The haunting melody of the Australian ballad, Waltzing Matilda, the unofficial Australian national anthem, has been waltzing through my mind all day. Blame it on a 5:30 post celebrating Australia Day 2018…or if the news is to be believed, protesting it. Think of a “Downunder” Columbus Day with similar protests.
“Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”
The old folk song is about neither dancing nor a woman named Matilda but that is a different story.
I remember when I first heard the tune, during the ending of the scariest movie I ever saw, “On The Beach.” It was a Cold War doomsday movie starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. It ended badly, very badly, with everyone dead from radiation poisoning caused by a nuclear war that didn’t even take place in their hemisphere. Hum mm, I hope there is nothing timely about this.
I’ve carried on nearly a lifetime love affair with all things Australian. I’m sure a romanticized and glorified Australia although the Aussies might disagree. Odd for someone who rarely sets foot out of the Carolinas much less the United States. Blame it on my grandmother and her subscription to National Geographic. I was thumbing through her old issues in search of an education…not one she would have approved of. I was searching for scantily clad native girls and found an article on the island continent. It even had a pullout…not the kind you might find in a Playboy…a pullout map. Serendipity ensued, and I read it along with any other offerings National Geographic had published. One offering even had a picture of scantily clad sunbathers on a Sydney beach. Much like the jolly jumbuck in the swagman’s Tucker bag, I was ensnared.
Not long after, I would read a Zane Grey oater, “The Wilderness Trek,” again my grandmother’s fault. I had two choices as a child. Sit under a tree and perfect my reading skills or go out into the sunlit, humid fields and chop weeds. While I had ample opportunities handling a hoe, I became an avid reader.
Grey’s tale was the story of two American cowboys helping to lead a “mob” of cattle on the first “trek” through the Outback and three years’ worth of foul weather, fouler “cattle duffers”, crocodile-infested river crossings, and marauding aborigines. I reread the book online a week ago after making contact with a WordPress follower who is from Australia. I am so sorry I told her about the book. It is sooooo not politically correct. Well, it was written in 1929. At least it ended well. Ole Curly and Sterl led them to safety and sloped off with the cattlemen’s daughters to boot. Boy Howdy!
The Australia of my youthful mind has followed me. I even have two Australian Cattle Dogs, Madaline and Matilda. Briefly, in 1973, I considered traveling to Australia when I found that teachers would receive land in exchange for five years of service. Seemed like a great adventure until life intervened along with my first ex-wife.
I guess I’ll never make it…maybe. As long as there are programs like Animal Planet and movies like Quigley Down Under, I’ll keep the romantic dream alive. Until then I guess I will just keep humming Waltzing Matilda.
If you are unsure of the song, Waltzing Matilda, this is one of my favorite versions from the 2009 Australia Day celebration…they are all my favorite versions.
For more of Don’s “Waltzings”, please go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM and at least like his page.