'200 Years of Man and an Australian Forest' - or, how it was and how it is in the Pillaga, between Narrabri and Coonabarabran, Baan Baa and Baradine. The history of a district, but it could stand for the country, and it was fitting to finish this book on 26 January. To get to the Pillaga
, Eric Rolls goes back to settlement and records the drive for land out from Sydney, squatters leap-frogging the law and each other to stake their claim. It's interesting that few left dynasties for their descendents - they went broke or bust too often. The author - also poet, farmer, hunter and naturalist - tells this and many other stories with an easy touch that belies the book's considerable research.
You'll learn that the Kamilaroi language had a normal imperative, an emphatic imperative and also a taunting imperative - "irony was part of the Kamilaroi character". That the spring of 1973 amazed even men who had seen eighty years of pine flowering - so dense were the clouds of pollen on the edge of the forest that "shearers found it almost too dark to shear by early afternoon." That old camp ovens had walls only three millimetres thick, now they are six. "Modern metallurgists do not know how the old camp ovens were poured." That the female Brown Antechinus can ovulate only under shock - "gentle males are no use to them."
The final chapters on the animal life of the Pillaga were especially interesting as much of it is from the author's personal observation. There's also something in there for big cat fanciers.
A Million Wild Acres
was published in 1981 - (Eric Rolls, sadly, passed in 2007) - I came to it from Roger Deakin's Wildwood
. Like that book, it makes you want to get up and go outside.