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The Sad Ballad Of Mopane Jack - Poem by Terry Dawson

The fire is lit and round it sit four comrades who fought in the war
And they have there much biltong and beer and none would ask for more
In the flickering light of that balmy night, the talk is of times long back.
Says Zambesi Bill, 'who remembers still the one called Mopane Jack?

'He was a man and a half who loved to laugh and his shoulders shook when he did
That thunder roll near out of control marked a happy man, but it hid
A steely heart that brooked no part for the wicked and evil and such
Yet inside he was sad that giant of a lad, for he was the one who cared too much.'

Then the moon sinks down and touches the crown of the trees, as a fifth comes late to the scene
A spectre he, that none can see; to hear the old stories of the things that had been.
It's a ghost come back, for that fifth is Jack and he smiles at the yarns that he hears!
For he surely knows how a story grows on the back of thirst slaked by beers. 

Now Bob stokes the flames and then exclaims, 'old Jack, he was one of a kind.
That old game ranger, he feared no danger; he took on all the terrs he could find.'
One time on the spoor of ten gooks or more, he was clearly heard to say:
'Make no mistake, there'll be no break, no rest till we make them pay! '

'For three days more, they followed that spoor till at last it was no more seen:
An old villager there, had with great care, driven cattle where the tracks had been.
Old Jack, he swore as he broke the the jaw of that one who'd thwarted his aim! '
Says Bill, 'it's clear, ' as he opens a beer, 'Mopane Jack knew the rules of the game! ''

Dreams Jack:
I hardly touched the bloke, it was my fist that broke;
I dealt too lightly with him!
With my time again, a rifle butt, not an upper cut
he'd likely feel on his chin! 

'One time on the road with a hell of a load on the back of his Series one, '
Says Jed with a shake of his head, ' and the spedo reading nearly a ton,
Streams of tracer fly by like green firefly and Jack gives a mighty roar.
With a deal of nerve and some crafty swerve he slams his foot to the floor!

'And there alone in the killing zone time proceeds in slow-motion pace
Though he strains his eyes to spot their disguise, he cannot discern their place,
But now the road bends and then it descends; of a sudden he's in the clear,
With pistol unholstered, his courage is bolstered as he fires six shots in the air! ' 

Dreams Jack:
Huh! I was nine tenths through before I even knew
that the buggers were shooting at me
I was nine miles high on the bobo gwaai
and my mind just buzzed like a bee! 

'He spoke one time of an old gold mine', said Bob, 'and a fortune that he made
But later 'twas said that the seam went dead and after the bills were paid
Old Jack was broke and never more spoke of the time when he burrowed for gold
For he nearly went mad that his luck turned bad - at least that is what I was told.' 

Jim took up the tale, 'the mine was for sale, poor Jack was in a trough of despair
And what do you think, he took to the drink and drank himself stupid all year.
His mining gear, was sold that year and he hardly owned the boots that he wore
His life lost its way, and Jack, in pitiful way declared that his heart was sore.' 

Dreams Jack:
For me, never again that ball and chain
which forsooth is a miners lot
For I love to roam, the wilds my home,
ten thousand square miles my plot! 

'One R & R in the Shangani bar, his bottle of whiskey in place
'Howdya do', says the girl, 'I am Sue' and freckles highlighted her face
And in that while her happy smile was the light of the world to Jack
'By any chance are you free to dance', asks Jack, and never looks back.'

Dreams Jack:
So lovely and fair with her golen hair;
she saw some merit in me!
That leap, that prance that lucky chance
of fate changed my destiny! 

'With his luck on a run that son-of-a-gun, that very same night found employ
With a hunting crew from a man he knew, and he gave a whoop of joy!
With his wilderness life and his brand new wife, Jack was the cat that got the cream
To ever remain in that wild domain was for Jack the ultimate dream! 

'Now the shot is high - the bull won't die; a buffalo shot through the lung
And as is the rule in this kind of duel, it's not over till one or other dies young.
And the traces of rud are a trail of blood as the beast flees clear out of view.
The follow-up started is for the bold-hearted and these who don't fear it are few! 

'As though by lure the beast runs sure to a place where the bush grows thick
And the hunter knows that the honour goes in such place to the one who is quick
Then so fast that it blurs, a disaster occurs, Jack's body is tossed high in the air
It's the trail's endas that buffalo sends poor Jack to where only spirits may fare.'

Dreams Jack:
And so was my colourful life set free from strife
as my essence flew free to the sky
All earthly pains I left on the plains
which now far below me lie.
From my realm of bliss above the wilderness
where the game of old Africa roam
A new force for good in the neighbourhood
Am I in my spiritual home. 

With big voice says Bill, 'his laughter echoes still all around these parts
When clouds reach high in November sky and happily sing the larks
And thunder fills the valley and hills and in so doing declares
That life-giving rain is near again and so it will be all the years! '







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