The author would like to show his respect and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this literary setting, and of Elders past and present, in which this story takes place.
The drover’s wife lived with her children in a shack in the Australian bush. Her name was, perhaps, Hazel, if we are to believe Murray Bail. Her husband was a drover, and they met after she fled from the horrifying climax of Barbara Baynton’s short story, “A Chosen Vessel.” Secretly, she was happy for the change, as Lawson remains (mystifyingly) a far more popular writer than Baynton.
Bush all around- bush with no horizon for the country was like this:
The drover, an ex-squatter was away with the sheep. (In fact, he was sleeping with Mary Mitchell while her husband was looking for work, but we’ll let that pass.)
“Snake!” shouted her eldest son, anachronistically snapping a picture with his mobile phone. The transparently obvious symbol of evil slithered towards them, and the drover’s wife dashed from the kitchen.
“Where is it?”
“’Ere! Gawn in the wood-heap! Stawp there, Mar! I’ll ‘ave ‘im. Stand back! I’ll ‘ave the beggar! Gorblimey!” (My apologies. I can’t write a convincing Australian accent.)
The drover’s wife reached for a stick, the same stick that she would use to crush the snake thirteen hours later. This is subtle foreshadowing.
“I bid you good day,” said the snake, before remembering this was social realism, not magic realism. If it had been, perhaps the snake would have turned out to be the drover, transformed into a reptile by some vengeful old witch.
Alligator, the deus ex machina, chased the snake under the house, and the four, flat children, two girls and two boys, went inside.
Cue sunset and thunderstorm to emphasise the terrors of darkness and the natural world. The drover’s wife puts Tommy and Jacky to bed along with the other two children the writer was too lazy to invent names for. There follows some inconsequential dialogue about possums and kangaroos, and the words ‘adjective’ ‘blank’ and ‘blanky’ are substituted for swear words. Why not just write “damn,” I wonder? Steele Rudd did.
Cut to midnight and minimalism. The children are all asleep and she sits there still, sewing and reading by turns. From time to time she glances round the floor, and whenever she hears a noise, she reaches for the stick. The thunderstorm comes on, and the wind, rushing through the cracks in the slab wall, threatens to blow her candle out.
Then, flashbacks. Early marriage, grief over dead children, flood, fire and drought, mad cows, ravenous birds, swagmen and so on. I was going to insert a collage at this point, but it’s late, and I think we’ve all had enough. Besides, I’m not good at cutting things out. I leave the edges all ragged.
Dawn and (thank Christ!) the snake returns. He has been gone a long time, almost two thousand words. The drover’s wife picks up her stick (see? I told you) and kills the snake, as the action moves into the present tense. A son comes out, but we never learn if it is Tommy or Jacky. The dirty-legged boy stands for a moment in his shirt, watching the fire. Presently he looks up at her, sees the tears in her eyes, and, throwing his arms around her neck exclaims:
"Mother, I won't never go writin' blarst me if I do!"
And she hugs him to her worn-out breast and kisses him; and they sit thus together while the sickly daylight breaks over the bush, waiting for a moment of epiphany that never comes.
Explore other The Drover's Wives: Year 8 EssayAbsurdist PlayHoroscopeSelf-published book coverHollywood MovieHemingwayesqueFreudian AnalysisCryptic CrosswordAn Agony Aunt ColumnImagist PoetryRevised EditionBibliographyVintage WineSporting CommentaryBackwardsParableList of IngredientsPlagiarismCosmo QuizDanceLecture SlidesTankaAmazon customer review