Rod Williams, Bush Poetry

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“WHAT STATION ARE WE AT, PARADISE?”

It was December 1964! I'd been shearing all year, beginning 2nd January in far south–west Queensland, then Blackall, Hughenden, Julia Creek then south again and finishing up at a shed with Meekan, outside Charleville.
Mick (my best mate) was winding up the year near Armidale. I went into Charleville when the shed cut–out, picked up my Ford Zephyr now sporting a re–conditioned motor, differential and new windscreen. The body had been panel–beaten (painted white again) and the red dust cleaned from the blue–pearl interior.
I paid the bill and drove east to Tugan on the coast, proudly giving the car to my mother and sister as a present!

Early next morning I was driven to Lismore and (with swag) hitched a ride on The Bruxner Highway to Armidale via Tenterfield.
“Right,” I said to myself as my first lift drove off, “my holiday has now begun!”

My intention was to go and see Mick, then catch the train up to Brisbane to see our friend Reynolds for a week or so and then, anyone's guess!

In Armidale I phoned the property and left a message for Mick.That evening at about 6:45, into the pub he strolls with Jock White, one of the shearers.
“Why have you got yer swag?” I asked.
“I pulled out” said Mick.
“What!” I exclaimed.
“It's ok, the cocky was cool” Mick replied. “In any case, Paradise, you're not goin' to see Reynolds on yer own!! Two whisky's and milk please Pattie!” Mick winked and smiled!

Well! Party time began! When Mick announced, “We're goin' to tap–dance on one foot and sing songs in shorthand!” the whole town knew that ‘Parkhill and Paradise’ were ready to take over!
The Railway Hotel didn't know what hit them. This pair of blokes consuming spirits like lolly water! But we were respectful, charming and the girls and barmaids loved us.

After two hours we'd forgotten about Brisbane and train tickets. We kicked on for the next few days and nights, spending like millionaires!
We went to two parties and on the Thursday night, ended up at a little folk club we'd been told about and while there, were introduced to two gorgeous Uni students (twin sisters) with beautiful heads of thick, silken hair flowing all the way down their backs.
The rest of that night is a secret kept between me and Mick — but it was a beaming pair of young fellows that snuck out of The University the following morning.
We'd still be there, but sadly mum and dad were on their way up from Grafton to take them home for the Xmas holidays!

Mick and I got plastered. We felt so good!!
About 3:pm Jock wanders in to see us ‘Performing’ in the beer garden.
“What the hell are you blokes doin' here?” called Jock. “You're supposed to have gone to see your mate.”
“We musa fergotten” slurred Mick.
“It's a wonder you're not broke from what I've heard! I think there's a train in tonight, give me some dough and I'll get yer tickets!”

That evening Jock waved us off on the train, with our swags and a full bottle of Black Label Whisky.
They were dog–box compartments then, luckily there was just me, Mick and a student, returning home for the holidays.
We gave one seat to the student, Mick unrolled his swag on the floor and I unrolled mine on the other seat.
Giving the bottle a good nudge, we told the student to help himself and went out like lights!!

We woke with a jolt and crashing steel!
“They oughta sack the bloody driver!” Mick mumbled. “What station are we at, Paradise?”
I raised my tortured head in the dark and hoisted my frame on one elbow, lifting the window blind and peering through the soup-like fog at the dimly lit sign in the middle of the platform.
“Bloody Hell!” I exclaimed.
“Never been there before, Paradise” was Mick's tired reply.
“We're in Maitland, Mick!!”
There was deathly silence while I stared (forever) at the sign.
“Ah well,” said Mick philosophically. “Sydney'll have to do mate!” He rolled on his side and went back to sleep. I dropped the blind and did the same.

In Sydney we had a look at the tickets and laughed. Good one Jock!
“We could send Reynolds a post card” Mick said.
We laughed some more, had a shower and shave and put our swags in the baggage room.
At 9:am we wandered down to see Denis Ryan at Milro Shearers Supplies, Sussex St. Denis took us to The Burlington Hotel in Haymarket until we'd shorn so many hoggets we were wool-blind!! Then up Sussex St to the Royal George Hotel and met our folk singer and ‘Sydney Push’ friends!

This turned into the most amazing few weeks of parties, fun and friendships!
We didn't need accommodation, either staying where each party was happening — usually in Paddo, Darlinghurst, or ‘propped’ with friends we'd made.
Our favourite party spot was the best kept secret in Sydney, at the base of the northern pylon underneath the Harbour Bridge, right near the edge of the water!
Our money ran out after New Year! We swung picks for three weeks on a building site and were ‘Flush’ again!!
We continued enjoying our friends, then found ourselves on a train heading west for a start in ‘The Blister’ at Mundiwah, near Bourke!

Mick was buried at Bracken Ridge in November 2004 and took off to ‘The Big Shed in the Sky’! I miss him terribly but have wonderful memories of a rare and special mateship!
I love train travel and still use the rail as much as I can. My mind wanders and shapes ideas, or I just dream about good times past as I'm transported along.
But now, I always make sure I check my ticket before I board the train and always make sure that it's heading in the right direction!!

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