Bush Poetry

Bush Poetry, it has been said, is undergoing a modern “revival”. While this may be true in the cities, way out the “Back O’ Bourke”, two local bush poets, have fiercely believed for years that it had never died out in the first place, so how on earth can it be revived? 

The bars of little outback hotels throughout the bush have long been frequented by “Closet Bush Poets” who, with a bit of liquid persuasion, can entertain the bar with their humorous rhyming’s. Usually they will inspire even more patrons to stand up and recite their favourite verse, which surprisingly enough, is often written by the reciter.

Probably some of the best nights we have ever had were spent in an outback pub that contained no jukebox, no card machines and not even a pool table. But the our publican Tim could go verse for verse with the best and sometimes it seemed that bush poets out numbered non-bush poets, ten to one in the bar.

Australians all through history have maintained a close affinity with rhyming yarns, and bush poetry has always held a valuable place in folklore and history. All the warehouses filled with historical documents and records in the world cannot capture and permanently record the true “essence” of the peoples of an era? Bush Poetry records the peoples’ language and lifestyles, along with their life’s triumphs and tragedies, and does it in a format that is enjoyable to read. Bush poetry is a combination of poetry and place which is capable of turning a history lesson into a pleasant experience for even the youngest of readers. The pair of us fell under its spell before we were able to read, through hearing our “bushy” ancestors recite the words of Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.

These days we have bush poets across Australia battling for their lives in rhyme on the Internet. A concept pioneered by yours truly, now taking the flavour of the outback across the world.

We have spent years sharing campfires on river banks studded with ancient forests of mighty “river gums”, on plains that vanish in far off horizons in all directions, and amongst giant desert dunes in an ocean of red sand. We have, in the process, been caught in every extreme of weather from floods that leave you cut off from supplies for weeks, to dust storms that roll in from the west with a blinding, choking fury. We have been held at the mercy of temperatures that seasonally plunge off the thermometer at either end. Throughout we have shared the ups and downs of life in the true spirit of “Bush Mateship” and our poems are a reflection of our experiences and values, written with generous lashings of bush humour.

After eating a hearty camp oven meal, we’ve watched many a campfire burn down to embers as we tossed verses to and fro under a blanket of outback stars. It was around one of these campfires that it was decided to put together a book that could be carried by campers throughout Australia and assist them to step into the world of a couple of modern day Bushmen, Bush Poets from the Back of Bourke.

We have provided a collection of camp oven recipes that can be cooked with basic tucker box ingredients to a standard that may have other wise been a bit ordinary. After your meal, you can turn the page and recite some original Bush Poetry and in so doing live out a lifestyle that has been idealised throughout history as being “Truly Australian”.

The recipes have been written to be “yarns” in their own right, making the book readable even from the comfort of the lounge chair at home. The most important ingredient is typically Australian. It’s a “no worries” approach to food and cooking. If you haven’t got the exact ingredients, substitute. If you haven’t got a substitute, use the exact ingredients. With any luck, you are enjoying a few beers or a nice Australian red anyway, so it probably won’t make that much difference. The idea is to make the recipes your own.

So whether you are camping somewhere in the bush or at home, dreaming that you are, read on and enjoy.

Ron Wilson 


Fishing for Wasps

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, Fishing For Wasps


It is a common rule in the bush that ‘anything that flies and can bite you should be made extinct’. The problem with wasps is that if you miss on the first attempt, their common rule is that ‘anything that tries to kill you and fails, should be made extinct’. And a fishing boat is definitely not a good place for the two species to co-exist.

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

We were whaling on the Darling,
On a lazy Sunday afternoon,
Not bothering if we caught any,
And no plans to head home soon.

Well we found a very fishy site,
Near a big old fallen tree.
So we moored the boat up tight,
And settled back comfortably.

We set the bait and began the wait,
With an esky near each knee.
And before half a can I felt a bite,
From a fresh water Kamikaze.

