In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • from Earth
  • Bruce Pascoe (bio)

Holes in the Ground

"Post holes, Alf, that's what's good."

Chut chut chut chut chut.

"See, ya dig 'em square, clean 'em out and then…and then ya put the post in, face her up square with all the others, look along the line and there you are, straight as a die. Ya gotta have a good clean hole dug by a good clean man…like me…and a good straight post split out by a good straight man…like me…and then you've got to tamp the bastards in hard…"

Er ough er ough er ough er ough er ough.

"That's the hard part, Alf, tampin' the bloody clay back in the hole…"

Er ough er ough er ough.

"But if you don't, the bastards won't stand up…"

Er ough er ough er ough er ough.

"And ya grandma says ya never sleep, Alf. Yer out like a bloody light. Sick of posts, are ya? Well, so am I. Now, let's see what's in the grub bag. What have we got, do ya reckon? Well, here we've got a lump of damper and butter a roo couldn't jump. Bit of yesterdee's mutton a galah couldn't fly across and a bottle of cold tea looks as if a turtle shat in. The lot of a working man it is, Alf. Bugger all.

"I'll have to wait until ya wake up, I s'pose. Yer'll be cranky if I start without ya. What about a quiet smoke then? Don't mind if I do.

"Done fifty-six posts. Another forty'll do, I reckon, then we can go home, eh Alf? Come on now, wake up, boy. What's this here stickin' in yer ribs? Might be a snake. Could be a hedgehog? Clarrie's ol' bull. Might be a ghost."


"Thought yer was gunna sleep forever, Alf. Time for tucker, young fella. Yer gunna do the honours?"

"Yeah. Aw look, Gran's given us the best bit of mutton. Can I have a bit of that shank, Grandpa?"

"Yeah, little mate, here y'are, cut it off with the knife, here. Cut away from yerself, now. That's the boy. She's not bad, eh? The shank's the strong bit, the bit the mad buggers use to run an' jump. Nothin' as silly as a sheep, [End Page 145] Alf…'cept maybe a rich man or a politician…or a rich man who is a politician."

"We're not rich, are we, Grandpa?"

"No, Alf, we're not, an' never likely to be. No one ever got rich diggin' holes in the ground."

"Unless we found gold."

"Well, that's when the rich stop ya diggin' holes in that particular earth. Then we'd be encroachin' on a private reserve. That's what they did to the miners at Ballarat few years back, threatened 'em with the law as soon as they struck anything worthwhile."

"This is a rich man's land, isn't it?"

"Yeah, mate, sure is."

"An' we haven't found gold yet, have we?"

"No, me mate, we haven't, an' that's why we're still allowed the privilege of diggin' holes for a shillin' a day."

"Grandpa, you know that old Billy Wurrun?"


"He told me he was my uncle."

"When was that?"

"When I was fishin' down at the river. An' he showed me how to—"

"Listen, Alf, yer as white as snow. Look at yer. Ya can see that, can't ya? White as the bloody King."

"But the King's rich, Grandpa."

"Yeah, but he's a white king."

"Billy Wurrun reckons he's a king, he showed me—"

"But that stupid old Billy is black, Alf, black as the ace a' spades, an' I tell you now he'll never live under anythin' better than a bit of bark and he'll always have the arse out of his strides."

"He reckons he's your uncle too."

"Listen, Alf, knock it off, now. Don't listen to any of that bloody rot. Yer Grandma'd put you over...