Rough Riding in 1896

Although the name of Andrew Barton „Banjo“ Paterson may not ring a bell immediately, you surely have heard about his most popular piece of poetry, „Waltzing Matilda“. Sung to the likewise popular melody (which, other than the lyrics, survived the pretty complete morphing into Tom Waits‘ version of the song), it has become something like the national anthem of Australia.The inofficial one, admitted – but still, it made it, e.g., to the closing  ceremony of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, as the most memorable closing act:

What this has to do with biking?

Well, a different poem by „Banjo“ Paterson jumps to mind in this season when I am swapping my road bike(s) for a mountain bike and go into the wild terrains of the surrounding woods. Full of good memories and nice adventures, cool rides and one or the other stunt that proved my command of the steel (or alloy or titanium) beast.

Alas, that may be worth very little when it comes to mastering the off-road descends and hurdles of a single trail. It’s this time of the year again, the time I am prone to pull another handful of really nice Mulga Bills:

MULGA BILL’S BICYCLE by A.B. „Banjo“ Paterson
as published by The Sydney Mail on 25 July, 1896

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But 'ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dean Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.
I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek, we'll leave it lying still;
A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill."
© Copyright 2012 bxa, All rights Reserved. Written For: bxa's Greetings from Germany

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