The Tale of Billy Carpenter and Smith’s Elastic Brace

As read by Dobe Newton.

As read by the author. “

My uncle was a character,

Who knew a tale or two,

Some were based on pure fact,

But some were not quite true.

And there’s one yarn that always

Brings a smile to my face,

It’s the tale of Billy Carpenter,

And Smith’s Elastic Brace.

It was in the 1860s.

In Queensland I recall,

When men used to wear braces,

So their trousers wouldn’t fall.

Till Smith invented something,

He was sure would take their place,

Made from one piece of elastic,

So he just called it a “brace”.

The elastic in the brace,

Was a super stretchy blend,

It could stretch from Perth to Darwin,

With a detour via Hill End.

But before he started selling them,

He gave one a short trial,

And got his mate Bill Carpenter,

To wear one for a while.

Bill wore the brace outside his coat,

For all the world to see,

But riding home from town one day,

It got caught on a tree.

Bill’s faithful mount kept galloping,

Along it’s homeward course,

The elastic stretched a quarter mile,

Then flung him off his horse.

It sent him hurtling towards town,

At twice the speed of sound,

Which is pretty fast when your just flying,

Ten feet off the ground.

He stretched his arms out,just like wings,

To aid him in his flight,

The wind caught underneath his coat,

And gave him extra height.

He flew over the blacksmith’s shop,

And soon became aware,

That half the town was in the street,

And pointing in the air.

“Is it a bird or superman?

Why don’t we have a bet?”

“At least we know it’s not a plane,

They aren’t invented yet!.”

He flew over the public school,

And waved at all the people,

But when he passed the Catholic Church,

His brace caught on the steeple.

For a moment, Bill stood still in air,

A minor flight delay,

Till the elastic pulled,

And sent him off the other way.

Each time it seemed his flight would end,

And land him in the dust,

The brace would snag on something else,

And give him extra thrust,

For seven days and seven nights,

That brace kept him aloft,

And Bill cried “God, please stop this ride,

It’s time that I got off.”

He was flying in a chasm,

Down 500 foot of cliff,

When the brace snagged on a mallee root,

Quite old and gnarled and stiff.

And Bill felt himself slowing,

The further he went down,

Until he reached the bottom,

Landing gently on the ground.

He looked to where the brace had snagged,

And hung his head to cry,

The elastic then contracted,

Launching Bill into the sky.

This display of aerobatics,

Soon attracted quite a crowd.

While they peered through their binoculars,

He soared up through the clouds.

The locals waved their hats about,

And gave a mighty cheer,

To see their home-grown hero,

Shooting through the stratosphere.

And you often hear the old folk,

As they stagger from the bars,

That they can still see Billy,

As he floats among the stars.

So be proud of Billy Carpenter,

And Smith’s Elastic Brace,

‘Cos 100 years before the Yanks,

We had a man in space.

Songs and Stories of Australia Vol 1This poem appeared on the ABC’s CD “Songs and Stories of Australia – Volume 1”

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