My time as a jackaroo is best summed-up in the sub-title which Penguin included on the back cover: Choirboy to Cowboy. It captures my pathetic start to life – hopeless at sport (and just about everything else) – and being told by another boy’s mother at boarding school that I wouldn’t survive the year I was about to spend as a Jackaroo at Habbies Howe for a grazier called Dick Webb, in northern Victoria. My initiation was excruciating; they nearly did kill me. And for a while, it just got worse.
Sixty per cent of my story is about my year at Habbies Howe. I then had a year in our relatives’ woollen mills in Yorkshire. But after returning home and starting as a junior woolbuyer in the family firm, I yearned to be back on my horse. Habbies Howe had a long waiting list, so instead I went to work first as a shedhand, then as a jackaroo at Mortlake (Vic), Augathella (Qld) and finally at Nareen (Vic). I hope you enjoy JACKAROO — especially if you are, or once were, on the land.