I once was Johnny Newchum,
New to the fire game.
Now I'm Johnny-won't-be-leaving,
But I'm Johnny, just the same.
I've looked and listened, studied hard,
Fought fires both near and far,
And worked with mates and strangers,
And we've debriefed at the bar.
I've thought I knew what fire could do,
And I've found that I was wrong;
I wrote it down all in a verse,
And I thought that I was strong.
Now nine short months are past and by,
And I thought I was okay,
Then summer it came rushing back
With one hot, windy day.
And on that day, and far from home,
From friends and family dear,
I thought of wind and heat and fuel,
And I was filled with fear.
I met the blue dog of anxiety,
That I'd never met before,
Though I'd seen the flames and smelled the smoke,
And heard the fire's roar.
I went, in two short hours,
From a focussed, thinking man,
To a weeping, shambling ruin,
And back to Flowerdale I ran.
I've been counselled and been doctored,
And I'm alright, I think,
But now I know how close I am
To that collapsing brink.
So Johnny's met the blue dog,
And I've fallen over the line,
But I've mates and friends around me,
And I think that I'll be fine.
12th Nov 2009 Peter Auty
And I live in Flowerdale.
I'm Johnny, and I'm scared as hell,
My face is growing pale.
You know we fought the fires,
With mates from far and near,
And lived in ash and smoke and flame,
But never fell to fear.
It wasn't easy, I'll tell you,
In fact, 'twas bloody hard,
The bush and houses burned and black,
The people's spirits scarred.
But never frightened, not at all,
The folk of Flowerdale;
We all got up to start again.
Our spirits didn't quail.
It's been 13 months for Flowerdale,
Since that red Saturday,
But never once, in all that time,
Have I seen one flee the fray.
Courage is their middle name,
They're stickers, one and all,
And they let me walk beside them,
And I feel 3 metres tall.
So, I borrow from their courage,
And I bring my own to bear,
And to say that I'm a sticker too,
I hope you'll see is fair,
But now I'm bloody frightened,
And here my soul is bared,
For I see the paperwork mounting up,
And I'll tell you all, I'm scared.
To get the slightest, small thing done,
There's paperwork galore;
To make a place the kids can play,
There are piles of paper more.
To get donated dollars
For the people of our town,
Great heaps of bloody paperwork
;It really gets us down.
Three hundred and eighty million.
And for one ten thousandth part,
Seventeen close-typed pages!
Where do we bloody start?
I'm Johnny, and I've many good mates,
And we're all doing our best,
But we're tired, and the paperwork's beating us.
Give us a bloody rest.
Peter Auty 2010
You know me as Johnny-been-before;
I've seen the flames and I've heard the roar;
I thought I had some fair idea
Of the heights of success and the depths of fear.
I've studied and trained and been to courses,
And thought that I could pick winning horses;
I thought I could see what the fire would do.
And I thought that I could direct the crew.
I've studied foam and the water's flow,
I've studied how the fire would go;
Topography and the fuel load,
How to make a fire break out of a road.
I've trained with my mates in our Brigade,
Fought fires with them that the times have made,
Talked it out; What went wrong? What went right?
Studied and learned how the fires to fight.
But all that I knew, and all that I planned
Flew out the door, and I'm quite unmanned,
Because Saturday broke all of the rules,
Made me and my studies look like fools.
Four days have gone past, and I'm writing this down.
I don't understand why the fire didn't crown;
I don't understand. Why burn this? and not that?
Why burn on the ridges and not on the flat?
The little pink cottage surrounded by black,
The mud brick houses reduced to wrack,
The ruin, the wreck, the human cost,
The homes that are gone, and the lives that are lost.
Now I'm Johnny who never has been here before,
Johnny who don't want to be here no more,
Johnny who's shared the grief and the pain,
Johnny who don't want to go there again.
I came to live in Flowerdale,
'Twas just a place to hang my hat,
Then I met some folk around the place,
And got involved in this and that.
I went and joined the CFA,
And fought fires round Flowerdale,
And then got sent to Corryong;
Johnny Newchum told the tale.
Then I went away to Gippsland,
And there more action saw;
No longer Johnny Newchum:
Then Flowerdale was torn to bits,
In flame and fiery roar,
And we lived in the ash and the sorrow,
And I don't want to go there no more.
We picked ourselves and eachother up,
And started to build anew.
Some weasels tried to slow us down;
We were many against their few.
I kept on going off to work,
Thinking I was right,
And then I met the Blue Dog,
But Flowerdale held me tight.
So Flowerdale kept on going,
And kept on kicking goals,
Despite the piles of paperwork
We'd like to turn to coals.
Now Johnny has been part of this,
And Johnny and his mates hung in
To see the job was done.
So, I'm Johnny-won't-be leaving
And I'm Johnny-staying-here;
In fact, I'm Flowerdale Johnny,
And I think I'd like a beer.
Flowerdale's local resident poet
and CFA Volunteer
Peter Auty created "Johnny of Flowerdale" to express his feelings and vent his anger in a non-aggressive manner.
Sadly, Peter passed away on 3 October 2013.
Paul Bannan wrote this poem in honour of his friend and CFA colleague. Peter was able to read it shortly before he passed on.
I knew Johnny when he was a green new chum.
Keen to learn - Never found him sitting on his bum.
Trained together on group exercises learning to save the water.
And how to protect homes not made of bricks and mortar.
Deployed near an' far, up to the New South Wales' border.
Gotta pity the poor strike team leader, trying to keep us both in order.
On the fire line, our tankers followed wheel to wheel.
Amongst the smoke and ash we stood, heel to heel.
Over the years, we shared many a chat and a well earnt smoke.
Banter always flowed easy - each ready to wear a joke.
On the job, we relied on each other to guard each other's back.
As we fought the hated enemy along an overgrown, burnt track.
Johnny made us laugh and stopped us being glum.
Always up to mischief and looking out for fun.
In Gippyland, we "borrowed" a tanker and went off drowning worms.
When the fish weren't biting, entertained us with rhyming words.
Johnny was no New chum - He had served before.
Kilted legs supporting a body, that was steel to the core.
Kept on fighting battles - toe hard against the line.
Played it tough, knowing he was almost out of time.
Yes, Johnny - been before, was a Man amongst Men.
We are Honoured, Those whom he called a Friend.
Flowerdale should be proud of Johnny - never leave.
Sad are we now that he has, How our hearts do grieve.
Johnny - Unsung Hero, you saw and fought and more than your share.
That load upon your shoulders was difficult to bear.
Well as of today it's gone, like wind swept Class A foam
Johnny of Flowerdale, You're been released, Head on Home.