Sunday, 11 March 2018

Heroes of the Long Paddock: The Drovers of Southern New South Wales by Chris Anderson



About the author.

Christine was a pommie who came to Australia from poverty-stricken London. She had learnt to be English and read Wordsworth and Byron. She arrived in Australia in October 1960.

I say ‘was’ because she fell in love with Australia and travelled far and wide, following the sheep and cattle stock routes.

I first met Christine through the Merigal Dingo Sanctuary in Bargo, NSW. I am sure she wouldn’t mind me saying the best part about that meeting was getting to know her two dingoes Minnga and Cooma. We met again recently while I am researching for the biography of Berenice Walters, the Dingo Lady, I am currently writing.

Christine gave me a copy of this book as a gift. I was not asked to write a review.

Review

Many of us who love the dingo only know the Pastures Protection Board history in relation to wild dog control programs. In Heroes of the Long Paddock Chris describes the positive side of the officers’ work in relation to droving sheep and cattle across the country.

Tom proved typical of the rangers I met - they never mentioned how much they did to help drovers in times of accidents or ill health.

As I interviewed the rangers, it became obvious that those who are true bushmen and stockmen make great rangers, and being a ranger is not about notching up scalps in the court process but in managing the stock routes for the benefit of stock and the environment. Some old drovers will say that the modern rangers are inexperienced with stock and tend to rule with an iron fist instead of developing good relationships. They sometimes create friction.

While the rangers and their attitudes are important to droving, the true heroes of this book are the drovers themselves and their families.

Christine joins many drovers around their camp and listens to their anecdotes of past and present. They relate the stories of their lives; of hardship, love of the job and hard work. They are told with sadness, emotion, nostalgia and humour.

How impacted on them – how modernisation had good and bad impact.

Australian drovers are legendary. Even city folks see them as typically Australian but, times are changing. Through her interviews with the drovers Christine meets on her travels she relates how modern influences, changes in accessing stock routes and attitudes are impacting on them.

Christine’s writing draws the reader into the lives of some very interesting Australian characters. Her descriptive passages of the outback are crisp and clear.

The book also includes thought-provoking poems written by the author in tribute to the people she meets on her journeys.

The drovers are disappearing. These stories will pass into history, but I hope they are not lost as a part of our history.

My rating 4*