She led an isolated life beyond the horizon amongst the desert saltbush plains. The scorching midday sun belted down constantly. Trees were sparse around the hut built of bark and timber. The floors often were slabs of timber, with the kitchen often built bigger than the main house.
Often she was alone with her children for months on end, while her husband was away with the sheep or cattle. She was the children’s teacher, nurse, caretaker. Tending to the homestead by herself; a special type of woman it took to cope with the conditions. Her skin became hardened to the conditions, sometimes thin and frail.
Liza was one of these women, she was not a coward, but she could be frightened often dealing snakes, dogs, possums and most of all children. Sometimes up to fourteen children. Children frightened at times of thunderstorms which can be quite dramatic in the desolate outback
A child screams a dog barks and Liza is on the alert checking under beds for snakes, checking floorboards. Children scamper together, protecting each other, while Liza keeps on searching.
Eventually Liza gives the all clear and says ‘Maybe it went under the floor boards and Ralph (the dog) scared it away barking.’
‘Mum will you read to us for a while so we can go to sleep’ asks Freddy
Liza clambers onto the bed with the kerosene lamp beside them on the table and begins reading till all her children fall asleep.
Alone at midnight, with all the children finally asleep she works, sewing patches on boys trousers, patching aprons, reading by lamp light. While waiting anxiously for news of her husband. Liza was a Drover’s wife, she made do, and she is used to being alone. As many a Drover’s wife did they were survivors.
At night while her children slept and when she was able to sleep restfully, she had dreams, girlish dreams, of castles, knights in shining armour. Those dreams are all but vanished now, as a Drover’s wife. Liza finds her excitement where she can in an old Ladies Journal, an old one at that.
Dreaming at times she pictures herself in all the finery of a city lady. At times she lays down her work and stares out a window, thinking, listening, her own private time.
Her husband Joe is an Australian, and so is she, they were used to separation. When he returned a Liza was paid Joe usually paid her most of his pay. His pay was not much but Liza knew how to make it go round. She was use to not fretting, Liza made do and she did so well
Liza fight fires, floods alongside her husband and children. She is now a woman from the bush. The Drover’s wife.
Joe the Drover had ridden over ridges and rolling plains, it had been months since he had been home. He’s traveled vast regions to come home. Images of his wife Liza standing on the veranda waiting for him. Many months vanish while he is on the stock route.
The station homestead lies hazy in the distance against the lower skies as the drover jogs through the noon day sun, chains and camp-ware jingle a tune, as he catches sight of silhouetted homestead and his wife. Home for a while to see his family, then he is on the move again.
A Drover loyal to his family, but the open road beckons, through all kinds of weather. Stormy inky black clouds fill the sky, lightening sharpens the sky. Across a Drovers track he pushes onward, his horses’ strength carries him to the river before it rises. Thunder claps over the Drovers and goes rumbling down the plain replenishing thirsty plains. Flood waters soon fill every creek and gully, rivers run again.
Joe and his dog (Jack) often crossed rivers together even when the rivers were full. Never stopping for thunder growls, or lightening, swimming the streams as the flood runs stronger than ever before.
He’s been there when the cattle have circled for the night, campfires have been lit. He’s sat around them talking; sometimes quietly sometimes you will hear a mouth organ play quietly. Men often deep in thought, sharing damper and billied tea listen quietly when you are camped across the ‘long paddock’ and you may hear their stories echo in the night, of how life used to be.
Now droving’s had its day, images of men like Joe have disappeared. Stock trains are replacing, these hard wiry men like Joe. Days of tea and damper will never come again.
I’m glad I’ve travelled the travelling stock route and camped by night on the stock route. Envisaged images of how it was then, when Droving cattle were a business.
These all but forgotten men and women of the Australian Outback should be remembered.
A Drovers life is unique to a living history across the long paddock (traveling stock routes) dotted across Australia.
Mobs of cattle moved across the ‘long paddock’ through heat, dust, and flies. Drovers on the track for months on end, isolated from their families. Across the plains of the outback.