18 Nov 2008

And the dog sat...

Nine Miles from Gundagai by Jack Moses

I've done my share of shearing sheep,
Of droving and all that;
And bogged a bullock team as well,
On a Murrumbidgee flat.
I've seen the bullock stretch and strain
And blink his bleary eye,
And the dog sat on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

I've been jilted, jarred and crossed in love,
And sand-bagged in the dark,
Till if a mountain fell on me,
I'd treat it as a lark.
It's when you've got your bullocks bogged,
That's the time you flog and cry,
And the dog sits on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

We've all got our little troubles,
In life's hard, thorny way.
Some strike them in a motor car
And others in a dray.
But when your dog and bullocks strike,
It ain't no apple pie,
And the dog sat on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

But that's all past and dead and gone,
And I've sold the team for meat,
And perhaps, some day where I was bogged,
There'll be an asphalt street,
The dog, ah! well he got a bait,
And thought he'd like to die,
So I buried him in the tuckerbox,
Nine miles from Gundagai.
Do you know the story of the dog on the tuckerbox? Have you ever thought to tell it to your kids? This beautiful children's book by Corinne Fenton, author of Queenie: One Elephant's Story, and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe will make your task easy. The Dog on the Tuckerbox is a visual and literary delight. It is one of those rare things - a newly written and absolutely beautiful Australian Living book.

The book tells the story of a loyal dog, Lady, and her master, Bill in the time of the Australian bullockies, using simple language to record the tale and bring the early Australian time period to life. Peter Gouldthorpe’s illustrations are exquisite. This is a treasured new addition to our home library. Put it on your Christmas wish list!!

Like some much of our country's early folklore, the origins of the Dog on the Tuckerbox are clouded in uncertainty and controversy, but that its origins lie in the Australian bush and the early pioneers who left Sydney in search of the source of the Murrumbidgee River during the period 1830-50 is sure.

They were hard and hazardous times and supplies and stores were transported along makeshift tracks over rough terrain by bullock teams. Often on such occasions the bullocky's dog would sit guarding its master's tuckerbox and possessions while he was away seeking help after being bogged at yet another river crossing.

And so the story of Lady and Bill was written.

Bowyang Yorke was the first to mention the dog sitting on a tuckerbox in his ballad of Bullocky Bill penned in 1857:

As Iwas coming down Conroy's Gap,
I heard a maiden cry;
'There goes Bill the Bullocky,
He's bound for Gundagai.
A better poor old beggar
Never earnt an honest crust,
A better poor old beggar
Never drug a whip through dust.'
His team got bogged at the Nine Mile Creek,
Bill lashed and swore and cried;
'If Nobby don't get me out of this,
I'll tattoo his b....y hide.'
But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader's eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai.

It was Jack Moses' poem, published in 1938 though, that really captured our imaginations. Around the same time Jack O'Hagan wrote his famous song of the same name. It's hard to find the original lyrics to this song, but these ones were published in a book called Soldier Songs for Camp and Canteen published in Melbourne in 1941.

My Mabel waits for me underneath the bright blue sky,
Where the dog sits on the tucker box five miles from Gundagai.
I meet her ev'ry day and I know she's dinky di,
Where the dog sits on the tucker box five miles from Gundagai.

I think she's bonzer and she reckons I'm good o.
She's such a trimmer that I've entered her for the local show;
And my Mabel waits for me underneath the bright blue sky,
Where the dog sits on the tucker box five miles from Gundagai.

Gundagai, perhaps more than any other Australian town, is referenced in stories, songs and poems. These include the other well known Jack Hagan song, Along the Road to Gundagai:

There's a track winding back
to an old-fashioned shack,
Along the road to Gundagai.
Where the blue gums are growin'
and the Murrumbidgee's flowin'
beneath that starry sky.

Where my moma and daddy are waitin' for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I will see
Then no more will I roam
when I'm headin' right for home
Along the road to Gundagai.

Then there's Flash Jack from Gundagai by Banjo himself:

I've shore at Burrabogie and I've shore at Toganmain
I've shore at Big Willandra and out on the Coleraine
But before the shearing was over I longed to get back again
Shearing for old Tom Patterson on the One Tree Plain


All among the wool boys all among the wool
Keep your blades full boys keep your blades full
I can do a respectable tally myself whenever I like to try
And they know me round the backblocks as Flash Jack from Gundagai

I've shore at Big Willandra and I've shore at Tilberoo
And once I drew my blades boys upon the famed Barcoo
At Cowan Downs and Trida as far as Moulamein
But I was always glad to get back again to the One Tree Plain

I've pinked them with the Wolseleys and I've rushed with B-bows too
And shaved them in the grease boys with the grass seeds showing through
But I never slummed a pen my lads whatever it might contain
When shearing for Old Tom Patterson on the One Tree Plain

I've been whaling up the Lachlan and I've dossed on Cooper's Creek
And once I rung Cudjingie shed and blued it in a week
But when Gabriel blows his trumpet lads I'll catch the morning train
And push for Old Tom Patterson's on the One Tree Plain

Banjo Paterson wrote The Road to Gundagai as well:

The mountain road goes up and down
From Gundagai to Tumut Town.
And, branching off, there runs a track
Across the foothills grim and black,

Across the plains and ranges grey
To Sydney city far away.

