The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
It's surprising how some men change their opinions. Now, there's Old Bill Blue bush, who used to be in the same troop as me, out in Palestine. It ever a man was "fed up" with soldiering, I reckon it was Old Bill To say that his sentiments (as expensed) were disloyal is to put the case mildly. His opinion ot the Holy Land and all it contained is likewise unprintably purple.
When, after one of those famous "backsheesh" stunts, with which we were all so painfully familiar, we would finally adjust ourselves to the particular piece of sand indicated bv operation orders, as our camping ground, Old Bill's spleen would find expression No pig-eyed poter or lazy learer ever provoked Bill's blasphemy as did those stunts, and their attending discomforts.
"If this isn't a .... dog's life,'' he'd begin, "I'd like to know what is." Then he would address his horse, something after the following manner: "Woa, back yer .... cow." As he reached for right buckles, he would call down maledictions, such as only a bullock driver can, upon pack saddles and septic sores.
Presently, some trooper, who had wiped enough dust from has eyes to see things in their right perspective, would say:
"Think of your King and Country, Bill, and remember Belgium."
Old Bill's reply was usually a supreme effort, even for Bill It flogged and flayed everything visible and invisible. The day when he "signed on", the shin that brought him to "this God forsaken nigger land," the Army in general, the Kaiser and the Turks; and usually he ended with a pirticularly fierce outburst directed against the grinning troopers, and himself for ever having left Australia. It was the same when, later, we reached the Jordan Valley; only then, Old Bill's anger was roused by the cold and wet. which he could curse comprehensively, as he had the heat and dust in summer time
The war suddenly ended, and Old Bill murmured a fervent "Thank God," the only prayer he was ever known to utter.
I don't see Bill again until yesterday. It was sale day at Hift's Creek, to which budding township the pursuit of my business led me. Naturally, I drifted to the sale-ring—a solid post and rail yard at the rear of Ryan'a pub. About a hundred people were clustered around the
ring. Mostly they were seated on the capping of the fence, but a few were peering between the rails at the stock under offer, and at thi aucioneer, who was just in the act of "knocking down" a couple of scared steers. The hammer-in this case a malacca came, held by the thin end—fell, then was raised again and pointed at the buyer, whom I instantly recognised as my old section mate, Bill Bluebush.
In five seconds we were shaking hands, and in half that number of minutes we were in Ryan's bar, each grasping a glass handle. It was Old Bill's "shout," and he said, as he raised his "pot,'' "Here's to the good old days we had in Palestine." I remembered Bill's feeings re Army life, and observed, "Pretty rough times; those, weren't they Bill?"
Old Bill placed his empty glass "pot" and the price of two more drinks on the counter, and! smiled as though my remark had revived pleasant memories.
"The happiest days of me life," he said. "We'll never see such times again. 'Member when we uster lob inter camp, covered in dust and dry as bones? Why, we was happy as Larry. Use'n't the lads to swear when they bumped their septics?"
Here old Bill laughed outright at his joyful recollections. His genuine mirth infected me, too, until my recollections made me. laugh loudly, as well.
"My oath!" Old Bill ran on contentedly, "It was good to see all them Holy places. I often tells the missus and the kids about 'em. Cripes? the great old times we had. If there was another scrap to start tormorrer, blow me! if I wouldn't come at it again "
I passed Ryan another bob, and as I listened to the pleasan' gurgle of his beer, I saw once again Wadi Ghuzze, hungry horses, and Old Bill, smothered in dust, blasnhemously cursing Palestine, the Army, and sepic sores.
Australia to-day is full of Bill Bluebushes. Two years of our glorious Homeland have healed our wounded feelings. The incense of the Bush has driven forever from our nostrils the stench of Eastern villages. We laugh happily as we fill-em-up-again, and drink to the "Good old Days."