Saltbush Bill's Second Flight

The news came down on the Castlereagh, and went to the world at large,
That twenty thousand travelling sheep, with Saltbush Bill in charge,
Were drifting down from a dried-out run to ravage the Castlereagh;
And the squatters swore when they heard the news, and wished they were well away:
For the name and the fame of Saltbush Bill were over the country-side
For the wonderful way that he fed his sheep, and the dodges and tricks he tried.
He would lose his way on a Main Stock Route, and stray to the squatters' grass;
He would come to a run with the boss away, and swear he had leave to pass;
And back of all and behind it all, as well the squatters knew,
If he had to fight, he would fight all day, so long as his sheep got through:
But this is the story of Stingy Smith, the owner of Hard Times Hill,
And the way that he chanced on a fighting man to reckon with Saltbush Bill.
 
'Twas Stingy Smith on his stockyard sat, and prayed for an early Spring,
When he started at sight of a clean-shaved tramp, who walked with a jaunty swing;
For a clean-shaved tramp with a jaunty walk a-swinging along the track
Is as rare a thing as a feathered frog on the desolate roads out back.
So the tramp he made for the travellers' hut, to ask could he camp the night;
But Stingy Smith had a bright idea, and called to him, "Can you fight?"
"Why, what's the game?" said the clean-shaved tramp, as he looked at him up and down;
"If you want a battle, get off that fence, and I'll kill you for half-a-crown!
But, Boss, you'd better not fight with me -- it wouldn't be fair nor right;
I'm Stiffener Joe, from the Rocks Brigade, and I killed a man in a fight:
I served two years for it, fair and square, and now I'm trampin' back,
To look for a peaceful quiet life away on the outside track."

"Oh, it's not myself, but a drover chap," said Stingy Smith with glee,
"A bullying fellow called Saltbush Bill, and you are the man for me.
He's on the road with his hungry sheep, and he's certain to raise a row,
For he's bullied the whole of the Castlereagh till he's got them under cow --
Just pick a quarrel and raise a fight, and leather him good and hard,
And I'll take good care that his wretched sheep don't wander a half a yard.
It's a five-pound job if you belt him well -- do anything short of kill,
For there isn't a beak on the Castlereagh will fine you for Saltbush Bill."

"I'll take the job," said the fighting man; "and, hot as this cove appears,
He'll stand no chance with a bloke like me, what's lived on the game for years;
For he's maybe learnt in a boxing school, and sparred for a round or so,
But I've fought all hands in a ten-foot ring each night in a travelling show;
They earned a pound if they stayed three rounds, and they tried for it every night.
In a ten-foot ring! Oh, that's the game that teaches a bloke to fight,
For they'd rush and clinch -- it was Dublin Rules, and we drew no colour line;
And they all tried hard for to earn the pound, but they got no pound of mine.
If I saw no chance in the opening round I'd slog at their wind, and wait
Till an opening came -- and it always came -- and I settled 'em, sure as fate;
Left on the ribs and right on the jaw -- and, when the chance comes, make sure!
And it's there a professional bloke like me gets home on an amateur:
For it's my experience every day, and I make no doubt it's yours,
That a third-class pro is an over-match for the best of the amateurs --"
"Oh, take your swag to the travellers' hut," said Smith, "for you waste your breath;
You've a first-class chance, if you lose the fight, of talking your man to death.
I'll tell the cook you're to have your grub, and see that you eat your fill,
And come to the scratch all fit and well to leather this Saltbush Bill."

'Twas Saltbush Bill, and his travelling sheep were wending their weary way
On the Main Stock Route, through the Hard Times Run, on their six-mile stage a day;
And he strayed a mile from the Main Stock Route, and started to feed along,
And when Stingy Smith came up Bill said that the Route was surveyed wrong;
And he tried to prove that the sheep had rushed and strayed from their camp at night,
But the fighting man he kicked Bill's dog, and of course that meant a fight.

So they sparred and fought, and they shifted ground, and never a sound was heard
But the thudding fists on their brawny ribs, and the seconds' muttered word,
Till the fighting man shot home his left on the ribs with a mighty clout,
And his right flashed up with a half-arm blow -- and Saltbush Bill "went
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"Saltbush Bill's Second Flight" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 21 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/2591/saltbush-bill's-second-flight>.

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