Been awhile since I’ve put pen to paper and a lot has happened during that time but I have been to busy with farm work, cutting firewood and catching up with family and friends after my six months on the mainland (Australia) I am now back in Tasmania, have been back since November 2016.
It takes something special to fire up the brain cells and start putting words to paper and write about a subject that moves you from the couch to the computer and today whilst listening to some Slim Dusty country music, it inspired me to write about a mate who passed away just last week.
Slim Dusty and his music has been part of my life since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and his songs of the Aussie landscape, the outback and the country people have given me great pleasure and a true sense of belonging to our Australian way of life.
There is a lot going on in the land down under and things are not the same anymore (a title of one of Slim Dusty songs) there are many changes in the political circle and times are tough for many people. Immigration is causing all sorts of problems and unfortunately they are not going to be fixed any time soon, that is another story for another day.
Right, back to my great mate who I lost recently, we have been mates for over thirty years and have shared many fun times and lots of adventures, his name is Johnny Triffett, I called him JR. He was 84 years old and he would often say to me, “you know Kev, we have lived through the best time and I wouldn’t like to be around in 10 years time” he went on to say; “I’ve had a good productive life and I wouldn’t change it for anything”
Now Slim Dusty I have met twice, both times at concerts and I remember a special time at one of his concerts, my son Darren “who sadly passed away” was Down syndrome and we took him back stage to meet Slim and the great man gave him a cuddle and shook his hand and signed his record and tape for Darren. Darren was over joyed and so excited he wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks.
Johnny and I both loved country music and especially Slim Dusty songs. I think Slim has a great way with words and his poetry/song writing is unique and special and this is borne out by his popularity years after he passed away.
Johnny and I also had a passion and love of horse riding and horses in general, he owned two-part Arab’s Kato and Scotty and I owned quite a few horses as I used to break them in and also do farrier work for mine and other horses. My main riding horses were Breeze, Toby and Sahm. Sahm was full blood Arab and the other two were part Arab/stock horse.
Johnny could belt out a good rendition of Slim Dusty’s songs, he could play the guitar and many a night camped in the bush by a roaring fire or in his cellar under the house we would have sing alongs and knock back a few beers. Mind you Johnny was no Caruso and I wasn’t much better but we would belt out with gusto Slim’s country songs.
Songs like, You’ve Done Us Proud, When The Rain Tumbles Down In July, Trumby, Pub With No Beer, Waltz Sing Matilda and many others, often Johnny would invite other mates and our partners would also roll up with lots of food.
What these two blokes have in common is their love of Australia and its way of life and the great country music. Sadly both have passed on but I remember the good times I had with Johnny and I will always enjoy playing Slim Dusty and his wonderful music that so embossed and stamps the bush and its harsh unwilding climate and of course the people who endure and fight every day to make a crust.
I myself class my self as a typical country bloke who can turn their hands to do anything with the motto of, have ago.
Many of Slim’s songs I can relate to and his clear and concise words portray a typical Aussie battler trying to turn a dollar, the songs of the bush, the land, the outback, the truck drivers, the Aboriginals, the farmers with their cattle and sheep, the flora and fauna unique to Australia and of course the many small rural communities and its people.
Songs like; A Natural High and I’d Sooner Be A has Been Than a Never Was At All or the very moving; How Good Is Life, these songs and many more I play just about every day. The songs are on my iPhone, iPod and computer.
Every time I play Slim Dusty songs I will be reminded of my mate Johnny, it will stir up emotions and reflections of our time past. when I play The Man From Snowy River the song about a mountain born and bred stockman who rode a mountain bred pony, sure-footed and the stamina of an Elephant, it will remind me of the time Johnny and I rode down the old school track, from the upper swamp to Lachlan. The track was set in the mountains above Lachlan village, was steep, with many twists and turns and in some places overgrown. We raced down that mountain track with no fear and like a torrent of water surging down a hill we never drew bridal till a barbed wire fence came into view. We pulled our horses up, standing in the stirrups and leaning way back, as the horse slowed and skidded on their rump with their back legs under their belly.
We breathed a sigh of relief as we managed to stop just feet from the barbed fence, looking at one and other with smiles on our faces, we dodged the bullet that day, it was a close call.
We found a way round the fence and continued down the track a fair bit slower until we reached the main Lachlan road.
The many other classic songs of Slim Dusty were based on the famous poets, Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson and many other talented writers throughout Australia. Who would not remember The Pub With No Beer and The Rain Tumbles Down In July.