I reeled him in with a bit of a grin.
And said mate, I think we’ve found the spot.
Well settle in here and if it takes all day.
We won’t move till we’ve caught the lot.

It was somewhere round the second fish,
That I froze with a sudden gasp.
On a protruding branch just three feet away,
Hung a bloody big nest of paper wasps.

Well we called a meeting on what to do,
Should we pack up and go or should they.
Or were we really in any danger at all,
If we just kept well out of their way.

Well I passed a motion and “Chris” he seconded,
That both parties had a right to stay.
Then we had a beer with the voting ended,
And continued with our fishing fray.

But I soon snagged a stick and I dragged it in,
As I cursed the flaming pest.
And in a rum spurred rage I threw the thing,
And it hit the bloody nest.

Now a wasp bite is ten times worse than a bee,
The only good one that I know is dead.
And they all charged into battle straight past me,
And attacked me mate, Chris, on the head.

Imagine the terrifying experience I had,
Sitting there amongst world wasp war three.
But I suppose it wasn’t really all that bad,
After all they didn’t come near me.

When the attackers finally called a cease-fire,
Me mate he was flat upon the deck.
All bleeding and moaning in tattered attire,
With big blotchy bites above the neck.

But he really was a game sort of fellow,
And not easily deterred from our quest.
And though his face was a peculiar yellow,
He wanted revenge on that wasp nest.

So a plan was hatched of evil theme,
And we prepared to face the foe.
These wasps were fast and particularly mean,
But we weren’t exactly slow.

We snuck the boat in at a drifting pace,
Like commando’s stalking their foe.
Then first mate Chris with his swollen face,
Swung a stick with a mighty blow.

Well the nest hit the water in an instant,
And we watched it disappear from sight.
But the bloody wasps didn’t go down with it,
And they looked like they wanted a fight.

We went straight into battle stations,
And prepared to repel all invaders.
Our act of aggression had severed all relations,
And we were attacked by the homeless raiders

I straightaway summed up the situation,
As I tried very hard to look like a tree.
But Chris was swamped by the invading nation,
All hell-bent on wasp victory.

Like a living swarming human hive,
He staggered gamely to his feet.
And though I thought he must be barley alive,
He showed he wasn’t beat.

He lurched and threw himself overboard,
No doubt to drown his foe.
But he only took with him half the hoard,
The rest weren’t quiet as slow.

It was about then I turned back into a tree,
As they circled me round and round.
But once again they didn’t see me,
And Chris was no where to be found.

Finally they realised they’d had a clear win,
So they gathered together to gloat.
And Chris set a new record for an underwater swim,
As I still sat perfectly still in the boat.

Eventually we reunited, and we quietly stole away,
And it was good to see the homestead lights.
Then my wife asked, “did we catch any today”?
And I just said “no, but Chris got a lot of bites”!

© Ron Wilson


The Bush Telegraph

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, Bush Telegraph


In the city, housewives meet for cups of tea and bickies, or lean over the back fence to discuss relevant topics of the goings on of the people around them in their communities. Well the bush has the same sort of system, we call it “The Bush Telegraph”. It covers vast distances, as do the properties of the great out back, and is usually the first source of information on an important event in the outback community. It would have to be one of the fastest forms of communication on the planet even in to day’s high-tech net driven society.

It starts at the source of the event and then at great speed the information explodes out covering vast tracks of land, crossing rivers in flood, hot barren deserts and clearing mountain ranges in a single bound. It hitches rides with every phone call and every station bound road train as well as every mail truck and every “cocky” that scratches a stick in the dust during weather information exchanges with his neighbor. The outback always has depended on the Bush Telegraph and we believe it always will.


On every far off bush selection,
Out where the dingo’s roam.
There’s a means of communication,
that’s faster than a phone.
Its movement is always continual,
It’s not something you can photograph.
It’s an early Australian original,
Known as the Bush Telegraph.

