Saltbush Bill and other Verses

The Mountain Squatter

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

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

You come from 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.

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

So 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!”

Back    |     Words Home    |     Paterson Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback