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The Goondiwindi Grey


Bargara, Queensland, Australia

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The Goondiwindi Grey

The sound of country music rang down town in old Peel street,
While once again I set up camp, amid the throbbing beat
Of guitars, drums and didg'ridoos beside Frank Turton's chooks,
To share with folk my love of verse and sell my tapes and books.

Then strike me pink old nature called, so had to slip away,
And being air-conditioned like Grace Bros. saved the day.
The toilet there was unisex, but thought I was alone,
When to my right I heard a ring ... a flam'in mobile phone.

Some voice then answered, "Campware here. Oh hello Miss McBride." When stone the crows ... another ring ... but from my left hand side.
A woman's voice said, "Hosiery, Miss Makim, how'd you do,"
And there I was perched on the throne, caught right between the two.

It's really hard to concentrate with all that in your ear,
In fact I had to come to grips with why I'd come in here.
The conversations going on both had a diff'rent theme,
Which had my mind a wee bit tossed, confusion reigned supreme.

"Two padded bras," Miss Makim asked, "they both must be the same."
"But room for three," campware replied, "with self supporting frame."
"Your pref'rence is convertible and satin finish too."
"Though shade cloth inserts are a must, to let a breeze blow through."

"And do we have some knickers which would match the bras - in black?"
"Of course they've got the bottoms in and zip up front and back."
"You want some with elastic in, but something that will last.."
"We have a range that slip up quick and come down just as fast."

Then as I heard the cisterns flush, I thought ... hell what a pain;
Transacting business in the loo can really be a drain.
I reached out for some toilet roll to wrap up why I came,
When spare me days 'twas nothing there, but cardboard roll and frame.

What was a bloke to do I thought, I'm stuck here all alone,
When suddenly it crossed my mind ... I'd brought my mobile phone.
I dialled the information line to seek the number out,
Then figured I'd ring toiletry, they'd have some rolls no doubt.

But when I punched the numbers in I heard a ring near by.
That's strange, I thought, then heard a voice say, "Toiletry, it's Di."
"Oh Di," I said, "it's Mervyn here, I'm stuck here in your store,
I'm in your loo and out of rolls so could you bring some more."

There was a sudden silence for the phone went kind of dead,
But somewhere close I heard a scream as some sweet voice then said,
"Hey Merv I'd like to help you out, but sweetheart this is true,
You see I'm only two doors down and out of paper too."



The Goondiwindi Grey

Head stockman for Ned Price her father worked on Magnet Downs;
A loner and a bushman who'd a phobia of towns.
He loved the isolation of the far north station runs,
While Sarah she played carer to his motherless three sons.
Year in, year out she kept his house, though yearned a female friend;
The long hot nights and lonesome days, they never seemed to end.

For sixteen years she played that role her childhood passed her by,
Instead of girlish laughter Sarah sought somewhere to cry.
Her clothes were men's fare ... shirt and pants ... her hands were callused too;
Oh how she longed to get away and live like townsfolk do.
She dreamed of dresses, dances and the company of friends,
But morning light would render all her dreams to dreary ends.

A stranger stopped to stay a while for Ned had found him work,
His ways were flash and carefree, while his smile was more a smirk.
He sensed the insecurity which plagued poor Sarah's life,
Then played upon her heartstrings, though his song was penned with strife.
So masterful the melodies, they stole sweet Sarah’s heart,
Within the month she’d left with him; this man she called ... her Bart.

For near nine months they lived as swells and tasted town delights;
Till deep in debt and desperate they fled like frightened kites.
Bart headed for the Bloomfield, where he'd mined for tin before,
And home would be a shanty isolated from the law.
Exhausted and her child near due poor Sarah lived in dread
Of life in isolation and the gloom which lay ahead.

She raised her first born daughter by the Bloomfield's Upper Arm
And Bart the artful lover ... well ... he’d lost his luring charm.
He'd fossick for their livelihood, which sometimes paid quite well,
But Bart would go on drunken sprees and leave them in that hell.
So often left with little food, bush tucker was their fare
Until her demon reappeared. Complain? She did not dare.

She'd been the subject of his rage on more than one account,
So for her little daughter's sake, this ploy was paramount.
Her lot was further burdened for within her womb there lay,
The miracle of life once more; a son now on his way.
'Twas just another mouth to feed ... was what filled Sarah's head,
No sparkle filled this mother's eyes; salt water welled instead.

