The campfire was the universal leveller of bush life for it was around its warmth that the boss and the men were equal. The mug of tea, often referred to as ‘jack the painter’ because of the stain the strong brew left around the mouth, was seen as the ‘peace pipe’. There was contentment and joy in sipping the sweet China tea as you shared a yarn, a song and, of course, a poem. From The Native Companion Songster.
You can talk of your whiskey and talk of your beer,
But there’s something much nicer that’s waiting us here.
It sits by the fire beneath the gum-tree.
There’s nothing guite like it – a billy of tea.
So fill up your tumblers as high as you can,
And don’t you dare tell me it’s not the best plan.
You can let all your beer and your spirits go free –
I’ll stick to me darling old billy of tea.
Well I rise in the morning before it gets light,
And I go to the nosebag to see it’s alright,
That the ants on the sugar no mortgage have got,
And straight away sling my old black billy-pot,
And while it is boiling the horses I seek,
And follow them down as far as the creek.
I take off their hobbles and let them run free,
Then haste to tuck into my billy of tea.
And at night when I camp, if the day has been warm,
I give to my horses their tucker of corn.
From the two in the pole to the one in the lead,
A billy for each holds a comfortable feed.
Then the fire I make and the water I get,
And corned beef and damper in order I set,
But I don’t touch the grub, though so hungry I be –
I wait till it’s ready – my billy of tea!