The Grey Box Tree

Let me tell you a story of a long time ago
How we tackled this tree, just me and Joe
My old shearing mate, married one of my sisters
How we raised a thirst and a heap of blisters
How we slaved away with saw and axe
Lurid language and aching backs
Trying to earn a quid or three
But we shouldn’t have picked on that Grey Box tree
T’was the shearer’s strike of fifty six
We were cutting firewood, only sticks
Not one much more than a foot across
And doing OK when one day the boss
Said, “Listen here Kev, and listen here Joe
You’re doing all right, but I’d like to know
If you’d give me a price on that big Grey Box
The ringbarked one.” Oh, he was a fox
As cunning as any fox could be
To ask for a price on that Grey Box tree
You see wood cutting wasn’t our natural game
We were out of work shearers, it was really a shame
How he took advantage of us poor simple folk
And I’ll bet that he thought it a hell of a joke
For the collective knowledge of timber we had
Was about as much as a dog would know of his dad
So we sized up the tree and gave it a belt
With the back of the axe, from the rebound we felt
That the tree was half hollow and reasonably soft
I’ve dreamed about that Box tree oft’
So we gave him a price, about two days pay
Scarfed it out and sawed away
About three feet across and a hundred high
I won’t forget it till I die
Or that five long days we hacked away
On that mongrel tree for two days pay
For the roughest sheep you would ever see
Weren’t half as tough as that Grey Box tree
It wouldn’t cut, it wouldn’t split
Both Joe and I were young and fit
We toiled away from dawn to dark
Sometimes we hardly made a mark
We got some wedges and a maul
They hardly made any scratch at all
We toiled away from morn to night
We should have thought of dynamite
Old Joe’s a pretty funny bloke
And when we’d pause to have a smoke
He’d look at me and say real dry
“We’ll make a fortune by and by
We’ll write a book, for all to see
About the fun you can have with a Grey Box tree.”
Some thirty years water had passed under the bridge
When I chanced one spring day to go back to that ridge
And I said to my son “We’ll go up and see
If we can find the remains of that bloody great tree”
I’d told him the story, but I don’t think that he
Could believe how much labour we’d lost on that tree
Well the evidence is there, and is laying there still
In Noel Matthey’s paddock on top of the hill
The stump of course and lying round
Some rugged pieces on the ground
Gnarled and twisted, hard as iron
Which brings me now to my final line
No matter how fit you happen to be
Never take and axe to a Grey Box tree.

© – Kevin Magher