Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SALT, by A. S. ALLISON



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SALT, by            
First Line: I crossed the bogong plains that night on the box of a cobb and co.
Last Line: But only I and the horses heard jim's cry from the depths below.
Subject(s): Cattle; Salt; Story-telling; Trucks & Trucking; Teamsters; Truckers; Freight


I CROSSED the Bogong plains that night on the box of a Cobb and Co.—
A stripling lad on his first trip down from Bright to Omeo.
On Feathertop's back a moon rode high and the frost hissed below like sand,
While the driver, Len, hummed a snatch of song as he piloted six-in-hand;
And life seemed good as I saw each tree, a giant with arms outflung,
Reaching aloft to snuff the lamps, so low in the heavens hung.
Then above the chatter of wheel and trace I heard a sullen sound:
The mutter of hooves—a thousand strong—on the flinty, frozen ground.

Len heard it, too; his whip snaked out as a leader plunged in fright.
"Scrub steers!" he swore. "They're after salt, and the team's on edge tonight.
They lost us a coach from Dawson's bridge—you can see it ahead on the
bend—
And they lost us Jimmy, the driver, too, though he stuck by his box to the end.
He'd driven this run for nigh ten years and never was late with a mail,
Till the night some scrubbers crowded his team and sent him over the rail.
Old Jim was a card with a sense of fun and often he'd put on a show,
And call up the cattle for miles around with his cry of 'Salt! Salt-oh!'

"In the flick of an eye they'd come on the run; and Jimmy would beckon them in,
For a scrubber loves his lick of salt as a soaker loves his gin.
Then Jimmy would laugh and shake a rein, and the team would quicken pace,
Outstripping the sullen, sweating mob in its hungry, hopeless race.
But came a time when his bluff was called—you could almost call it
fate—
When a wheeler lamed with the pack behind, and Jim made his run too late.
The mob closed in as he reached the bridge like a vicious swirling tide,
And only the mob got through that night in the race for the other side.

"And down from us now in the gorge beneath where the water's white in the rip
They found old Jim one afternoon still holding his rawhide whip.
You' ve heard of the curse of Dawson's Cut—and I'll grant you it's mostly
rot—
But find me a beast in a hundred teams that's willing to pass the spot.
Damnation! Bess, come over there! Up, Prince, you worthless hack!
Another inch, you yellow curs, and you'll have us off the track!"
Then I heard a voice—a thin, far voice—"Salt! Salt!" it called;
"Salt-oh!"
But only I and the horses heard Jim's cry from the depths below.





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