Bush Christmas – by Joye Dempsey

(Inspired by Jambaroo N.S.W. artist, Jack Waugh’s 1964 painting on the Arnotts biscuit tin lid of ‘Santa and the Drover’). Joye Dempsey c 1994 Sydney Australia

It was `Birdsville’ that I saw him, his foot resting on a log,
sort of leanin’ on his reindeer, first I thought it was his dog.
`Blue’, my own dog looked real puzzled, didn’t know quite what to do,
first he sniffed, then started growling and I said, “Hey, come here Blue!
Now, I think this fellers Santa and he must’ve lost his way –
it’s the red gear and the white beard sorta gives the game away.’

So I went up to this old cove and said “How’s she goin’ mate?”
He smiled a little ruefully, and said “I’m going to be late.
There’s a lot of little children who still believe in me
and I’ve got to get their presents on their beds or `round the tree!”
“Don’t worry Mate”, I sez to him, “it might not be so bad.”
“I’m afraid it is.” he answered …. “but thanks for asking …. lad.”

Now nobody had called me ‘lad’ in three-score years or more,
and it made me want to help him so much harder than before.
He told me he was travelling, just past the Southern Star,
and it quite took his attention, when he found he’d gone too far.
Well, I’ve done that more than once meself, when drovin’ was me lurk,
that’s why I’m living in the sticks, past Birdsville like a burk.

It seemed that poor old Santa on coming down to land,
had dropped the list and map of ‘Oz’, he was holding in his hand.
He said, “I’ve looked all over for it”. (I could’ve sworn I saw a tear).
“My faithful reindeer, Rudolf, said he thought it landed here.”

“Don’t worry, she’ll be right mate”, I said, bright as can be,
“I’ve got the best blue cattle dog, that’s in the whole country!”
I whistled soft, and out he came, I whispered in his ear,
“If you find this bloomin’ list matey, I’ll treat you to a beer!”

Blue sniffed around poor Rudolph, he gave his tail a shake,
and looked at me as if to say, ‘better make that top grade steak’.
Then off he went, and old Rudolf was trotting close behind,
as the night was quickly falling, there’s not much twilight here you’ll find.

With Rudolph’s nose a shining and old Blue’s nose a’twitch,
it wasn’t long before they came back carrying that list.
But they’d had some help in finding it, and as down the hill they wove,
I said, “Santa, take a look at this!’ Santa laughed and said “By Jove!”

There was a Wombat and a Platypus, hopping beside Blue,
and with a Joey in its pouch was a bonza Kangaroo.
A Kookaburra, sat upon the reindeer’s rear end,
and a Cockie screaming `Got it!’ nearly drove me round the bend.

Then Blue stood on his haunches sauntering to where I stood,
and said `How about that beer now mate, and I think you really should
shout the whole darn lot of us!’ Poor old Santa gave a gasp.
Blue said ‘Santa, would you like one too?’ “Santa said. “I thought you’d never ask!”

It seemed the dingo told the emu, it wasn’t on the Darling Downs,
whilst a tiny duck-billed platypus had searched the waters all around.
Blue told us in a gravel growl, the trouble that they’d had,
`It got stuck in a blue gum, and if it wasn’t for the lad,’
he pointed at the Joey, `I don’t know what we would’ve done.’
The mother kangaroo beamed back, and patted her young son.

“Oh it was really nothing”, the small marsupial said,
“I woke my friend, a cute Koala, had to get her out of bed.
I told her if she got it, there’s a years supply of eucalypt! ”
The Kookaburra laughed and the Joey’s mother said, `Tch, tch, tch.’

So we waved `bye `bye to Santa, my old blue and me
and we went home to tell the missus feeling pleased as pleased could be.
But the old Sheila don’t believe me, so I sez `Go tell her Blue’.
“Now’ the missus said’I know for sure you’ve had a drink or two!”

`Not yet, me love, I haven’t, but if yer gonna shout,
you might as well go get me a dozen bottles out.”
“How many!” Mother turned bright red, I sez “Yer right love let me think,
better just make it eleven `cause the baby `roo don’t drink.’

Mother, “wasn’t in the mood for joviality” she said,
“It’s Christmas Eve for your information when decent people are in bed,
instead of gallivanting, and gettin’ yourself full,
and as for helping Santa, well who’s leg `yer tryin to pull?”

So I went outside where it was cool by the Jacaranda tree,
and tried as try I might, to get old blue to talk to me.
I wonder was I dreaming? The wife said that I’m bewitched.
Old Blue just looked at me and winked – I could’ve sworn he said `Tch! Tch! Tch!