Banjo Paterson

Saltbush Bill, J.P.

Beyond the land where Leichhardt went, Beyond Sturt's Western track, The rolling tide of change has sent Some strange J.P.'s out back. And Saltbush Bill, grown old and grey, And worn for want of sleep, Received the news in camp one day Behind the travelling sheep That Edward Rex, confiding in His known integrity, By hand and seal on parchment skin Had made hiim a J.P. He read the news with eager face But found no word of pay. "I'd like to see my sister's place And kids on Christmas Day. "I'd like to see green grass again, And watch clear water run, Away from this unholy plain, And flies, and dust, and sun." At last one little clause he found That might some hope inspire, "A magistrate may charge a pound For inquest on a fire." A big blacks' camp was built close by, And Saltbush Bill, says he, "I think that camp might well supply A job for a J.P." That night, by strange coincidence, A most disastrous fire Destroyed the country residence Of Jacky Jack, Esquire. 'Twas mostly leaves, and bark, and dirt; The party most concerned Appeared to think it wouldn't hurt If forty such were burned. Quite otherwise thought Saltbush Bill, Who watched the leaping flame. "The home is small," said he, "but still The principle's the same. "Midst palaces though you should roam, Or follow pleasure's tracks, You'll find," he said, "no place like home -- At least like Jacky Jack's. "Tell every man in camp, 'Come quick,' Tell every black Maria I give tobacco, half a stick -- Hold inquest long-a fire." Each juryman received a name Well suited to a Court. "Long Jack" and "Stumpy Bill" became "John Long" and "William Short". While such as "Tarpot", "Bullock Dray", And "Tommy Wait-a-While", Became, for ever and a day, "Scot", "Dickens", and "Carlyle". And twelve good sable men and true Were soon engaged upon The conflagration that o'erthrew The home of John A. John. Their verdict, "Burnt by act of Fate", They scarcely had returned When, just behind the magistrate, Another humpy burned! The jury sat again and drew Another stick of plug. Said Saltbush Bill, "It's up to you Put some one long-a Jug." "I'll camp the sheep," he said, "and sift The evidence about." For quite a week he couldn't shift, The way the fires broke out. The jury thought the whole concern As good as any play. They used to "take him oath" and earn Three sticks of plug a day. At last the tribe lay down to sleep Homeless, beneath a tree; And onward with his travelling sheep Went Saltbush bill, J.P. His sheep delivered, safe and sound, His horse to town he turned, And drew some five-and-twenty pound For fees that he had earned. And where Monaro's ranges hide Their little farms away -- His sister's children by his side -- He spent his Christmas Day. The next J.P. that went out back Was shocked, or pained, or both, At hearing every pagan black Repeat the juror's oath. No matter how he turned and fled They followed faster still; "You make it inkwich, boss," they said, "All same like Saltbush Bill." They even said they'd let him see The fires originate. When he refused they said that he Was "No good magistrate". And out beyond Sturt's western track, And Leichhardt's farthest tree, They wait till fate shall send them back Their Saltbush Bill, J.P.

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