As far as our eyes could see were miles upon miles of emptiness, huge blue skies and bare earth. We heard pink cockatoos squawk in the gum trees, and crickets click and clack at night, but it was also a place of silence. There was not a person or town to be seen. We could shout into the hills and hear our voices echo back to us. We could lie on our backs at night and imagine the sky of stars swallowing us whole. We could die out here under the savage summer sun and our bones would turn white and dissolve in the dry winds. Nobody would ever know we'd been there. We thought that was kind of exciting.
For fans of Toni Tapp Coutts' A Sunburnt Childhood and Mary Groves' An Outback Life comes Tanya Heaslip's extraordinary story of growing up with her sister and brothers in the late 1960s and early 70s on their vast outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.
Whether working the mobs of cattle with the stockmen, playing cattle-duffing on horseback or singing and doing lessons at their School of the Air desks, Tanya and her siblings led a childhood unimaginable to many Australians. But while her sister M'Lis and her brother Brett loved riding and working stock, Tanya's heart was always back at the homestead with her books and stories. As the eldest child, her added responsibility was to look after the younger ones, including little Benny, so she was usually by their sides, dealing with snakes, the threat of bushfires and broken bones.
Tanya's parents, Janice and Grant 'the Boss' Heaslip, were pioneers. They developed the cattle station where water was scarce, where power was dependent on generators and where a trip to town for supplies often meant a full day's journey. Grant was determined to teach his children how to survive in this severe environment and his lessons were often harsh.
In a childhood that most would consider very tough, Tanya tells of this precious time with raw honesty, humour, love and kindness. This is the story of an Alice girl.