Out in Wiljakali country on the Mundi Mundi Plains
there lived old Jimmy Sanders and his dog
On a shifting track to nowhere in a shack of tin and stone
with the feral donkeys, goats and wild hogs.
The heat was unrelenting like the dust and flies and mozzies
so everything would crowd beneath the trees
Shingle Backs a-cruising through the deep red ochre sand
a clutch of grumpy camels stood in threes.
Jimmy and Old Yeller – for that was his best friend’s name –
would sit upon the porch and watch the sky
As the blood red desert sunset spread across the drifting sand
they marvelled at the landscape washed with fire.
Old Yeller lay at Jimmy’s feet content and wanting nothing
except to be with Jimmy day and night
So long as Jimmy had Old Yeller snoring at his feet
he knew that in the world all must be right.
By day they went on hunting tours through spinifex and mulga
Old Yeller sniffed and zig-zagged like a fox
The landscape stretched before them, ancient oceans old as time
where dinosaurs still lay beneath the rocks.
The two old friends returned at night to the humble little shack
a feed of bully beef and bread was waiting
Until content they both would go to Jimmys Navy swag
to wonder how the other half were making.
Old Yeller dreamed of rabbits, bloody nuisance that they were
while Jimmy dreamed of girls in days long past
Of a life spent in the Navy as he sailed the seven seas
so young and strong atop the ship’s great mast.
Up at sunrise every day a ritual was honoured
Old Yeller woke up first and stirred his master
A big fat paw on Jimmy’s face would wake him in a jiffy
Old Yeller’s tongue would wake him even faster!
They would breakfast in the red hot dawn of vast and golden sky
and share a dish of rabbit stew and damper
As soon as Yeller finished he would go fetch Jimmy’s boots
and out they’d go to make the bunnies scamper.
Then one day disaster struck: Old Yeller couldn’t wake him
poor Jimmy lay there, silent, blue and cold
Till nephew John came calling with an unsigned lease in hand
Jim had stubbornly refused to mine for gold.
Old Yeller saw young John who only ever came to beg
’bout whether Jimmy put him in the Will
He stood right by his master, gnashing teeth with a fearsome growl
that gave John’s greedy blood the Devil’s chill.
Now Johnny saw the old man and he knew that he was gone
that he had to make the usual arrangements
But Yeller wouldn’t let him near, not an ice cube’s chance in Hell
he stood his ground and even bit the Ranger.
Three days did pass since Jimmy died, Old Yeller growing weak
no longer could they save his faithful hide
The Ranger had to shoot him, put him back where he belonged
right by his much beloved master’s side.
They buried Jimmy Sanders with Old Yeller at his feet
at Silverton with a cross of flinty stone
Beneath a single mulga where the road and desert meet
so Jimmy’s soul would never walk alone.
“You don’t know where” the Pastor said “and surely don’t know when
The Maker calls, your life now His to take
ashes to ashes, dust to dust, take Jimmy Sanders home
with an Honour Guard, Old Yeller his best mate.”
Another chill down Johnny’s spine as they lowered to the ground
his flesh and blood that owned five gold rich acres
John could have sworn on his Mother’s grave he heard Old Yeller growl
As he followed Jimmy home to meet their maker.
So young John’s riding back to town to claim the land at last
when his horse reared up and bolted off in fright
A fearsome, yellow snarling dog, his jaws the gates of Hell
broke Johnny’s neck then vanished out of sight.
Today that lonely roadway out the back of Broken Hill
runs past the pub that serves the demon grog
And many a man has sworn off drink when on the homeward ride
they were set upon by Jimmy Sanders dog.
Copyright Suzanne James 2019