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The Birth of the Bushman's Wardrobe -- John Barlow

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John Barlow

For those who travel the great outback;
For those who tread in the bushman’s track.
There’s a question that’s been asked for many years
A question that’s brought grown men to tears
(Which may depend of the number of beers,
That a bloke might have imbibed).

It’s a broken many friendships, developed on the track.
It’s broken many bonds that can’t be mended back.
It’s caused fights and disagreements; 
It’s even caused divorce;
That eternal question is a well-known one, of course:

What do you do with your swag when you’re home? 
What do you do with Matilda? 
Where does she rest when you’re finally back 
From wandering down the wallaby's track? 
Where does she sleep when you’re home?

Is she thrown in a corner in the old laundry room,
Standing on end with the mop and the broom? 
Where the smells of the washroom enter her skin, 
So when next on the road you know where she’s been; 
What do you do with your swag?

Does she sleep on the top of the old, antique ‘robe,
In the junk room that’s known as ‘the spare’, 
So when next you need her, she’s covered in dust, 
With a coating of vac-fluff and hair. 
Is that what you do with your swag?

Or, does she live in the shed at the back of the yard, 
With the mowers - both going and not, 
Where snakes slither in and red-back’s build nests, 
With the possums and rodents and all of the rest, 
Is that the best place for your swag?

I’ve tried all these places and found none was quite right, 
For Matilda, my travelling mate, 
Who comforts me well, at night in the bush,
And travels the roads with narry a push; 
She’s that kind of friend, is my swag.

What do you do with your swag when you’re home? 
The question kept rattling around 
In my head, ‘til it struck me, the answer was found, 
“A rack, that’s what’s needed”, I cried most profound, 
“That’s what I want for my swag!”

A rack on the wall, where Matilda can rest. 
A bed of her own - up high would be best, 
Where she can sleep off the journey and build up her strength, 
For the next trip away - no matter the length.
That’s what I’ll get for my swag.

“Nothing too flash, now”, I said to myself, 
“I don’t want her putting on airs. 
I don’t want her acting the toff on the track; 
I don’t want none of this talking back;
I don’t want to spoil my swag”.

“Nothing too flash, now”, I said once again, 
“It needn’t be copper or brass; 
Like you’d see on the trains of days long gone by, 
Up front, with the swells, in the upper class; 
That’s much too good for my swag”.

“But a second-class rack wouldn’t be too bad, 
Like the ones I remember when I was a lad, 
When ideas of adventure and travel, I’d had,
And taken off for the wallaby’s pad; 
That’ll do for my swag”.

Now I had the solution set in my head; 
A great idea for Matilda’s bed. 
But where would I find one, that’s the next task. 
And as that question I started to ask, 
It didn’t look good for my swag.

The prices they quoted were right through the roof. 
And the people I spoke to were somewhat aloof; 
As dealers antique have a wont to be, 
When an easy mark they think they see. 
Things became grim for my swag.

‘Til a little voice – a familiar voice – whispered in my ear; 
A little voice – Matilda’s voice – said, with the hint of a sneer, 
“Why don’t you make one, you stupid man;
All you need now is to draw up a plan”. 
So that’s what I did for my swag.

With pencil and paper, and by dim candle light,
I strained my brain all through the night,
Like a man on a mission, I’d struggle and fight
With ideas and concepts, ‘til I got it right;
And I designed a bed for my swag

Early next morning - well before sparrow’ fart, 
I was down in my shed, and making a start; 
Ferreting ‘round through the old timber rack, 
‘Til I found a few pieces, on the floor, at the back, 
That would suit for a bed for my swag

Like a man possessed, I worked through the day,
Until, by nightfall, I thought I could say,
That I’d built a rack of classical style, 
Where Matilda could rest between the miles;
I’d finished the rack for my swag.

But, as I stood back, admiring my work,
Another idea began to lurk.
It wasn’t quite finished, it wasn’t quite there;
And as I scratched where there used to be hair,
I thought, “There’s more I can do for my swag”.

The idea nagged me, all through the night;
The thought that there was something not right;
Something that said the job was not done;
Something that said the race was not run;
That she wouldn’t be happy, my swag.

The idea nagged me as I walked out the door,
And reached down and grabbed my hat from the floor,
Where it usually rested when not on my head,
The last thing doffed before going to bed;
The inseparable mate of my swag.

That’s what was missing, I knew straight away.
The thought became clear, as night turns to day.
My swag would be lonely without her old mate,
The old patched fur felt that covered my pate,
The buddy, the pal, of my swag.

Another day’s work and the job was done.
The hat racks were added – and a shelf for my rum.
Some hooks for my coats were added as well,
So my old battered oilskin had a place to dwell.
The job was done for my swag.

The bushman’s wardrobe had now been born. 
No longer would Matilda rest, forlorn,
In the laundry, the shed, or in the spare room,
Locked away from the action, as if in a tomb;
I now had a home for my swag.

These days, when I come in off a roam,
And finally make it back to my home,
After cleaning off the dirt of the track, 
Matilda rests in her custom-made rack,
In the bed I have built for my swag.

Bushmans Wardrobe.jpg

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