Saltbush Bill tells the story of a successful sheep farmer using the biblical story of Isaac and Jacob as a metaphor.
The character of "Saltbush Bill" is introduced in this poem as a drover of sheep along "the track of the Overland", who stretches the "the law of the Great Stock Routes" by allowing his sheep to make use of all the good grass they find. On the occasion described in the poem, Bill's sheep have spread across a squatter's property. A Jackaroo arrives and attempts to drive the sheep back into the accepted "space of the half-mile track". An argument and then fight ensues between Bill and the Jackaroo, and, while Bill concedes after a marathon fight, in the end he achieves his aim of finding his sheep a good feed.
Saltbush Bill is droving his sheep towards Castlereagh and Stingy Smith, the owner of Hard Times Hill station is worried that Bill's sheep will ruin his run. He chances on a travelling tramp, and finding out the man is a fighter, arranges for him to get Bill into a fight and tells him it's "a five-pound job if you belt him well – do anything short of kill". When Bill arrives at the station, the tramp kicks his dog, starts a fight and beats Bill senseless. Bill has to recuperate for a week from his injuries, after which he and his sheep move on. It is only later that Stingy Smith comes to realise that he has been duped, and that Bill had arranged it all.
Saltbush Bill is again droving his sheep when he happens "on Take 'Em Down, the station of Rooster Hall." Rooster Hall is a follower of cock-fighting and Bill challenges him to a contest: his Australian bird against Hall's, a "clipt and a shaven cock, the pride of his English Game". But Bill has a trick up his sleeve and wins the contest by forfeit.
After a long life of droving Saltbush Bill is appointed a J.P. But he is disappointed to find no mention of pay until he finds, in his contract, the line "A magistrate may charge a pound/For inquest on a fire." Bill and the local indigenous population collude to make good use of this provision.