Fête – by Jeff Austin

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The bugler could no longer belt out a harmonious tune
The musicians long since replaced by a mechanical croon
One stood out with a loud voice long since gone
A tone drowning out otherwise enthusiastic song

A small country town as patriotic as can abide
The man on the monument surrounded on four sides
Not the tinker, tailor, soldier, or sailor from the town
But four of our finest in uniform from near and around

As the man on the monument looked down from his pedestal
His chin on his hands on his rifle butt looking incredible
The stump at his feet holding up memories from the front
Not a word he would utter even a hundred years not a grunt

He didn’t even flinch when the drummer started his beat
Not a sweat did he offer when the sun started to heat
But inside he smiled at the thought of his mates left behind
Being remembered each passing year in each survivor’s mind

A bedraggled group they formed up at the end of the street
Not just an opportunity for old friends to chat and greet
Ancestors’ medals clanking together on relatives’ right breasts
Survivors from different conflicts displaying proud chests

The scouts and the guides there thought gone to the wall
But there they all were standing so tall
High school with Primary children in their skirts and shorts
Standing quietly together absorbed by their thoughts

Police and Ambos and nurses with other emergency types
Blue beside orange and green cutting through the hype
Not used to marching they still looked the part
They all come together when needed sharing one heart

Pony camp horses took up the rear, as they should
Providing the fertilizer for those that follow, as they would
Riders decked out in cavalry plumage and garb
Having completed a pilgrimage to the site of the charge

Lined up in a heap it was a tremendous sight
Blobs in three ranks not regarding size or height
There were the two Davids casting jungle green shadows
A silhouette of Changi men having succumbed to their blows

The march itself was only 200 metres long to the monument
Enough for the assembled clapping crowd to give testament
Recognising wheelchairs, crutches and limps all out of sync
With their own story reserved for later mates sharing a drink

The sound of the bugle awoke tears in his cast heart
The singing was piercing leaving no visible mark
Black and white marching a shuffle in unison at Menin gate
ANZAC Day now marching along with their mates

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Jeff Austin was born and raised in Sydney and has lived his adult life in rural NSW, notably in the north-west at Walgett. A quiet, humble man with a sense of humour that is a pre-requisite for country life, Jeff is often caught in a reflective mood. Casual observers have naively remarked that ‘the lights are on but no-one’s home’ but others noted he had  ‘oratory talents beyond the comprehension of most mortals’. Author of The Fire Within (fiction 1995), The Serpent’s Tale (non-fiction 2002) and A History of Walgett Aero Club (2014), his latest, yet to be published, Lost in Translation is his first foray into the world of bush ballads.

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FEATURE IMAGE: Trooper David Nicolson, AFG member of an ANZAC Catafalque Party, at Menin Gate, Belgium. Photo by Corporal Steve Duncan


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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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