Two Thousand Ewes, by John Sinclair McIntyre

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(With apologies to Banjo Paterson)

There was movement on Willurah for the word was getting round
That two thousand ewes were coming from the plain,
They had just been found away out on the twelve mile border fence,
And the overseer’s head was racked with pain.

‘Twas the last day of the shearing and the team was due to leave,
When the word came through, two thousand more to shear,
How those shearers cursed that overseer, their language meant to grieve,
Each one thinking of Conargo beer.

‘Twas decided by a vote that they’d stay and shear the sheep,
Though ‘twould mean another weekend on the place,
But shearers love good shearing where the wild bush jumbucks bleat,
And the sheep dog shows his pleasure in his face.

With the sheepyard gates wide open, the ewes came pouring in,
Underneath black clouds of Riverina dust.
The ringers cursed quite loudly at the kelpies as they jumped
Into the nearest troughs, their thirsts to quench a must.

When the dust at last had settled, the shearers gathered round
To see what sort of shearing these would be.
But their mouths they gaped a-tremble, and their eyes grew big and round,
For never did such sheep a shearer see!

They were giant horny cobblers, with fierce defiant eyes,
And they shook the ground each time they stamped their feet.
Their hooves were long and curly and their bushy eyebrows wide
Had grown to shade their eyes from summer heat.

They were dags from tail to shoulder, and their legs were brown with stain,
Their fleeces matted solid with the burr.
Their shoulder wool was lumpy, red and green from winter rain,
And their backs were full of saffron, sand and furze.

Their fleeces were so long, they dragged behind them in the dust,
It must be three years at least since they were shorn.
To hear those shearers cursing, one would swear they must
Rescind their vote, be in their cars and gone.

Version 1

But even so, a car was heard to speed right out the gate
And down that dusty road that leads to town.
The overseer decided it was not wise to wait
For more abuse that he could not live down.

On famed Willurah Station where sun drenched plains are wide,
And jumbucks slowly trudge across the plain,
Any talk of missing mobs of sheep is hurtful to their pride,
Though each year the shearers talk of them again.

And in the wider Riverina, everywhere that jumbucks grow,
And station folk all yarn of yesteryear,
Any reference to that vanished mob that turned up years ago,
Will bring to overseers a chill of fear.

Version 2

Yet even while they argued, a car was heard to speed away
Out on that dusty road that leads to town,
For the overseer decided it was time to call a day
To this crazy life of chasing sheep around.

And in the dusty Riverina where the saltbush branches sway,
And mirages ebb and flow across the plain,
On renowned Willurah Station, shearers still refer today
To the year two thousand ewes were found again.