It came by chance one day that I
From Tumut rode to Gundagai,

And reached about the evening tide
The crossing where the roads divide;

And, waiting at the crossing place,
I saw a maiden fair of face,

With eyes of deepest violet blue,
And cheeks to match the rose in hue

— The fairest maids Australia knows
Are bred among the mountain snows.

Then, fearing I might go astray,
I asked if she could show the way.

Her voice might well a man bewitch
—Its tones so supple, deep, and rich.

"The tracks are clear," she made reply,
"And this goes down to Sydney Town,
And that one goes to Gundagai."

Then slowly, looking coyly back,
She went along the Sydney track

And I for one was well content
To go the road the lady went;

But round the turn a swain she met
—The kiss she gave him haunts me yet!

I turned and travelled with a sigh
The lonely road to Gundagai
Hmm, you could almost do a bit of a unit study...if you weren't afraid Miss Mason's immortal unit study comments wouldn't haunt your sleep all term!

Enjoy the book - it's bonza mate!

1 comment:

  1. A lot posted about the Dog on the Tuckerbox on the Internet is nonsense. The monument is really about a massacre of Indigenous people that happened nearby, which was hidden, and black dog (the DonT Monument) guards the site of the ashes of those massacred people. This is supported by the archaeology of the area but was also reported to the archaeologist on the Coolac Bypass Arch Survey several years ago by a very long time Coolac resident with no connection at all to me. The massacre is well known of at Gundagai and Coolac. Gundagai likes to hide the story, carrying on with very silly puppy dog stuff when the real story is heaps more interesting which reflects the mental processes of some.

    Where 'dog' is referred to in the poems indicates an Indigenous totemic Being similar to how we locals call the Gundagai Tigers (football team) the tigers - and individuals of that team, a tiger.

    I am sorry Australia but the rest of you have been fooled by the cover up of the massacre at the near to Gundagai location in the 1830s that had the obnoxious DonT monument (similar naming theme as the Convincing Ground massacre) built to it in the 1930s to rake in more tourism dollars off gullible passing tourists - plus for some locals to have a good laugh at a few expenses, at the same time.

    There is an early version of the DonT Monument on wikipedia. This crude dog on a stick from many years previous the built monument, was at the Nine Mile which is closer to where the massacre happened, but the remains were hidden at the Five Mile which is what that Five Mile/Nine Mile disaprity is about. Larry Foster, a previous Coolac resident, has noted on the ABC Canberra Local Radio guestbook site online as remembering where this crude dog image was near the Nine Mile.

    There is a very large and highly highly significant Indigenous ceremonial ground at Gundagai (part of which is now listed on the DECC AIHMS Register so under the care of the NSW Minister of the Environment on behalf of the NSW Government at the request of Indigenous people - it had to go on the Register as Gundagai Shire Council had plans to curb and gutter that area that would have wrecked an amazing Indigenous ceremonial area), which is one reason why it was important for colonials to make sure all the original custodians were removed from this location, because by them remaining, culture (significant core culture, not just a random camp at any old bend in any old river) would remain. Its how my lot went on then and sometimes still do.

    Come on Gundagai Shire Council. get over some of the rubbish you claim on the silly library blub and put some truth up for once that doesnt read as so utterly childish - and stop trying to deceive the rest of the nation about the amazing heritage in this local area.

    My immediate family have been at Gundagai since 1848 and one G.G.G. uncle here from the 1820s so what the DonT Monument is about is well known plus we also had what that monument is copied from, on our soft drink bottles, the template of which was then used for the High School blazer pockets etc. My Mum (Alice Jones) who was responsible for that bottle decoration, did not ask permission of local Indigenous people to use that image as that was not done in the early 1960s. Alice was also on the new High School uniform committee which is how the bottle design templates got used for the blazer pocket designs.

    What about the Gundagai Ghost as is recorded in the old newspapers online? It seems the hill Gundagai is built on has phosphorus in it that sometimes emits out and takes on a ghostlike appearance. Little wonder the hill got called Parnassus. I would not build a home up there and no wonder no one built up there in earlier times. I told the Shire GM this Parnassus ghost stuff two weeks ago and requested he pass the info on to the Shire Engineer who is also SES boss here, but the GM neglected to do that. It was important that engineer and SES boss know that information for public safety reasons just in case it becomes relevant at any time here at North Gundagai/Mt Parnassus, and the Engineer was very interested to receive it from me direct, two days ago. So many secrets around this area covered up with wagging puppy dog stories.

    (from the now extinct McCabes Cordials if anyone would like the check an old bottle at the museum)


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