Our Pipes

Plot

This story features an unnamed narrator who we presume to be the same as Shooting the Moon, and his companion, Jack Mitchell. This distinctive feature adds weight to the view that the conclusion of Shooting the Moon is more of a pause than an end, and as such reinforces the significance of relaxation to the bush experience – that is, that relaxation and the exchange of stories was something that bushmen enjoyed and prolonged when given the opportunity. 
The significance of rest and relaxation to the bush experience is further conveyed through the narration ‘We had tramped twenty-five miles on a dry stretch on a hot day – swagmen know what that means.’ 

The narrative focus is realised by the narrator’s question to Jack, ‘How I came to start smoking?’ Jack then begins to recall his first experience of smoking, and how he was punished by his mother for it. He also reminisces on failed attempts at hiding his habit from his mother. Jack’s story concludes with his mother finally allowing him to smoke, which ultimately became a point of unity for him and his father, who was happy that he was able to borrow tobacco from his son. The story ends with the narrator asking if Jack’s dad is dead, to which Jack replies ‘Long ago – these twelve years.’ 

Cultural Assumptions

Emotion and the Bush

This text disrupts stereotypes of men being stoic and emotionally distant because of their experiences in the bush, by centring Jack’s recollection of his early childhood experiences, in which he reflects on his relationship with his parents. Though he make speak bluntly and without much emotion, the act of opening up in this way is in itself a challenge to the assumption that men like the narrator and Jack had little care for emotion and sentimentality. 

Hardship and the Bush

The story nonetheless affirms that life in the bush is challenging, and that direct experience with it is necessary to truly appreciate the strain it puts people under. This is reflected through the repetition of the dialogue ‘swagmen know what that means.’ To Lawson’s contemporary audiences, this line would have stood out as a reminder of the allure and mystery of the bush; it was something they had no experience with, and thus could not possibly understand – they could only imagine it.

quote table

Quote
Technique
Idea
“cursed society because we weren’t rich men”
Cynical voice
Struggles of the bush
“We lay down on our stomachs …..We didn’t eat much — we were too tired for that — but we drank a lot of tea.”
Collective nouns
Collective identity, Swagman identity and culture
“It had risen clear and had a small and cold and pure-looking, and floated away back out amongst the stars.”
Metaphor, Motif
Innocence
“‘Is your old man dead, Mitchell?’ I asked softly.”
Emotive dialogue
Loss, Swagman identity
“ask me for a fill”
Humour
Connection, Family relationships
“I started smoking first when I was about fourteen or fifteen.”
Motif, Symbolism
Collective identity, Connection
“Swagmen know what that means”
Repetition
Collective identity, Swagman culture

The Stories

The Drovers
Wife

Shooting the Moon

The Union Buries its Dead

The Loaded Dog