Andrew Barton Paterson ( )


The Old Timers Steeplechase


The sheep were shorn and the wool went down 
At the time of our local racing; 
And Id earned a spell -- I was burnt and brown -- 
So I rolled my swag for a trip to town 
And a look at the steeplechasing. 
Twas rough and ready--an uncleared course 
As rough as the blacks had found it; 
With barbed-wire fences, topped with gorse, 
And a water-jump that would drown a horse, 
And the steeple three times round it. 

There was never a fence the tracks to guard, -- 
Some straggling posts defined em: 
And the day was hot, and the drinking hard, 
Till none of the stewards could see a yard 
Before nor yet behind em! 

But the bell was rung and the nags were out, 
Excepting an old outsider 
Whose trainer started an awful rout, 
For his boy had gone on a drinking bout 
And left him without a rider. 

Is there not a man in the crowd, he cried, 
In the whole of the crowd so clever, 
Is there not one man that will take a ride 
On the old white horse from the Northern side 
That was bred on the Mooki River? 

Twas an old white horse that they called The Cow, 
And a cow would look well beside him; 
But I was pluckier then than now 
(And I wanted excitement anyhow), 
So at last I agreed to ride him. 

And the trainer said,Well, hes dreadful slow, 
And he hasnt a chance whatever; 
But Im stony broke, so its time to show 
A trick or two that the trainers know 
Who train by the Mooki River. 

The first time round at the further side, 
With the trees and the scrub about you, 
Just pull behind them and run out wide 
And then dodge into the scrub and hide, 
And let them go round without you. 

At the third time round, for the final spin 
With the pace and the dust to blind em, 
Theyll never notice if you chip in 
For the last half-mile -- youll be sure to win, 
And theyll think you raced behind em. 

At the water-jump you may have to swim -- 
He hasnt a hope to clear it, 
Unless he skims like the swallows skim 
At full speed over -- but not for him! 
Hell never go next or near it. 

But dont you worry -- just plunge across, 
For he swims like a well-trained setter. 
Then hide away in the scrub and gorse 
The rest will be far ahead, of course -- 
The further ahead the better. 

You must rush the jumps in the last half-round 
For fear that he might refuse em; 
Hell try to baulk with you, I11 be bound; 
Take whip and spurs to the mean old hound, 
And dont be afraid to use em. 

At the final round, when the field are slow 
And you are quite fresh to meet em, 
Sit down, and hustle him all you know 
With the whip and spurs, and hell have to go -- 
Remember, youve got to beat em! 

* 

The flag went down, and we seemed to fly, 
And we made the timbers shiver 
Of the first big fence, as the stand dashed by, 
And I caught the ring of the trainers cry; 
Go on, for the Mooki River! 

I jammed him in with a well-packed crush, 
And recklessly -- out for slaughter -- 
Like a living wave over fence and brush 
We swept and swung with a flying rush, 
Till we came to the dreaded water. 

Ha, ha! I laugh at it now to think 
Of the way I contrived to work it 
Shut in amongst them, before youd wink, 
He found himself on the waters brink, 
With never a chance to shirk it! 

The thought of the horror he felt beguiles 
The heart of this grizzled rover! 
He gave a snort you could hear for miles, 
And a spring would have cleared the Channel Isles, 
And carried me safely over! 

Then we neared the scrub, and I pulled him back 
In the shade where the gum-leaves quiver: 
And I waited there in the shadows black 
While the rest of the horses, round the track, 
Went on like a rushing river! 

At the second round, as the field swept by, 
I saw that the pace was telling; 
But on they thundered, and by-and-by 
As they passed the stand I could hear the cry 
Of the folk in the distance, yelling! 

Then the last time round! And the hoofbeats rang! 
And I said, Well, its now or never! 
And out on the heels of the throng I sprang, 
And the spurs bit deep and the whipcord sang 
As I rode. For the Mooki River! 

We raced for home in a cloud of dust 
And the curses rose in chorus. 
Twas flog, and hustle, and jump you must! 
And The Cow ran well -- but to my disgust 
There was one got home before us. 

Twas a big black horse, that I had not seen 
In the part of the race Id ridden; 
And his coat was cool and his rider clean -- 
And I thought that perhaps I had not been 
The only one that had hidden. 

And the trainer came with a visage blue 
With rage, when the race concluded: 
Said he, I thought youd have pulled us through, 
But the man on the black horse planted too, 
And nearer to home than you did! 

Alas to think that those times so gay 
Have vanished and passed for ever! 
You dont believe in the yarn, you say? 
Why, man, twas a matter of every day 
When we raced on the Mooki River!



Andrew Barton Paterson's other poems:
  1. How MGinnis went missing
  2. The Dam that Keele Built
  3. How The Favourite Beat Us
  4. The Story of Mongrel Grey
  5. On the Trek


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