Most fathers would be jubilant to have a new born son,
But love was some forsaken thing and Bart had room for none.
He often binged in China Camp for rum had claimed his brain,
While Sarah's isolation slowly sent the girl insane.
Like feral creatures of the bush her infants roamed at will
And Sarah's soul just pined away till slowly she grew ill.

'Twas in the early part of June, the day she turned eighteen,
That drunken creature known as Bart returned upon the scene.
He found the shanty empty and devoid of human form,
The silence ... like a deathly calm which comes before the storm.
From constant bingeing on the rum Bart thought his head would burst,
So staggered down towards the creek to quench his fiery thirst.

Then as he cupped its contents, which was cold and crystal clear,
Bart's face became so ghostly white, his eyes were filled with fear.
For in its depths he saw three forms all pale and void of life;
The family he'd never known ... his children and his wife.
He buried them beside its bank, then simply walked away
And where Bart went ... well no one cared ... not even to this day.

It seems poor Sarah lost her mind and did what she thought best;
She drowned her infants, then herself. She found eternal rest.
An old man just some months ago recalled this tale to me,
I know it made me cry a lot. Did it do that to thee?
And LORD ... when it comes time to judge the living and the dead ...
Please think of Sarah and her kids ... you saw the life they led.



The Goondiwindi Grey

The Constable had found the man 'round five on Friday morn,
Apparently while on his shift from midnight through till dawn.
Two youths, with blood stains on their clothes, detained drunk in the park
Disclosed they'd rolled some homeless bloke, sometime just after dark.
As Sergeant in this country town I'd lived round here for years;
Observed some pretty callous things, but this left me in tears.
The aged and fragile frame lay slumped there in a pool of mud
And through his snow white hair and beard was clotted, crimson blood.

The Constable looked up and said, "There fam'ly we can call?
For surely someone knows him Sarge. You know the bloke at all?"
"He's know 'round here as Stumpy lad, been here a year or two.
Came out way back in sixty-three to work on Beetaloo,
Then worked his way to overseer and often came to town;
Was captain of the football team, a sportsman of renown.
He married pretty Sheila Clark and when his son was four
They called conscripts for Vietnam, which saw him go to war."

"A war of conflicts that would scar and traumatise the mind,
Confusing, cruel, and futile acts some failed to leave behind.
Inherent post traumatic stress was that war's legacy,
Together with the stump you see attached below his knee.
The old man lying there my lad is testimony too
A life spent fighting guilt and fear his mind could not subdue.
Poor Sheila shared his sleepless nights, the flashbacks and his pain,
But in the end she lost the fight as Stumpy left again."

"He camped in squats around the town and drowned his pain with wine,
Withdrew into his own quiet world, content now to resign,
From all of life's inequities, the company of folk,
But all the town saw Stumpy Shore, a harmless poor old bloke.
His Sheila raised their only son, who still lives here today;
Who cared for her through all those years until she passed away.
She'd told him of the man she'd known before he went to war,
So in his mind he held no grudge against old Stumpy Shore."

"In fact one day down by the creek, while Stumpy washed his socks,
He saved a lad from drowning as he'd dived onto some rocks.
The boy he saved that very day was his own grandson Kim;
Ironical, I guess eh lad, that Stumpy should save him."
"You know Sarge, when I found the man, I thought him just a bum
And judged the bloke on what I saw, but this has left me numb.
The facts are mighty sob'ring Sarge and now I feel real bad.
You reckon we can find his son?" ... "You're talking to him lad."



The Goondiwindi Grey

Through the course of my life I've rode many strange things,
Like the time on old Chainsaw out at Alice Springs;
And that camel at Boulia called Topupmebeer,
But my craziest ride was November last year.

Neil McArthur had purchased Thong Classic you see
And he gave me the ride. I was proud as can be.
It was true that my weight was a flamin' disgrace,
But with Jenny Craig's help I'd be right for the race.

When the big day arrived I was on a great high,
Till they gave me pink silks and a purple bow tie.
Still I swallowed my pride with a green and blue pill,
Just to help me erase how I looked like a dill.

Then I strode on outside to the mounting yard there
And controlled my emotions by saying a prayer,
But it's hard to control the adrenaline flow
When your mongrel bred mount goes and stands on your toe.

Still my focus returned at the barrier gates
And despite the catcalls from me smart jockey mates.
When the starter cried racing, what went through my mind,
Was when Thong Classic jumped would he leave me behind.