It was used by early selectors,
Ploughing the sun baked loam.
Carried by all the visitors,
And distributed home by home.
It still moves around the outback,
Though the roads are often rough.
Both black soil road and bulldust track,
Carry the old Bush Telegraph.

It was used by ragged miners,
For news of each new rush.
Spurring dreams of untold riches,
Buried somewhere in the bush.
It starbursts out across the land,
Carried on, like wind blown chaff.
By “Cobb and Co” with four in hand,
All carrying the Bush Telegraph.

It was used by wiry stockmen,
With skin hardened by the sun.
And bush women raising children,
On a distant lonely run.
Where the loneliness is unending,
And she’s forgotten how to laugh.
She hopes soon they’ll be sending,
News on the Bush Telegraph.

Its not restricted by elements of weather,
Nor hindered by boundaries of time.
It can’t be bought sold or tied with tether,
It’s no more yours than it is mine.
The weight of its cargo is boundless,
So for the want of a suitable epitaph
Try unstoppable, necessary and priceless,
The grand old Bush Telegraph.

© Ron Wilson


The Darling Dream

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, The Darling Dream


Ron started this poem at the age of 19 and then twelve years later wrote the second verse. The inspiration to finish being triggered by a painting done by Hully with the theme of “Dreaming on the Darling”

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

On the edge of the blue bush plains where the “Darling” banks are steep
And the black soil when it rains is around about waist deep
Where the ghost gums lean and sway 
Home and shelter for the Western Grey
And the Black Cocky’s laugh and act the loon 
And the billabongs shimmer to a blood red moon
This land is alive you can feel its pulse 
With the silouheting sunset on the Brolga’s waltz
And wherever I go and wherever I’ve been 
My mind carries me back on a “Darling Dream”

From the winters frosty mornings to the summers searing glare
And the wild flowers in between them and the Gidgee scented air
And the curling red sand ridges, like waves upon a shore
Break on black soil beaches before pulling back for more
And all along the shoreline when long shadows tend to cast
The present and the future blend with an ancient past
Then history repeats all over in the rising of the sun
But each millennia in its coming is just another one
And if time was just a measure of what a man has seen
Then I have lived forever, from seeing a “Darling Dream”

© Ron Wilson


Caught in a Drum Net

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, Caught in a Drum Net


A similar fishy tale to this has been knocking around the bush in one form or another for years. This is a true story that is about Ron getting caught by some fishing inspectors while he was checking a fish trap that he had found several years ago. Fish traps, or “Drum Nets”, are of course highly illegal. As it turned out the trap he was inspecting when inspected by the inspectors was actually the inspector’s trap. They were apparently doing a survey of fish numbers. That was their story any way. Here’s Rons.

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

A fish inspector’s job is to enforce our laws,
From poachers who driven by greed.
Use methods unfair in the name of their cause,
And then take more fish than they need.

It’s a well known fact that bag limits retract,
From those who tend to be illegal.
And the nature of tackle is sure and exact,
On what is and what is not legal.

And apart from a gill-net the worst to conspire,
Is a round trap with the nickname of “drum net”.
With a funnel at one end, made of chicken mesh wire,
It just rolls into the river when set.

But still because of my respect for the law,
I’d never risked using one myself, “true”.
The cost if convicted means losing it all,
Your boat, and your four-wheel drive, too.

One morn I went early to a secret location,
Where I new I’d catch a good feed.
I had permission to fish on the grazing station,
And I never catch more than I need.

But there on the bank not ten feet from me,
Was a rope disappearing into the river.
I thought seeing this end is tied to a tree,
The other must be tied to a… “fish giver”.

An easy free feed seemed too good to pass,
So I hauled up the trap for inspection.
And I emptied the catch on the river bank grass,
Completely unaware of detection.

Then I jumped in the air when a voice on my right,
Said, “looks like a pretty good feed”.
And my heart went on strike from effects of the fright,
And my bowels soon followed its lead.

The local fish inspector right there, in uniform stood,
Surveying his latest investigation.
And I looked up the bank at my Landcruiser’s hood,
And new it was marked for confiscation.

