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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 31 (Text)

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Respondent Interviewer
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:31:30
Trish FitzSimons
Jeannie Reynolds, Katrina Cartwright
Griffith Film School
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16 June 2000
Updated 15/01/10 Timecode refers to tapes 31_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 31
Romance Environment
Some signs of water damaged but footage generally ok.
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Katrina Reynolds
Interview with Jeannie Reynolds. Part 2 of 3.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 31
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31_BC_SP_REYNOLDS-plain.txt — 28 KB

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Okay, this is camera tape 30 of the Channels of History project, DAT
    tape no. 12 is at 1325. It’s 16 June 2000 and we’re interviewing Jeannie
    Reynolds out at Morney Plains Station, and this is the second camera
    tape of the interview.

    Okay, so how long did that Charleville life go on for and what caused it to

    07:01:15:00     Three years I spent in Charleville until Peter came along, and I
    guess he was looking for a wife and I was looking for a husband so we
    jumped at the chance and moved back out to Morney Plains.

I’m going to ask a blunt question and you can give me a blunt or not blunt
    answer, but were you looking for a husband that lived in the Channel

No. Oh, I just needed somebody. Ummm but, yeah, Peter and I were friends
    before I even married Warren so it was sort of easier to take up where I left
    off. If it came to finding a total stranger, I don’t think I could have done it.
    So, yeah it was easier to find someone from the Channel Country.

How did your kids respond to having a new Dad?

07:02:10:14     Ummm okay, the kids and Peter got on well, except for the
    eldest one. I think he was at that funny stage that needed a little bit more
    time, ahhh and he only had that twelve months here before he went away to
    boarding school, so I guess it was a fairly big adaption for him, a new Dad,
    new home, all in twelve months sort of thing. But the other kids and Peter
    get on really well.
And so what had happened to Moothandella while you were in Charleville?

Ah, my nephew came out to run it for Dad and is still there.

And Peter was here at Morney?

That’s right, he was manager here at Morney.

And can you just explain your awareness of the history of Morney, its pattern
    of ownership and all of that? Give us a little potted … tell us about Morney
    Plains Station.

Pastoral Company/Kidman

    07:03:07:22       I started on the history of Morney. Ah, it’s a Kidman property
    ummm and has been for a long time now. A lot of the Kidman records were
    destroyed in a fire in Adelaide in the office so it’s a bit hard to find out a lot
    of the Kidman – ah the Morney history – but we’re starting to look into it.

And so when did Kidman acquire Morney and …?

I can’t remember.

Am I right, I think, having read that John Costello book this morning, that
    John Costello was the original squatter here and then sold it?

So he … yeah, he took up the land for John Collins.

Oh, was it John … let’s start that again. I want you to tell it to me in your
    words but do you know the history of how Morney came to come into white

07:03:57:20       With John Costello who took up most of the land in the
    Windorah area, and he took Morney up for John Collins, I think, I can
    remember, yeah.

And then how did it become Sidney Kidman’s, do you know?
Oh, then it went to somebody else, I can’t remember, and then I think even to
    somebody else before it finally went into Kidman hands.              We’re still
    researching that little bit.

And so your husband Peter, has his whole adult life been a Kidman manager?

He was born in Isisford, ummm came down to Morney Plains in 1968 as a
    station hand and, except for a couple of years on the main road from
    Windorah to Bedourie, he’s spent all that 30 years working for Kidman,

And having experience, I take it that Moothandella was leasehold land that
    was in your family for those two generations, how is it different? How is the
    relationship to the land different, if at all, being on land that is your family’s
    as opposed to it being a company property?

    07:05:16:16     I don’t know if there’s really that much difference. To live
    out here, you either love it or you hate it. You can’t just put up with it.
    Ummm so you make it home. It is home, so you sort of treat it as your own.
    Otherwise you won’t be here for long anyway but, yeah, I guess
    Moothandella’s always got the sense, you can always go running home if
    need be, ummm but Morney’s still classed as home.

