Dogs on the Backs of Utes 5


Cessnock, Saturday morning 27 July, two hours further down the Hunter Valley from home.

A ute, a dog and a swag…kind of perfect, don’t you agree?

Oh, a swag is the Australian word for bedroll. So, a man who travelled on foot, carrying his swag, was known as a swagman, as in Waltzing Matilda:

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah  tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

You very very very rarely see a swagman nowadays. These itinerant rovers who waltzed their swag across the bush and lived their lives on the road, and on the back road, are no more. But I think of them every morning when I cook my porridge. I always remember my Dad, who grew up wild and flash and fatherless in outer Sydney in the 1930s and 40s,  and who spent all his holidays with his cousins at a property called Killowen at Warren, telling me of swaggies who lived on rolled oats boiled in their billy…

Of course, just about everyone in the bush now, across Australia, has one of these modern swags. It’s good to sleep under the stars.

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