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Rollin’ yer swag

READERSVOICE.COM aims to give a few samples from interesting out of print books.

Recently, I found Rollin’ yer swag in a Salvation Army store. Rollin’ yer swag was a memoir written by William C.F. Cowan in 1985, published by Boolarong, Brisbane. A swag is rolled-up bedding, carried on someone’s back or on horseback: used for sleeping on the hard ground. 

Born in Roma, Queensland, in 1903, Mr Cowan worked as a ringer and drover through much of far west Queensland. A ringer is a cowboy. A drover transported cattle from cattle stations (large properties) to a railhead (a town usually at the end of a train line, like Quilpie). Drovers rode on horseback with a couple of ringers, and walked the herds of cattle for hundreds of miles, sometimes for several weeks, in the days before truck transport. Then the cattle were sent by train to meatworks hundreds of kilometres away, in places like Roma and Brisbane. Here are a few samples from this memoir of life in the Australian bush long ago.

The author wrote about when he was 12 and living in a small town called Amby in Queensland. He learned a lot about the culture of the local Aboriginal community, including how they cooked their food. He wrote:

Fish, carneys [a type of lizard], small birds, goanna [a monitor lizard] tails, were all mostly encased in mud from the creek bank. It was tacky mud, and no trouble to pack around whatever it might be you were cooking. In the case of birds and fish, you just encased the bird or fish whole, and threw it into the hot coals and ashes, and covered it right over. When it was cooked, the mud was baked hard, so you let it cook a bit, broke the mud off and you were left with beautiful white flesh, as clean as if it was baked on a baking dish in an oven. The scales and skin of the fish and the feathers and skin of the bird came away with the mud. Believe me, it was delicious.

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