And so when you came here to Morney, what did you find?

Pastoral Company

    Totally different to Moothandella ummm being a small family place coming
    to a company larger place. I guess all I ever wanted out of life was to have a
    little block of land with my own little family and live on my own, and all of a
    sudden I’m surrounded by strangers living together.

Now why is that? Can you explain that? Why did coming here to Morney
    mean being surrounded by strangers living together?
07:06:21:20    I guess, well usually there’s twelve or thirteen men work here
    ummm and live here, and we all live together, work together, I guess play
    together. So, yeah, you aren’t really in the middle of nowhere on your own.

And as the manager’s wife, what were the parameters of the role and the
    work that you found here?

07:06:52:08    Oh, you did everything that no one else wanted to do.


Well, I guess, paid position was cook, etc. All the other jobs, the gardening
    jobs, ummm the office work that Peter didn’t want to do. When I first came
    here there was no telephone. I found that a bit hard to cope with, only having
    the Flying Doctor radio as communication. Ummm …

So what year are we talking about?

’89. Beginning of ’89 I came here. I can’t remember when we got phones.

And when you say ‘paid job was station cook’, what were you paid for
    exactly? What’s involved?

07:07:35:18    In cooking, was cooking. Cooking and cleaning I guess is,
    yeah, what I was paid to do but everything else just fell in as well. Same as
    any domestic work, I guess.

Well I guess what I’m interested in, I know you completely take it for
    granted but what’s involved in cooking and cleaning? Does that mean you
    change all the sheets? Does it mean you’re up at 6 a.m. to take them cups of
    tea? Does it mean … I mean, what’s involved? Enlighten us.

Work: Station Cook

    07:08:13:14    Well, I guess, I always tell them they’re worse than babies.
    They get fed every three hours. A baby only gets fed every four hours.
    Yeah, three meals plus two smokos a day. Ummm that’s when they’re in at
    the station. When they’re out in camp, they’ll go out for a fortnight or so at a
    time, ummm that leaves me here alone to make sure that the motor – because
    we still generate our own power – to make sure the motor’s sort of in
    working condition and full and goes and ummm the stores are kept up to
    date, ummm most of the smokos that go out to camp I make here so you keep
    a stock of smokos to send out to the camp.

What sort of things? Okay, what else is involved? What other jobs doesn’t
    anyone else want to do, Jeannie?

07:09:00:18    Oh, feed the pigs and the chooks. Ummm, make sure that any
    horses that are at the station have got their water and occasionally when
    you’re sort of, if you’re down, a man or two ummm have been known to be
    made to check the bores, and that’s an all-day job driving round checking all
    the water, make sure the cattle have got water.

What range of food do you produce here? Obviously you produce your
    meat. I’m thinking about all the stuff I’ve seen out the back there.

Oh, ummm, yeah, okay, for our own consumption? We usually keep a
    couple of pigs for variety with pork, chooks for the eggs, citrus trees, try to
    grow a vegetable garden. Crows usually beat you to it, though. Ummm, I
    don’t mind sharing with them but they like it when it’s green. Ummm, and
    that’s all. Go fishing occasionally.

What are the fish like in the rivers here?

To eat?

Mmmm. Are they plentiful I guess is the question.

07:10:07:04    Oh, they’ll pick and choose when you’re allowed to catch
    them. You can usually only catch them on a line after the creeks run, if it’s
    been sitting for a while. We’ve got a couple of holes here you can always go
    out and catch fish, usually bream, though. Very rarely you’ll get yellowbelly
    until the creeks run. But there’s nothing wrong with eating the bream.
And that question, do you experience this land as … what are the cycles of
    this Channel Country as you experience them?

Women/Land/ CC Environment

    07:10:38:04      Well it can either be dry or it can be green. You’ve got to
    learn to live with it. You can’t sort of … you can’t get what you want out of
    the land, you’ve got to wait for it to give you want it wants to give you so
    you sort of learn to live with the land the way it is. If it’s green, you make
    the most of it. This year’s been a really good year, so you make the most of
    it in gardens and fat cattle and whatever else, and then prepare, I guess, for
    the dry times.

