PETER FROST discovers an Australian Legend

Just outside the outback town of Gundagai, on the old drover’s road halfway between Melbourne and Sydney is a monument to The dog that sit on the tuckerbox.

It is perhaps the most potent image of Australian bush life after Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda. It is enshrined in this bush ballad below which itself is based on a much older folk ballad.

The statue and the legend are rooted deep in the Australian’s love of their pioneer history, of the jackaroos, jumbucks, sheep stations and drovers. It is one of the foundation stones of the Australian folk memory.

Why else would have at least four Prime Ministers have contrived to have the statue moved or restored just so they could appear in the papers unveiling it? Today the statue has its own slip-road from what is now a main intercity highway. Thousands visit it every year.

Here’s the poem.

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 sit 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.

As you will see the grammar and the scansion are both crap and here is the reason. The poem and the legend have always been a victim of the sensitive, some would say Calvinist, Aussie establishment. They censored the rhyme.
Here is the real story: Bullocky Bill, the hero of our tale has had a crap day. His Bullock team have bolted got his cart bogged down in a muddy river bed with a broken axle.
We have all had days like that and our Bill knows nothing worse can possibly happen.
Indeed Bullocky Bill has two things to cheer him up and make the sun shine again.
First the love of a good well behaved dog. No man can ask for more.
Second the thought of the lovingly prepared lunch packed in his tucker box that morning by his devoted wife. Fresh and wholesome food as only Australia can provide.
And then what should Bill find…
…when he came to open his tucker box he found his dog had had deposited something warm smelly and moist on the lid. Uck!
So forget those Aussie sensibilities. Add a few ‘H’s to the poem and suddenly the grammar makes sense and the lines all scan perfectly.
Let’s raise a glass to the pride of Australia – the real legend of Gundagai
The dog that shit on the tucker box.
From Peter and Ann (who won’t be getting a dog.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s