This was written while at the 2016–17 Gulgong Folk Festival. In addition to my musical performances, I was moderator of a Henry Lawson celebration that was part of the festival and thought I had best contribute, so I dashed this off the night before. As usual, it’s rough, but as I am with recording music, I hate going back over what was spontaneous. Poetic licence has treated the people of Bourke unfairly. Since the day I arrived to perform at the 1000 Stories Festival in September, 2016 and lobbed again in November as soon-to-be managing editor of their newspaper, ‘The Western Herald’, they have shown me nothing but kindness and warmth. However, the goats do seem to have vanished. On two long trips down the Mitchell Highway since I have taken up residence here, I have seen not one. When I drove up from Tasmania for the Festival, they were everywhere.
“Goat abattoir for Bourke”, it read,
In letters bold and black;
The headline in our paper,
That serves the great outback.
The Western Herald’s never slow,
To print the latest news;
And this, I thought, will lift our town,
From its economic blues.
There’d been no decent crops for years,
But now with soaking rain,
There’ll be cotton in, this year at least,
It’ll help to ease the pain.
Those Dorper sheep have helped a bit,
They’ve saved the situation;
An economic boost to life,
On many a western station.
But unlike goats, those feral goats,
To whom life’s just a breeze,
The Dorper doesn’t do so well,
At climbing up in trees.
But “abattoir”, that magic word,
It made the townsfolk gloat;
An economic miracle,
Wrought by the feral goat.
You see, there’s goats in great big heaps,
Along the roads out west;
From Nyngan on they’re everywhere,
A proper flamin’ pest.
They treat the blasted countryside,
Like some caprine supermarket;
And in droughts that stiffen camels,
Goats never seem to kark it.
But since I wrote that headline,
Things have somewhat queered;
From all round Bourke and elsewhere,
The goats have disappeared.
Drive from dawn to dusk each day,
You’d see ’em by the ton;
But since that paper hit the street,
I haven’t seen a one.
And townsfolk, who a week ago,
Were glad to see me there;
Now cross the street to dodge me,
Or simply stand, and glare.
They look at me as if I’d crawled,
From some dank and smelly ditch;
And this from one young cheeky kid:
‘Me gran says you’re a witch.’
Had some superstitious citizen,
Spread the word about;
That I’d tempted fate and providence,
When I let the news leak out?
But I’ve hatched a scheme, a good one,
I’m going to lift my game;
The town on even keel to set,
And restore my honest name.
I’ll pen an editorial,
“To whom it may concern;
(I won’t pursue identity,
The name no-one will learn).
“Would that scoundrel, name unknown,
Of dubious mongrel breed,
Desist, forthwith, instanter,
From teaching goats to read.”