The Early Years

Another day is almost done.

The angry sun sinks low,

As weary men head for the huts

Parading in a row.

A shower, shave and then some grub—

A lively, rowdy hall.

It’s Friday night, they’ve toiled all week;

It’s time to have a ball!

Jack’s been in Weipa many moons

Since bauxite first was found.

The sixties see it growing still—

Red ore for miles around.

The bauxite is North Queensland’s gold,

With red mounds stockpiled high.

Conveyors stretch towards the wharf.

Huge trucks go thund’ring by.

The time has flown since Jack first came

To earn a ‘quid’ or two.

Keeps coming back like all the rest

And loves the lifestyle too.

Each quarter he flies back to Cairns,

A bumpy Fokker flight.

But all too soon the week does pass,

So back on Sunday night.

The scorching sun beats down all day

On bare limbs burnt and brown;

They’re ever toiling, far from home,

They’ve come to build a town.

Assembling quarters, pubs and shops,

Men flock there every day.

Some day there’ll be a proper town

With work as well as play.

Jack likes this rough and ready town

And watches as it grows.

The fights, the brawls and drunken sprees

Are part of life, he knows.

On Friday nights the canteen sings

In bawdy, drunken voice.

No telly then, no picture shows,

There is so little choice.

On weekends from his favourite spots

There’s always time to fish,

And man-sized groper, cod and Jew

Grace many a tasty dish.

Pig hunting, camping in the bush

All help to pass the time.

But never venture in to swim

For crocs are in their prime!

But Jack is getting restless now,

Impatient for his leave.

His mind seems vague, preoccupied—

That one week may relieve.

For his girl, Jeanie, back in Cairns

Is waiting week by week.

He’s changed somehow, a solemn lad.

Those long three months look bleak.

And then at last his time is up,

The next day he will go.

It’s payday now, let’s celebrate!

Fast does the Fourex flow.

The canteen rings a roaring trade

Till wallets all are light.

Loud, teasing, joking happy men

Drink long into the night.

They somehow stagger back to bed.

They’ll pay at work next day.

But Jack, it seems will come off best,

He’s headed far away.

And there, amid his sodden dreams

His Jeanie he does kiss,

His drunken body, borne aloft—

No sense of what’s amiss!

Loud honking sounds break through his sleep.

He groans, Oh God, my head!

Why can’t you let a dead man lie?

Then starts up, filled with dread.

For what is this? Is this a dream?

His bed just there, close by;

No donga though, but open space

Beneath a broad, blue sky.

More honking horns and rowdy laughs,

“Hey Jack, enjoy your trip!’

Wide-eyed he gapes: he stands stark nude—

On Weipa’s grand airstrip!

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