A Stream with no Trout

After a 2019 trip to North Queensland I was reminded of Slim Dusty’s 1957 classic Aussie song, “A Pub With No Beer”. It was based on a poem written back in 1944 by a local (Dan Sheahan) from Ingham; near Townsville. In 1944 Townsville and Cairns had major military bases. Many American servicemen did their jungle training in the area.

Sheehan had gone into Ingham one day only to find that American servicemen had drunk the pub dry the previous night. As beer was rationed then, this was seen as a major inconvenience and quite “unAustralian”. He was thus inspired to write the poem on which the Slim Dusty song was based some 13 years later.

Here I have adapted the words of Sheahan’s poem to my own “poetic form” about a loss which is probably much greater, and harder to repair than the pub’s beer stocks. In doing so I was amused to find out that a group of trout is called a “hover”; almost as amusing as a group of owls being “a parliament”. Our native owls, the morepork or Ruru, would clearly be a lot more nature friendly than some parliaments we have had.

Poem – A Stream with no Trout

It is lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the trout streams at night when the wild Ruru call,
All anglers are sad when lake breakers do crash,
Or they look o’er a pool and see not a splash,
But there’s no sadness in angling like the emotional drought
When you stand by the bank of a stream with no trout.

Our stream once flowed thru all stately and proud,
‘Twas home to a hover, a joy for the crowd,
Now silent’s the angler who oft times sang,
When his limit was caught and the celebrations rang,
Now his rods sit as idle as a lazy village lout.
Oh, what a terrible place is a stream with no trout.

Old gran knits with needles and snoozes by the door,
My mate broods in silence, he is joking no more,
There’s a faraway look on the face of dear mum,
And the daughter looks down at the varnish on her thumbs,
The mate’s wife’s gone cranky and wants to check out,
Oh, what a terrible place is a the stream with no trout.

Oh, you pisces of spotted brown hue, your charm it doth shine,
‘Neath thy spell anglers grow happy and cease to repine,
Though the stalking and catching arts oft take years to refine
Their outdoor well-beings are too circuitous to define
The victorious timid grow brave and the once weak become strong
The dour and the grumpy will burst forth in song,
For if there was ought to resemble high heaven here about,
‘Twas that place of joy where did thrive wild trout.

They can switch on their pivots and watch their cows pee,
And state the stream deaths are “not their worry”,
And though our rivers are now beds of toxic algae,
The dairy investors are ecstatic with glee,
‘Mid the crises of water there’s but one thing I tout,
‘Tis the man-made disaster of a stream with no trout.

Sadly trout’ve gone, along with their habitat unique
To provide great profits for an affluent clique
Who stole our wild places where once we made merry
To create their own gold mine that they now call dairy.
Gold mines leave debris our mokopuna must clear,
And water thieves take the streams from the Commons I fear

With them went our fish plus the salmon so stout
What a terrible place is a stream with no trout.
Some say that trout were “the canary o’ the mine”
Their visible presence, you see, was easy to define
Their demise was shared with the Dragon and May flies
While no larvae of Caddis, or Stonefly, fill the stream lies.

The bullies and eels have nowhere to go
Their streams now lack that life-giving flow
The waders, the fantails, and the terns, no longer flit about
What a terrible place is a stream with no trout.
The crusty old angler, first time in his life,
Has gone home quite “fishless” to his darling wife

He creeps into the kitchen; she says “you’re early old scout”
Then he breaks down and tells her the stream’s got no trout.
It is lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the trout streams at night where the wild Ruru call
But there’s no sadness on earth like the emotional drought,
When you stand by the bank of a stream with no trout.

Rex N. Gibson (2019)
With apologies to Dan Sheahan (1944)

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