George Essex Evans
A Drought Idyll
It was the middle of the drought; the ground was hot and bare,
You might search for grass with a microscope, but nary grass was there;
The hay was done, the cornstalks gone, the trees were dying fast,
The sun o'erhead was a curse in read and the wind was a furnace blast;
The waterholes were sun-baked mud, the drays stood thick as bees
Around the well, a mile away, amid the ringbarked trees.
McGinty left his pumpkin-pie and gazed upon the scene:
His cows stood propped 'gainst tree and fence wherever they could lean;
The horse he'd fixed with sapling forks had fallen down once more;
The fleas were hopping joyfully on stockyard, path, and floor;
The flies in thousands buzzed about before his waving hand;
The hungry pigs squealed as he said, 'Me own, me native land!'
'Queensland, me Mother! Ain't yer well?' he asked. 'Come tell me how's -'
'Dry up! Dry up!' yelled Mrs Mac, 'Go out and feed the cows.'
'But where's the feed?' McGinty cried, 'The sugarcane's all done -
It wasn't worth the bally freight we paid for it per ton.
I'll get me little axe and go with Possum and the mare
For 'arf a ton of apple-tree or a load of prickly-pear.'
'The prickly-pear'll kill the cows unless yer bile it right,'
Cried Mrs Mac, 'and I don't mean to bile it all the night.
They tell me fer a bob a bag the brewery will sell
Their refuse stuff, like Simpson 'ad - his cows is doin' well.
Yer get the loan of Bampston's dray and borrer Freeny's nags,
And fetch along a decent load, McGinty - thirty bags.
McGinty borrowed Bampston's dray and hitched up Freeney's nags
And drove like blazes into town and fetched back thirty bags.
The stuff was mellow, soft, and brown; and if you came too near
It shed around a lovely scent till the air seemed full of beer,
McGinty fetched each feedbox out and filled it to the brim,
Then lit his pipe and fell asleep. That was the style of him.
The cows, they lurched off fence and tree and staggered in to feed,
The horses tottered after them - old, feeble, and knock-kneed.
But when they smelt that sacred stuff in boxes on the ground
They smiled and neighed and lowed and twirled their hungry tails around.
You would have walked a hundred miles or more to see and hear
They way McGinty's stock attacked that stuff that smelt like beer…
'Wake up! Wake up! McGinty man! Wake up!' yelled Mrs Mac.
She held a broom and every word was followed by a whack.
McGinty had been dreaming hard that it was Judgement Day
And he was drafted with the goats and being driven away;
The Devil with a toasting fork was jabbing at his jaw,
He rose and yelled and fled outside - and this is what he saw:
The brindle cow, with spotted tail, was trying to climb a tree;
The spotted cow, with brindled tail, to imitate a flea;
Old Bally who had lost one horn engaged in combat stout
With the Lincoln ram whose only eye McGinty had knocked out;
With tails entwined, among the trees, went Bessie and Basilk,
Singing, 'Goodbye, McGinty, we will come back with the milk,'
McGinty, trembling, viewed the scene in wonderment and funk,
Then lifted up his voice and roared, 'Mother, the cows is drunk!
Look at that bloomin' heifer with 'er 'ead 'ung down the sty,
Telling the sow she loves 'er but she some'ow can't tell why.
Three of 'em snoring on their backs, the rest all on the loose -
Ain't there no police in these parts when cows gets on the boose?'
McGinty viewed the orgy with a jealousy profound -
Cows in various states of drunk were scattered all around;
But most his rage was heightened by the conduct of the horse
That stood and laughed, and laughed, and laughed - and laughed without remorse -
That horse so oft he'd lifted up and propped with logs and boughs
Now leant against a tree and mocked McGinty and his cows.
'Bring soda-water, Mother,' cried McGinty, 'Bring a tub'
(Forgetting that he lived about a league from any pu .
'I swear by soda-water when the drink illumes my brow,
And if it fixes up a man it ought to fix a cow.'
But as he spoke a boozy steer approached with speed intense
And helped McGinty over to the safe side of the fence.
Regret and hate and envy held McGinty where he sat.
'To think,' he said, 'these purple cows should have a time like that!
For months I couldn't raise a drink - it wasn't up to me;
Yet every bally head of stock I've got is on the spree.
This comes when you forget to keep a bottle on the shelf.'
Inspired, he rose and smote his brow and fetched a spoon and delf -
'My word!' he said. 'It's up to me to feed on this meself!'
George Essex Evans's Other Poems
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