Toowoomba author Patsy Kemp had a childhood that was both different and challenging.
The first 15 years of her life were spent travelling vast distances across the stock routes of outback Queensland and New South Wales. Home was a horse drawn wagon and meals were eaten outdoors around a camp fire. There were nine members of the Kemp family and her father Mick was a contract drover who earned a living moving large mobs of sheep between buyers and sellers, sales yards and properties. Patsy thought there was nothing unusual in their nomadic way of life; it was the only one she knew. The experiences of those early years shaped Patsy to be the resilient, independent woman she is today and in looking back, she realised those precious memories were too good not to be shared.
As a first-time author, Patsy was surprised to receive a book deal from a publishing firm so early in her career. The result of two year’s work is her first published autobiography, The Drover’s Daughter. Documented using Australian larrikin humour and unpretentious honesty, it is a rollicking good story; as authentic as camp fires and billy tea. Life on the road was full of ups and downs, adolescent embarrassments, triumphs and disasters. “Many books have been written about iconic drovers and cattle men but not of the women and children who shared life with them,” says Patsy.
Her next great adventure has been a road trip to country towns across the state to promote her book. Along the way she has made many new friends and receives a warm and welcome response from everyone she meets. “I’ve done radio interviews in small country towns and had book signings at dozens of regional libraries,” says Patsy. “Talking about my life to an interested audience has been the unexpected bonus in all this.”
“It can sound rather romantic; the nights spent out under the stars, the camp oven dinners eaten around the fire. We were woken each morning by a glorious sunrise and surrounded by the beauty of the Australian bush. But there were days when the travelling had been hard, we hadn’t eaten fresh bread for weeks and dust was our constant companion. We had to find a suitable tree for a toilet break and squash all our goods and chatels into a very small wagon.”
“I don’t know how Mum managed to look after us all, drive the wagon and put sheep enclosures up and down in all kinds of weather. Mum told me that when I was a baby, my cradle was an upturned saddle! Dad’s idea of fast food was to throw some chops or sausages onto a shovel to put it on some hot coals,” Patsy recalls with a laugh.
Signed copies of The Drover’s Daughter are selling well and Patsy plans to have a sequel ready for publication next year. Her enthralling tale is available in most book stores.
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