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MAUREEN CLIFFORD
near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
About Maureen Clifford
 

 

 

Brush Off the Dust

An open paddock miles from "Nowhere."
A picket fence in disrepair.
Red dirt road winding through low hills.
All around I feel despair.
Old slab hut with timbers crumbling,
sagging roof and rusted tank.
Fence post’s down and wires broken.
Another victim of the bank?

Withered flowers brown and crumbling
lie limp and faded all alone.
I wonder why? And who would leave them?
Brush off the dust...a child's tombstone.

Roughly carved, not made of marble
just humble sandstone from the creek,
with a name, a date, and "love you,"
all inscribed. The words that seek
to depict a Mother's anguish
and reflect Father's despair.
How their hearts must have been broken
when they were forced to leave her there.

Brush off the dust and pick fresh flowers.
Wattle, bottlebrush and thyme.
Place them gently on the headstone
just as I would if she were mine.

© 2011, Maureen Clifford
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Maureen told us: The poem was inspired or begging to be written when I came across a neglected headstone out in the middle of a paddock when I was living in the Stanthorpe area…it just seemed so sad that here were the remains of a person who was once dearly loved by family and now the grave was neglected, hidden from sight and few if any even knew it was there. It was so badly worn away by time and weather that had one been mustering through the paddock or even just walking through the paddock as one does it would have gone completely unnoticed. It was only because I was looking for a particular stone and was walking slowly with head down and eyes glued to the ground that I noticed it.
 



Goin' Piggin'

In the back of the Ute, water bag and boots,
fencing wire, ratchet and chains,
a shovel and pick and a crowbar,
and a dead roos quite smelly remains.
A carton of beer for the day will be hot,
and a tarp and some ropes in a box,
plus an esky of food, ice to keep the beer cold.
Today we're out hunting for hog.

Those darn pigs are breeding, it's been a good season,
and lambs, well there were quite a few.
But sneaking at night like the Devil in flight,
come big pigs who kill, maim and chew..
The tables will turn, for we're now set to learn,
those darn pigs a lesson or two.
The pig traps are set and tomorrow I bet,
that we'll catch quite a few with the roo.

Carnivorous beasts, with their sharp cloven feet,
and big tusks on the boars ugly head.
They're killers of stock, not good for a lot,
though the overseas market it's said,
sells them off as wild boar, that's all they're good for.
Pig shooters take them to the box.
The scourge of the nation, on each outback station,
along with the crow and the fox.

The suckers are cute, little pink and black brutes,
but there’s no place for sentiment here.
You have to remember they'll grow - come December
on BarBQ plates they appear.
We've had good dogs killed or at least their blood spilled,
by these demons of parry and thrust.
A good dog will hold them at bay till you get there
to get a head shot as you must.

They'll rip you to shreds if unwary you tread,
cross the paddocks, unfettered and free.
And you know you're in strife as you run for your life
without spotting a suitable tree.
It happened to me, the legs went into freeze.
I then let loose with a bloody great yell.
My two dogs that were chasing, now turned back, came racing
to protect their mistress as well.

In gumboots and raincoat, with big hat on head,
it must have been a comical sight.
There was no tree to climb and I doubt my behind
would have made the manoeuvre in flight.
So I jumped up and down, screeched and flapped all around,
and waved a big stick in the air.
The pig was quite startled, and I was scared witless
until my dogs finally got there.

So climb into the Ute. Got your rifle to shoot?
For today we're not out hunting bear.
But down near the creek we're intending to sneak
for we know that the pigs have been there.
They've ploughed up the paddock, like Ute's doing donuts
we've found some small hooves from a lamb.
The lamb count is down. Pigs have been going to town.
Tomorrow they'll be turned into ham.

© 2011, Maureen Clifford
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Maureen comments:

As to how the poem came about—it just happened because that is what we did out on the property (ranch) where we had a huge feral pig problem and they were decimating our lambs to the tune of 20 + a night which equated to desperately needed $. Hand feeding for 5 years and going into the sixth meant our bank balance was almost down to nothing and we had destocked down to bare bones...just keeping the rams, breeding ewes and only the biggest and best wethers.

We were in the middle of the worst drought Australia has seen in the last 100 years and like everyone else around doing it tough. No doubt the pigs were doing it tough as well but having said that there were plenty of carcasses around, not just sheep but roos as well were dropping like flies. Little water and less feed—which is why we had all the breeding ewes in the front paddocks where we could hand feed and water them every day, and had thrown the rest of the paddock open to allow the rams and wethers to forage across the whole property and supplemented them with lick blocks and corn. The pigs were just taking the easy pickings of new born lambs each night.

