Thoughts on 'A Look Over the Edge' from Australian Singer/Songwriter Graeme Connors (of who Jeanie Crago is a Fan!!)
As a songwriter I have for many years now kept a songwriting diary - a loose record of thoughts and ideas to hopefully fill the gaps between the inspired and not so inspired times. Reading 'A Look Over the Edge' by Jeanie Crago has inspired me to another resolution - to extend my diary to include the day to day - to faithfully record the seemingly little things in life - for - as Jeanie shows us so beautifully in her writing - it's in these little things that life is truly led.
We often fail to recognize the history, humour or pathos in events as they happen and not until some distance has been gained do we see the beauty, complexity and sadness of life.
Thank you Jeanie for recording your time and place - thank you for the events, characters and images that were yours and now have become ours through your experience and work. Taking the journey with you has been wonderful.
P.S. Is that just the wind I hear or could it be Tom whispering "You've Done Us Proud"?
Linda (Barrett) Davies, Chris Barrett,
Jeanie (Barrett) Crago and Susan (Barrett) De Marco
Note: On the cover of A Look Over the Edge we are pictured - Jeanie, Susan, Chris and Linda in front.
A Look Over the Edge by Jeanie Crago
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Foreword by Jim Shaw, Program Director, ABC Regional Radio
What does a city slicker from Canada know about growing up in the outback of Western Australia?
Not much. There are no Kimberley shorthorn bulls or bungarras in my hometown of Vancouver, Smokos and billy teas are as foreign to me as Venus and Mars. Yet having read Jeanie Crago's, A Look Over the Edge, I somehow feel I have a better understanding of the challenges of working and living in the bush.
This is a very personal journal of growing up in rural Western Australia in the 1960's and 70's. From Mullewa to Meekatharra, Millstream to Mt Newman and well beyond, this is a crisscross trip around outback W.A. It's a story of caravanning, but not for pleasure. This is caravanning as a way of life, moving for work, for necessity. I think if you know the places Jeanie writes about it helps with the charm of the narrative, but even if you don't it pulls you in, wondering where you will end up next. Whether it is fossicking for gold in the Pilbara or milking cows in Mt Barker you get a sense of being there.
There is adventure, there is heartache, there is humour and there is sadness, but most of all there is a sense of surviving and even thriving in often rustic and restrictive circumstances. I suppose it's a story of life, a different life from most, but the common thread of getting by, is there for us all. Jeanie likes the words "Aim for the stars and hope to clear the fence." I like the words of a Guy Clark song "Spread your arms, hold your breath and always trust your cape".
Jim Shaw, Program Director, ABC Regional Radio
A Look Over the Edge, by Jeanie Crago - Book Review Sandpiper, Dandaragan, 9/2/02
What a wonderful book with fantastic illustrations. Just the thing to read at the start of the Year of the Outback. Jeanie is a young farmer from Coorow and her first book takes you through her childhood journey as part of a farming family from the Mt Barker region who work as itinerant fencing contractors in the WA station country, going as far north as Argyle Station in the Kimberley. It is an adventure story that is hard to put down. Before "settling down" on the farm in Coorow, Jeanie worked with her father and brother on a gold processing plant at Dead Finish.
Do yourself a favour and beg, borrow or steal a copy of Jeanie Crago's "A Look Over the Edge" and have a good read. Hopefully Jeanie's writing career doesn't end here.
