The Country's Rural Mental Health Week: In 2018 Australian Bush Poet Murray Hartin spoke to Jamie Mackay about his poignant poem "Rain From Nowhere", which struck a chord with both rural and urban audiences with its universal themes.
Australian Bush Poet Murray Hartin woke up one morning with a couple of lines from a poem swimming around in his head.
Three hours later he had written Rain From Nowhere, and it would strike a chord with rural and urban audiences across Australia and New Zealand.
The Australian poet caught up with The Country's Jamie Mackay to talk about this poignant poem, which addresses rural suicide and conveys a message of hope.
Hartin says he didn't set out to, "write this quintessential poem to make people cry and to solve all problems," but has since realised that while Rain From Nowhere is about a farmer and his father, the themes are universal.
"It's really about any sort of relationship, whether it be on-farm of off-farm ... I suppose the big message is communication and stay in touch with the mates ... I know the Kiwis are like the Aussies. We're very good at giving a helping hand, we're not real good at asking for it."
Hartin has had his work read out on broadcasting legend Alan Jones' radio show and says that the poems are well received by urban Australia.
"The feedback's always huge ... Everyone gets it except the Government I suppose ... the people making the decisions don't quite get it," says Hartin who believes those in authority in Australia are being "reactive" and "slow" to visit farmers dealing with drought.
'We've got our Prime Minister and all the heavy hitters out there now, going out to find out what it's like [the drought]. I thought well, maybe you should've done it before the drought."
Also in today's interview: The talk turns to rugby and Mackay gives Hartin a bit of stick for being a Wallabies fan.
Find out more about Murray Hartin on his website: murrayhartin.com
Listen to the interview and Rain From Nowhere in the link below:
Rain From Nowhere, by Murray Hartin
His cattle didn't get a bid, they were fairly bloody poor,
What was he going to do? He couldn't feed them anymore,
The dams were all but dry, hay was thirteen bucks a bale,
Last month's talk of rain was just a fairytale,
His credit had run out, no chance to pay what's owed,
Bad thoughts ran through his head as he drove down Gully Road.
"Geez, great grandad bought the place back in 1898,
"Now I'm such a useless bastard, I'll have to shut the gate.
"Can't support my wife and kids, not like dad and those before,
"Crikey, Grandma kept it going while Pop fought in the war."
With depression now his master, he abandoned what was right,
There's no place in life for failures, he'd end it all tonight.
There were still some things to do, he'd have to shoot the cattle first,
Of all the jobs he'd ever done, that would be the worst.
He'd have a shower, watch the news, then they'd all sit down for tea
Read his kids a bedtime story, watch some more TV,
Kiss his wife goodnight, say he was off to shoot some roos
Then in a paddock far away he'd blow away the blues.
But he drove in the gate and stopped – as he always had
To check the roadside mailbox – and found a letter from his Dad.
Now his dad was not a writer, Mum did all the cards and mail
But he knew the writing from the notebooks that he'd kept from cattle sales,
He sensed the nature of its contents, felt moisture in his eyes,
Just the fact his dad had written was enough to make him cry.
"Son, I know it's bloody tough, it's a cruel and twisted game,
"This life upon the land when you're screaming out for rain,
"There's no candle in the darkness, not a single speck of light
"But don't let the demon get you, you have to do what's right,
"I don't know what's in your head but push the bad thoughts well away
"See, you'll always have your family at the back end of the day
"You have to talk to someone, and yes I know I rarely did
"But you have to think about Fiona and think about the kids.
"I'm worried about you son, you haven't rung for quite a while,
"I know the road you're on 'cause I've walked every bloody mile.
"The date? December 7 back in 1983,
"Behind the shed I had the shotgun rested in the brigalow tree.
"See, I'd borrowed way too much to buy the Johnson place
"Then it didn't rain for years and we got bombed by interest rates,
"The bank was at the door, I didn't think I had a choice,
"I began to squeeze the trigger – that's when I heard your voice.
"You said 'Where are you Daddy? It's time to play our game'
"' I've got Squatter all set up, we might get General Rain.'
"It really was that close, you're the one that stopped me son,
"And you're the one that taught me there's no answer in a gun.
"Just remember people love you, good friends won't let you down.
"Look, you might have to swallow pride and take that job in town,
"Just 'til things come good, son, you've always got a choice
"And when you get this letter ring me, 'cause I'd love to hear your voice."
Well he cried and laughed and shook his head then put the truck in gear,
Shut his eyes and hugged his dad in a vision that was clear,
Dropped the cattle at the yards, put the truck away
Filled the troughs the best he could and fed his last ten bales of hay.
Then he strode towards the homestead, shoulders back and head held high,
He still knew the road was tough but there was purpose in his eye.
He called his wife and children, who'd lived through all his pain,
Hugs said more than words – he'd come back to them again,
They talked of silver linings, how good times always follow bad,
Then he walked towards the phone, picked it up and rang his Dad.
And while the kids set up the Squatter, he hugged his wife again,
Then they heard the roll of thunder and they smelt the smell of rain.