And when the dry times come, how do you deal with that?

Drought: Water Conservation

    07:11:19:10      I guess it’s a bit like going into hibernation. You sort of, you
    cut down, you cut down your cattle numbers, of course, because you haven’t
    got the feed, because if you cut the cattle numbers down, well all the work
    sort of cuts down and, yeah, just try and keep water, I guess. And so we sort
    of grew up as kids ummm, yeah, shared bath water, you don’t sort of stand in
    the shower for an hour at a time, sort of thing. Mainly baths rather than
    showers, it uses less water. Washing machine water used to go onto the fruit
    trees, you didn’t waste that. They talk about recycling. I guess we’ve
    always sort of virtually been recycling.

And electricity, which is a different thing. Do you have electricity 24 hours a
    day here?

No, no. We have … we generate our own power and usually turn it off when
    we go to bed of a night time and start it in the morning. When they’re out in
    camp, I normally don’t start it sort of until later in the morning when they’re
    not here.
I was going to ask you about that. You described living here with twelve
    men, living, working, playing together, and I see you here on your own,
    what’s the story? Where are the men?

Gender Relations/Muster Pastoralism

    07:12:34:00    They’re out in the stock camp at the moment. Ummm, will be
    for two, possibly three weeks this muster. The reason they don’t come home
    is it’s too far away. I think the camp they’re at at the moment is at least 60
    kilometres away from the house, so when you work from daylight till dark,
    and then add another hour or so travelling onto that, it makes it too long for

And so what are they doing out there?

At the moment they’re mustering cattle to brand the calves and take the
    weaners away from their mothers so that they’ll grow up bigger and fatter
    and quicker.

And how often … what’s the kind of cycle of that?

They try to completely muster the property twice a year. I guess the first
    time’s mainly to brand and the second time is to find whatever fat cattle are
    ready to go to market.

And how long does each of those mustering cycles take, approximately? Six

Ummm, yeah, about four to five months each cycle takes, I suppose.

So are you saying that for eight months of the year, you live here alone?

07:13:42:12    Try to, yeah. Yeah, oh they usually go out for say, two, three
    weeks and then come home and have a week by the time they sort of get
    fresh horses, ummm shoe the horses, do whatever maintenance work needs
    to be doing, and then go out again, yeah.
In most of Australia, mustering by horse has long since disappeared and it’s
    kind of the trusty Land Rover or whatever. What is it about this country that
    means it’s still done by horses?

07:14:15:22      It’s probably an individual thing. Ummm, Peter likes, he’s a
    horse person. He believes that it helps keep the cattle quieter. They use
    helicopters a fair bit today.      When you use helicopters, you do need
    motorbikes because the horse can’t keep up with the helicopter, but still use
    the horses to take them to the yards because sometimes it can be a full day,
    two days, to get cattle from where they’ve mustered to a yard to hold them.

And when I interviewed some company managers’ wives up round Boulia,
    they were NAPCO properties and there the different properties were each
    part of the production chain, you know, one … Is that how these properties
    are organised?

Pastoral Companies/Kidman

    No. No, most of the Kidman places, well most of them are in the channels,
    which is good fattening country, but also good breeding country, so we sort
    of breed and fatten all on one place.

And is that in any sense a good thing from your end? Are you happy taking
    the whole process through or …?

Ahhh, it doesn’t sort of worry me but I think Peter’s happy breeding his own
    and fattening them, yeah. I think so. I think most, yeah, well I think so.

And for you, Jeannie, you joke about you try to keep the men away for eight
    months a year but for a lot of women, they would go quite mad living here
    on your own and possibly even more mad when twelve men came back.
    How do you deal with the cycle of your life?