So we had no choice but to set pig traps all over the property and each morning would have to go and shoot and dispose of them. I lost my good Pit Bull to a pig that came in at 105 kg. Khadizia weighed 26 kg and was a city dog who knew nothing about pigs—we never found her body. Two days after she went missing our neighbour shot a pig with fresh tear marks on his ear and he swore his own dogs never got to it—so putting two and two together we figured it must have Khadizias killer and the one that was the prime cause of our lamb losses in the home paddock.

As you folks would know only too well you just do what you have to do—and life on the land is never easy—but I doubt any farmer does it for the money—most do if for the love of the land and because it is basically in their blood. As they say you can take the man out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the man—or woman. It basically proved to be a wasted exercise as both properties were sold for a fraction of their worth as were many others—and then it rained. Such is life.


Precious Amber

He rides a bush bred yarraman a fleet and nimble beast
with his mane short cropped and long tail docked—a travesty at least
of the proud and noble brumby that once galloped ‘cross the plains.
Of that handsome beast now sadly there is little that remains.
He had foundered on an outback run, this bloke saw him go down.
The owner said a bullet now would save a trip to town.
Not worth spending a dollar just to call the local vet.
The old nag was past his use by date. Dog meat now his best bet.

But Jack the bloke who owns him now saw courage in the horse
and knew good Waler genes through this equines veins did course;
and he recalled Grandpa’s story of that fast and fateful ride
at Beersheba and he well recalled the tears Gramps tried to hide.
When he told the story of his horse called Amber—beads of sweat
would break out on his forehead he had not forgotten yet
to this day, the day of reckoning for horses and for men.
They’d beaten the Turks, but those Walers would not see home again.

He recalled taking the chestnut head. Caressing velvet ears
as a muzzle soft came questing round his face licking the tears
that were falling from his eyes as broken heart bid sad farewell
to a mate, a friend, a soldier. One who had served this bloke well.
He knew he couldn’t take him home to Biloela’s plains
where he was birthed and in his heart he felt the tearing pain,
unyielding, unrelenting—but he did what must be done
and he watched life drain from amber eyes beneath a setting sun.

So young Jack who was his Grandson in his own way made amends
by saving this old Waler …they were now the best of friends.
He felt it was his Karma to nurse it back to health
a debt of honour he must pay—a debt not tied to wealth.
He thought he heard his Grandpa’s voice saying—"This bloke's a trier
give him a go, their blood line’s linked, Amber's colt was his sire."
As the fire burnt down to ashes and night time dark turned deeper
he said "Gramps we’re calling this one—Ambergris, and he’s a keeper."

© 2011, Maureen Clifford
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Maureen comments:

With the exception of one horse Sandy that belonged to Major General Bridges, not one of the Australian Waler horses returned home from Egypt despite their courage and endurance shown at the charge of Beersheba [in World War I] and throughout the field of battle in the Middle East.

There is a belief in some circles that the horses were taken as remounts by the British, but that does not appear to be the case according to stories handed down by Lighthorsemen through the ages.

According to popular belief the men had two choices. Either shoot the horse or give it away to the Arabs. To do this would have left a horse that had given his all to a life of misery and neglect and so most men chose to shoot the horse that in many instances had saved their lives. This didn't sit well with the men and the emotional ramifications of such a foul deed went with the men to their graves.

[Maureen offers this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waler_horse]

The photo was taken [with permission] from one of our horse rescue sites, http://www.hoofs2010.com/HOOFS2010-BRUMBY-RESCUES.html

This group endeavour to re home a lot of brumbies that are captured as part of National Park and Wildlife culls. They are solely reliant on donations and have a sponsor programme running as well as an adoption programme., The Aussie Waler horses genes runs through a lot of these horses and that is why they are so keen to try and save them and save a part of our Heritage.

The number of Australians that now live on properties big enough to take horses is of course like America very limited….so the reality is that it is probably an insurmountable problem but you have to try.

This was the inspiration for my work—I think Australians still have an affinity with our wildlife and the land but sadly many people have never been out into the bush—we are a nation that owns 4wd vehicles by the thousands and most never get off the bitumen. Horses played a huge part in the establishment of this country in many fields. Exploration of our interior, beasts of burden, farm workers, war horses, transport, horse racing etc etc. Nothing was achieved in the early days of our nation’s history without the horse—it is a part of our history and heritage that I would hate to see forgotten. Sadly the closest most Australians get to horses these days is when they place a bet on the Melbourne Cup —Australia’s greatest race of all.
 

