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John Wiley Aug 6
He was a character
seemingly larger than life -
Dave –
a cattle-man,
tall and lean,
far seeing eyes,
broad brimmed hat
and a distinctive drawl.

A thousand square miles
of red sand,
desert oak
and mulga scrub
was his kingdom.

Some years before,
he had walked
a herd of cattle
twelve hundred miles
for nine months
to establish it.

We knew Dave
as neighbour,
fifty miles away,
not close
but always there
to provide support
or a talk
or coffee
along the track –
always a true bush friend.
Another memory from our years in "the bush".
John Wiley Jul 24
It was old
built of rough local stone,
mud and rough sawn
native pine.

There was a crack
down one corner
wide enough
to insert your hand.

No toilets
or running water,
just two foot tracks
over the hill
to the nearby creek,
one for girls
and one for boys.

A wobbly teacher’s desk,
a dozen or so
old student desks
and two chalk-boards
on easels
were the only furnishings.

It was winter –
dry, desert cold,
with morning frosts
and a freezing daytime wind.

For warmth
we’d feed a pine log
through the doorway
into the open fireplace
to feed a meagre fire,
our only source of warmth.

I keep a photograph of it still,
though the memory is so rich.
The chalkboard date is
24th April 1963,
although I had started there
three weeks earlier
on April Fools Day,
but it was no prank.
This was a place of learning,
and I was both teacher and a learner.
Mostly written for myself and our grandchildren, but why not share it.
John Wiley Jul 23
It sits alone in the forest,
an old stone hearth and chimney –
no sound but the wind in the trees,
an occasional birdcall
and perhaps the drone
of a tractor
on a nearby farm.

And yet a memory
of such joy and liveliness –
young voices at play
or raised in song –
chanting “tables”,
sometimes squabbling,
always learning,
preparing for life
in a world yet unknown.
The old Wirrabara Forest school in the Southern Flinders Ranges of South Australia is commemorated by its restored fireplace and chimney. It was one of many "one teacher schools" that dotted the "bush".
John Wiley Apr 14
They stand alone
in vast tundra landscapes,
signposts, boundary markers,
custodians of sacred space –
as they have been for thousands of years.

And yet today
they have become popular,
perhaps cheapened –
something to make by a roadway
or on a stony beach,
sometimes to promote a function or locality.

We have two inukshuks in our front garden,
reminders of Canadian visits and friends,
but also for their historic message -
here is where we are, this is our space
and it is sacred to us.
We have had a lifelong, special interest in Canada, visiting there a number of times and accumulating wonderful Canadian friends and memories. Over several trips, we have driven the whole distance from Vancouver to Nova Scotia - something that most Canadians have not done. Sadly, age and the current global situation mean that we will not go there again.
John Wiley Apr 10
Is my muse dead?
... or perhaps
just tired,
rather than stimulated
by the happenings of life?

poetry seemed to be
but now ...
What has changed?

Nothing really my friend.
Nothing that you
can’t overcome
if you truly want to.

Calm yourself.
It is still there.
You will hear it speak again,
if you truly want to.
This is written out of some frustration but as an expression of hope and intent.
John Wiley Mar 14
He was old and lean,
even rangy,
perhaps a little demented,
and rode an old pushbike
around our little, country town.
Some called him our
“geriatric biker”.
Few really knew him.

When he died
I was asked
to conduct the funeral.
I invited a friend, a “local”,
to research his eulogy.

She unearthed
old photographs of a proud man,
wearing a ten gallon hat,
sitting tall in the saddle
on a station horse.
Our geriatric biker
had managed
some of the largest stations
in Australia.

We took him
to our bush cemetery
on the hill behind the town,
overlooking the seemingly endless
arid northern plain
where he had lived and worked.
By request of the family
he was buried
to the country song
“Leave Him In The Longyard”.
"Leave Him In The Longyard" is an Australian country and western song made famous by the late Slim Dusty.
John Wiley Feb 15
He was short and lean,
a small man,
station hand and bush jockey.
I’ve known him since childhood
when he was in the children’s home
where my parents worked.

At fourteen
he returned to the bush
to work with his father,
also a station hand,
out on the desert plains
where holdings are large,
measured in thousands of square kilometers.

We never deliberately kept contact,
just crossed paths
when he was “down south”
or I was “out bush”.

Eventually he retired
to a small bush town,
established to service
the highway
across the centre of Australia
from south to north.

I’d see him there when in the bush,
in the bar of the roadhouse.
Sometimes we’d have a beer together,
others I’d just watch him,
sitting on a stool
at the end of the bar,
surrounded by the young stockhands
in town for a break.

But he’s gone now.
Sickness came and eventually death.
They buried him in the country he loved,
out by the cattle yards and race track –
a patch of red dust,
a simple wooden cross,
a low stone wall,
a vase and a whiskey bottle, both empty.

I’ve visited him there
and remembered.
"Stations"/"Ranches" and more - making my way around differences between American and Australian terminology.
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