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Letter of prose

George Hall of West Melbourne has shared his prose with readers of the Warracknabeal Herald.

Mr Hall has shared a short story and a poem for readers to enjoy.

The Bush Brigade – Pioneers of the Mallee

In memory of my grandmother Annie Evelyn May O’Rogan.

I will tell you a story of the Mallee - a tale going back 40 years of the hopes and the sad disappointments, the life of the old pioneers.

It’s a story of grim perseverance of settlers who first took up the land.

They cleared the scrub and the Mallee and tried to grow wheat in the sand, their first home was often a shanty with a broom brush verandah attached. Some had a wife and a family and those that were single just batched.

It was back in the year 1920. Just after the First World War. We made our home at Ouyen when the land was new and raw.

We rolled down and burnt up the Mallee. We ploughed and we drilled in the grain then prayed to God almighty to send us down some rain. Our prayers were not always answered as we thought they ought to be sometimes.

He would send a windstorm and our soil blew out to sea. The wind swept over the sand hills and blew the seed from the ground.

The kangaroos and the rabbits would eat it then hop for the scrub with a bound. The dust storms would black out the daylight as the sun disappeared from the sky.

The fowls went to roost on their perches, they thought it was time for shut eye, we would light all the lamps in the houses, the day was as dark as night. We would 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 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 night in fierce gales, that night the steam train was derailed by four foot 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 would water the stock in the evening, and in the morning 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 would 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 was not all sorrow and hardship for 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 wagon, the stripper and treader are rusting away ‘neath a tree in the shed. There’s a big auto header in the place they used to be.

Busy getting lei’d in Hawaii
There’s a land to the west of Hawaii
Desert-dry with great forests ablaze
Where the PM one day flew Awaii
To escape from the Media’ gaze.

The Media, like the Medusa,
Be it Telly or iPad or phone
Screw the heart of the innocent user
From caring to adamant stone.

The PM denies global warming
He can’t understand all the fuss
Though science has given due warning
It can’t possibly be down to us.

When he finds himself in a tight corner
The opposing side gets all the blame:
“It’s Their fault’’ – just like little Jack Homer a pathetic and time-wasting game.

PM at the helm keeps on saying
(Some might think he’s a bit of a twat)
“Clap your hands! Let us all begin praying.
“I ask you, friends, how good is that?”

“While you’re praying I’m off on vacation
“To Hawaii – it’s all been prepaid -
“When I get there, as head of our Nation
“I’ll be feted and probably lei’d.

PM’s Lady at once took exception
“Prob’ly laid! What on Earth does that mean?’’
Not wishing to queer his reception ,
He replied “Darling, don’t make a scene.”

“A Lei is garland of flowers
“A symbol of friendship and hope.”
(She’d imagined him hanging for hours
From the fell executioner’s rope.)

Whilst sipping a pre-dinner cocktail ·
At a beach bar on old Waikiki
The PM received a quick email
“Please return just as quick as can be.”

“The whole of the nation is burning
“All from Sydney to Perth is on fire
“For comfort and succour we’re yearning.
“Your absence is causing great ire.

“As PM you’ re looked up to as leader
“(A role with which many will argue)
“To misquote your old tourism feeder
“Where in the bloody hell are you?”