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"Dossing Out" And "Camping"
by [?]

Nearly every man the traveller meets in the bush is about as dirty and
ragged as himself, and just about as hard up; but in the city nearly
every man the poor unemployed meets is a dude, or at least, well
dressed, and the unemployed feels dirty and mean and degraded
by the contrast–and despised.

And he can’t help feeling like a criminal. It may be imagination, but
every policeman seems to regard him with suspicion, and this is
terrible to a sensitive man.

We once had the key of the street for a night. We don’t know how much
tobacco we smoked, how many seats we sat on, or how many miles we
walked before morning. But we do know that we felt like a felon, and
that every policeman seemed to regard us with a suspicious eye; and at
last we began to squint furtively at every trap we met, which,
perhaps, made him more suspicious, till finally we felt bad enough to
be run in and to get six months’ hard.

Three winters ago a man, whose name doesn’t matter, had a small office
near Elizabeth Street, Sydney. He was an hotel broker, debt
collector, commission agent, canvasser, and so on, in a small way–a
very small way–but his heart was big. He had a partner. They
batched in the office, and did their cooking over a gas lamp. Now,
every day the man-whose-name-doesn’t-matter would carefully collect
the scraps of food, add a slice or two of bread and butter, wrap it
all up in a piece of newspaper, and, after dark, step out and leave
the parcel on a ledge of the stonework outside the building in the
street. Every morning it would be gone. A shadow came along in the
night and took it. This went on for many months, till at last one
night the man-whose-name-doesn’t-matter forgot to put the parcel out,
and didn’t think of it till he was in bed. It worried him, so that at
last he had to get up and put the scraps outside. It was midnight.
He felt curious to see the shadow, so he waited until it came along.
It wasn’t his long-lost brother, but it was an old mate of his.

Let us finish with a sketch:

The scene was Circular Quay, outside the Messageries sheds. The usual
number of bundles of misery–covered more or less with dirty sheets of
newspaper–lay along the wall under the ghastly glare of the electric
light. Time–shortly after midnight. From among the bundles an old
man sat up. He cautiously drew off his pants, and then stood close to
the wall, in his shirt, tenderly examining the seat of the trousers.
Presently he shook them out, folded them with great care, wrapped them
in a scrap of newspaper, and laid them down where his head was to be.
He had thin, hairy legs and a long grey beard. From a bundle of rags
he extracted another pair of pants, which were all patches and
tatters, and into which he engineered his way with great caution.
Then he sat down, arranged the paper over his knees, laid his old
ragged grey head back on his precious Sunday-go-meetings-and slept.


Notes on Australianisms

Based on my own speech over the years, with some checking in the dictionaries. Not all of these are peculiar to Australian slang, but are important in Lawson’s stories, and carry overtones.

bagman: commercial traveller

Bananaland: Queensland

billabong. Based on an aboriginal word. Sometimes used for an anabranch (a bend in a river cut off by a new channel, but more often used for one that, in dry season or droughts especially, is cut off at either or both ends from the main stream. It is often just a muddy pool, and may indeed dry up completely.