Saltbush Bill on the Patriarchs by Andrew Barton Paterson
Come all you little rouseabouts and climb upon my knee; To-day, you see, is Christmas Day, and so itâ€™s up to me To give you some instruction likeâ€”a kind of Christmas taleâ€” So name your yarn, and off she goes. What, â€œJonah and the Whaleâ€? Well, whales is sheep Iâ€™ve never shore; Iâ€™ve never been to sea, So all them great Leviathans is mysteries to me; But thereâ€™s a tale the Bible tells I fully understand, About the time the Patriarchs were settling on the land.
Those Patriarchs of olden time, when all is said and done, They lived the same as far-out men on many a Queensland runâ€” A lot of roving, droving men who drifted to and fro, The same we did out Queensland way a score of years ago.
Now Isaac was a squatter man, and Jacob was his son, And when the boy grew up, you see, he wearied of the run. You know the way that boys grow upâ€”thereâ€™s some that stick at home; But any boy thatâ€™s worth his salt will roll his swag and roam.
So Jacob caught the roving fit and took the droversâ€™ track To where his uncle had a run, beyond the outer back; You see they made for out-back runs for room to stretch and grow, The same we did out Queensland way a score of years ago.
Now, Jacob knew the ways of stockâ€”thatâ€™s most uncommon clearâ€” For when he got to Labanâ€™s Run, they made him overseer; He didnâ€™t ask a pound a week, but bargained for his pay To take the roan and strawberry calvesâ€”the same weâ€™d take to-day.
The duns and blacks and â€œGoulburn roansâ€ (thatâ€™s brindles), coarse and hard, He branded them with Labanâ€™s brand, in Old Man Labanâ€™s yard; So, when heâ€™d done the station work for close on seven year, Why, all the choicest stock belonged to Labanâ€™s overseer.
Itâ€™s often so with overseersâ€”Iâ€™ve seen the same thing done By many a Queensland overseer on many a Queensland run. But when the mustering time came on old Laban acted straight, And gave him country of his own outside the boundary gate.
He gave him stock, and offered him his daughterâ€™s hand in troth; And Jacob first he married one, and then he married both; You see, they werenâ€™t particular about a wife or soâ€” No more were we up Queensland way a score of years ago.
But when the stock were strong and fat with grass and lots of rain, Then Jacob felt the call to take the homeward road again. Itâ€™s strange in every creed and clime, no matter where you roam, There comes a day when every man would like to make for home.
So off he set with sheep and goats, a mighty moving band, To battle down the homeward track along the Overlandâ€” Itâ€™s droving mixed-up mobs like that that makes men cut their throats. Iâ€™ve travelled rams, which Lord forget, but never travelled goats.
But Jacob knew the ways of stock, for (so the story goes) When battling through the Philistinesâ€”selectors, I supposeâ€” He thought heâ€™d have to fight his way, an awkward sort of job; So what did Old Man Jacob do? of course, he split the mob.
He sent the strong stock on ahead to battle out the way; He couldnâ€™t hurry lambing ewesâ€”no more you could to-dayâ€” And down the road, from run to run, his hand â€™gainst every hand, He moved that mighty mob of stock across the Overland.
The thing is made so clear and plain, so solid in and out, There isnâ€™t any room at all for any kind of doubt. Itâ€™s just a plain straightforward taleâ€”a tale that lets you know The way they lived in Palestine three thousand years ago.
Itâ€™s strange to read it all to-day, the shifting of the stock; Youâ€™d think you see the caravans that loaf behind the flock, The little donkeys and the mules, the sheep that slowly spread, And maybe Dan or Naphthali a-ridinâ€™ on ahead.
The long, dry, dusty summer days, the smouldering fires at night; The stir and bustle of the camp at break of morning light; The little kids that skipped about, the camelsâ€™ dead-slow trampâ€” I wish Iâ€™d done a week or two in Old Man Jacobâ€™s camp!
But if I keep the narrer path, some day, perhaps, Iâ€™ll know How Jacob bred them strawberry calves three thousand years ago.