I’ve got a new picture book coming out soon…it’s called DROVER and it’s been beautifully illustrated by the talented Sarah Anthony, and is being published by the fabulous Walker Books Australia.
Edna Jessop (nee Zigenbine) was Australia’s first female boss drover. In 1950, she took 1600 head of cattle from Western Australia to Queensland. For six months, they travelled through harsh country over a distance of 2240 kilometres. Edna began droving as a child, but on this trip she was in her early twenties. Her father, a boss drover, fell ill soon after they left and Edna took charge.
I wrote the text for DROVER in such a way, that Edna is only ever referred to as drover. This was so the reader didn’t know it was a girl until the very last page, when she threw her hat in the air and cracked her stockwhip. Yee-haa!
Anyway, what’s a drover? A drover is a person who moves livestock on long walks from stations (big farms) to markets. Trips could take many months and were slow going, winding through some of the most isolated and barren areas of Australia. They were incredibly dangerous and many cattle, sheep and even some drovers have died whilst droving.
My Grandfather went droving at fourteen years of age and he often talked about the ‘long paddock.’ As a kid I thought he just meant a big paddock, but the ‘long paddock’ refers to travelling stock routes (TSR) which are a historical network of pathways all over Australia for livestock to be moved to market.
I bet you’ve seen them, they’re the wide grasses verges beside country roads. Funnily enough, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is still classified as a stock route (but you can only use it between midnight and sunrise, ok?).
I love the romance of droving. It’s iconically Australian. My Grandfather and his brothers lived hand to mouth, shooting rabbits and cooking them over a campfire for dinner. They slept with their dogs under thin blankets around a fire, taking it in turns to watch the cattle during the night. My Grandfather loved his horses more than life itself and I realise now, he had a gift, especially with horses.
My great uncles were similarly gifted with horses. This is picture below is my Great Uncle Les on his beautiful palomino horse ‘Gold King.’ He had a famous show he performed all around Australia called ‘Cowboys Last Ride’ that left the crowd in tears. He was also a poet.
It’s funny how your family continues to define you, long after they’ve gone. I love the connection my work has to my heritage. And as soon as I delved into this in my writing, it brought out something in my stories that hadn’t previously been there. I’m glad I’ve been able to tap into it.
Anyway, book launch details are coming soon, COVID permitting!
However, DROVER, can be found in any good bookstore from September 8th 2021 or you can pre-order it online here at Booktopia
Thank you for popping into my blog, I appreciate all the love. Thanks to my family, my friends and my wonderful children’s writing community.