I new in an instant as my life flashed me by,
He had already decided my guilt.
And I had to think quick of a suitable lie,
Or suffer the law at full hilt.

I drew a sharp breath and very loudly I said,
“And who the bloody hell are you”.
And I stood holding ground, demanding instead,
Where he probably thought I’d shoot through.

Then with a swing from my aggressive manner, 
I said, “Oh I’m dreadfully sorry old chap”.
What luck that it’s you the local fish inspector,
I thought you must be the bloke who owns this trap.

© Ron Wilson


Dances with Roo’s

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, Dances With Roo's


In case you don’t already know, our national symbol, the kangaroo, is one of the most dangerous creatures, at close range, in the outback. They will happily punch and scratch you with the front legs, but their secret weapon is to hold you with the front legs, lean back on their tail, and rake you with their powerful, and clawed, hind legs. There has been many a larrikin jackeroo, taught a lesson in bush blueing from either a kangaroo or emu.

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

Stuey and Bluey were two cocky’s sons,
From a property west of the river at Bourke.
They were big and strong, and if you did the sums,
There was a couple of brick “out-houses” at work.

One day these two lads on their way back from town,
Hit a roo, which had jumped the wrong way.
And after the impact the Ute suddenly slowed down,
And it looked like it had decided to stay.

With the Ute hissing steam they surveyed the sad scene,
With roo fur and blood marking the trail.
And at the end of the carnage the corpse could be seen,
And Bluey thought of soup…. With “kangaroo tail”.

But Stue’y had other plans for the marsupial red,
He said why don’t we dress him in top hat and tails.
They had just bought the gear cause their sister soon wed,
And they even had the dress and the veils.

So with Stue’y all radiant in a majestic white gown,
And the seven-foot red, groom propped up beside.
Bluey acting as priest then married them down,
Then he photographed the roo and his bride.

Bluey then ran to the Ute and tuned the radio in
To a station playing some sort of a slow dance.
And there on the tarmac in tune to the din,
The red roo and his bride spun in romance.

Then a bus full of Jap tourists stopped for the sport,
And the flashing of their cameras was blinding.
And Bluey explained though the engagement was short,
The marriage remained legal and binding.

Then caught in wedded bliss Stue’y went for a hairy kiss,
But instead was caught by surprise by the roo.
He’d been unconscious not dead and wanted no part of this,
So he proceeded to throw punches at Stue.

Well the tempo picked up with both partners awake,
And Stue’y in high heels missed his shoes.
But he held on with fright cause his life was at stake,
This must surely be “Dances with Roo’s”.

Waltzing cheek to cheek like a love struck pair,
With the radio blaring to their movement.
The roo’s powerful back leg’s kept raking the air,
And Stuey knew to let go meant disembowelment.

After two solid hours of swirling and prancing,
Stue’y desperately let out with a stammer.
I cant stand much more of this Roo’s dirty dancing,
Try and hit him on the head with a hammer.

So as the couple hopped and bopped about the place,
Bluey stalked them with his nine pounder.
Then he swung and he missed and hit Stue in the face,
Much to the relief of the top-hatted bounder.

Stue’y dropped like a stone from the force of the blow,
And the roo was quick to shoot through.
And the Japanese tourists applauded the show,
Then past round the hat for poor old Stue.

Now this tale is renown round the district of Bourke,
And that tux wearing roo has entered folklore.
And Stuey never leaves home just preferring to work,
Cause the local girls know that “he’s spoke for”.

© Ron Wilson


Gold Plated Trouble

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, Gold Plated Trouble


Drilling is a very expensive operation, with equipment, labour and expertise running into thousands of dollars per hour. The men in charge of these operations take protocol very seriously, they have to. The labour on the other hand, often contains a fairly large element of ‘larrikin’, which can cause further problems for management.

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

“Jack the Rigger” worked on a western drilling rig,
Where the climate is hotter than hell.
And him and his mates are as tough as they’re big,
Burnt brown and sweat stained as well.

