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The Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox on

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The dog on the tucker box

Visiting Sydney?

If you are travelling down the 900 kilometer Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne, at about halfway (near Gundagai) you will come across one of Australia's icons - The Dog on the Tuckerbox.

"What's a tuckerbox?" do I hear you ask? Tucker is an Australian word for food.

"He's off his tucker" for example means that he is not eating and may be sick. "Get into your tucker" is an invitation to start eating (almost a cheeky form of saying grace). The tucker box was a box in which the travelling pioneers used to hold the important items of food like salt and flour.

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The statue of the dog guarding the box for his master was erected as a pioneer memorial. It was unveiled in 1932 by the then Prime Minister of Australia Joseph Lyons.

The statue itself had been made by Gundagai's stone mason, Frank Rusconi.

The dog gained its icon status through poems and songs that were repeated around the camp fires of the early travellers.

Maybe the first to mention the dog was Bowyang Yorke:

As I was coming down Conroy's Gap,
I heard a maiden cry;
'There goes Bill the Bullocky,
He's bound for Gundagai.
A better poor old beggar
Never earnt an honest crust,
A better poor old beggar
Never drug a whip through dust.'
His team got bogged at the nine mile creek,
Bill lashed and swore and cried;
'If Nobby don't get me out of this,
I'll tattoo his bloody hide.'
But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader's eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai.

But perhaps more famous is the poem 'Nine Miles from Gundagai' by Jack Moses:

I've done my share of shearing sheep,
Of droving and all that;
And bogged a bullock team as well,
On a Murrumbidgee flat.
I've seen the bullock stretch and strain
And blink his bleary eye,
And the dog sit on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

I've been jilted, jarred and crossed in love,
And sand-bagged in the dark,
Till if a mountain fell on me,
I'd treat it as a lark.
It's when you've got your bullocks bogged,
That's the time you flog and cry,
And the dog sits on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

We've all got our little troubles,
In life's hard, thorny way.
Some strike them in a motor car
And others in a dray.
But when your dog and bullocks strike,
It ain't no apple pie,
And the dog sat on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

Some Aussie

Billabong: a waterhole

Billy: a pot for boiling
water for tea over
an open fire

Never Never: the desert

Nong: an idiot or a fool

But that's all past and dead and gone,
And I've sold the team for meat,
And perhaps, some day where I was bogged,
There'll be an asphalt street,
The dog, ah! well he got a bait,
And thought he'd like to die,
So I buried him in the tuckerbox,
Nine miles from Gundagai.

The legend was also immortalised by Jack O'Hagan in 1937 in a popular song that made Gundagai (and the dog) famous around the world.

So next time you are driving the Hume, call in to see the dog. You won't have to disturb him off the box because there are a couple of eateries nearby. It's a good chance to rest, relax and revive before you re-join the procession of cars and semi-trailers on one of Australia's busiest highways.

Travelsnapz Australia

Another icon - the Ettamogah Pub