Friday, February 17, 2012

Faithful Dogs: The Dog on the Tuckerbox and Ballad of the Drover

Earth's self upholds this monument
To conquerors who won her,
When wooing was dangerous
And now are gathered unto her again.

At the Dog on the Tuckerbox monument in March 2010

We have come across at least two faithful dogs in our readings over this last week.  Both stories have truly tugged at my heartstrings.  I have been left almost in tears due to the poignant writing of each of the storytellers.  This surprises me as I am not a dog lover - anyone who knows me personally will testify to that in full accord.  This trait has unfortunately been passed down to my girls to some extent, although I have tried my hardest not to do this.

My little girls have not ever liked dogs.  We have had some 'less than nice' experiences while walking in our old neighbourhood in Adelaide when big dogs roamed and barked without being on a leash, where little dogs yapped at my baby in the stroller and owners dallied wondering why my little one was not over the moon at their little ones' antics.  This last year it got to a stage where the big girls both screamed when a dog came by.  This became very difficult when we tried to enjoy an outing in public where dogs may be.  It was also difficult when we visited friend's houses - my girls' greatest concern has always been "do they have a dog?"

Last year a fellow home educating mother became aware of my girls "screaming" reaction and took action.  It became a necessity when we were to visit her family home for a filming activity by the group we are part of.  She and I explained to my girls how her puppy may be scared of their reaction, that it was just a toddler and we could pretend to be brave around the little pup.  The idea of imagined bravado and her understanding of my girls scared reaction was the key which turned them around.  By the end of the day my eldest girl was walking this puppy on a leash.  Very proud mummy here!

Now my girls and I are still not dog lovers but we hope to be able to react calmly around them, only showing caution and concern when there are dogs off leads and dogs without owners.

So it is lovely to be able to share with my girls some stories of the wonderful attribute of faithfulness in dogs.  Indeed loyalty to their master is a trait which dogs are renowned for in Australian bush folklore.  Our studies are taking us around Australia through literature this year so perhaps I should not be surprised at all to find stories of faithful dogs surfacing twice in a week.

The Dog on the Tuckerbox

I have found The Dog on the Tuckerbox, by Corinne Fenton to be a fabulous read.  Lady is the faithful dog who both begins and ends the story sitting on the tuckerbox of her master, Bill.

"Lady sat on the tuckerbox watching her master, Bill.  He packed up his billy and stamped out the campfire.  It was time to get moving."

The story establishes itself very securely in its setting - the Australia of 100-150 years ago.  The language used is clearly Australian without being crass in any way.  There is mention of tucker, billy and the campfire on the first page as well as bullocks, settlers and homesteads soon thereafter.  Lady and Bill share times of great joy and sharing as well as times of great challenge.  One which sees Lady almost at the end of her days, but for the care of Bill provided so lovingly and tenderly.  Finally, in the greatest challenge of them all, we see Lady showing such loyalty to her master as brought shivers to my arms, standing the hairs on end and duly tugging at my heartstrings.

"In 1932 a monument of a dog sitting on a tuckerbox was erected five miles from Gundagai."

The illustrations by Tasmanian artist Peter Gouldthorpe are beautiful and poignantly portray a sense of the love of an Australia now past.  He pays particular attention to detail in each illustration.  I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of an aging Lady throughout the book, as did my eight year old Ess.

We borrowed this book from the library when I heard about the author, Corinne Fenton.  It will be hard to take back and when it is returned perhaps we may need to purchase a copy to hold near to our hearts in our home.

Everyone is familiar with the famous Australian bush poet Henry Lawson (pictured above) and I was excited today to find that the Australian Poem of the Day was his Ballad of the Drover.

This ballad tells the story of a drover who has been out droving for some time in Queensland.  He is on his journey home to meet his beloved.  One can hear the song he is humming and the accompanying jingling and jangling of all his campware, with two horses walking steadily side by side carrying all that is required when one is away from home for an extended period of time.  Here also is his faithful dog who has been with his master day in, day out.  However his afternoon is rather like ours here today: a storm is brewing.  He has a sturdy determination to reach home and pushes his party forward across a flooding river despite the thunder's warning.  Rover, "the best dog on the plain" and one of his "hardy horses" make their way across.  The cattle dog is seen on the river bank with the pack horse, but soon jumps back into the river to the place he last saw his master, such is his faithfulness.  He struggles and fails himself, leaving only the packhorse to return home to convey the sad tale of the drover and his mate.

I use these stories to seek narrations from Ess as part of her home education.  She is a keen and avid reader, her oration skills are still developing so I am happy for these to be oral at this stage.  She will be a wonderful writer in due course as she is exposed to so much fabulous literature.  I recently heard a comment from the Australian author Margo Lanagan referring to immersing ourselves in great literature in order to be a great writer.  I'll hold onto that comment.

1 comment:

Ruby said...

I too love The Ballad of the Drover. Have you read Rusty it's good bye?
"He didn't know his master lay on a battle field to die,
He didn't hear his master say, "Rusty, it's goodbye."
Now that is an Aussie tear jerker.

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