The land all around is scorched red from the sun,
Anything metal will burn at the touch.
The life of a driller doesn’t include a lot of fun,
And the temperature at night doesn’t drop much.

They work on a round platform, five meters across,
In the centre runs the diamond tipped drill.
And if any metal, down the drill hole, get lost,
The whole bloody job comes to a standstill.

The down time for retrieval could take up to a week,
To the tune of a million a day.
And the foreman’s temper would scream to a peak,
And the men knew to keep out of his way.

One day jack tripped and he fell with a slammer,
As his feet got caught on a stray pole.
And clanging across the deck skidded his trusty hammer,
Which first teetered then dropped down the hole.

The foreman in rage bought the whole job to a halt,
And a man was sent to fetch the magnetic mole.
And Jack declared to the foreman, he alone was at fault,
It was his hammer that fell down the hole.

The boss snarled back “you’ll keep for now Jack”,
But you better get out of my site.
And to make up for your slip you’d better not slack,
‘Cause my barks not as bad as my bite.

It took ten grueling days of sweat, tears and blood.
With Jack the hardest working man there.
And he did back to back shifts in the dust and the mud.
Till his hammer was pulled from its lair.

With the driller’s back drilling, life went on once again,
And Jacks folly in time was forgotten.
But the foreman still cracked at the slightest strain,
And he still treated Jack really rotten.

After a month of abuse the foreman called a parade,
And he lined up the whole of his crew.
He said I’ve been waiting to put an end to the charade,
And now Jack will finally get what he’s due.

He pulled from his pocket a hammer plated with gold,
From the other came Jacks severance pay.
He said, now Jack, you can “consider yourself told”,
You can finish at the end of the day.

Jack received his gold hammer and he let out a slow hiss,
His eyes were as black as pure coal.
And he said “where I’m going I’ll have no use for this”,
As he tossed that gold hammer right back down the hole.

Ron Wilson


The Old Soldier

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, The Old Soldier


You won’t have any trouble believing that this poem was written about someone close. It remains an issue close to Ron’s heart that a man (like thousands of others) gave his youth for this country, only to be a misunderstood in their old age. The war was hard enough to fight at the age of nineteen, let alone in their seventies. I have seen this poem recited to an Anzac day audience of over three hundred and there was not a dry eye to be found.

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

It’s Tuesday the Third of March, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Eight,
An old soldier died this morning, fifty-three years too late.
And the nurses in the nursing home hated to be near him,
‘Cause he’d spit and curse and fume, and cause a mighty din.
And the doctors were glad to see him go, he was dangerous in their eyes,
He’d knocked one out with a single blow, and he was twice his size.
And when he’d snarled at visitors, and spooked the other old folks,
They took away his privileges, his magazines and his smokes.
And they lectured him on manners, and called him a disgrace,
When at night he woke from screaming, lathered in sweat, pale faced.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
But the nursing home’s not mourning, for the latest turn of fate.
And the doctor chatting to the pretty nurse, has something else in mind,
Cause soon he’ll be on the golf course, with others of his kind.
And from cross the road, the wind will bring the sound of children’s laughter,
And in the tree’s the birds will sing, and will forever after.
The day goes on and before very long, the passing might never have been,
No lasting sorrow nor mournful song, for nasty old men it seems.
So go and put him in the ground and mind you bury him deep,
That way we won’t hear the sound, of him screaming in his sleep.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
With no regrets in going, nor pity at his fate.
But what cruel trick life gave him, and who designed the law,
That would slip his mind back in time, and make him relive the war.
Back to the tropical jungles, with sweat and mud and rain,
Back to the yellow terror he visits again and again.
Where the very land around him is trying to kill him as well,
With the crocs and snakes and malaria he lives in living hell.
It’s no wonder he was cranky in his final golden years,
When he heard the screams of the dying in his nightly sleeping ears.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
His mind went back to war in ninety-seven and ninety-eight.
And the sight of the gardener pruning in bushes on bended knee,
Was to him the enemy sneaking, as plain as plain could be.
And when the Docs came to get him he caused such trouble and strife,
But little did they realise he was fighting for his life.
And so he suffered daily at the hands of a hidden foe,
Hunted and haunted nightly by fears we’ll never know.
Why now so many years later should he fight all over again?
When surely he has already fought, more than most other men.

