Mulga Bill

In honour of what would have been Banjo Patterson’s 148th birthday:

Mulga Bill’s Bicycle

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;

He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;

He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;

He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;

And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,

The grinning shop assistant said, “Excuse me, can you ride?”

 

“See here, young man,” said Mulga Bill, “from Walgett to the sea,

From Conroy’s Gap to Castlereagh, there’s none can ride like me.

I’m good all round at everything as everybody knows,

Although I’m not the one to talk – I hate a man that blows.

But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;

Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.

There’s nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,

There’s nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,

But what I’ll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:

I’ll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight.”

 

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,

That perched above Dead Man’s Creek, beside the mountain road.

He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,

But ‘ere he’d gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.

It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,

It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man’s Creek.

 

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:

The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,

The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,

As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.

It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,

It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;

And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek

It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dean Man’s Creek.

 

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:

He said, “I’ve had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;

I’ve rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,

But this was the most awful ride that I’ve encountered yet.

I’ll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it’s shaken all my nerve

To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.

It’s safe at rest in Dead Man’s Creek, we’ll leave it lying still;

A horse’s back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill.”

 

5 Responses to Mulga Bill

  1. Gravedodger says:

    On a trip to Sydney about 15 years ago I came on a complete works of Mr Patterson at a second Hand Bookstore at an affordable Price and it still gives me immense pleasure. Clancy and Co have a resonance hard to rationalise but the rustic appeal would be a definite factor.
    A favorite would be ;
    There was movement at the station
    The word had passed around

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  2. JC says:

    I always read Mulga Bill with a sense of personal knowledge.. as the following couple of stories will perhaps indicate.

    After WW2 my father (a blacksmith) got the idea that there would be continuing fuel shortages and that there would be a market for a renewal of horse drawn carts and gigs. Accordingly he scanned the paper for broken down cars and light trucks that people might be selling for scrap.. his idea was mainly to get the axles and wheels for his gigs.

    A guy in Napier was selling an old Model A or T, so dad rang him and arranged a meet at the guy’s place on Napier Hospital Hill. We duly set off in our car and had the meet. The seller took dad all round the car explaining all its wonderful features (even though it didn’t go) and my bored father cut the patter short, paid the man, hitched the car to our cars towball. Mum drove our car and dad steered the other and off we went.

    Unfortunately dad had missed one crucial point of the patter, ie, the old Model T had dodgy breaks.. so there we were, trundling ever faster down Hospital Hill with the old man screaming at my mother to go faster because he kept bumping into our car!

    Somehow we got to the bottom with a distraught and incoherent mother, and a father roundly abusing her for not going fast enough. I understand things were fairly ugly there for a while.

    On another occasion, dad bought another old T.. which actually started and drove quite well. This time the T was brought round to the blacksmith shop for inspection and dad, mum and me the baby went for a test drive. But a mile out of Taradale dad found he couldn’t stop the thing, couldn’t turn off the motor, disengage the clutch or anything.. did I mention the old man was inclined to panic around mechanical things?

    So the only thing to do was drive around the outskirts of town till it ran out of petrol. This went along OK and both parents were actually starting to enjoy the outing now that they had a plan. Eventually they got a little adventuous and turned down what turned out to be a no exit road.. half way down we encountered a bloke leading a skittish cow.. the fellow put up his hand like a cop demanding we slow down.. unfortunately the tin lizzie didn’t understand sign language and the cow took off with the bloke’s strides getting longer and loner as he tried to hang on to the halter and rope attached to the cow.. eventually he tripped and did a belly flop on the (dirt) road.

    As we got further down the road dad saw the end and decided to do a wide turn in an adjacent paddock that had an open gate.. in we went and shortly thereafter we ran into a small drain,, the T went through it fine but not before an impressive bucking motion which tore me free from mum’s arms and deposited me on the back seat. A distraught mother was clambering into the back to get me when we bucked through the ditch again as we exited the paddock and deposited her arse up on the floor between the two seats.. and then back on to the road.

    Unfortunately, we then encountered the bloke and his recaptured cow.. same thing happened and we left him sprawled on the road mouthing obscenities at us. From there we stuck to a half hour of uneventful driving till the car ran out of petrol and we then trudged back to the blacksmith shop and a somewhat irate owner demanding to know where his car was.

    So Mulga Bill was a bit of an amateur compared to my old man.. when he got behind the wheel of a strange vehicle he could tree a whole town!

    JC

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  3. homepaddock says:

    JC – if only you could put that in verse.

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  4. JC says:

    “JC – if only you could put that in verse.”

    Funnily enough, one of his clients did something like it and composed this for his funeral:

    “A kauri tree has fallen – succumbed to mortal forces
    A giant at his trade – he surely knew his horses
    His ring on anvil lingers yet, on steel with expert bend
    For Charlie is a legend, a farrier and a friend

    An artist at his work and a host of stables trod
    We’ve watched with fascination while our horses he has shod
    A man of strength and fortitude – and personality compelling
    We’ve listened to his stories that lost nothing in the telling

    For those of us who must depend – on horses for our function
    We thank him most sincerely for his worthy contribution
    His dedication to the task nobody could refute
    As he toiled with those hooves behind his battered ute

    Farewell our friend and rest assured we’ll feed them hay and barley
    And as we rug them for the night lets spare a thought for Charlie”.

    Not quite the Banjo but there was a roar of laughter at the funeral at the mention of the “battered ute”.

    I haven’t asked the author for permission to post this so no name, but if he’s reading this I’ll just say.. thanks mate.. the family remembers you and yours with great affection the association over the last what.. 80 years? Believe me.. your family featured in many of Charlie’s stories.

    JC

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  5. homepaddock says:

    Thank you, JC.

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