They remind me of the time, Johnny and I rode the Lachlan/Crabtree ride down Jefferys Track, we were rugged up with our Drizabone coats and Akubra hats as the forecast of wet and windy weather was to hit us throughout the ride. The sky opened and the cold southerly wind hit us like a sledge-hammer, we reached into our saddle bags pulling out bottles of Green Ginger wine to ward off the cold but the rain and at hail was relentless, the wind went straight through us, chilling our bones to the core.
A fast gallop from the open country to a bit of shelter amongst the trees, was in order and we galloped our horses for a couple of miles before resting under the trees. A few more swallows of Green Ginger and we headed off down the mountain to Crabtree. A roaring fire was built after the horse were yarded and we settled down for a night of booze and country music. A great memory of Johnny that ride.
Another classic song of Slim’s was Tall Dark Man In the Saddle, this reminded me of the way Johnny used to ride, he would never sit straight in the saddle, he always seemed to be leaning out to the left and this would make the horse drift to the right causing problems with other riders. This habit of leaning in the saddle bought Johnny undone on a ride at Gretna. There were about 20 riders and we were galloping down a gravel road with lots of sharp corners, I was out in front of Johnny on my Arab, Sahm and we came up to this hairpin corner at a fast pace, I managed to get Sahm round the corner and I looked back at Johnny and his horse Kato, I could see him try to slow down and noticed that he was leaning way out to the left, next thing he was under the horses belly, the synch strap had broken and he fell off underneath the horse. Thank our lucky stars that Kato stopped straight away and old Johnny ended up with a red face and a few scratches and he gave us his classic saying,” yeaaaaaaaaaaaaa, that was close” We all had a good laugh, fixed up his girth on the saddle and continued on our way.
Johnny had another close shave that could have killed him, we were coming back from one of the many Crabtree rides, I was back from Johnny, in a group of riders and we noticed that once again old Johnny was leaning out to the left on his horse, there was a very steep drop off on the left all the way down the track and Johnny horse seemed to be getting closer and closer to the edge. Then all of a sudden he was gone, horse and rider were over the edge, we all raced to where he went over, jumped off our horses to see the damage.
Johnny was under the horse, a large log had stopped horse and rider going all the way to the bottom. We managed to calm the horse down and get her back on her feet without doing any damage to Johnny. We got the horse back up on the track with a lot of effort and then concentrated on getting Johnny checked over and getting him out from under the log.
He had some scratches a sore shoulder, some bruising and a very sore knee, we bandaged the knee and put him in one of the support vehicles to be taken to town and a doctor. We found out later that his knee was busted and that he, Johnny was in hospital.
This incident could have been a lot worse and Johnny was always thankful that log certainly saved his life.
I certainly feel the loss of Johnny and I will look with fondness on the many moments of our friendship that have been such a part of my life. Johnny spent some time with my son Darren, who passed away a few years back. Darren was also a great fan of Slim Dusty and being born with Downs syndrome did not hinder his love of country music and his love for Slim.
The time of Darrens 45th birthday was especially a tear jerker for the whole family, when Johnny sat down with Darren and played his guitar and sang some of Slim’s songs, Darren pretended he had a mike and sang along with Johnny, bringing a tear to everyone’s eye, it was awesome.
Johnny always had a smile and a cheeky way about him, he fancied himself as a bit of a ladies man, he would greet his many lady friends with a smile and open arms saying ; ” hallo darling, you lovely thing”. With the blokes it was ; “hallo Kev, you lovely chap” and he would very often in a conversation answer back with a “yeaaaaaaaaaaaa”. He loved his flower garden, especially the roses and could be seen most days tending his garden or doing improvements around the house.
Would spend weeks before Christmas decorating his house with all sorts of coloured and blinking lights. “for the kids” he would say.
I can remember the spot lighting nights the hunting trips to the high country, all the trail rides, his Toyota Landcruiser station wagon, 4wd, that he would polish and clean everyday. I used to rib him about his fancy Toyota, tell him it was a luxury and all its life had never been off the bitium, he would just laugh and say “yeaaaaaaaaaaa”
Johnny’s partner of 23 years Valda kept him on good tucker and he never wanted for anything, old Johnny was not a cook that’s for sure, he couldn’t boil water but he was definitely spoilt by Valda’s cooking and many time’s I would share a meal at his home and then spend the rest of the playing and singing country music.
Johnny like Slim has gone to a better place, he endured a short illness but has left a life time of memories and I will always think of my mate when ever I play Slim Dusty.
May they both rest in peace and forever play their guitars and sing country songs.