Fifty years in New South Wales’ remote north-west have inspired bush matriarch Jenny Nesbit to publish a memoir of short stories about the ups and downs of station life.
Story By Bessie Blore
A thin trail of red dust on the horizon is the first sign that Jenny and Jim Nesbit weren’t exaggerating about their cattle being so friendly they’re almost part of the family. Dozens of chubby, cheerful Murray Greys come bounding down well-worn cattle pads, right up to Jim as he calls in a typical farmer’s drawl, “Come on. Come on over. Come and ’ave a look!”
Inquisitive cows crowd around the paddock vehicle where Jenny sits as driver. “They’re really placid; they’re like big teddy bears,” she says of the herd, some of which weigh more than 900 kilograms. Burly silver bulls butt heads and paw at the ground, which, despite being covered in recent-history’s best feed still spirals a sandy haze through the air. And after 47 years of marriage, it is the red soil of these paddocks that has settled over the highs and lows of Jenny’s life, which she recently penned into a memoir of short ‘smoko stories’, titled Lead Dust to Red Dust.
Raised in the lead-mining town of Broken Hill, NSW, and married at the age of 18, Jenny moved north to Jim’s family property Dalmuir Station. The couple spent their first nine years on Dalmuir raising four children, Jim junior, Martin, Michelle and Melissa, during the drought years of the 1960s.
Travelling the corrugated tracks of this 60,000-hectare property in the far north-west of New South Wales, each paddock, fence line, tank and sand hill triggers memories of what Jenny says has been an exceptional life on the land. “Jim’s mum, Muriel, was the first to ever introduce Murray Grey cattle into the western division of New South Wales,” she says. “She’d read about them being bred by Helen Southerland in the Murray Valley and in 1965 brought the first Murray Grey bull to the district.”
Jenny recounts the story with a twinge of embarrassment. She was only newly married and living on Dalmuir when she took a telegram message for Muriel: “Murray Grey arriving tomorrow.” Jenny spent the evening making lamingtons for Mr Grey’s much anticipated arrival, having mistaken the unfamiliar breed for a new stock agent. “When the stock truck arrived the next morning I went down to the yards to help unload a new bull. He was a beautiful big, silver thing. But after smoko with the truck driver I asked [Jim’s] Mum, ‘When is Murray Grey arriving?’
This story excerpt is from Issue #84
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012