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The Old Timer’s Steeplechase
by [?]


The sheep were shorn and the wool went down
At the time of our local racing:
And I’d earned a spell — I was burnt and brown —
So I rolled my swag for a trip to town
And a look at the steeplechasing.

‘Twas rough and ready — an uncleared course
As rough as the blacks had found it;
With barbed-wire fences, topped with gorse,
And a water-jump that would drown a horse,
And the steeple three times round it.

There was never a fence the tracks to guard, —
Some straggling posts defined ’em:
And the day was hot, and the drinking hard,
Till none of the stewards could see a yard
Before nor yet behind ’em!

But the bell was rung and the nags were out,
Excepting an old outsider
Whose trainer started an awful rout,
For his boy had gone on a drinking bout
And left him without a rider.

‘Is there not one man in the crowd,’ he cried,
‘In the whole of the crowd so clever,
Is there not one man that will take a ride
On the old white horse from the Northern side
That was bred on the Mooki River?’

‘Twas an old white horse that they called The Cow,
And a cow would look well beside him;
But I was pluckier then than now
(And I wanted excitement anyhow),
So at last I agreed to ride him.

And the trainer said, ‘Well, he’s dreadful slow,
And he hasn’t a chance whatever;
But I’m stony broke, so it’s time to show
A trick or two that the trainers know
Who train by the Mooki River.

‘The first time round at the further side,
With the trees and the scrub about you,
Just pull behind them and run out wide
And then dodge into the scrub and hide,
And let them go round without you.

‘At the third time round, for the final spin
With the pace, and the dust to blind ’em,
They’ll never notice if you chip in
For the last half-mile — you’ll be sure to win,
And they’ll think you raced behind ’em.

‘At the water-jump you may have to swim —
He hasn’t a hope to clear it —
Unless he skims like the swallows skim
At full speed over, but not for him!
He’ll never go next or near it.

‘But don’t you worry — just plunge across,
For he swims like a well-trained setter.
Then hide away in the scrub and gorse
The rest will be far ahead of course —
The further ahead the better.

‘You must rush the jumps in the last half-round
For fear that he might refuse ’em;
He’ll try to baulk with you, I’ll be bound,
Take whip and spurs on the mean old hound,
And don’t be afraid to use ’em.

‘At the final round, when the field are slow
And you are quite fresh to meet ’em,
Sit down, and hustle him all you know
With the whip and spurs, and he’ll have to go —
Remember, you’ve GOT to beat ’em!’

. . . . .

The flag went down and we seemed to fly,
And we made the timbers shiver
Of the first big fence, as the stand flashed by,
And I caught the ring of the trainer’s cry:
‘Go on! For the Mooki River!’

I jammed him in with a well-packed crush,
And recklessly — out for slaughter —
Like a living wave over fence and brush
We swept and swung with a flying rush,
Till we came to the dreaded water.