The coach rolled to a clanking halt
Amid the swirling dust and yapping dogs
Men raced to horse‘ heaving sides
To grapple with stiff harness, chains and buckles.
Spewing from the coach in straggling lines
Passengers emerged disgruntled
The stout, the thin, the tall, the short,
Children tugging at their coat tails grumbled.
Escaping flies and heat, the weary travelers
Trooped into the homestead tavern
Longing for a respite from the jolting bustle
Seeking sustenance for aching muscles
Above the din of entry and departure
‚Where is my Emmy Jane.‘
A fearful, frantic mother ran in circles
Searching for her darling girl gone missing.
The rumble of the distant coach died from the yard
The mother’s weeping broke the silence
As she rocked in grief amid the homestead workers
Their murmurs of condolence gave no ease
All through the night across the lonely sand dunes
The searchers called for Emmy Jane
Dawn peeped between sparse mulga scrub
No childish voice echoed in reply.
Days long and empty stretched like years
The nights were full of unrelieved pain
The grieving mother lost all hope
She fell to depths of dark despair.
At last, at last, a cry was heard.
‚They’re bringing in the child.‘
No joyous shout or buoyant stride
For in their arms she lay as cold as stone.
Into the mother’s outstretched arms was laid
The tiny body thin and withered
Tears dripped from squinting eyes to hoary chins
As toughened bushmen cried
Today upon a lonely dune on Birdsville Track,
Iron railings and a head stone mark
The resting place of Emmy Jane
Who wandered and was lost.
The wind an unseen spirit, sweeps across the swamp
Grasses bow in adoration at its passing.
A silent sea of green, an empty sky,
Greet the watchers waiting for birds to rise.
With flash of wing and strident call,
Birds rise from reed and marsh – a thunderous cloud
A leaden hail of shot explodes
Shattering the pristine dawn
Writhing bodies drop in throes of death.
Skies turn grey at wanton waste.
Hunters wade in haste, with avid hands outstretched,
Lest birds meant for the plate escape
The wind a mourning spirit, whimpers through the reeds,
While the sun, like one ashamed,
Drops its head below the distant range.
Darkness falls – a shroud – concealing bloody deed