The Gentleman’s Art

Buildin’ fences, chain by chain, with nothin’ but shovel and bar;

the fanciest piece of equipment, a little red Hillman car.

A car that could go most anywhere; more than one thought four by four;

it could drag a trailer of redgum posts – who could ask for more?

Lunch time was often a feast of steak cooked on an old plough disk

after Dad had been out ‘Clean skinning” and taking the Duffers risk.

Many great time I spent with him, a cup of tea in hand

as we talked about the world at large and his life’s drifting sand.

He’d had his wild adventuring days, way back before the war

but when he became a family man, he was that to the core.

A ‘Larrakin’ they called it then; a man who broke some rules.

It there were three things upset him ‘twas liars, cheats and fools.

He was “Dad” and I was “Son” so there’s much he’d never say,

so I was left to join the dots he’d scattered through the day.

Often reading between the lines to find the fuller truth

of a man reminiscing the wild one he’d been in his youth.

And he really was a wild one, that gentle Dad we knew.

there’d been a lot of drinkin’ and times when his fists flew.

But deep inside there always was respect for what was right

and I think that very often that was what caused the fight.

Respect was in his nature; a value he held high;

respect I know, but also, he couldn’t countenance a lie.

So I’m pretty sure that on those days when he stood toe-to-toe

it was to stand up for his values; a place we all should know.

He always treated women ‘right’ with no thought of cast or creed

and always he would lend a hand if he saw someone in need.

“Take your hat off inside” he’d say and “Ladies go through first.”

For a man who wasn’t a gentleman, to my Dad was the worst.

There were times spent humpin’ his Bluey; the Depression we call it now

and dawn to dusk in a paddock followin’ a Stump Jump plough.

Days sloggin’ it out in a wood heap cutting piles for a lousy meal

to be told by the bastard Cocky that he wouldn’t stand by his deal.

The shake of a matchbox, a smile and a hint that the sheds might burn

till the Cocky begged them to eat with him; an offer Dad did spurn.

Better a hungry belly than to let that prick off the hook;

let the bastard sweat on it and worry his sheds might cook.

For though he’d never light the match, ‘twas with the fear of flames

the Swaggy found revenge for those low bastard Cocky games.

Rich Cockies he had no time for, if the bastards put on airs

the ones who thought they owned it all ‘cos a few acres were theirs.

But still amongst that class of folk were many he’d call “Mate”

and I never once heard him utter that most cruel word called hate.

Dad was always a Union Man when that meant you had to fight

but just like Dad in everything, he’d stand for what was right.

The things I leant about him when we worked side-by-side

were things he never talked about though he didn’t try to hide.

They were simply from another world; not from the family Dad,

but one thing I am sure of – they were times he was glad he’d had.

And it was an honour to have shared them around the lunch fires glow;

the past that made him who he was and I was proud to know.

Then for many years I wandered, his wisdom hidden deep;

but through it all there were bits that I always did keep.

Now, at last, I’m remembering the truth that was his way

and I hope to take a grain of it into each waking day.

For even as a shadow of what my father held to heart,

I know that I’ll be following one who knew the Gentleman’s Art.

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About a foolhardy florilegium

Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri
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