Inside the dusty brick kiln,
Outside the pelting rain,
Four young blokes wiping raindrops from their heads,
We had rushed up from the river,
Where our sleep had been curtailed,
No more the river grasses for our head.
We acknowledged with a nod,
Each others presence in the kiln,
Spoke our names and shook hands as we meet,
And I pondered lifes next episode,
As we sat there in the gloom,
Little Titch, Johnny, Jim and Pete.
Peter says, “Let’s try to sleep”,
“And at the break of dawn”,
“We’ll check the farms to see what work they’ve got”,
So it was we trampled,
Through Mooroopna to Ardmona,
Where a cheerful chap requested we pick his apricots.
Swinging ape like in the trees,
We pluck the apricots all day,
When in our beds we’re sure we won’t survive,
Then one night a rattling rap,
Upon our crude hut door,
In the dark, standing there a bloke about forty-five.
He says,”I’m goin’ round warnin’ blokes”,
“Young fellers just like you”,
“About some growers mingy with their pay”,
And he warns we should be cautious,
About the bloke we’re working for,
We should ask four times the rate for holidays.
He talked for many hours,
About the workers need to rise,
And give the capitalist bosses what they’re due,
He aimed his talk straight at me,
The most ignorant of them all,
“Christmas is when you act, Jim, Johnny, Pete and you.
An hour or two before the dawn,
He tapped his pipe and went,
Past our empty fruit trees now all stripped and bare,
Then next day from laden trees,
We searched from ladders high,
But we couldn’t see the agitator here nor there.
Our gang of four now picked the crop,
And each night when darkness fell,
We discussed the things the agitator had to say,
And decided that come Christmas time,
For us to pick the apricots,
We’d ask four times the going rate of pay.
On christmas eve we gathered round,
To tell the grower what we thought,
Standing stiff our hands behind our back,
He listened while I had my say,
Then said, “Here’s the deal Young Titch!”
“Take your three mates with you, you’ve all been bloody sacked”.
Through Ardmona and Mooroopna,
Back by the way we had come,
At least our picking had earned a tidy shillin’,
We wondered about the agitator,
And the apricots left to pick,
On Christmas Day outside the old brick kiln.
© Dudley C. Pye A.M, J.P.
[from the story, Six of the Best]