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Back of Beyond

On the front cover of the book it says “One woman’s remarkable story of love, adventure and disasters….in the Gulf Country.” I think rather, it is the story of one remarkable woman! She adopted a life she knew nothing about, in a region she was a stranger to, and worked alongside the men all day. The Gulf Country refers to the land south of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and just below Normanton.

Jenny fell in love at first sight. Rick was also smitten with her, and even though she was to travel overseas for a year with her nursing friends, he waited for her return. They always knew they wanted to be together. Rick was to become a manager of McAllister, which was land, completely undeveloped, and so the two of them set off to begin an enormous task. Luckily Jenny had been raised on a farm near Deniliquin, and had experience with horse riding, and country life. Rick and Jen arrived at the property where a small shed was their only shelter. A man called Paul lived in the shed with them while they began the enormous task of fencing the property. From here, they were able to make their first purchase of livestock.

Jen couldn’t work out why she felt nauseous. Then she realised she was pregnant. Over time she would need to tie her jeans up with string, and getting on with the jobs at hand. With no running water, electricity, or phone coverage, she cooked in a mud oven, and still worked alongside the men. When she did get to Mt Isa to see a doctor, he suggested that she give up horse riding for a week or two, but as it was muster time this just wouldn’t work. All was well for her, and when she did move to Mt Isa for her delivery, she was very healthy.

The baby had a meat safe for a cot and was thoroughly loved and happy in the house that Rick was now building. Slowly progress was made, although there were always paddocks to fence and mustering to do. Jen was able to start a little garden of her own, and supplement her mainly meat diet. Gradually tanks were built so water didn’t have to be carted, and the house even boasted a washing machine that Ric had salvaged from the dump.

The many trials, including the weather, (cyclone season was unpredictable), and the insects, and the heat, as well as lack of electricity, cemented Jen and Ric’s love of their patch. As the land flourished, so did they: their family felt the love of the country, and a lifestyle and love, which drew them to such an amazingly remote place.

Back of Beyond is set in modern day Australia and even thought it reflects some of the struggles the earlier pioneering families must have faced, it also pays tribute to the many women who have faced challenges in their lives, made the most from the experience, going on to prosper even when times were beyond tough and tomorrow was a day to far away.

Author Jenny Old
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760632090
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released April 2018