Tales of OZ - - - - - - (OT)

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Tales of OZ

Several forum regulars have asked about Australia and whether I'd share some insights. As time allows I write stories about the Australia I know. Here's one.

The wonderful life in Australia is punctuated by the notion of 'average'. It is not the done thing to excel. To accelerate is downright anti-social and promptly squashed from an early age.

Brains are not a sporting prerequisite, so sport is exempt from the ethos of average and sportsmen and women are highly regarded. Australians celebrate the mediocre and we are brought up to scorn the assertive. Don't make waves is the way to healthy long life Down Under, and sporting prowess is okay.

In Australia we also remember the failures. The bigger the flop the more it's remembered. Statues of the largest most impressive disasters grace our towns and cities. Queen Victoria for example and Kissinger, or Burke and Wills the explorers who successfully died.

In April we remember the monster flops. It's called ANZAC day and recalls the Australian and New Zealand Corps assault on Turkish coves and beaches during the First World War. It was a disaster and it has been made our national day of remembrance. "Lest We Forget" the gates to countless gardens proclaim and the plaques on marble statues pronounce. Today soldier memorial halls stand empty in empty rural communities, a rusting memento to those who had no wish to forget.

Australia promptly forgot and embroiled itself in countless other failures that are remembered by marble statue and plaques.

Then we got an attack of the futility syndrome with Vietnam. The lads weren't given a welcome home bash. This was strange for a nation that requires little to have a boozy bash about. With Vietnam we lost our national sense of humour and I have picked up a few veterans from the grog abyss over time. Agent Orange did not only defoliate a foreign forest, it made a cocktail inside my friends who are now dead by adding more to it.

Our unofficial national song, nay, our national song called Waltzing Matilda, celebrates failure. It comes to us from out of the mists, from back in the 1890s depressing times when shearers and farm workers went hungry; Those stirring times birthed the famous Labor Party of yore that inspired this country so. A swagman's meagre belongings were rolled in his matilda and he waltzed the countryside seeking casual work - thus 'waltzing matilda'.

At a lonely backwater called a billabong a swagman was down on his luck and up comes a jumbuck, a merino sheep, to drink. The swagman, alert to the penalty of duffing a sheep that belongs to the wealthy squatter, dongs the jumbuck and cuts up the carcass storing it in his tucker bag for later. Naturally the troopers, summoned by the squatter, took a dim view of matters and to avoid capture the swagman jumped into the billabong. He preferred to die free rather than be slammed into a cooler courtesy of Mother England - a failure tale that we celebrate in song.

Banjo Patterson wrote Waltzing Matilda and penned songs like 'The Man from Snowy River', cashing in on galloping rhymes of earlier poems by Adam Lindsay Gordon, the famous horseman, who shot his brains out on Brighton Beach. I live in a cottage by smaller ones where Adam Lindsay Gordon briefly sojourned when he was a policeman on colonial duty and a Legislative Councillor, both of which he did averagely. Adam's rollicking gallops made money for Banjo though.

Often travellers of regional roads slow down at 'stock grazing on road' signs. This is the 'long paddock' where stockmen take their stock when farms succumb to drought, just like today in the South. I've been with these horsemen and their women drive a truck with caravan - modern swagmen waltzing matilda when things fail at home.

They yarn the night with stories as old as the ghostly gum trees that silhouette against a detailed moon. Seeking protection around a low smoky fire everyone shares a tale, except the young lads who listen in rapt silence puffing their first cigarettes and cautious with the longneck beer, preferring billy tea and a hunk of damper. Lads who fail to contribute are often a bit 'green', nudge-nudge wink-wink. I was once green.

Another night and horses safely in a country yards with rickety loading race. The campfire brings a mood and a swig of beer frees the mind, releasing a tale. When the lad's turn comes to relate an idea or two the gents say nothing, waiting and listening to cicada or a distant dingo yap-n-howl.

Then the lad said that he was up north with his old man, doing fencing and living in a cabin far from anyone before coming south. At night they'd attend the dogs that generally curl knocked-up, he said. This night they went crazy and we knew that there were strange doings. It was said that many years before a massacre of tribal aborigines had bloodied the river bend corroboree site and peculiar occurrences had been whispered about since. He continued;

"Well, the blacks got the dogs and silenced my favourite kelpie bitch cross. We heard the skewbald thunder wildly away and my old man fired at the shadows through the hessian-covered windowpanes. Then in a rush when the ammo failed they clobbered my old man and me. The last I remember was dad dead on the floor bleeding from a gash from a waddy-waddy and speared like a pincushion.

"I came around tied to a pole at the corroboree with torches flickering on dancing foot-stomping heathens droning a constant monotony to the clap stick rhythms and didgeridoo. This went on for a long time and shadows piled bracken and brushwood around my pole. They stacked on more and more and then screeching signalled a real savage stomper in the dust in ever growing frenzy. Suddenly he lunged forward and the fire-torch took the edge of my pyre. It got pretty hot soon after."

