A book telling the tale of growing up in the New England bush in the 1950s has received high praise from both critics and readers alike.
Angela Wales was one of five children who grew up on an isolated Walcha property after their Sydney based father was told to move to the country for his health.
The excerpt published below sets the scene for the memoir 'Barefoot in the bindis' which the author says is a bit Ma and Pa Kettle but also about the hard slog of working on a property.
I was only five years old then, but I remember the journey well. We stopped for the night at a hotel in Scone and I recall rising in the dark, the hotel's rooster crowing out the back, and eating boiled eggs and toast at a table laid with a white tablecloth and hotel silver.
We strapped our bags onto the luggage rack of the little Austin Seven as the sun came up and Katrina, Philomena and I tumbled into the back, with our dog Dizzy on the floor. The road passed the straggling small towns of Murrurundi, Willow Tree, Quirindi and Wallabadah and finally there was Tamworth, sun sleepy on its flat plain. I remember the car struggling up the Moonbi Hills, and Dad's curt "Stop asking that," when we ventured to enquire if we were there yet.
At the hamlet of Bendemeer we turned onto the much narrower Oxley Highway, and continued to climb. But here in a dip was Walcha Road -- a railway station, general store, war memorial and a pub.
"Oh, we're here," said Mum. But no, we were not.
"Still another eleven miles to go," said Dad. "They couldn't get the railway up the steep hills, so they had to put the station here."
The road passed the straggling small towns of Murrurundi, Willow Tree, Quirindi and Wallabadah and finally there was Tamworth, sun sleepy on its flat plain.
Walcha, when we reached it, was just another drowsy country town - two wide main streets that intersected in the town centre, with dust-covered cars and trucks parked at an angle to the pavement. A colonnade of shops on either side of the street included a couple of milk bars, banks, stock and station agents and the library. Two picture theatres, several pubs, a post office and court house stood alone.
After filling up on petrol, we drove up the Derby Street hill, turned right at the Showground and out of town. We were soon churning up dust from the dirt track. Fences, mailboxes, the occasional homestead set back from the main road, a shearing shed here and there, sheep and cattle dotting the paddocks. On a distant hillside was a man on a horse with his dog, rounding up his flock.
Past the Emu Creek, Bark Hut and Table Top turnoffs, through Winterbourne, up a hill, through a couple of gates and then...
"There it is," said Dad. A circle of tall pine trees, a sagging wire fence, a roof that had once been painted red. We were looking at a weather-beaten bungalow surrounded by a verandah, a cylindrical water tank at one end. Weeds everywhere, a corrugated-iron shed across the yard, more ramshackle buildings, one of which turned out to be the out-house, door swinging off its hinges.
Our mother said nothing.
Uncle Alan and Aunt Beverly appeared and began to help us inside, picking their way around some rotting verandah floorboards. The front door opened straight into the living room, and from there we walked down a hallway past the main bedroom and a small bathroom to an enclosed back verandah and the kitchen with its large blackened fireplace. Everything, walls and floor, tilted a little downhill. All the doorways leading to the outside had fly screen doors in addition to the wooden ones, and the sound of the fly screen doors squeaking and banging as we came and went was to become part of the background music to our lives, along with the sighing of the wind in the pine trees, the drawn-out lament of crows circling overhead, and the screeching of a passing flock of black cockatoos.
The shock to our mother must have been incalculable.
We girls found chickens, and a calf. There were trees to investigate, rusty machinery to climb, an old buggy up the hill. There were horses, too, one a dappled grey. "The Old Grey Mare," said Dad. The name stuck.
The shock to our mother must have been incalculable. Rotten floorboards. No running water. No telephone, no electricity. How, she must have thought, are we going to live here?