The Happy Gardeners

We were storemen, clerks and packers on
an ammunition dump
Twice the size of Cootamundra, and the goods
we had to hump
They were bombs as big as water-butts, and
cartridges in tons,
Shells that looked like blessed gasmains, and
a line in traction-guns.

We had struck a warehouse dignity in dealing
with the stocks.
It was, “Sign here, Mr. Eddie!” “Clarkson,
forward to the socks!”
Our floor-walker was a major, with a nozzle
like a peach,
And a stutter in his Trilbies; and a limping
kind of speech.

We were off at eight to business, we were free
for lunch at one,
And we talked of new Spring fashions, and the
brisk trade being done.
After five we sought our dugouts lying snug
beneath the hill,
Each with hollyhocks before it and geraniums
on the sill.

Singing “Home, Sweet home,” we swept,
and scrubbed, and dusted up the place,
Then smoked out on the doorstep in the twi-
light's tender grace.
After which with spade and rake we sought
our special garden plot,
And we 'tended to the cabbage and the shrink-
ing young shallot.

So long lived we unmolested that this seemed
indeed “the life.”
Set apart from mirk and worry and the inci-
dence of strife;
And we trimmed our Kitchen Eden, swapping
vegetable lore,
Whi1e the whole demented world beside was
muddled up with war.

There was little talk of Boches and of bloody
battle scenes,
But a deal about Bill's spuds and Billy
Carkeek's butter-beans;
Porky specialised on onion and he had a sort
of gift
For a cabbage plump and tender that it took
two men to lift.

In the pleasant Sabbath morning, when the
sun lit on our “street,”
And illumed the happy dugout with effulgence
kind and sweet,
It was fine to see us forking, raking, picking
off the bugs,
Treading flat the snails and woodlice and
demolishing the slugs.

Then one day old Fritz got going. He had
a hint of us,
And the shell the blighter posted was as roomy
as a 'bus;
He was groping round the dump, and kind of
pecking after it;
When he plugged the hill the world heeled up,
the dome of heaven split.

Then, 0 Gott and consternation! Swooped a
shell a and stuck her nose
In Carkeek's beans. Those beans came up!
A cry of grief arose!
As we watched them—plunk! another shell
cut loose, and everywhere
Flew the spuds of Billy Murphy. There were
turnips in the air.

Bill! she tore a quarter-acre from the land-
scape. With it burst
Tommy's carrots, and we watched them, and
in whispers prayed and cursed.
Then a wail of anguish 'scaped us. Boomed
in Porky's cabbage plot
A detestable concussion. Porky's cabbages
were not!

There the Breaking strain was reached, for
Porky fetched an awful cry,
And he rushed away and armed himself.
With loathing in his eye,
Up and over went the hero. He was savage
Through and through,
And he tore across the distance like a mad-
dened kangaroo.

They had left a woeful sight indeed—frail cab-
bages all rent,
Turnips mangled, little carrots all in one red
burial blent,
Parsnips ruined, lettuce shattered, torn and
wilted beet and bean,
And a black and grinning gap where once our
garden flourished green.

Five and fifty hours had passed when came a
German in his shirt.
On his back he carried Porky black with
blood, and smoke and dirt.
“I sniped six of 'em,” said Porky, “an' me
pris'ner here,” he sez-
“I done in the crooel swine what strafed me
helpless cabba-ges.”

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Submitted on May 13, 2011



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