clancy@theoverflow and The Mountain Biker from Snowy River: twenty-first century homages to two of Banjo Patterson's creations.


I had written him a text...     Near the Central Coast town of Wyee are hand-made signs saying simply 'Shearer' and giving a mobile phone number. Great for the hobby farmers, of course, but does the shearer dream of the big mobs out West? And what would Banjo Patterson (to whom I apologise) have made of it:

    I had written him a text 
    Which I'd sent, hoping the next
    Time he came in mobile coverage
    He'd have time to say hello.
    But I'd heard he'd lost his iPhone,
    So I emailed him from my phone,
    Just addressed, on spec, as follows:

    And the answer – redirected –
    Wasn't quite what I'd expected
    And it wasn't from the shearing mate
    Who'd answered once before.
    His ISP provider wrote it
    And verbatim I will quote it: 
    'This account has been suspended:
    You won't hear from him no more.'

    In my wild erratic fancy
    Visions come to me of Clancy:
    Out of reach of mobile coverage
    Where the Western rivers flow.
    Instead of tapping on the small screen,
    He'd be camping by the tall green
    River gums – a pleasure
    That the town folk never know. 

    Well, the bush has friends to meet him
    But the rest of us can't greet him:
    Out there, even Telstra's network
    Doesn't give you any bars.
    He can't blog the vision splendid
    Of the sunlit plains extended
    Or tweet the wondrous glory 
    Of the everlasting stars.



    I am sitting at the keyboard
    And I'm too stressed out to be bored
    As I answer all the emails
    By the deadlines they contain
    While my screen fills with promotions
    For 'V1aggra' and strange potions
    And announcements of the million-dollar
    Prizes I can claim.

    But the looming deadlines haunt me
    And their harrying senders taunt me 
    That they need response this evening
    For tomorrow is too late!
    But their texts, too quickly ended,
    Often can't be comprehended
    For their writers have no time to think –
    They have no time to wait.

    And I sometimes rather fancy 
    That I'd like to trade with Clancy:
    Just set up an email bouncer
    Saying 'Sorry, had to go.'
    While he faced in an inbox jamming
    Up with deadlines and with spamming
    As he signed off every message:

  clancy@theoverflow, read by the author. And here's a printable version and here a link to the ABC's interview about it. If you would like to reprint this (a number of provincial newspapers have), I usually say yes, but it's polite to ask. If you do reprint it, please acknowledge me as the author and link to this site. Also, please use this version and not one of the clumsily modified versions posted elsewhere on the web.

    Well, after I posted Clancy, people kept asking about another iconic Australian character, and whether his spirit lived on in the twenty-first century...

    The Mountain Biker from Snowy River

    There were ripples on the lattes for the rumour had been spread
    That a cash prize had been offered for the ride
    That they did each Sunday morning – a thousand dollars, it was said–
    And a row of fancy bikes was parked outside.
    All the tried and noted riders from the city and the East
    Had gathered there for brunch at ten a.m.
    For the locals like hard riding – if it's followed by a feast –
    And the Coogee slopes are made for such as them.

    There was Henderson who made his name when racing Malvern Stars
    The old man with his lycra faded white
    Yet few could ride beside him when he took the handlebars
    He could go wherever you could take a bike.
    And Clancy of the Overflow came down to try his luck
    No finer rider 'ere put foot on pedal
    He still finished up the time trial on the day his brakes got stuck
    And he crossed the finish line on smoking metal.

    And one was there, a stripling, on a step-through ladies' frame
    A one-speed with a springy leather seat
    With a brake that you backpedalled when the time for stopping came
    And rubber pedals underneath the feet.
    But the man looked tough and wiry – just the sort that won't say die –
    As the fastest road race riders often are
    And his bike was built to take whatever came down from on high
    – In the wicker basket on the handlebar.

    But the frame was old and rusty, one would doubt its power to stay,
    And the old man said, 'That bike will never do
    For a long and tiring road race – lad, you'd better stop away,
    These hills are far too rough for such as you.'
    So he waited sad and wistful – only Clancy stood his friend –
    'I think we ought to let him come,' he said;
    'I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
    For both his bike and he are mountain bred.'

    'He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
    Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
    Where a mountain bike would fall apart on every second ride,
    And the man that holds his own is good enough.'
    So he went, but on the first ascent, the town boys formed a clump
    They cranked away, and shifted down to low
    And the old man gave his orders, 'Boys, go at them from the jump,
    No use to try for fancy riding now.

    And, Clancy, you must catch them, and catch them early on.
    Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
    For never yet was rider that could pass the peleton,
    If they're in front when they come down the hills.'
    So Clancy rode to catch them – he was bent over the bars
    And his feet flew round the cranks like bloody hell,
    As he led the group of chasers – overtaking several cars
    With the jolly sounds of tinkling from his bell.

    But fast the town boys pedalled up the Coogee Bay Road slope
    Where the eager watchers gathered on each side
    And the old man muttered fiercely 'We haven't got a hope:
    No man can catch them down the other side.'
    On the Carrington Road summit, even Clancy took a pull,
    It well might make the boldest whisper 'Jeez',
    The slope was one in four and the bitumen was full
    Of pot holes: you could slip and skin your knees.

    But the man from Snowy River let the one-speed just freewheel,
    And he turned his head around and gave a cheer,
    And he passed some of the town boys as their brakes began to squeal,
    While the bystanders looked on in very fear.
    He sent the gravel flying, but the bicycle was sweet,
    The potholes hardly bounced his rapid glide,
    And The Man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat –
    It was grand to see that mountain biker ride.

    Through the red lights and the stop signs and the parked cars all around
    Down the hillside at a tearing pace he went;
    And he never pedaled backwards till he landed safe and sound,
    At the bottom of that terrible descent.
    He was right among the townies as they climbed Clovelly Hill,
    And the watchers back in Coogee standing mute,
    Saw his pedals turning madly, he was right among them still,
    As he raced along up Brook Street in pursuit.

    Then they lost him for a moment, where two Coogee gullies met
    Up in Randwick, but a final glimpse reveals
    On a dim and distant hillside the town boys racing yet,
    With The Man from Snowy River at their wheels.
    And as the shadows lengthened, he passed the thinning pack
    Just taking on one rider at a time
    Till he pedaled down the bay road, with the sunset at his back
    And with daylight second, crossed the finish line.

    But his trusty ladies' step-through looked a bit the worse for wear
    With a sagging saddle and a twisted chain,
    With crooked rims and ruptured tires and bearings glowing hot
    It looked as though she'd never ride again.
    So among the cappuccinos in the café by the Bay,
    Where the men in lycra tell their stories tall
    The Man from Snowy River is a household word today –
    And that's his bike, there, hanging on the wall.

Joe Wolfe, with apologies to Banjo Patterson and his Man from Snowy River. Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License.

  The Mountainbiker from Snowy River, read by the author, and here's a printable version. If you would like to reprint this, I usually say yes, but it's polite to ask, and to acknowledge the author.

Joe Wolfe at UNSW. Joe's music.