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THE BALLAD OF SMITHY & THE BREAKERS ON BONDI BEACH (updated)

by Graeme Fielden

the day was barely dawning
it was seven in the morning
yet the heat was well past thirty on the gauge
the cicadas, they’re a singing
and the seagulls, they’re a squawking
as I woke up tired and sweaty in a rage

because the night before was jumping
and my head it now is thumping
and I can’t believe the noise from down below
the voice of smithy I can hear
“jesus, someone pass a beer!”
is his call as though he's spruiking at the show

so i got me out of bed
let the blood rush to me head
give old smithy a good portion of my mind
for a bloke that’s keen as mustard
he’s just gone and got me flustered
for on saturday’s this gee up thing’s unkind!

so i got me good and ready
til me shakin legs were steady
and me voice box was all primed up for a shout
as i got me to the window
there was little else i could do
'cept to rub my eyes in wonder and in doubt

'cos the beach was nearly empty
'cept the nippers in the channel
getting dumped within a shore break, ten feet high
and out near the horizon
came a bank of waves I’m sizin'
to be getting near to twenty storey’s high

when a wave breaks past the heads
well a fella’s certain dead
if he ventures near the water with his board
surely smithy must be joking
but his hands and legs are stroking
as he battles through the shore break to the back

there’s a crowd of surfers forming
they have gathered on this morning
with a look of pure amazement in their eyes
as the life guards close the beach
now there's no one there to reach
dear old smithy if in trouble, waves and cries

but old smithy he’s from sydney
he’s from bondi, born and bred
and a fella who is tougher won't be found
if anyone can tame this
sure it’s smithy who will do it
i’m just praying he won’t end up underground

so with an intricate precision
smithy timed the waves division
sailing easily through shore break he was clear
as a wave grew out the back
smithy paddled through, on-track
passing easily, not showing any fear

all the clubbies on the beach
they ran up and down to reach
the best vantage point to watch his foolish ride
all the places on the hill
seated audience to fill 
as smithy paddled on with pride

there came bookies to the sand
taking bets whether he'd land
on the safety and the dryness of the coast
and myself, i'll wager a fifty
on old neptune playing shifty
and he’ll swallow poor old smithy good and whole

now Smithy’s near the back
he’s almost there, on track
for the drop zone where the monster waves are breaking
as the wall of waters loom
inviting smithy to his tomb
as they break it feels as though the beach is shaking!

smithy disappears
duck dives low, appears to cheers
he continues on his fearful, endless trek
as he sits there, tired & waiting
there’s no question, no escaping
this new monster that’s appeared from out the back

old smithy paddled ready
held his shaking board to steady
and the wave began to stand, began to rise
and i’m telling you this true
that the bugger’s big and blue
it’s the biggest ever seen by my two eyes

digger wal, he said “that’s sixty”
then another digger, “forty”
and it’s height is still the subject of debate
but there’s none that talk whilst fishing
that is doing him some wishing
tt was him that shared old smithy’s fearful fate

'cos when smithy’s half-way down
cutting moves toward the town
well the monster goes and rears its ugly head
and the brave old fool is tiring
and his spindly legs are shaking
waves and sharks - they're waiting to be fed

smithy rides into the shore
then he looks around for more
forgets the sandbar which appears, just there, out front
as smithy takes a bow
salutes a fist - for here and now
the wave reappears beneath the board.

'cos a wave is never dead
it re-reared it’s ugly head
it climbed to twenty feet, or more, in shallow water
and old smithy’s been a clubbie
for now nigh on forty years
and he’s never feared the sea but gee he ought to!

when it crashed onto the bank
well the crowds of faces sank
for they knew of poor old smithy’s fearful fate
when his back was pounded, “crack”
he was never coming back
half a broken board was all that reached the beach…

there’s a legend that is growing
that old smithy, he’s still surfing
for old smithy, the old bastard, he went missing
now when monster waves appear
there's ghostly echo’s in your ear
“lack of beer here up in heaven's what i'm a missing…”

now the clubbies on the shore
And the icebergs ever more
tell the legend of old smithy, ever growing
to old smithy raise a beer
cos he’ll whisper in your ear
“it’s all bull-shit son & bull-shit’s not worth knowing!”

GLOSSARY OF AUSSIE TERMS:

Spruking: A person standing outside a place of business trying to persuade patrons to enter, or vigourously trying to persuade customers to purchase a their wares (ie. a fruiterer calling out the price of bananas).

Keen as mustard: Australian idiom to indicate enthusiasm.From the brand of powdered mustard manufactured by the Keen company. Keen's Mustard... thereby keen as mustard.

Nippers: Junior surf life savers.

Duck dive: a way of passing a surfboard through a breaking wave while paddling

Gee up - to tease in a joking or mocking way.
 
Digger - A returned soldier.

Clubbies - Members of a Surf Life Saving Club

Iceberg - A member of a winter swimming club in Bondi.


12/08/2008

Author's Note:

Posted on 12/08/2008
Copyright © 2021 Graeme Fielden

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Laurie Blum on 12/08/08 at 05:32 PM

I completely LOVE this! In fact as I was reading my only complaint was I didn't know the Aussie slang words and you provided me with a glossary! How kind of you Graeme! This is a wonderful tale I was mesmerized throughout. You write the most intriguing stories.

Posted by Quentin S Clingerman on 12/09/08 at 01:37 AM

Quite a story!! Full of Suspense, keen characterization, and a implicit moral!

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 12/09/08 at 03:31 PM

Fun read Graeme! And just as fun reading the definitions for the words.

Posted by Morgan D Hafele on 12/11/08 at 05:27 PM

such a great story, and the rhyme and rhythm add to it. it's a lot of fun to read out loud.

Posted by Dan Kasten on 12/14/08 at 07:38 PM

You have weaved another classic. Thanks for the glossary. I'll add the word "great" to it, and point an arrow up to your text. Wonderful as usual.

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