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Life on the road in big droving family

Patsy Kemp grew up on the road droving with her father since the age of three months and wrote a book, The Drover's Daughter, about her experiences.
Patsy Kemp grew up on the road droving with her father since the age of three months and wrote a book, The Drover's Daughter, about her experiences. Megan Masters

AT THE tender age of three months, Patsy Kemp got her first taste of droving and the adventures didn't stop until she was about 15.

By that time, she had no idea it was not normal to live in a wagonette or truck with eight other family members and a couple of workmen, go to the loo behind a tree and cook food in a shovel over a campfire.

Her cradle was either the dog crate underneath the wagonette or an unused saddle, mostly because the dogs needed the crate too.

She laughed that at age five she was quite possibly the first and only person to ever ride a sheep across the border over the Mungindi Bridge.

She said it all started when her mum decided to hit the road to help her father, who himself had been a drover since age 13.

"Dad had been droving a while and was very hard to live with,” Ms Kemp said.

"Mum had four children at that stage - one born every year - and sometimes dad would send a telegram and she would catch a taxi, take some groceries and go and help him until he could find another workman.

"Then when I was about three months old she decided she was going to stay with him on the road.”

In hindsight she could barely believe how her mother coped with seven kids, putting sheep breaks up and down, cooking for the family out of campfires and driving the wagonette, all through scorching summers and bitter winters.

"The cold in particular was the worst, but we never whinged about it,” she said.

"We just slept in our clothes.”

Three more children were born during that time, but Ms Kemp laughed that at least all of the children were born in hospitals.

Eventually after a run of bad luck, her father gave away the droving and bought a farm near Moree.

It had four bedrooms, a beautiful verandah and, wonder of wonders, an oil Aga stove and an electric refrigerator.

A phone was put on and all the kids got to finally have a bit of space and privacy to themselves.

Far from being over her love of the land though, she had a bit of fun in the big cities before returning later in life.

After collecting a lifetime's worth of tales in her first 15 years, she found herself regularly talking about her adventures as she got older and the response was nearly always the same: "you should write a book about it”.

She took a look around and while she found a bevy of books on drovers, there was little or nothing dealing with their families.

She put the proverbial pen to paper and the result was The Drover's Daughter, set to be launched in Toowoomba next Wednesday at the Quality Hotel Platinum International, opposite Clifford Gardens Shopping Centre.

All are welcome to come to the launch and hear some of the tales in person.

To RSVP or find out more email patsykempdrover @bigpond.com or call 0409659149.

Topics:  book launch droving toowoomba whatson


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