Book Review by Mark Hooper, Esperance Express
"A Look Over the Edge", by Jeanie Crago
An education of sorts in the backblocks, Book Review - by Mark Hooper, Esperence Express
After a childhood and adolescence of bush life and venturing around the backblocks of WA, Jeanie Barrett came to a surprising conclusion at 'Dead Finish' one day. "What I hated most was being dirty - must have got too soft living in Perth," she writes in her entertaining autobiography, A Look Over the Edge. Dead Finish was a gold prospecting site in the middle of Western Australia, which, in her early 20's, in the early 1980's, dominated her life. "The trucks tipped dirt into the hopper. If the wind was going my way, thick red dust clouded over me. By the end of the day I felt like a mud pie." Now Jeanie Crago with four of her own children and still living near 'mud pie' country, at Coorow, has finally got around to writing a book, and with good reason. "From 11 years old it had been one of my ambitions to write a book," she said. "My first inspiration to do it came when I read a book called 'Hear the Train Blow' by Patsy Adam Smith. "The desire was rekindled after my time at Dead Finish. I boldly told my Uncle Neville Beeck, who did not let me off lightly but kept reminding me year after year." Her father, Les was the patriach of a clearly tough family which endured inconveniences others would call hardships. "Isolation at Dead Finish was a fact," she writes. It was considered unforgiving country, 150km from Tom Price, 130km from Paraburdoo, a million kilometres from 'civilisation'. The period of gold mining followed years of station work and bare living conditions for the family, living in caravans and shacks. They were at Frankland, Derby, Oakover, Leopold, Yeeda and Karalundi. There was hay carting, fencing, goat mustering (a nice little earner) before the Dead Finish venture which featured proverbial toil and sweat and endless breakdowns or wrong parts for the mining equipment. Jeanie saw her father's rough and smooth sides. After eating some biscuits destined for a shearing team one day, the young Jeanie received an 'outstanding belting.' But another time, on her way home on the school bus on a sweltering day, the bus driver presented her with a cold can of Fanta, which Les had dropped off for her during a break from his back-breaking work. And there was trauma, Jeanie's brother Tom died of cystic fibrosis, aged 13, in 1978. "Dad cried most of the way from Karalundi to Meekatharra for the funeral," she wrote in a moving chapter, but not one of self pity as they took great joy in Tom's life. "He had such personality and will to live, he just had to stand out in the book too," she said. The book is laced with entertaining illustrations by Corrigin artist, Brett Connelly.
Aim for the Stars - hope to clear the fence!
A saying of her father's, 'aim for the stars - and hope to clear the fence' is what Jeanie (Barrett) Crago of Marchagee said inspired her to write her story.
Mrs Crago launched her book, A Look Over the Edge which details her personal account of growing up in Western Australia, in Coorow last week. (Dec 05)
Her book details the travels of her family during the 60's and 70's as her father looked for work in the outback.
Mrs Crago said she had wanted to write a book since she was eleven years old. "I had read a book written by Patsy Adam-Smith called 'Hear the Train Blow' and it got my imagination going", she said.
The foreword of the book was written by ABC presenter Jim Shaw who travelled to Coorow for the launch.
"Jeanie's story is a story about caravanning as a way of life, moving for work, for necessity," Mr Shaw said.
Mrs Crago dedicated the book to her great uncle and aunt Neville and Dorothy Beeck of Katanning and family and friends who had encouraged her to write her story. "Most of all I am grateful to my husband Frank who patiently put up with all my book talk," she said................... The Advocate, December 5, 2001, page 5
Outback Life Captured, A nomadic lifestyle full of adventures involving lizards, bushfires and floods. Midwest Times, 17/04/02
That is the childhood that Mid West author Jeanie Crago (nee Barrett) tells of in her autobiography, A Look Over the Edge.
The five Barrett children and their parents, along with various pets and workers and a couple of caravans made their way up and down our state several times as Les Barrett followed the work, building station fences.
Ms Crago tells the story of her childhood through many anecdotes of their adventures and misadventures.
The introductory anecdote, where she is forced to perch in a tree for over an hour to escape an angry bull, is only a taste of the stories that abound throughout the book.
Her experience as an adult working at Dead Finish with her father and brother and her life now in Coorow continue the story of an outback life.
A Look Over the Edge provides fantastic descriptions of Western Australia's outback, including cockatoos, wild goats and aboriginal carvings.
A great read for lovers of the outback, or for those who would like to understand it better.
Battling the Outback, Book Review, The Carnarvon Community News,
Another valuable personal history has been published by Hesperian Press, giving good insight into bush life of bygone times, seen through the eyes of a child.
Les Barrett, farmer, fencer, fossicker, musterer and manufacturer of practical machinery, gave his family of small children a bush experience now rarely if at all available.
Jeanie, his second child, has given us an accurate, very humorous, insightful record of bush life in an era rapidly receding into legend.
Her survival to tell the tale was threatened by snakes, a fall into the bucket of a lavatory of the old non-flushing kind, bungarras and a variety of accidents, some serious, some amusing.
This book, some 200 pages, with clear print and illustrations, and with a foreword by Jim Shaw, Program Director, ABC Regional Radio, is a valuable addition to the Australiana library.
A Look Over the Edge is available from the author Jeanie Crago, PO Box 10, MT HELENA WA 6082 (or this website)