Unless you’re from Australia, you might not recognize the picture above as a $10 bill. I have one just like it, courtesy of outstanding bush poet, reciter, and storyteller from Down Under, Jack Sammon, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the National Cowboy Gathering in Elko, Nevada. I’ll probably never get to Australia to spend it. But I wouldn’t anyway, as I consider it a work of art. In fact, it is framed and hanging on the wall in my office.
The portrait on the note is of A.B. “Banjo” Paterson. Few would disagree that he is the finest poet Australia has ever produced, and his work is known the world over. Here in America, he is especially loved by aficionados of cowboy poetry.
You’ll notice the running horses and horseman on the bill. They’re illustrative of one of Paterson’s most famous poems, “The Man from Snowy River.” The first two lines of the poem appear along the bottom. And, if you have a microscope, you can read the entire text of the poem in microprint on the note as a security feature. You’re probably familiar with the poem and its celebration of courage and daring and what we would call “The Cowboy Way.” Clancy, a central character in the story, is also the subject of my favorite Paterson poem, “Clancy of the Overflow.” And he wrote the Australian folk anthem, “Waltzing Matilda,” which is also featured on the bill.
But I digress.
The promised wisdom?
Jack Sammon talked about the $10 bank note before reciting “The Man from Snowy River” at the Gathering. He said, “We’re kind of backward down in Australia compared to America—instead of politicians, we put poets on our money.”
Who do you think is backward?