From his home beneath the mountains
in his shabby leather chair
sat the old high country farmer
with the log burner there.
He was feeling tired yet happy
for the muster was complete
of the flock down from the mountains
safe from rain and hail and sleet.
From the unforgiving winter
and the drifts of powdered snow
to the sheltered lowland paddocks
where the golden tussocks grow.
From a lifetime on the station
he had gained a love of art
and a passion for the poet
as he rode the stations path.
Now the word had reached the station
of the work of C McCahn
purchased for a million dollars
people came from near and far.
So he set off for the city
in the early morning glow
and crossed the braided river
in the winter’s lower flow.
From the station through the foothills
leading to the patchwork plains
where there’s dairy cows in thousands
and there once were fields of grain.
As he closed in on the city
emerging in the morning sun
there were shepherds in the paddocks
for the lambing had begun.
Soon he reached the central city
with the latest art on show
and parked beside the river
where the weeping willows grow.
With acute anticipation
and a spring in every step
he approached the glass clad building
where the art treasures were kept.
There he stood before the painting
the academics ooh’s and ah’d
while the Cocky from the station
stood with craggy jaw ajar.
Oh the painting was a plaster
splats of blue and green and gold,
was the artist really famous
or just a lad of six years old.
So he trudged on through the building
Wishing he had never come
Wondering who would be so foolish
to buy that work for such a sum.
Then he came upon a painting
of a proud old Maori chief
and the skill of the creator
was a skill beyond belief.
From the furrows on his forehead
to the moko on his chin
see the wrinkles, see the texture
on that gnarled and weathered skin
See the power, see the wisdom
captured in the chieftain’s eye
see the cloak of kiwi feathers.
This will thrill the passer by.
Yet those city academics
Stood with silent jaws ajar
While the Cocky from the station
Gazed in wonder and ooh’d and ah’d
No the city academics
Scarcely gave a second glance
To this work of P J Caley
That held the station boss entranced.
So he trudged back to hi Hilux
coated thick with crusted clay
The artistic taste of academics
left him bewildered and dismayed.
Then he set off for the mountains
where the braided rivers flow
to his home beside the hillside
where the golden tussocks grow
There he sits beside the fireside
in his shabby leather chair
safelt from the closing winter
and the frosty mountain air.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
On visiting the Sydney Royal show, Valmai and I completely disagreed with
The judge’s choice of the Supreme Exhibit which led me to writing this poem.