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.
In Jackaroo, Thornton recalls his years learning the ropes in an era when farm work was still done on horseback. Engaging, candid and often funny, his memoir reveals the hard working lives of the unsung all-rounders of the country. First published 2011