Mark 'Bushie' Thompson is one of the last travelling bush poets in Australia.
He hasn't missed one Tamworth Country Music Festival in the last 45 years, but left this year "disappointed" after most of his earthly possessions were stolen from the Riverside Campground.
"I was sleeping in a tent, but all the tents had been taken down," he said.
"So, I moved my gear over to the cricket club, as there was still a whole bunch of people still around packing stuff up. I asked them, 'Oh, can you watch my stuff? I'm just heading up to the train station to get my ticket'."
"They said, 'Yeah, sure thing, Bushie, everything will be fine'. I stuffed my swag under the stairs, and then I came into town, waited in line, and got my ticket. Then I went down to Telstra, went up the road, had something to eat, and bought a book."
But when Bushie returned to the campground, everything had gone.
The whole situation was "disheartening" he said.
"I did not expect that, as there were so many people around.
"I have a rough idea where it may have gone, as people travel down to festivals and bring tarps, tents, and other items that they haven't spent a lot of money on, they just leave them there.
"And if anyone is homeless, for want of a better word, they think 'free tent', and I can understand how tempting it would be to grab my stuff."
Most of his possessions were taken, including his clothes, an old-fashioned phone charger, and a "pre-historic laptop", which contained all his writings.
As a bush poet moving from town to town, and festival to festival, Bushie says he's "chosen to be homeless" and spend his life on the land.
"I spend my time entertaining at festivals and busking on the street," he said.
"If I had to go drive tractors, help build fences, or go muster whatever I had to do to get a quid, that is what I did."
Despite what's happened, Bushie says it won't change his opinion of the festival, and he will be back again next year.
The essence of a bush poet
Bushie hit the road when he was 14-years-old and has never looked back.
"I went back to visit mum and dad by the time I was 21. I spent seven years on the road," he said.
It was a different time in Australia, Bushie said.
"I got a good handshake from my dad, and mum burst into tears and started cooking. I only stayed over Christmas time, then I would hit the road and get back to work."
Bushie said he never set out to be a bush poet, but the words just came "pouring out of him".
"I was never educated in it. When you listen to enough bush ballads and poems, you pick up the style and rhythm," he said.
"I always write about the real things that happen to me or people around me."
He's written poems about losing friends to suicide and close mates who have struggled on their return from the Vietnam War.
"I missed being drawn in the lotto. I was too young for that, but I did try to sneak into the army through the AMF. But, by then, they had decided to call it all off," he said.
"I was cursing about missing out till I saw what my mates were like coming home."
He said that the concept of bush poetry has changed.
"Those coming up through the ranks have less of the real country living and working experience," he said.
"If you don't know anything about the bush, don't write about the bush.
"Even some judges in competitions I enter don't understand some of the bush words."
The golden days of the Tamworth Country Music Festival
Bushie first heard about the festival over the radio in 1979.
And even though he "missed a few of the early years", he still recalls the golden years of TCMF.
He remembers his first time hopping off the train and heading over to Joe Maguires.
"It was the only pub I knew in town. It was across the road from the sheep yard, and the Joe Maguires Pub was where you went after you dropped off your sheep and picked up your paycheck," he said.
Through a simple yarn with Joe himself, Bushie booked his first gig.
"He asked me if I wrote, and I told him one of my poems. He told me, 'If you come back around tomorrow afternoon, I'll put you in one of my shows," he said.
From then on, the trip to Tamworth became an annual pilgrimage.
In 1993 he was proclaimed the bush poet champion.
"It started back in 1986, and it took me up to 1993 to win it," he said.
"I was the first person to win the competition after reading a serious poem about having to shoot my dog due to it's leg getting stuck in a dingo trap."
Bushie was there for the original cavalcade, with Slim Dusty walking behind Smoky Dawson, who led the parade on horseback.
He's close friends with the likes of Rex Dallas, and has watched Keith Urban, Travis Collins, Ashleigh Dallas, and Felicity Urquhart all busk on Peel Street.
"People used to walk down Peel Street. The men would carry the esky and the women would carry the fold-out chairs," he said.
"If they liked what you were doing, they would stop, set up their chairs, and watch. Even offer you a beer."
Ten years ago he met his daughter for the first time, at the festival.
"She tracked me down to my busking spot. I didn't even know I had a daughter," he said.
Bushie says the festival has changed a lot over the years.
Now, after wrapping up his 45th year, he's off to Wyong, where he will stay with his daughter and grandchildren.