Now Billy the Breaker
Had a way with horses –
Kind hands, gentle touch,
Patience, but firm voices.
His yard rails were a place to lean
And yarn about chestnuts, duns and greys,
The bone of leg, the carriage of head
Of fillies and colts and bays.
And always a few young blokes
Would be draped about the fence,
Dead keen students of breaking,
Who listened little and learned even less.
But they knew how to wear horsemen’s gear
Belts, pouches, plaited this ‘n’ that,
Boots and white moleskins
And mostly a brand new hat.
And it could be noted that Billy’s hat
Was a little battered and far from new –
A sweatband stain and bushman’s bash,
A few holes where the dog had a chew.
There was one who never left Billy’s heel or side –
A true apprentice of the trade
Who followed his every move, wide-eyed,
From dawn to dusk in that dusty yard.
Observation was this student’s key,
And one thing he knew before the rest,
Was that the man in the battered hat
Knew his horses by far the best.
So he figured that to be a horseman
Of skill and some renown,
You’d have to have your hat
All knocked about and leaky in the crown.
From that moment of sparkling wisdom
The dog knew his trade and job
Was to catch and break those stiff new hats
Of the yard rail expert mob.
It took some skill and a well placed nip
To catch the bronco hat –
First a bite on the heel and foot
Of the bloke as he leant to pat.
With a yelp and a curse of “Bloody hell!”
The stripling snapped up straight,
And off his head with a wild duck flight
Flew his untrained, bucking hat.
It was man and hat and dog in flight
In the dusty yard and shute,
And the dog was far too quick
To be caught by the flying boot.
He ducked and rolled as he eyed the hat
In its mad and spinning flight,
And with a fearless leap he sprang
To bring down its furry might.
With his paw upon the trembling brim
He tore at the dome and crown,
For if he let this young hat win
His chances of breaking it were gone.
He felt his teeth sink deep and hard
Into something soft and frail,
Just as an angry boot
Fair caught him under the tail.
He was torn from his task
With a reeling spin,
With bulging eyes and throbbing tongue
Where his own teeth had sunken in.
He landed in a dusty heap
And heard an angry yell.
From that he knew his task was lost –
It was time to take a spell.
Slinking under the peppercorn tree,
He reflected on his haste
And the quiet manner of his master’s ways.
Then he dumbly knew his mistake.
All the while the top-rail mob
Laughed at their mate’s misfortune,
But not a one caught the drift
Of the hat breaker’s excursion.
"Words are clumsy pretenders of the images of my mind."
As a practicing artist I have travelled far and wide across Australia, walked on country, camped on country and rolled out my swag. I thank the custodians and I acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. I pay my respect to Elders past and present.