The Mountain Squatter

A poem by Andrew Barton Paterson

Here in my mountain home,
On rugged hills and steep,
I sit and watch you come,
O Riverinia Sheep!

You come from the fertile plains
Where saltbush (sometimes) grows,
And flats that (when it rains)
Will blossom like the rose.

But when the summer sun
Gleams down like burnished brass,
You have to leave your run
And hustle off for grass.

'Tis then that, forced to roam,
You come to where I keep,
Here in my mountain home,
A boarding-house for sheep.

Around me where I sit
The wary wombat goes,
A beast of little wit,
But what he knows, he knows.

The very same remark
Applies to me also;
I don't give out a spark,
But what I know, I know.

My brain perhaps would show
No convolutions deep,
But anyhow I know
The way to handle sheep.

These Riverina cracks,
They do not care to ride
The half-inch hanging tracks
Along the mountain side.

Their horses shake with fear
When loosened boulders go
With leaps, like startled deer,
Down to the gulfs below.

Their very dogs will shirk,
And drop their tails in fright
When asked to go and work
A mob that's out of sight.

My little collie pup
Works silently and wide;
You'll see her climbing up
Along the mountain side.

As silent as a fox
You'll see her come and go,
A shadow through the rocks
Where ash and messmate grow.

Then, lost to sight and sound
Behind some rugged steep,
She works her way around
And gathers up the sheep;

And, working wide and shy,
She holds them rounded up.
The cash ain't coined to buy
That little collie pup.

And so I draw a screw
For self and dog and keep
To boundary-ride for you,
O Riverina Sheep!

And, when the autumn rain
Has made the herbage grow,
You travel off again,
And glad, no doubt, to go.

But some are left behind
Around the mountain's spread,
For those we cannot find
We put them down as dead.

So, when we say adieu
And close the boarding job,
I always find a few
Fresh ear-marks in my mob.

And, what with those I sell,
And what with those I keep,
You pay me pretty well,
O Riverina Sheep!

It's up to me to shout
Before we say good-bye,
"Here's to a howlin' drought
All west of Gundagai!"

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