Work/Gender Relations

    07:15:52:04      I’m not an organised person ummm, very disorganised, so I
    guess … you learn to take it in your stride, I guess. It doesn’t really worry
         me. I … it’s just that after they’ve been here a while, you start to get a little
         bit behind in what I have to do, the extra cleaning that … when you’re
         preparing five meals a day, the extra cleaning, the windows, the walls and
         that sort of get left behind a bit so it’s good to get rid of them so I’ve got that
         time to catch up.

And is there a sense that you are being employed to keep the place to a
         certain standard? Is this your home or do you have your quarters and then
         that front bit is like company …?

07:16:35:12    Kidman pride themselves in the standard that they do keep
         their properties and they don’t transfer their managers. Ummm, if a manager
         is quite happy to stay in one place, they leave them, so it does, I guess,
         develop a sense of it’s your home, it reflects on you how the place looks,

So what’s the heart of what you … well, are you happy in your life here, I
         guess, and if so, what is the heart of that, and if not, why not?

         07:17:18:12    Yes, I’m happy here. Ummm, Peter and I often talk about
         retirement and then we try not to because it usually ends in an argument.
         Ummm, he’s, I guess, when he retires he’s quite happy to go down the coast
         and catch up on all those things that he feels he’s missed out on but I’m quite
         happy spending the rest of my life out here. So, yeah, I … as I said, you
         either love it or you hate it. You don’t just live here because you’re asked to.


You said that before. You said either you love it or you hate it and you
         couldn’t just put up with it. Why not? What is it about this land that requires
         you to be one thing or the other?

         07:18:11:12    The way of life. Ummm, some women I know just can’t cope
         with not being even able to go to the shop and buy a bottle of milk, where I
    wouldn’t know how to go to the shop and buy a bottle of milk. Everything’s
    done by mail order, all the groceries and that. And I think it’s those little
    things that, yeah, they can’t cope with. Ummm, I guess a lot of them feel
    insecure, not having other people around, even though I think out here
    everybody knows what you’re up to and what you’re doing anyway, so I
    don’t think there’s any problem if sort of something happened and you didn’t
    do what you were expected to do. I’m sure somebody would come looking
    or sticky-beak to find out why.

That think of loneliness. I’ve forgotten the woman’s name but there were
    some memoirs from South Australia and it went something like ‘I ached,
    almost physically ached, to hear the sound of another voice, especially
    another woman’ and I’ve had women in this project tell me about their
    mothers, that they had to leave the land because they were lonely. Are you
    often lonely?

07:19:26:06     Not … yeah, I guess not today, with telephones, better roads,
    better cars. Ummm some weeks I would just wish for a week at home alone
    ummm, instead of having to run off to Windorah to either a meeting or craft
    day or something, and more so when the kids are at home doing
    correspondence, you’re always sort of tripping to Charleville or somewhere
    for the kids with school. So, yeah, no I definitely don’t find it lonely.

And how is it that there are twelve men who live here but one woman? Do
    those men not have partners?

Gender Relations/Pastoralism

    07:20:04:10     No, we have ummm, the head stockman’s wife, she lives here
    too, in her own little house. Ummm, up until the kids left, I always had a
    governess here so it’s only the last couple of years that I have spent time on
    my own.       There was always a governess and children running around
    somewhere. So it’s just at that stage at the moment. Ummm, as far as the
    men go, there aren’t married quarters available. There’s only the single
    quarters, whether they be men or jillaroos, it doesn’t really matter.
So some of the men who work here have wives that live in town, then?

No, they don’t. Ummm, it has been known to happen but this year it isn’t.
    No, they’re all single guys.

And are there Aboriginal men on this property?

Not this year. Ummm, we had a couple last year but this year they’re all

So do the stockmen, is there a big turnover of staff?

07:21:03:18    There is at the moment. Ummm, we’re sort of racking our
    brains as to what to do there. I don’t know what the answer is but there don’t
    seem to be those dedicated young fellows. Well, I guess you’re better off
    down the coast, even on the dole, than you are out here working sort of
    twelve hours a day for the same money, sort of thing.

So is that a general problem?

