My Uncle’s Old Hat, by John Sinclair McIntyre

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It’s only a battered Akubra, flung up on a shelf in the shed.
It used to belong to my uncle, but in ninety-four, he was dead.
He was an old Mallee cocky, growing wheat in the sand,
With a team of ten or twelve horses, and a sundercut turning the land.
If only this hat had a larynx, just think of the tales it could tell;
Of the droughts away back in the twenties, and the thirties and forties as well!
Of the dust storms that covered the Mallee and blotted the sun out for days,
How the fences were buried ‘neath three feet of sand and your arm disappeared in the haze.

In a visit I made in the forties to the farm when my uncle was young,
He drove the spring cart in to meet us in the heat of that blistering sun.
And I’m sure the hat he was wearing to keep the sun from his face,
Was this one I’m holding before you, as it always held pride of  place.

It started out life as his best Sunday hat,
The one he would wear into town,
But over the years it got old, tired and flat,
And the sweat from his brow stained its crown.
I remember the time when he sat on his hack,
With the flies black as pitch on his thighs.
The Akubra came down with a deafening whack
And that was the end of the flies.

The kelpie he kept to muster his sheep
Was as tough as the scrub on that land,
And would work all day long in that dry Mallee heat
With its tongue hanging down to the sand.
But a drink from the waterbag in this old upturned hat
Would bring a quick wag of its tail,
With a whistled command and affectionate pat,
It was off to resume its travail.

I’ve had this old hat for about sixteen years, as part of my uncle’s estate,
And just never felt like throwing it out, with the memories one look at it makes.
A few years ago the birds were quite bad at eating the fruit on my trees,
So a scarecrow I made with this hat on its head and its arms waving out in the breeze.
So it lived day and night in that orchard of fruit, keeping the parrots at bay,
While the odd wily crow perched up on its roof, and karked its disdain to the day.

My rhymes on this hat are about at an end, so it’s time to bid you good-day,
And fling it once more on that shelf in the shed where for years yet to come it will stay.
It played a great role in that dry Mallee land, through the years on that Woorinen farm,
And even today it’s still earning its keep as its memories re-live in this yarn.
My uncle, and dog, and that twelve draught horse team, have gone where all hard workers go,
But this hat lingers on as its memories unfold, through these verses I’m telling to you.