Muriel's father Ben Aldred

Drawing by Graham Naylor

June 1991


Relaxed in his wheelchair, smoking his pipe
With a steadfast gaze and contented smile,
I fade from my father's sight and mind
At least for a little while.
He is fishing from the Murrambidgee,
Droving sheep or felling a tree,
No longer trapped in his frail old body,
He is young again, strong and free.
Once again a lone boundary rider
Checking fences or mending gates;
Or sitting around a friendly camp-fire
Swapping tall yarns with his mates.
He is a ringer in the hot, dusty shearing shed
Where the work is hard and the men are rough,
Eating well when work is plentiful,
Humping his bluey when things are tough.
He is in the School of Arts in a country town
Where the locals hold monthly bush dances.
The fiddle and accordian lend wings to his feet
As around the hall he is laughing and prancing.
He is mustering cattle or harvesting grain,
Or goading on his strong bullock team,
I am careful not to disturb him,
Not to shatter an old man's dream.
When he shakes his head, scrapes out his pipe,
Looks across at me with a rueful smile
I am free to re-enter my father's world,
At least for a little while.