GUNDAGAI'S DOG ON THE TUCKERBOX TURNS SEVENTY FIVE
At least six times a year I pass the small, bronze statue of the dog that sits on the tuckerbox, five miles from Gundagai on the Sydney side, just off the Hume Highway, in New South Wales, Australia. Sometimes I stop to stretch my legs and silently acknowledge the dog as he sits on his master’s box of food supplies, above a circle of water. I fondly recall the childhood times when I first became acquainted with this area on family holidays and was introduced to this famous, motionless canine.
The subject of poetry, song and yarn, in 1932 the people of Gundagai insured the dog’s immortality by constructing a statue in his honour. On 28 November that year Prime Minister Joseph Lyons unveiled the statue, thereby safely speeding this little, country township on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River out of the harrowing years of depression. Souvenirs of the dog began popping up in households around the country and Gundagai quickly found itself well and truly on the crisp, new Australian tourist map. The dog’s popularity influenced visitors to part more easily with their money, thereby getting the local hospital out of debt.
The reason for all the fuss about this particular dog apparently goes back to an incident that took place not far from Gundagai, during inclement weather. Upon getting his wagon bogged, a bullock driver instructed his dog to look after his tuckerbox while he sorted out the mess. The dog accomplished the task by faithfully sitting on the box of supplies. Some, however, believe that, not only did the dog sit on the tuckerbox, he relieved himself as well. I guess supporters of the latter version can point to the giant puddle in which the dog today proudly sits and stretching the evidence somewhat, smugly proclaim, “Told you so!”
Dispute also later arose over the precise location of the incident. Was it five or nine miles from Gundagai? Despite such uncertainty, the incident was set down in rhyme in the 1850s and later reworked by Jack Moses, a travelling seller of wine. Moses always claimed it was nine miles from Gundagai where the dog sat.So, as we celebrate the seventy fifth anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, spare a few thoughts for the famous dog who helped place Gundagai on the map.
“We brought much fame to Gundagai,
That’ll live for ages, when we die;
I’m just a flea-bound cur, you know,
But don’t forget me when I go.”
( from “The Dog” Speaks Again! by Jack Moses)
[posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2007 - © Jim Low]