An old soldier died this morning, fifty three years too late,
He spent three years in Changi, Weary Dunlop was his mate.
And the Burma Rail was built with blood of men that he called mates,
And all of those men and most of his sight was lost behind Changi’s gates.
And though he lived over fifty years past the end of that terrible place,
That a part of him had died there was written on his face.
And fifty years of silence had its own nasty price,
Because in one single lifetime he had to live it twice.
Rest in Peace now old soldier you have deserved it yet,
And may the rest of us remember, Lest We Forget.

© Ron Wilson


Love Potion

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, Love Potion


Ever wondered what the secret ingredient to love is? We’re not even sure if this is a poem or a recipe but if you get the quantities correct, it’s a sure winner. What do you mean you didn’t think we were romantic? We’re bloody poets aren’t we?

Bush poetry by Ronnie Wilson

Take your newest lover,
And weave an ancient spell.
Add a dash of laughter,
And stir the cauldron well.

Just keep the steam arising,
But don’t boil the magic brew.
Then add a touch of seasoning,
From past lovers that you knew.

Careful now, a pinch of hope,
And of future, add the most.
Then put in an escape rope,
And secure it to a post.

Then thicken with forgiveness,
Don’t be scared to spill the lot.
And skim off any weakness,
Then make it boiling hot.

Put in a touch of anger,
And a tear you’ll find’s a must.
Add just a hint of danger,
Then fill it up with lust.

Well there you are you’re ready to serve,
But just remember this.
You must never ever lose your nerve,
And always garnish with a kiss.

© Ron Wilson


The Human Gaff

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Bush Poetry, The Human Gaff

Poem Introduction

The fisherman will already know that a ‘gaff’ is a large hook on a pole which you use for landing fish. A friend of ours lost his arm in an industrial accident. Ron thought this was a boring way of losing a limb and certainly not worth the trouble, so he decided to embellish a bit, not being the sort of bloke to let the truth get in the way of a good yarn

Bush Poetry by Ronnie Wilson

Fishermen closely guard from inspections,
All the secrets on which he relies.
Being vaguely loose with directions,
And the colours of his lures and flies.

But to tell this tale now before me,
For sole purpose of raising a laugh.
With tradition I’ll just have to break free,
In the tale of “The Human Gaff”.

See me and Chris, we call him C”J”,
Had a unique way of landing our cod.
We’d first catch them in the normal way,
Then bring them to the boat with the rod.

But we never had the usual “gaff” or “net”,
To pull the fish up into the boat.
Still we managed and hardly ever got wet,
By ripping them out by the throat.

See when you lift a fish’s head from water,
He has no choice but to open his gob.
And hanging back near his aorta,
Is this dirty big red dangly job.

Now it takes most of the arm just to reach it,
And all of your strength to hold once you do.
Cause the fish don’t like cold fingers one bit,
And generally try pretty hard to shoot through.

Well for years we were kings of the weir pool,
Catching cod by the tonsils at will.
And apart from being covered in fish drool,
Chris really perfected the skill.

But our method backfired on one tragic day.
And Chris, he now has an arm missing/
The tragedy befell us during a coastal holiday.
Were we tried our luck at “Shark Fishing”.

I’ll go no further with details all bloody and gory,
‘Cept that the day finished on a happier note.
Cause once the snapper got a whiff of that burly,
We set a new catch record for our boat.

And now Chris he is happier than ever,
With a new bionic arm and a steel hook for a hand.
And he thinks them city docs were so very clever,
To give him a gaff for the fish that we land.

© Ron Wilson


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