This story features the presumably the same unnamed narrator as in 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 examined
The stoicism and emotional distance of bushmen
This text disrupts the stereotypical male character who is hardened by his experience 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.
The hardship experienced by bushmen in their environment
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.