The lad stood up then and worried the fire and blew his nose. The silence was thick and pregnant, too much for my mate next door who asked loudly; "Gees son. Didn't you burn?"

"Naw. I was to green to burn," he replied as he turned in for the night.


Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 13, 2000



I remember singing "Waltzing Matilda" as a kid and it sometimes pops into my head even today. Would it be possible for you to post the words? I have forgotten some of them. It's a great song!

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), April 13, 2000.

What is a matilda? What is a swagman? What is the status of aborigines today? Do they live on reservations like American Indians? Are they integrated?

Although darkskinned (black) it is my understanding that aborigines are an anthropologically separate race; ie they are not Negroes, they are not dark-skinned Caucasians (like Indians from India). Is this correct?

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), April 13, 2000.

Thanks Piet'

It's good to hear from you and I enjoyed the litereary portrait. And the "Lad" had a good tale.

Keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), April 13, 2000.

Piet -

Many thanks for the insights from the land of OZ. The lad's story minds me of the tales my Dad would tell when we were out hunting or fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Excellent punchline!

-- DeeEmBee (macbeth1@pacbell.net), April 13, 2000.

'Waltzing Matilda'

An Australian phrase. It means carrying or humping one's bag or pack as a tramp does.
Old time phrase for 'backpacker'.

The reason for a tramp's roll being called a 'Matilda' is obscure.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled,
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me."

Chorus....(last 2 lines)

--------------I'll post the rest later when I've located it-----------

For those who'll visit us during the Olympics try and remember the stanza above. You'll be famously favoured.

(The 'jolly' bit came later when the Jolly tea company used the swagman theme in a promo.) - useful bit of gossip...



I've no time right now to give to your question re: Aborigines. They are an ancient tribal people who have assimilated in part. We have our problems though, some of which'll be hung out for the world to see with the coming Olympics offering the opportunity to the stirrers.

----------I'll try and present a reasonable response at a later stage.---------


The OZ humour style is often self-deprecation and very subtle. I'm frequently astonished that a tale found here with us is stylistically similar to ones told elsewhere.

Frankly, the new world American humour fails here. Muzac is no patch on the old music hall play on words. Canned humour just falls flat where I live.


-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 13, 2000.


Great! I can hardly wait to get the rest of the words. It's a great song to sing when you are out walking or working outdoors, or when you are drunk around a campfire!

What's a coolibah tree?

I remember one line: "and he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag, You'll go Waltzing Matilda with me."

What's a tucker bag?

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), April 13, 2000.


Great! I can hardly wait to get the rest of the words. It's a great song to sing when you are out walking or working outdoors, or when you are drunk around a campfire!

What's a coolibah tree? How about billy (stew maybe)?

I remember one line: "and he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag, You'll go Waltzing Matilda with me."

What's a tucker bag?

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), April 13, 2000.


Truth or fiction? I have always heard that people of color cannot travel into Austratlia or NZ. Is this true? If so, why?

-- Aunt Bee (SheriffAndy@Mayberry.com), April 13, 2000.

Here are the original words to the song. The link is included.

Oh! There was once a swagman camped in a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah tree.
And he sang as he looked at his old billy boiling
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag -
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the waterhole.
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee,
And he sang as he stowed him away in his tucker-bag
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me."

Down came the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred.
Down came Policemen - one, two, three.
Whose is the jumbuck you've got in the tucker bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

But the swagman, he up and he jumped in the waterhole
Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree.
And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the billabong,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"

A.B. Paterson

A href="http://www.matildacentre.com.au/song2.htm">Song Link

A Coolibah tree is a river gumtree.
A tuckerbag would be equal to a Yankee chow bag made of cotton.

Aunt Bee,
There are no restrictions to travel by anyone. We only ask that you respect others and there are no spot checks on persons travelling. It's the freest country in the world unless you get caught poaching our abalone shellfish. Look out if you tamper with our shellfishery. We take a really bad view on those who purloin our delicacies and bush-tucker.

Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 14, 2000.


Whoopsie Daisie


-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 14, 2000.

More Waltzing Matilda Info Link

Check it out for the song, the words, the strine, the tune, the meaning etc.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 14, 2000.

Thanks Pieter, Great Stuff!

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), April 14, 2000.

So, I've finally found "the billboard", where the o' famous one, Pieter Zaadstra, (who prominately features on page three of the local newspaper on Good Friday) happens to write the Tales of Oz.

Will check in again in a couple of weeks when I return from the scrub.



-- chris oldfield (chris@tbw.com.au or, c/-trix@seol.net.au), April 20, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