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The Barcoo Flood
Storm clouds gathered above the Barcoo River as the bullocky lit his fire
The first drops fell and it wasn’t too long ’till his wagon was caught in the mire
In the hills the big storm released its load and the swift river rose in a blink
It rushed down the cracked and dry stream beds, thirsty for the want of a drink
Then the river grew angry as a shearer’s temper and reached for the dusty banks
It flowed across the parched brown flats and rose up the sheep’s scrawny shanks.
Poor Bill, the bullocky, swam for his life, his dog old Blue by his side
He watched as his team was struggling to swim in the Barcoo’s mounting tide
The squatter’s sheep were fading fast as they swept past Bill in the stream
As the lightning flashed above his head poor Bill wished it was only a dream
Then his pony he’d freed from the back of his wagon swam past and he grasped at its tail
He grasped Blue’s collar and said ‘Save me Lord and I’ll pray every night without fail.’
His tired horse struggled up a slippery bank as Bill and poor Blue caught their breath
They too climbed the slope and lay in the mud as Bill contemplated close death.
The lightning lit up and split open the clouds who released more rain to the ground
When through all the thunder and rage of the river Bill heard a peculiar sound
It resembled the cry of a baby quite small or was it the bleat of a sheep?
And in that brief moment he couldn’t recall that he’d seen the Barcoo flow so deep.
Then he found a woman face down in the mud and a baby so cold near her side
It let out a cry but Bill surely knew in the woman he couldn’t confide
For her lungs they were full of the wild Barcoo brew of water and mud, foul and brown
But the baby she’d placed up high on a ledge so the mite wouldn’t fall in and drown
Then he climbed on the horse with the child in one hand, the other one held fast the reins,
The rain had now stopped, and the storm clouds rolled by while the sun shone down on the plains.
Bill entered the camp where the black people lived with the news of their terrible loss
They gathered around and Bill then stepped down and handed the babe to old Floss
The men went out to the Barcoo banks to bring the poor mother back
And Bill was given a place to sleep and some food in an old gunny sack
He left the next morning for he surely knew that the people would need time to mourn
And he too felt a loss for Bill had a son that he’d seen not since it had been born.
So Bill left the Barcoo and with his dog Blue, for Sydney by train he did travel
To seek out his son and right things left undone, but he knew it was hard to unravel
For the love of his life, his poor darling wife had died in the birth of his son
And everyone knew that the best thing to do was for Bill to go on the run
‘You can’t raise him,’ they said, ‘With you he’d be dead, in a month if left in your care.’
So he kissed the mite’s head, tucked him into bed and ruffled his sweet curly hair.
Now Bill found his son, his only dear son at work in a bar at The Rocks
He’d married a girl from the Emerald Isle who worked in a store selling frocks
They had a small child, yes old Bill’s grandchild and he held her tight in his huge arms
She had eyes like her mother, who wished for a brother to add to her family’s charms
Now Bill was content, but still had a bent for the North and he left on the train
But he’ll come back once more see his family for sure, when the Barcoo flood hits once again.