For the first 15 years of her life, Patsy Kemp, only knew the long paddock as her home.
At just three months of age, Patsy’s mother, who already had four older children, decided to join her father, Mick Kemp, droving large mobs of sheep and cattle through western NSW and into southern Queensland.
As a baby, her cradle was the dog crate underneath the horse drawn wagonette, or the unused saddle, when the dogs needed their crate.
Patsy has just released her book The Drover’s Daughter, a book that took her two years to write.
“A lot of people know about drovers, and their lifestyle is folklore, but little is known about the life of the women and children of drovers,” Patsy said.
Throughout the pages, Patsy is brutally honest about the hardship they all endured and tells her story ‘warts and all’.
There are pages where Patsy’s wicked sense of humour shines through, and pages tinged with sadness.
At the time she had no idea that it was not normal in live in a wagonette and later truck with eight other family members, and go to the toilet behind a tree, and cook food in a shovel over a campfire.
Her earliest memories are one of terror when she was aged four, and they were camped on the reserve beside the Naomi River, near Narrabri, NSW.
“It has been raining for days, and everyone was talking about the impending flood, when news broke that the river has broken its banks, and I thought we were going to die,” she said.
Patsy said she really doesn’t know how her mother coped with seven kids, putting sheep breaks up and down, cooking for the family over campfires, and driving the truck, through the scorching summers and cold winters.
She tells of her father killing a stolen sheep and willingly sharing it with the local policemen who happened to drive past at the time, and stopped to see what was going on.
“Dad told him he was sorry it was a bit hot, and the policeman replied, ‘don’t worry it will be cool, by the time I get it home,” she laughed.
Ironically, it was the same policeman, who issued her mother with a driver’s licence, knowing she had been driving the truck illegally for years.
Patsy tells in vivid detail of the family traversing the stock routes, and how difficult it was to learn through both the Queensland and NSW School of Correspondence.
“We were enrolled in both schools, and it depended on which state we were, which papers we did,” she said.
“When we got busy on the road with Dad, our Mum would filled the papers out and we would just copy them and send it in.
She said it was hard to receive a proper education, as the papers and also the handwriting changed from state to state.
After a run of bad luck, Patsy’s father gave away droving an bought a farm near Moree, NSW
It was the first time Patsy, then aged 15 can remember living in a home, with bedrooms, a veranda, a bathroom an oil Aga stove, and the kids finally got to have a bit of space and privacy to themselves.
If anyone would like to buy a copy of Patsy’s ‘page turning’ book they are available in most book stores, or they can email Patsy at firstname.lastname@example.org