Two stories this week about Australians who dare to be different.
1. Campbell the Swaggie
Sometimes it is the unanticipated moments in life that prove to be the most memorable.
Let me set the scene.
Campbell the Swaggie is one of only two remaining swagmen that I know of in Australia. (Thanks Snowy)
For the purpose of this story I am conveniently ignoring the minor detail that Campbell was born in New Zealand.
(During the great depression of the 1930’s, men were forced to walk country roads carrying a swag….a few possessions wrapped in canvas bedding……in search of employment.)
Campbell is a uniquely talented busker and actor in his one-man travelling show which specialises in Australian traditional bush poetry and storytelling.
For 25 years he has been wandering around Australia following the “show” and “festival” circuits, and each October he arrives at the local market where Mrs GOF and I sell our plants.
His “stage” is a vacant area of lawn just in front of our stall.
He plonks the swag on the ground to support his fire-blackened billycan which serves as a donation tin.
When Campbell is in full theatrical mode, his performances are quite capable of scaring the pants off people who have never seen him before.
In the middle of one such dramatic shouting and writhing production, after all the grown-ups had hurriedly retreated to hide behind trees or distant stall banners convinced that Campbell should be committed to some sort of Institution for the Dysfunctional, a little boy, maybe 3 years of age, confidently made the lonely trek across the lawn, peered inside the billycan, then removed a dollar coin for himself.
The very young mother then rushed over, apologised to Campbell and replaced the coin, with added interest, then set about explaining to her son how money needed to be earned.
(Note to self; never be tempted to collectively criticise our new generation of young parents)
The little fellow remained enchanted by Campbells fearsome appearance, so the old-timer knelt down, and eye to eye, man to man, quietly imparted the following information directly to the wide-eyed three-year-old; (Overheard only by his Mum and big-ears GOF.)
“Young man, when we get older we all have to work to earn money.
Like me. This is what I do for a living.
Some people however choose instead to make up some imaginary illness or disability, then they tell their story at the nearest hospital, after which the Government gives them lots of money for doing nothing for the rest of their lives.”
Campbell the Swaggie is a living Antipodean treasure.