Jackaroo by Michael Thornton.
Jackaroo by Michael Thornton. Contributed

Book review: Jackaroo

Author: Michael Thornton

Publisher: Viking (Penguin Aust)

RRP: $29.95

I’M not a big fan of memoirs but Michael Thornton has renewed my faith in this genre with his fantastic stories from outback Australia.

In 1967, fresh from boarding school humiliations and having lost his father to alcoholism, gangly teen Michael Thornton was packed off to a tough sheep and cattle station to work as a jackaroo.

He was to learn the wool trade from the lamb up, under a boss legendary for working his farmhands in an almost military regimen.

Tasked with the dirty, disgusting and downright dangerous jobs, jackaroos are the dogsbodies of our farms.

But at Habbies Howe, in central Victoria, somewhere between castrating lambs with his teeth and hauling backbreaking sacks of fertiliser for no obvious purpose, Michael discovered inner strength, and the friendship and male role models he’d craved.

He also earned respect — enough to later walk into a job with the nation’s most famous farmer, the Defence Minister and future PM Malcolm Fraser.

Michael Thornton writes with great skill, transporting me to his life on land.

It was jackaroos like him who helped shape our pastoral industry and indirectly our nation.

Jackaroo is a great way to look into a world most people don’t get to see or experience.


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