At Casey’s After Mass

There’s a weather-beaten sign-post where the track turns towards the west,
Through the tall, white, slender timber, in the land i love the best.
Short its message is -“To Casey’s” -for it points the road to Casey’s;
And my homing heart goes bushwards on an idle roving quest,
Down the old, old road contented, o’er the gum-leaves crisp and scented,
Where a deft hand splashed the purple on the big hill’s sombre crest.
Ah, it’s long, long years and dreary, many, many steps and weary,
Back to where the lingering dew of morn bedecked the barley-grass,
When I watched the wild careering of the neighbours through the clearing
Down that sweet bush track to Casey’s, o’er the paddock down to Casey’s;
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

For, as soon as Mass was over, round the church they swarmed like bees,
Filled their pipes and duly lit them, brushed the dust from off their knees;
Then they’d ” ready-up ” for Casey’s – self-invited down to Casey’s –
Harness horses for the women with a bushman’s careless ease.
With a neat spring to the saddle, soon would start the wild skedaddle.
Passing gigs and traps and buggies packed as tight as they could squeeze;
Hearts as buoyant as a feather in the mellow autumn weather,
While the noisy minahs cheered to see the glad procession pass –
All the Regans and the Ryans, and the whole mob of O’Briens
Bringing up the rear to Casey’s -in the Shandrydan to Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

Past the kitchen door they rattled and they took the horses out;
While the women went inside at once, the menfolk hung about
Round the stable down at Casey’s, waiting dinner down at Casey’s;
And they talked about the Government, and blamed it for the drought,
Sitting where the sunlight lingers, picking splinters from their fingers,
Settling all the problems of the world beyond a chance of doubt.
From inside there came the bustle of the cheerful wholesome hustle,
As dear old Mrs. Casey tried all records to surpass;
Oh, there’s many a memory blesses her sweet silver-braided tresses;
They were “lovely” down at Casey’s – always joking down at Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

So they called us in to dinner, five-and-twenty guests -and more –
At the longest kitchen-table ever stood upon a floor.
There was plenty down at Casey’s -ay, an open house was Casey’s,
Where the neighbour and his missus never, never passed the door;
Where they counted kindly giving half the joy and pride of living
And the seasons came full-handed, and the angels blessed the store;
While the happy Laughing Mary flitted round us like a fairy.
And the big, shy boys stopped business, and looked up to watch her pass –
Ah, but when she caught them staring at the ribbons she was wearing!
Well, they spilled their tea at Casey’s – on the good clean cloth at Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

Then the reckless feats of daring, and the bushman’s fierce delight
When the brumby squealed and rooted, and the saddle-girths were tight!
They could ride ’em down at Casey’s – stick like plasters down at Casey’s –
When they noticed Mary looking, they would go with all their might;
Ho! they belted, and they clouted, and they yelled, and whooped, and shouted,
“Riding flash” to “ketch” the ladies, spurring, flogging, left and right!
And the lad with manners airy risked his neck for Laughing Mary
When he summoned all his courage up a rival to surpass;
Oh, the fun went fast and faster, as he landed in disaster
In the puddle-hole at Casey’s -with his brand new suit at Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

Hoary, hale, bewhiskered veterans, perched like mopokes in a row,
Out of danger on the top-rail, gave advice to those below;
They were wonders down at Casey’s, were the old men at the Caseys’ –
They’re the boys could ride the “bad ‘uns” in the days of long ago!
Faith, and old man Casey told ’em of a way he had to hold ’em.
Man, “the deuce an outlaw thrun him,” when he “got a proper show”;
Ay, and each man “upped and showed ’em” how he “handled ’em, an’ rode ’em” –
Pshaw! there never was a native these old rides could outclass.
Once again they were “among ’em,” and they “roped ’em” and they “slung ’em”
On the stockyard fence at Casey’s – smoking, pitchin’,” down at Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

Hard and cold is youth to fancies which around the old men cling;
So they left them perched upon the rail to swap their vapouring,
Took a seat inside at Casey’s, on the good chairs at the Caseys’;
While the Caseys’ new piano made the old house rock and ring.
There their mild eyes stared and glistened, as they sat around and listened
To the tuneful little ditties Laughing Mary used to sing;
There they rubbed their chins and reckoned that to no one was she second –
“Cripes, she’d sing the blooming head off any singer in her class!”
And the banter and the laughter when the chorus hit the rafter!
It was “great” to be at Casey’s – healthy, wholesome fun at Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

There was something in the old life which I cannot quite forget;
There are happy golden memories that hover round me yet –
Something special down at Casey’s, in that wonderland of Casey’s,
Where the crowfoot and the clover spread a downy coverlet,
Where the trees seemed always greener, where the life of man was cleaner,
And the joys that grew around us shed no leaves of brown regret.
oh, the merry, merry party! oh, the simple folk and hearty,
Who can fling their cares behind them, and forget them while they pass
Simple lives and simple pleasure never stinted in the measure.
There was something down at Casey’s, something clean and good at Casey’s –
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

Passed and gone that old bush homestead where the hours too swiftly flew;
Silent now the merry voices of the happy friends I knew;
We have drifted far from Casey’s. All deserted now is Casey’s –
Just a lone brick chimney standing, and a garden-tree or two.
Still the minahs love to linger where the sign-post points the finger
Down the bush track winding westward where the tall white timber grew.
But the big hill seems to wonder why the ties are snapped asunder,
Why the neighbours never gather, never loiter as they pass;
Yet a tear-stained thought beseeming comes along and sets me dreaming
That I’m back again at Casey’s, with the old, old friends at Casey’s;
Spending Sunday down at Casey’s after Mass.

John O’Brien