07:21:28:06    Through the pastoral industry, I think so, yes, from what …
    you know, you get the odd one that can’t find a job anywhere else and they
    don’t stay long anyway. You get those that work their way around. We’ve
    had lawyers, we’ve had school teachers, all working as station hands, so
    we’ve had some interesting station hands.

And jillaroos? Have you had female lawyers and female doctors?

    No, I’ve had female jillaroos. Jillaroos are usually ummm, they are women
    that want to work on the land. They are interested in the land. Where, as I
    said, a lot of the men, they work because they can’t get a job anywhere else.
    But usually the girls are interested in what they’re doing.

And so is there ever a sense, when you’ve got all those people around, that
    you want them to all go away so you can have your sort of family place to
07:22:18:04    Yeah. Ummm, I guess, like anyone, you can only live with
    strangers for so long, I think. Ummm, but they’ve got their quarters, their
    recreation room. They spend … you know, you’ve still got your own space,
    even though you are all living together.

So you and Peter have that building over there that’s separate? That’s your


And would any of the other men ever come into that or is that like …?

07:22:47:20    No. I think that’s our bubble. Ummm, same as I don’t go
    down to the men’s quarters there. That’s their area. I think everyone’s got to
    have their own space, even with the governesses. Ummm, they’ve always
    been part of our family, went everywhere with us, ate with us, sort of ummm,
    yeah, spare time was always spent with us, but they always had their own
    quarters so that they did have somewhere to go to get away from us.

And so what was it in your life … you had more children, you and Peter?


No. So the governesses, what was it that meant that when your eldest kids
    were little, you were their teacher and as they got older you had a governess.
    Is that about the economics of managing a big company property?

Pastoral Companies: Owners

    07:23:35:20    Yeah, that’s right. At Moothandella we couldn’t afford to
    have a governess, where on the company place they provided a governess,
    which was good because I don’t think I could have coped with teaching and
    … and the kids, well, the first governess, like she stayed for four years and
    the kids still have a special relationship with her. And, yeah, I think kids do
    get a relationship with their teacher that you can’t have with your Mum.
As a young woman, presumably a young single woman here with a lot of
    single men, is there a way that you feel like a kind of a matriarch or, you
    know like watching out for her, that kind of thing? Is that part of the role?

Gender Relations

    I used to but, no, you let them look after themselves today. Ummm, yeah,
    out of four governesses, only one didn’t leave here with one of the fellows
    off the place. So I guess there is something to be said about going west and
    finding a man.

This is a funny question but just in this research project I seem to have come
    across a huge number of women who came from the city and married out
    here and I’m sure there are girls that grew up here that go to the city. Is there
    a way in which, because the country girls don’t inherit the land, many of
    them end up going to the city and then the wives are coming into this
    structure from the city? Is that a pattern or is that just the limits of where
    I’ve so far researched?

07:25:17:14      Ummm, I don’t know. There are women that have stayed out
    here but I don’t know of many, I guess, that grew up, male and female that
    have both grown up here, I think because we are too close, growing up as a
    teenager in this area, yeah, there were only about two or three girls. The rest
    were guys. And out of the three of us, none married those fellows. We’ve
    all found someone from outside. I think it’s because you do get too close to
    them and become mates before … so you do look outside.

Talking now, Jeannie, about those things that take you to town. What is it,
    when you say you’re going to town for meetings, tell me … I’m interested in
    talking now about the community side of your life.

Volunteer Work

    07:26:12:10      Ummm, yeah, I guess my love for the area, heavily involved
    with the community. I’m secretary of the Arts and Crafts and coordinator of
    the Windorah Development Board that’s just started up, trying to develop the
    Windorah area for those things that we miss out on. So I spend a lot of time
    working for the community. Ummm, my husband sacked me over it, from
    cooking. He took me off that job and gave me the book work but I’m not
    sure whether that was punishment to me or ummm his benefit, because it
    took him out of the office, so …

And when you say your husband sacked you over it, are you wholly joking
    or is there a way in which he’s the Kidman, he’s the one that’s getting the
    full wage? Do you know what I’m saying? Is there a way in which …?

