Billy tea

Donated by Ron and Karen Pedersen

Not everyone drinks their tea from dainty cups! The Pedersen family from Karma Waters Station in Far North Queensland love their 'smoko' and during a cattle muster on their property, we see that they are expert hands at swinging the billy. Tea made in a quart pot over an open fire never tasted so good. This story is a great homage to the Australian bush tradition.

Digital transcript

Alan Pedersen:

Running a few feral cattle mainly into portable yard here. Just in the river here cattle get into the river here and they're pretty hard to get out sometimes, and two choppers on the other side and we've got one chopper on this side and we're just trying to clean this section out and so get rid of all those feral cattle. Yeah, Gerry's been doing a good job for us, he's been flying with us for years, so helicopters do a terrific job if you've got a good pilot. Makes it pretty easy work for us blokes on the ground. Our works starts now, trucking them out.

This is a poem about billy tea written by my father. Oh, Dad's a non drinker, doesn't drink alcohol, so he drinks an awful lot of tea. He loves his tea.

BILLY TEA
It's boiled up in the billy
Has a flavour of its own
Surpasses all of your stubbies
And those other drinks you've known

(Ron Pedersen:)

It is the bushman's beverage
And no matter where you be
You can always come and join us
With some good old billy tea.

Now you may think I'm crazy
When I say this thing to you
But there are still a lot of us
Who still prefer this brew
'Cause it doesn't send you dizzy
Doesn't want to make you fight
Just keeps you on a steady course
Throughout the day or night

So when you're tired and weary
And you've had enough of toil
Just gather up some firewood
Put the billy on to boil
Then sit down by the fire
Where we bushmen love to be
Relax there as we share a joke
And have our billy tea

Karen Pedersen:

Cuppa tea time?

Ron Pedersen:

Now it's been around for many years
And made a lot of friends
The ones that never leave you
And will stick right to the end.
So if you're in need of something
That could make your life grow free
Just call in on your weary way
And have some billy tea.

Alan Pedersen:

These quart pots you carry them on your saddle, the handles just fold up like that and go in a little pouch on your saddle. When dinner time comes, you just pull him off and you fill this part up with water, boil it up like a billy and this is your cup, the other part is your cup. So this is an old quart pot been through a fire by the look of it. That's pretty much what they do, and then you put your tea leaves in there, pour it into here and you drink it, and you say that's a quart pot.

They were originally called quart pots because they held a quart. Put that back on there, and back in your saddle.

Mate, we need a drink of tea, we've been flat out this morning.

Ron Pedersen:

I think they've been around forever and when they changed from imperial to metric they were talking about litre pots. They started calling them litre pots but the name did not stick - it had the old quart pot name and to this day they are still known as quart pots. And I think it's great because it's something that all the bushies know about and sometimes if you've had a pretty long morning, it might go to one or later, and by then the old tongue is hanging out a bit for a cup of tea.

Alan Pedersen:

Bushells tea, mate.

Ron Pedersen:

And to pull up and boil the billy and sit under a tree and have your sandwiches and a quart pot of tea, it's just magic, yeah.

So when you're mustering cattle

Had a long and tiring ride
Never fear the day be drear
Your quart is by your side
The river gently winds its way
Beneath the big ti-tree
Where ringers meet their lunch to eat
And have our billy tea.

Alan Pedersen:
Oh mate, it's some time to sit down and cool off and talk about what's happening and what you are going to do. It's good to sit down and relax for ten minutes, hey.
Good colour now, see?

Normally use your hat or a piece of paper, it's the easiest way but, don't get burnt. Grandad showed us, I don't know where he picked it up from.

They were always made out of tin, and now they mass produce them, in stainless steel.

Gerry Weedon:

How the hell they make them I don't know, without a seam.

Karen Pedersen:

Yeah, you have a cup of tea, but I just think it's that get together, of people sitting around, they feel relaxed, they're talking about everyday things, so it doesn't matter whether you're drinking out of a pannikin or a china tea cup and saucer, it's just that people are sitting around chatting and feeling comfortable and talking.

Cow in the cupboard.
I reckon it tastes better hey? Oh, is that mine, is it?

I find that it is good for an icebreaker, first thing you say to them, is do you want a cup of tea? Just relaxes everyone, they have a chat, talk about what they've done, what they are going to do.

Ron Pedersen:

It is something that doesn't, as I say in the poem, it doesn't send you dizzy, doesn't wanna make you fight.

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