A cloud of dust on the long white road,
And the teams go creeping on
Inch by inch with the weary load;
And by the power of the green-hide goad
The distant goal is won.
With eyes half-shut to the blinding dust,
And necks to the yokes bent low,
The beasts are pulling as bullocks must;
And the shining tires might almost rust
While the spokes are turning slow.
With face half-hid ‘neath a broad-brimmed hat
That shades from the heat’s white waves,
And shouldered whip with its green-hide plait,
The driver plods with a gait like that
Of his weary, patient slaves.
He wipes his brow, for the day is hot,
And spits to the left with spite;
He shouts at ‘Bally’, and flicks at ‘Scot’,
And raises dust from the back of ‘Spot’,
And spits to the dusty right.
He’ll sometimes pause as a thing of form
In front of a settler’s door,
And ask for a drink, and remark ‘It’s warm’,
Or say ‘There’s signs of a thunder-storm’;
But he seldom utters more.
But the rains are heavy on roads like these;
And, fronting his lonely home,
For weeks together the settler sees
The teams bogged down to the axletrees,
Or ploughing the sodden loam.
And then when the roads are at their worst,
The bushman’s children hear
The cruel blows of the whips reversed
While bullocks pull as their hearts would burst,
And bellow with pain and fear.
And thus with little of joy or rest
Are the long, long journeys done;
And thus—’Tis a cruel war at the best—
Is distance fought in the mighty West,
And the lonely battles won.