07:26:12:10     Oh, no, he … yeah, we are husband and wife and I guess it
    does have the advantage of being married to the boss but you’re still …
    you’ve got to learn to know which hat you’re wearing, if you know what I
    mean. Ummm, he felt I wasn’t home enough to put five meals on the table
    each day so he thought it best to take me out of the kitchen and put me in the

He thought not one more reheated lasagne, that sort of thing?

Something like that.

So who now does the station cooking?

City Girls Go Bush

    We have a girl at the moment, who is also camp cook, so when the men go
    out, she goes out and cooks for the men out on the camp.

Right, so how old is that girl?


Wow. How does she cope with that?

Do I have to answer that one?

You can pass.
No, she’s adapting well. She’s a city girl and had a fair bit to learn but she is

Because menus and things. It’d be no use putting wasabe noodles on the
    table, would it?

07:28:12:00    No, you stick to fairly basic meals, occasionally give them
    something exciting for a variety, but oh the first camp she went out, she filled
    up the motor with diesel, only she put it in the radiator instead of in the fuel
    tank. But she’s learning.

At what stage did you start to get involved in community stuff and what was
    the pull for that?

07:28:37:14     Growing up in a small community, I think, you grow up being
    community-minded. I notice it now, especially with the kids in Brisbane.
    When they grew up, they spent a lot of time helping out at gymkhanas,
    catering. The kids knew, you know, how to cope with catering for the large
    numbers before they learnt to cater for themselves, I think. And you notice
    that the kids in the city sort of miss out on that community work. Ummm, so
    I guess I grew up with it. But it wasn’t until the kids got old enough that I
    had the time to give to the community.

What was the pull to get involved in things community?

To make it a better place for me to live in, ummm, a better place for … yeah,
    a better community, number one. I guess I got heavily involved when the
    last child went to boarding school. All of a sudden I had this big blank in my
    life, ummm, so it was one way of filling that blank.          And you do get
    satisfaction out of seeing something that you’ve achieved, ummm yeah. A
    bit like the multi-purpose building has taken us five years to raise and find
    the money for that.

Can you explain that? What do you mean by the multi-purpose building and
    tell me about that project.
    07:30:28:14    Well Arts and Crafts started up as an arts and crafts group and
    I guess women together got a bit carried away and decided to move further
    into the museum area ummm, because there isn’t a museum in Windorah.
    All our history is leaving, either disappearing or leaving the area. So we
    started with a little hut and then decided we needed a building to house our
    museum, so for five years we’ve sort of looked for funding and raised money
    for this multi-purpose building to be used as an arts and crafts workshop,
    museum, information centre, and everything else that Windorah doesn’t have
    at the moment. And we finally got it.

Tell me about that because that doesn’t just happen. How did you make that

07:31:14:04    Well, I wrote to every funding body there was until Centenary
    of Federation came up and they … we were successful with them, and we
    raised $20,000 ourselves in that five years, with catering, car rallies, ummm
    seniors days, anything else that we could come up with that was an ingenious
    way of raising money. I thought I was going to look like a steak sandwich
    before I finished, but …

And how many of you have been the core of that?

07:31:47:02    Probably six continually. Ummm, when we first started I
    think we had something like 18 members. A lot of those have been older
    women that have now left the area, which leaves the … I guess at the
    moment, see it’s a young generation with young families around so they
    haven’t got the time at the moment, so we’re probably left with six staying
    members and the others sort of come and go.

Do you feel as if it’s your turn to do this? Is that part of it? Are you saying

07:32:18:18    I think so, yeah. Ummm, once you get a job, you seem to
    keep it forever but eventually, yeah, I guess it goes around in circles. The
    older ones sort of let go and the younger ones finally have the time ummm
once their families get up a bit and they’re settled and time on their hands
too, to carry on.                                07:32:38:22