Author Murray Hartin
Australian storyteller, Murray Hartin penned this poem in three hours flat. Murray says he’s been troubled for a while about young and old fellas deciding things are too tough to go on and he wanted to send a message of hope.
His cattle didn’t get a bid; they were fairly bloody poor,
What was he going to do? He couldn’t feed them anymore,
The dams were all but dry; hay was thirteen bucks a bale,
Last month’s talk of rain was just a fairytale.
His credit had run out, no chance to pay what’s owed,
Bad thoughts ran through his head as he drove down Gully Road,
‘Geez, great grandad bought the place back in 1898,
Now I’m such a useless bastard, I’ll have to shut the gate.
“Can’t support my wife and kids, not like dad and those before,
Crikey, Grandma kept it going while Pop fought in the war.”
With depression now his master, he abandoned what was right,
There’s no place in life for failures, he’d end it all tonight.
There were still some things to do; he’d have to shoot the cattle first,
Of all the jobs he’d ever done, that would be the worst.
He’d have a shower, watch the news, then they’d all sit down for tea
Read his kids a bedtime story, watch some more TV,
Kiss his wife goodnight, say he was off to shoot some roos
Then in a paddock far away he’d blow away the blues.
But he drove in the gate and stopped – as he always had
To check the roadside mailbox – and found a letter from his dad.
Now his dad was not a writer, mum did all the cards and mail
But he knew the writing from the notebooks that he used at cattle sales.
He sensed the nature of its contents, felt moisture in his eyes,
Just the fact his dad had written was enough to make him cry.
“Son, I know it’s bloody tough; it’s a cruel and twisted game,
this life upon the land when you’re screaming out for rain,
there’s no candle in the darkness, not a single speck of light,
but don’t let the demon get you, you have to do what’s right
I don’t know what’s in your head but push the bad thoughts well away
See you’ll always have your family at the back end of the day
You have to talk to someone, and yes I know I rarely did
But you have to think about Fiona and think about the kids”
“I’m worried about you son, you haven’t rung for quite a while
I know the road you’re on ‘cause I’ve walked every bloody mile
The date? December 7 back in 1983
Behind the shed I had the shotgun rested in the brigalow tree”
“See I’d borrowed way too much to buy the Johnson place
Then it didn’t rain for years and we got bombed by interest rates
The bank was at the door; I didn’t think I had a choice
I began to squeeze the trigger, that’s when I heard your voice”
“You said, where are you daddy? It’s time to play our game
I’ve got Squatter all set up, we might get General Rain
It really was that close, you’re the one that stopped me son
And you’re the one that taught me there’s no answer in a gun”
“Just remember people love you, good friends won’t let you down
Look you might have to swallow pride and take that job in town
Just ‘til things come good, son, you’ve always got a choice
And when you get this letter ring me, ‘cause I’d love to hear your voice”
Well he cried and laughed and shook his head, then put the truck in gear
Shut his eyes and hugged his dad in a vision that was clear
Dropped the cattle at the yards, put the truck away
Filled the troughs the best he could and fed his last ten bales of hay
Then he strode towards the homestead, shoulders back and head held high
He still knew the road was tough, but there was purpose in his eye
He called his wife and children, who’d lived through all his pain
Hugs said more than words – he’d come back to them again
They talked of silver linings, how good times always follow bad
Then he walked towards the phone, picked it up and rang his dad
And while the kids set up the Squatter, he hugged his wife again
Then they heard the roll of thunder and they smelt the smell of rain