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Hell West and Crooked

This was my on-the-plane-over book which I wound up reading most of when I was actually in Australia. It’s a tale of a kid who decided to head out to the Australian Outback and become a cowboy of sorts and details just exactly what that entails. Along the way Tom Cole becomes a rancher, a hordebreaker, a cook and a buffalo hunter. He moves casually from job to job and often spends his pay at the bar and hotel and outfitters before his next job starts. It’s a fascinating look at what life was like when the Outback really was a rural frontier [this was in the 20’s and 30’s mainly] and there were no phones, or airplanes, or women practically. Many people escaped here and many others died through bad choices or plain old bad luck.

Some of the passages that Cole has written down from his journals can get a little dry at times, narrating how many cow they had, what they had for dinner, or who they saw on the trail, but it gives you an idea of the actual monotony that they faced out there. It’s hard to read about his racist treatment of the Indigenous people, his disregard for women and his general colonial approach to the resources of the Outback, the buffalo in particular which he slaughters mercilessly, takes the skins and often leaves the meat behind. On the other hand, his voice does come across as authentic, and he’s making no apologies for his behavior, just telling it more or less like it was. I don’t know how this book, which appeared to be printed in Melbourne, made its way into my bookbag here in the states, but I’m glad it did.