Revisiting my rural roots ….


Tomorrow, I’m bunking off work early to go to my local show – the Brisbane Exhibition – Ekka for short. 

Traditionally it’s when the country comes to town.

My first stop will be the beef cattle pavilions where lots of very pampered animals are vying for prizes that will increase their stud value. There are lots of wonderful breeds of cattle now, with clean skin cattle being predominant because of the problem with ticks in tropical Queensland. There are still the traditional Herefords though which would have been the original breed brought by English settlers.

For international readers, what would I compare the Exhibition with? A State Fair in the USA (I went to a state fair when we lived in Maryland 1983-84 when Peter was posted to the Australian Embassy) or in the UK, something like the Surrey County Agricultural Show (I went to that in 1980).

My country upbringing has provided the background for my first book but I spare readers most of the tedious details of running a cattle property …. Dipping, branding, de-sexing male cattle, sorting out a load of bullocks for the sale yard or meat works, digging in dry creek beds for the water table so it can be pumped for the cattle to drink, pushing out bales of hay to breeders trying to survive on thin grass cover after months and months of dry hot weather.

In my first book, James Fitzroy takes a mob of cattle on the road to feed on the ‘long paddock’ – an activity familiar to many country Australians, in a country of uncertain rain. 

But there were other points of interest that I reflect on now. We never thought about the people who had occupied the land before us, the First Australians, except one day when I was out walking with my father, we found a boomerang, the Aboriginal family group that had once called our property their country long gone. 

In the largest of our paddocks, there was an old mining settlement, complete with a stack for smelting. I remember Dad pointing out the various building remnants, identifying them by his understanding of their structures, such as the baker’s. It was a copper mine so we called that paddock Coppermine. It’s all still there as far as I know, but sold long ago. 

A lot of people think Australia has lots of dangerous animals but only had maybe four encounters with dangerous snakes. Nearly put my foot on a king brown one night. Moral of the story: thank God for the torch.

Of course there were kangaroos and wallabies and dingoes. 

So anyway tomorrow I’ll be remembering my country childhood, looking at the cattle, checking out all the baking (cakes and the like), going through the Fine Art and all the pavilions. There’s a great gourmet food hall now with lots of specialty producers of wine, cheese, chutneys, ice cream and the like……. But I will bypass sideshow alley and the horrendous stomach-churning rides – I’ll leave that particular delight to the younger generation. 

And then I’ll come back inspired to really get motoring on book.2

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