Today Mandy Magro explains the inspiration behind her debut novel, Rosalee Station. Next week, we will be giving away two signed copies of Rosalee Station, courtesy of the author. Be sure to visit us again next week to enter the giveaway!
Today I would like to share with you the inspiration behind my debut novel, Rosalee Station.
The red dust flowed out like a river behind the Landcruiser as we coasted along the Plenty Highway towards Tobermorey Station, dodging livestock left right and centre and hitting sections of bulldust that gripped the tyres, pulling us off the side of the dirt road. I was beside myself with excitement and wondering what adventures lay ahead of me as camp cook out on a 1, 517 000 acre cattle station. I’d never been this far into the heart and soul of Australia, it was exhilarating and intimidating all rolled into one! An old Toyota bonnet resting against a massive ant hill pointed the way to Tobermorey’s entrance with a bold red arrow. I looked up into the night sky that was filled with millions of glittering stars and smiled, I was finally here.
My new boss ushered me and my bag full of too many “in case” thing to my home for the next few months. The stockmen had kindly erected a tent which I’d be sleeping in whilst we were at camp. I’d later discover the luxury in this when we were out mustering for days on end with the earth as my bed and the dazzling night sky as my ceiling. I snuggled into my swag as the hum of the generator lulled me into my first nights sleep, my dreams full of mustering and outback sunsets.
At 4.30am the following morning I was cooking up a storm in my camp kitchen, Garth Brooks keeping me company on the portable stereo as a horse came galloping through the camp, sending all the stockmen into utter chaos. Swear words hung heavily in the crisp morning air as men stumbled from their swags to avoid being trodden to death. Minutes later they were all sat at the table, munching on bacon and eggs, laughing at how hilarious each of them looked as they scrambled for safety. I loved their laid-back attitudes; it was splendid to be surrounded by such true blue Aussie characters.
The days began to turn into weeks as the stockmen left the camp before the sun had even had time to rise, returning only at nightfall with dust covering their every inch, their Akubras shadowing their tired faces as they hobbled into camp. I was always keen to fill their bellies with the food I had spent all day preparing. Everything from roast dinners right through to homemade syrup pudding. Some days I’d go with them if they were going on the motorbikes or if I was offered to go in the chopper. Those days out mustering will remain etched in my heart forever.
The motorbikes were always thrilling as we chased after rouge bulls, all four tyres often leaving the ground as we sped over the rocky terrain. I’d return home with dust in places I never imagined possible! Once I went to drop lunch out to the stockmen and returned with a calf as my passenger, it was too weak to walk the long distance so I offered to give it a lift back to camp. It stayed deathly still as we bounced along the dirt track, its big bright eyes staring at me as I scratched it behind the ears and spoke to it like a long lost friend. The chopper mustering was a whole other ballgame, playing chicken with a snorting, belligerent bull whilst the back propeller of the chopper whipped up the dust off the ground was at times a little unnerving! I swear I could’ve stepped right out of the chopper we were that close to the ground! Then up we would whisk, the ground rapidly fading away as we sped off after cattle that were making a break for freedom from the mob.
Whilst out on a 6 day muster I learnt how valuable a packet of wet wipes could become. There was no water for baths so I used to wait until I knew I wasn’t going to be caught butt naked then I’d slowly pull a single wipe from my packet and clean myself down. I used to hold that wet wipe for dear life in case I dropped it in the red dust! The things we must do! You also begin to crave for things that are just ridiculous. I remember sitting there one day, all day long, as thoughts of an icy cold can of creaming soda trickling down my throat haunted me until I thought I was going to go crazy! Needless to say the first thing I did when we got back to the station was to buy a can of creaming soda from the little shop there (they have a shop because they were also a camping ground for travellers in the outback) and I skulled it until the last sweet drop fell from the can. It was a simple pleasure that we tend to take for granted, one of the many that I came to discover.
My time as camp cook was a life changing experience. The adventures I had in the vast untamed land and the memorable people I shared it with were the inspiration behind Rosalee Station. The beauty and magic of the outback has captured my heart and I’m so blessed to be able to write about it in my novels.