The Mallee Pioneers

The Mallee Pioneers



Ode to Their Memory


I'II tell you a tale of the Mallee,
A tale going back forty years,
Of the hopes, and the sad disappointments,
The life of the old pioneers.

It's a story of grim perserverance,
Of settlers who first took up land,
They cleared up the scrub and the Mallee,
And tried to grow wheat in the sand.

Their first home was often a shanty,
With a broom-bush veranda attached,
Some had a wife, and a family,
And those who were single, just batched.

It was back in the year Nineteen Twenty,
Just after the First World War,
We made our home at Nandaly,
When the land was new and raw.

We rolled down and burnt up the Mallee,
We plowed and we drilled in the grain,
Then prayed to God Almighty,
To send us down some rain.

Our prayers weren't always answered,
As we thought they ought to be,
Sometimes He sent a wind storm,
And our soil blew out to sea.

The wind swept over the sand hills,
And blew the seed from the ground,
The 'roos and the rabbits would eat it,
Then hop for the scrub with a bound.

Those dust storms would black-out the day-light,
As the sun disappeared from the sky,
The fowls went to roost, on their perches,
They thought it was time for shut-eye.

We'd light all the lamps in the houses,
The day was as dark as the night,
We'd roll up our bedding and blankets,
And put all our food out of sight.

The dust would seep in through the ceilings,
It blew through the cracks in the door,
And then when the storm had blown over,
We shovelled the sand from the floor.

One storm I shall always remember,
The wind blew all day in fierce gales,
That night, the steam train was derailed,
By four feet of sand on the rails.

The sand would drift over the fences,
Fill channels and cover the road,
Then we got bogged with our wagons,
And had to set to and unload.

Carting water was always a problem,
It seemed an unending chore,
We'd water the stock in the evening,
In the morning we'd go back for more.

We rolled out of bed in the mornings,
To pick up, and cart off the roots,
And then for a change in the evenings,
We'd go out and cut a few shoots.

The horse was our friend and our helper,
We used him to work up the land,
But often as not, the poor devil,
Got sick, and died with the sand.

But it wasn't all sorrow and hardship,
cor sometimes it really did rain,
Then everyone's face would be smiling,
To see the crops growing again.

But a change has come over the Mallee,
The horse-teams have all passed away,
The Tractor, the Truck, and the Motor,
Eats petrol instead of the hay.

The Waggon, the Stripper and Treader,
Are rusting away, 'neath a tree,
In the shed, there's a big Auto-header,
In the place where they all used to be.

The Spring-cart, the Gig and the Buggy,
In which we all proudly did ride,
They have all given way to the Motor,
With a cigarette-lighter inside.

Now the House-wife has gadgets electric,
With all the new latest mod. cons.,
She presses a button to heat up her stove,
When cooking a slide of sweet scones.

The House-wife now vacuums her carpets,
She has Carpet for felt in each room,
The Pioneer woman was happy,
To sweep her board floor with a broom.

The House-wife now presses a button,
Her washing machine starts to run,
She sits down and watches the Telly,
And waits till her washing is done.

The Pioneer woman had no such machine,
She often washed under a tree,
If a Swaggie dropped in and asked for feed,
She stopped work and brewed him some tea.

Yes, the Pioneer spirit has vanished,
It went out with the horse and cart,
In our day, we helped one another,
A virtue, which came from the heart.

We tried to uphold the old proverb,
Which isn't so easy to do,
Do unto your friends and your neighbour,
As you would have them do to you.

Now most of the old folk are missing,
Their sons are now farming instead,
Some have made homes in the cities,
And those who stayed on, are now dead.

But there's someone we're proud to remember,
Our thoughts will remain ever-green,
For an old Pioneer of the Mallee,
Mrs. Emilie Van-der-feen.


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