then again as they passed Brucedale, the Smythe herd it grew some more
and it wasn’t natural increases: I know that, mate, for sure.
“After weeks of choking dust and flies they reached their journey’s end
where they left the stock to fatten and return a dividend.
Back up north the local stock squad warned all cockies ‘round that way
should they sight the stolen cattle, they should ring without delay.
“The old manager on Myabode was taken by surprise
when he recognised the stolen brands, but instantly got wise
as to how the mob had got there and then rang Detective Brown,
who impounded them as evidence and trucked them to this town.
“All the cattle in the yarding pen were supervised at night
while their day trip to the Common proved to be a frequent sight.
With the native tracker out in front and driving his old ute,
this small motley herd of cattle learnt to follow in pursuit.