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My Mate Bill

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

Stockmen and drovers, known as 'overlanders', took pride in the work they did. It took skill to drive cattle and sheep in search of water and good pasture.

This pride and desire for the rugged life is expressed in many Aussie songs including this one.

What the words mean

  • mulga ~ the outback, the bush
  • hoggets ~ sheep up to the age of 1 year that haven't been shorn yet
  • brumbie ~ a free-roaming feral Australian horse.
  • greenhide ~ an animal hide that has not been tanned. Greenhide is also used to make a whip.
  • snaffle ~ a bit for a horse that is jointed in the middle and has rings on either end where the reins are attached.

Wild Australian Brumbies

That’s his saddle on the tie-beam,
   And them’s his spurs up there
On the wall-plate over yonder —
   You ken see they ain’t a pair.

For the daddy of all the stockmen
   As ever come mustering here
Was killed in the flaming mulga,
   A-yarding a bald-faced steer.

They say as he’s gone to heaven,
   And shook off all worldly cares
But I can’t sight Bill in a halo
   Set up on three blinded hairs.

In heaven! what next I wonder,
   For strike me pink and blue,
If I see whatever in thunder
   They’ll find for Bill to do.

He’d never make one of them angels,
   With faces as white as chalk,
All wool to the toes like hoggets,
   And wings like an eagle-hawk.

He couldn’t ’arp for apples,
   His voice had tones as jarred,
And he’d no more ear than a bald-faced steer,
   Or calves in a branding yard.

He could sit on a bucking brumbie
   Like a nob in an easy chair,
And chop his name with a greenhide fall
   On the flank of a flying steer.

He could show them saints in glory
   The way that a fall should drop,
But sit on a throne — not William,
   Unless they could make it prop.

He mightn’t freeze to the seraphs,
   Or chum with the cherubim,
But if ever them seraph johnnies
   Get a-poking it like at him —

Well! if there’s hide in heaven,
   And silk for to make a lash,
He’ll yard ’em all in the Jasper Lake
   In a blinded lightning flash.

If the heavenly hosts get boxed now,
   As mobs most always will,
Who’ll cut ’em out like William,
   Or draft on a camp like Bill?

An ’orseman would find it awkward
   At first with a push that flew,
But blame my cats if I know what else
   They’ll find for Bill to do.

It’s hard if there ain’t no cattle,
   And perhaps they’ll let him sleep,
And wake him up at the judgment
   To draft those goats and sheep.

It’s playing it low on William,
   But perhaps he’ll buckle to,
To show them high-toned seraphs
   What a Mulga man can do.

If they saddles a big-boned angel,
   With a turn of speed, of course,
As can spiel like a four-year brumbie,
   And prop like an old camp horse,

And puts Bill up with a snaffle,
   A four or five inch spur,
And eighteen foot of greenhide
   To chop the blinded fur —

He’ll yard them blamed Angoras
   In a way that it’s safe to swear
Will make them tony seraphs
   Sit back on their thrones and stare.

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