Midst the thunder of hooves and the riders wild screams
I was jammed in the pack, but was wise to their schemes,
So I dropped back a little and let the mob pass
But I'd prove in the straight they were up against class.

I moved up on the outside astride Bold Eclipse
When this puncy young jockey bloke puckered his lips.
Well I kicked well away and I picked up the pace
And a divot of turf hit him smack in the face.

With the straight just ahead it was now time to move
And Thong Classic sensed too he had something to prove.
When I went for the whip the horse lengthened his stride
And I knew I was in for one hell of a ride.

From the stands the crowd screamed and were going berserk
While McArthur cried, "Ride, pinky ride you great berk."
Then I stood in the stirrups, applying the whip,
But a length from the finish ... I felt my foot slip.

As I crashed to the ground I lay writhing in pain
When a voice from the dark cried, "You're flamin' insane!"
To my horror I saw from my back on the floor
My poor wife on the bed looking terribly sore.

She'd a cord in her mouth from my old dressing gown
And was bowed in the back lying tummy side down.
She had marks on her thigh from the welts from my belt
While the screams I had heard were from pain she had felt.

It took months to live down what took place on that night
And to stave off divorce was a hell of a fight.
I'm blacklisted from races and all TABs
And I sleep with darn hobbles strapped round both me knees.



The Goondiwindi Grey

Hell_ perhaps it was the weather and the fact that things were dry.
It’s a soul sapping experience when blue skies will not cease,
bringing melancholy moments when one’s soul cannot find peace.

Then my mood was interrupted by an email coming through
and I glanced down at my laptop; it was from a mate I knew.
Howard was a fellow poet whom I’d met last year in May,
who would often send me stories that someone had sent his way.
I was feeling down, despondent, though I could not figure why.

As I read the text before me I soon came to realize
there were folk who faced much crueller tests and tears welled in my eyes.
"My full name is Mildred Hondorf and for thirty years or more
I have taught piano lessons to young children by the score.

"Though I’ve taught a lot of students who have shown ability,
there were sadly some among them who were challenged musically.
Of that number was young Robby and he had a single Mum
and the lad was now eleven _ much too old I thought to come.

‘"But it’s always been my mother’s dream to hear me play," he said,
and those haunting words still linger to this day within my head.
Robby had no tone or rhythm and this fact he could not hide.
He just lacked inborn ability, but still the lad he tried.

"He learnt elementary pieces and would dutifully review
all the scales I put before him, but deep down inside I knew
that the poor child showed no promise and would never learn to play
but each week his words would echo, ‘Mum will hear me play some day.’

"Robby’s mother always smiled and waved, though did so from her car
and I’d never met her personally in any way so far.
Then one day Rob never came again. I guessed he’d just moved on.
Though I must admit I felt at ease now that the lad was gone.

"He was not a good advertisement for what I was about
and then several weeks on down the track I sent some flyers out.
For I had in mind an evening, a recital on a night
where the parents, friends and relatives could see them in full flight.

"It seems Robby too received one and he asked if he could try,
but I told him it’s impossible, he did not qualify.
You have not attended lessons, so it really wasn’t fair.
‘But my mum was sick!’ Young Rob explained, ‘she couldn’t drive me there.’

‘"I’ve been practising Miss Hondorf and Mum wants to hear me play.’
I don’t know how he persuaded me, but Robby got his way.
He’d perform before my closer, just in case his effort died
and that way I’d salvage self-esteem or bluntly _ save my pride.

"Well the evening had gone splendidly and Rob was paged on next,
but the sight of his appearance _ well, it truly left me vexed.
The lad’s clothes were unironed, wrinkled and his hair was quite a mess
and it looked like an eggbeater had been through it I confess.

"But he sat at his piano and announced out very loud
he would play Mozart’s Concerto in C Major for the crowd.
His small fingers danced so nimbly on the ivories that’s for sure
and I know that Mozart would have been amazed at what he saw.

"Robby ended his performance in a grand crescendo style
and the crowd just stood applauding while I had the biggest smile.
I just hugged the lad and asked him ‘How’d you do it? Don’t be shy.’
And he spoke into the microphone and gave his proud reply.

"Well my Mum has been real sick of late, she’d cancer in her chest,
and she passed away this morning Miss. I had to play my best.
Mum was born quite deaf you see, but prayed with all her might,
that one day she’d hear me playing and I know she heard tonight."