The Dog Sits On The Tuckerbox...WTF?
Yesterday was Australia Day and the flags went up, the barbies were lit and the drone of our anthem was heard throughout the land.
Waltzing Matilda may have been sung and perhaps someone recited The Man From Snowy River.
But I wonder if that’s about it for the old Australian songs and symbols.
I started thinking about this as earlier in the week I drove from Melbourne to Sydney. Apart from Holbrook it’s all bypass now so you no longer see the Dog on the Tuckerbox.
In my youth doing the same drive, The Dog was right next to the Hume Highway. We would have stopped five miles from Gundagai and Mum and Dad might have broken out the thermos and the sandwhiches.
Kicking the dust around the statue we kids would have discovered that there was a popular poem by Jack Moses in the 1920s which inspired the sculpture which then inspired a popular song by Jack O’Hagan.
While pestering Dad for a Choc Wedge, we would have found out that the Dog was intended as a memorial to the bullock wagon drivers who first hauled freight up and down this track in the century before trucks and cars.
By the time we were back burning our legs on the hot vinyl seats of the Falcon, we’d absorbed a little bit of an earlier Australia.
The memorial was working. The bullockies of the 1800s had been remembered.
The Dog is still there, and you can take the exit and get a Maccas or a KFC or dine at the Tuckerbox restaurant. You can probably still get a teatowel with O’Hagan’s lyrics on it, but that Australia of bullockies and swaggies, of brumbies and bunyips is distant now. It’s not right there on the main road.
I’m not pining for a historical view of triumphant progress across the land. The Dog’s statue includes this inscription:
‘Earth’s self upholds this monument, To conquerors who won her…’
I’m simply observing that those kind of national symbols and stories are gone. We can sing a verse and a chorus of Waltzing Matilda, but who can sing Click Go The Shears or Botany Bay or the Wild Colonial Boy? There’s kids at pre-school called Banjo and Matilda but can their parents or grandparents recite all of Snowy River or Clancy or Mulga Bill? Is Henry Lawson on the shelf or CJ Dennis?
It’s all as old hat now as corks round a hat. As corks.
But we did once write new songs and stories. Songs like Great Southern Land, Sounds of Then, Solid Rock, We Are Australian, Still Call Australia Home. Stories like Newsfront and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
I don’t miss the old. But I am missing the new.
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