 


 

Read Maureen Clifford's


 

Trailing the Tail, with other Art Spur poems

 


About Maureen Clifford:
provided 2011

Not sure where to go with this but will jump in and hope not to sink.

Born at Margate, England many moons ago and have lived in Australia—my true spirit home since 1961—describe myself as Pommie by birth but Australian by choice, and bloody proud of it.

Have one grown up son now in his 40’s and two dogs all of whom I love dearly but my son is convinced the dogs come first. What he has never realized is that I don't differentiate between them. They are all my babies...

I have reached the age considered to be interesting and my interests are evolving—with my latest project being to set some of my poetry to music and as video clips—which I have done, with a few now up on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3rCYtV7XYY 

As I have been writing poetry since I was eight years old according to my Mum—I have plenty of experience one would think—but have to say that my work has improved dramatically over the past six years when I started to write seriously, and decided to start putting in the hard yards and working at it consistently.

The catalyst for this was sparked by my time out on our property at Stanthorpe, which has sadly been lost now due to the long drought we suffered here. It was a time of my life that was rich in learning and new experiences. A hard but satisfying time which I would not trade for quids. But which sadly ruined my health considerably. For a city chick to be transported to an isolated sheep property where one car a day going down the road was considered a busy day—was a huge culture shock.

Two loaded rifles kept constantly in the house to dispatch unwanted snakes. 1000+ head of sheep to be nurtured and watched over every day and due to the drought hand fed—they were our $$$$ on the hoof and for every one you lost you might as well be standing in the paddock tearing up $50 notes. Orphaned lambs to feed—five dogs to keep a watch over and just sheer bloody hard work from daylight to dusk.

Chopping wood for a wood stove was something I never mastered. However other things I did. Learning how to get the generator up and running for the days when the power was off I managed. Loading firewood cut on the property into the tip truck tray then helping with the splitting and packing of it. Helping on the Lucas Mill cutting and stacking timber for house frames and weatherboards, floorboards, etc. Working in the shearing shed as a roustie—albeit a sooky one, or out in the paddocks mustering and hand feeding the sheep. Coping with cooking and feeding up to 15 people at shearing time. Baking all your own bread, cakes and biscuits, preserving fruit and vegetables and making jams and preserves all on an old wood stove, and shopping monthly—4 trolley loads of tucker to be packed into the Ute and then unloaded at the other end along with the stock feed and the 25 kilo bulk bags of dog biscuits.

Gritting your teeth every time you had to drive into town—dodging roos, deer, feral pigs and goats and cats on the worst 40 kilometres of dirt road in that part of the country, before finally hitting the bitumen—and hoping that you didn't get more than two flat tyres on the trip there and back. Flat tyres were my nightmare—I still don’t know how to change them. Used to make sure that if I went to town it was on the day the postie came and that I was on the road back home before he had passed by—at least that way I knew I would get some help and not have to face a 15 kilometre walk.

The property was sold, the relationship ended, the beloved sheep sold to the abattoir and the working dogs remained with my ex…my own Pit Bull Khadizia lost her life there to a pig, and when my time comes my ashes will be returned there—to be with my dogs on the land I truly loved.

These experiences opened the floodgates to my poetry—which is why I am here today. I have a passion for writing. Have become a prolific poet—one who I describe as at times suffering from "verbal diarrhea." At times the words just won't turn off—I write in the train, in my lunch hour—even been known to get out of bed at 2.30am and start pounding the keys—got to get the words out and never let a chance go by.

So there you have it—one old, obsessive, animal loving, snake hating, Ute driving, retired mum and poet who lives with her two dogs in a semi rural area just outside of Brisbane, Queensland Australia, an area that recently flooded with the waters stopping a mere 30 feet from her door—there is a God.

If asked to describe myself it would be along the lines of: Could be advertised as definitely past her use by date but still reliable and cheap to run. Paint and bodywork reasonable. Motor good. Plenty of tread on the tyres. Is registered but comes without a roadworthy certificate. Would make a beaut paddock car—or with a little work a good second vehicle. Headlights are a bit dim. Not quite as fast as she was. Scrubs up well. Sold as is—where she stands.



Maureen Clifford is a Member of Australian Bush Poets Association http://abpa.org.au
 

 


 

 

 

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