DON Lloyd was a most unlikely word- smith on the surface.
Dressed in his tracky dacks, t-shirt and thongs (sneakers only on special occasions), Don, who left school at 14, would leap over social boundaries with a cutting wit and a deeply observant mind.
The 69-year-old, self-described as the Mongrel from Pillar Valley, died last Saturday when his organs collapsed after a lifetime of ill-health.
Though he spent most of his life in the Pillar Valley, Don moved into Grafton due to health concerns five years ago.
Don was widely known and respected for his insightful and funny bush poetry and those who saw him perform live also knew him as a side-splitting stand-up comedian who kept audiences on their toes as they awaited a punch line that was certain but unpredictable.
Don's youngest brother Colin, 63, said Don always had a notable sense of humour despite being plagued by illness in his childhood.
"But he could argue too - you knew that if you were going to argue with him you'd lose," said Colin.
Don attended Tucabia Public School and Grafton High School along with his two younger brothers John (now 65 and living in Nymboida) and Col, who lives in Barraba.
Lifelong friend and fellow bush poet Bill Kearns said Don was an avid speed reader who would often read through the night.
One day in the late 1980s, Don began asking Bill about what he was doing on his computer. When Bill showed Don some of his poetry, Bill said it was as if someone switched on a light.
"A couple of days later he brought me some of his poetry, written in pencil in block capitals and he said 'can you fix that?'," he said.
"I was half way through transcribing it into English and I thought 'this is pretty good'.
In the next couple of years Don got his own computer and became a prolific poet, publishing his first collection of story poems A Dog That Pees on Wheels and Other Doggerel in 1996.
He went on to release three more books of poetry, four CDs of live performances and a small booklet of thoughts entitled It Seems To Me... which Don would hand out to people who were going through tough times.
In bush poet circles Don is known across the nation. Radio broadcasters Ray Hadley (2GB) and Grant Goldman (2SM) took a particular shine to The Mongrel's work and broadcast it regularly.
Don remained a single man all his life but he does tell some funny "stories" about his dates, including one poor girl who was so ugly that even the tide wouldn't take her out.
Those of us who were lucky enough to witness Don in full flight are left feeling privileged by the experience.
As his friend Bill says, he had a talent for picking the heart of something and putting it into words.
Some of Don's stand-out poems include Teddy Bear, Dancing with Hippies and The Flag, but an indulgent read through almost any of his 276 published poems is sure to leave you laughing or crying.
A memorial service will be held for Don Lloyd at Squatter's Rest, Tucabia today from 10.30am. All are welcome.
People interested in obtaining remaining copies of Don's books or CDs can contact Col next week on 6783 0163.
DANCES WITH HIPPIES
I've met some friendly hippies that were at the local shop,
They were driving a beat up Kombi that snorted to a stop.
The man told me where they're staying and said come out for a feed,
We'll cook up a bit of food and afterwards smoke some weed.
Well I was astounded, just imagine people so damn poor
They're smoking weeds and can't afford tobacco any more.
So I bought two packs of Winnies and shoved them in my jeans,
Thinking, "The tucker won't be flash, I'll be lucky if it's beans."
They said, 'Lemon grass or chamomile?" as they offered me some tea.
I said, 'If it's hot and in a pot it's all the same to me."
Me, I had nothing but pity for them making tea from straw,
And having to smoke weeds, struth it's awful being poor
He broke up some Winnies and mixed some green stuff in,
That would be the weed I reckon then some black gunk from a tin.
I asked him what it was, he said, "Hashish." So I said, "God bless you."
Thinking hippies are unhealthy, this poor bugger's got the flu.
As we passed the smoke around he put some blotting paper in my tea,
I asked him what it was and he said, "It's LSD."
That's when I realized that this bloke's a little slow,
He 'd misunderstood the question, we went decimal years ago.
Anyway, I forced down the mung beans and drank that awful tea.
They tried to give me more but I said, "One's enough for me."
My head was feeling strange but I thought "Some air will put it right."
But when I tried to get up I saw the strangest flaming sights.
My hat turned into a turtle and then walked off the chair,
I tried to focus on the hippie but he was no longer there.
He'd been replaced by a monkey I thought a pinch will make me wake,
But when I moved my arm it suddenly became a tiger snake.
There was rainbows on the walls, I couldn't find the door
I saw green grass and flowers where there had been a floor.
A calendar was calling out the months and finished with November
Then everything spun in circles, that's the last thing I remember.
Well that hippie woke me next morning and he really is a drip,
He knew I hadn't left the house but said, "Did you like the trip?"
Anyway I'm going back on Saturday but I've swore off that weed,
But I think we're going driving, he said we're gonna do some speed.