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From Hillbilly Zeb in Texas
to a soldier from Eromanga

(and Siobhán in Mullinavat)

It's not often that a story makes us laugh out loud, but this one did. It's posted on several Australian websites:

Letter from a kid from Eromanga to Mum and Dad. (Eromanga is a small town west of Quilpie in the far southwest of Queensland, Australia).

Dear Mum & Dad,

I am well. Hope youse are too. Tell me big brothers Doug and Phil that the Army is better than working on the farm - tell them to get in bloody quick smart before the jobs are all gone!

I wuz a bit slow in settling down at first, because ya don't hafta get outta bed until 6am. But I like sleeping in now, cuz all you gotta do before brekky is make ya bed and shine ya boots and clean ya uniform. No bloody cows to milk, no calves to feed, no feed to stack - nothin'!!

Blokes haz gotta shave though, but its not so bad, coz there's lotsa hot water and even a light to see what ya doing!

At brekky ya get cereal, fruit and eggs but there's no kangaroo steaks or possum stew like wot Mum makes. You don't get fed again until noon, and by that time all the city boys are buggered because we've been on a 'route march' - geez its only just like walking to the windmill in the back paddock!!

This one will kill me brothers Doug and Phil with laughter. I keep getting medals for shootin' - dunno why. The bullseye is as big as a bloody possum's bum and it don't move and its not firing back at ya like the Johnsons did when our big scrubber bull got into their prize cows before the Ekka last year!

All ya gotta do is make yourself comfortable and hit the target - it's a piece of piss!! You don't even load your own cartridges - they comes in little boxes and ya don't have to steady yourself against the rollbar of the roo shooting truck when you reload!

Sometimes ya gotta wrestle with the city boys and I gotta be real careful coz they break easy - it's not like fighting with Doug and Phil and Jack and Boori and Steve and Muzza all at once like we do at home after the muster.

Turns out I'm not a bad boxer either and it looks like I'm the best the platoon's got, and I've only been beaten by this one bloke from the Engineers - he's 6 foot 5 and 15 stone and three pick handles across the shoulders and as ya know I'm only 5 foot 7 and eight stone wringin' wet, but I fought him till the other blokes carried me off to the boozer.

I can't complain about the Army - tell the boys to get in quick before word gets around how bloody good it is.

Your loving daughter,

Jill

Curious to find out who had written that hilarious story, we googled a few key words, and discovered that it began life as this letter written by a Texas hillbilly named Zeb, still posted on a handful of US websites:
Hillbilly Joins The Army

Dear Ma and Pa:

Am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Army beats working for Old Man Minch a mile. Tell them to join up quick before maybe all the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. (but am getting so I like to sleep late).

Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things -- no hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. You got to shave, but it is not bad in warm water.

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, beef, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit between two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed.

It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route marches" which the Sgt. says, are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys all get sore feet and we ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat.

The Sgt. is like a schoolteacher. He nags some. The Cap. is like the school board. Cols. and Gens. just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bull's-eye is near big as a chipmonk and don't move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higsett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellows get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving son, Zeb

Then, after that story had been widely copied, some anonymous wit had a brainwave. How about giving the letter-writer an instant sex change? With a few taps on the keyboard, "Your loving son, Zeb" became "Your loving daughter, Sally" ... and the story went gangbusters. Funsite webmasters, bulletin board writers and chat room gossips around the world fell into a feeding frenzy.

The story crossed the Atlantic to Ireland, where it was posted variously as a Letter from a Kerry kid to Mum and Dad; Letter from a Mayo kid to the parents, and even a Letter from a Mullinavat kid to Mam and Dad ... from Siobhán, Sharee and other colleens. Here's the Irish version:

Dear Mum & Dad,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell big brothers Sean, Paddy and Mick that the Army is better than working on the farm - tell them to get into the Army quick before the jobs are all gone.

I was a bit slow in settling down at first, because you don't get outta bed until 6am. I like sleeping in now, but all you do before brekky is make your bed and shine your boots and clean your uniform. No cows to milk, no calves to feed, no feed to stack - nothing. Men must shave, but its not so bad, coz there's hot water and a light to see what ya doing.

Breakfast has cereal, fruit and eggs but there's no fillet steaks or sausages. You don't get fed again until noon, and by that time all the city boys are buggered because we've been on a 'route march', just like walking to the well in the meadow.

This will kill Sean and Paddy with laughter. I keep getting medals for shooting - dunno why. The bullseye is as big as a bloody bull's head and it doesn't move and its not firing back at you like the Jennings did when our bull got their cow pregnant before the Listowel show.

All you gotta do is make yourself comfortable and hit the target - piece of piss. You don't even load your own cartridges - they comes in boxes and you don't have to steady yourself against the rollbar of the tractor when you reload.

Then you gotta wrestle with the city boys and I gotta be real careful coz they break easy - it's not like fighting with Sean, Paddy, Mick and all the other local fellas all at once like we do.

Turns out I'm not a bad boxer either and it looks like I'm the best the platoon's got, and I've only been beaten by this guy from Dublin he's 6 foot 8 and 120 kilos and I'm 5 foot six and 65 kilos, but I fought to the end.

I can't complain about the Army - tell the boys to get in quick before word gets around how good it is.

Your loving daughter,

Siobhán

You may think that Mullinavat must be in cyberspace, but it's a small town in the real world. TravelWire.com says:
Mullinavat lies on the N-9 main Waterford to Kilkenny City road some 8 miles north of Waterford. The village has a relatively small population of less than 300...The name of the village comes from the Irish 'Mulleann an Bhata' translating as 'The mill of the stick.'
And Eromanga, home of Jillaroo Jill, is fair dinkum, too. Queensland Holidays Outback says:
The town is surrounded by vast sheep and cattle properties. Reputedly the town farthest from the sea in Australia, Eromanga is named after the aboriginal word meaning "hot, windy plain."
  • If anyone knows who first wrote those amusing letters from Hillbilly Zeb, Siobhán or Jackeroo Jill, please tell us their names, so that we can give them due credit.
 
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Story first posted December 2004

Copyright © 2004

Eric Shackle

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