G’day. Thanks, Sheilas, for having me at your place. (Sheila, by the way, is Aussie for a young, attractive woman. That’s us, isn’t it?)
I’m Australian and you might be wondering what someone from Down Under is doing here. It’s about as far from Texas as you can get… isn’t it? You’d be surprised… there’s a town called Texas near where I grew up in the Australian bush. Far from making us strangers, in many ways, the places we live make us cousins. Here’s why – its part of The Man From Snowy River, a poem by Australia’s great bush poet Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson.
So Clancy rode to wheel them — he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face. Recognise Clancy?
He might be a legendary Australian stockman, but he’d be equally at home riding the range in Texas. Your Texas.
The story of the Australian outback is very similar to that of the American west. It is a vast and rugged land – as dangerous as it is beautiful. The European settlers who came looking for a new life or looking for gold fought their way into the outback with bullock drays. They lived isolated from the world battling droughts and storms, dealing with lethal snakes, shocking heat and freezing cold.
That’s the history we share – and the heroes we share…
Which brings me back to Clancy. He wasn’t always chasing brumbies (the Aussie version of wild mustangs) – he was a drover too, guiding his cattle across the vast plains.
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
I know exactly what he means – that’s me in stockwoman mode in the photograph.
I write contemporary fiction, but time hasn’t changed the outback. Nor the people in it. A car doesn’t really make it easier to fall in love with the boy next door, when properties (we don’t call them ranches) are measured in hundreds of square miles.
In my first novel, The Farmer Needs A wife – I wanted to do a contemporary take on mail order brides. My bride might arrive in the outback in a plane, not a coach, but when that plane leaves, there’s still no going back.
Another possibility for finding true love in the outback is the Bachelor and Spinster Ball. All the singles from hundreds of kilometres around get dressed in their finest clothes and come to the ball hoping to meet prospective husbands and wives. I guess that sounds familiar to you too. The modern B&S Balls often also bring in young folk from the big smoke, who are there for the country music and the partying… but anything can still happen at a black tie ball under the stars.
In both books, I tried to capture the essence of Australia – the remarkable landscape, the strength of the people who live in the outback, and the feeling of community that develops in small towns.
I felt it as I was growing up – and even when I’m on the far side of the planet… I still feel it. I’m never all that far from Clancy.
He sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.
I guess you know what I’m talking about too, don’t y’all.
Janet will be giving away a copy of The Farmer Needs A Wife and The Bachelor and Spinster Ball – one each to two lucky indiviuals who stop by to leave a comment today.