She’s blond, gorgeous and composed. Not the sort of woman you can imagine against a backdrop of rugged mountain ranges and rough-tough cattle drovers, let alone running million acre cattle stations in the harsh but beautiful terrain of the Outback.
If you look carefully though, the chinks in the gentle womanly armour become visible …the well developed sense of humour hints at a stoic character that has, through necessity, learned not only a manly strength but also how to laugh at itself, through the thickness of pain and the thinness of sorrow.
“There is a book in every one of you,” Sheryl McCorry said, speaking at the Iluka Capel Library on 5th May 2010. “I didn’t think there was one in me. I’m just another woman from the outback of Kimberly who has put pencil and paper together. I don’t see myself as an author.”
There’s irony in the statement though because her first memoir, Diamonds and Dust became a bestseller and you quickly realise this dazzling woman knows how to tell a story. It’s obvious really, she has the knack of getting the reader involved in the ‘what happens next’ and she can throw a comical or emotional slant across the narrative with a deft touch.
Her stories are not run-of-the-mill. She once owned a crocodile called Dundee who lived in the dam on the family farm, who would waddle in and rest on the cool slabs under the kitchen counter in the cook house. She has shared many toilets with brown snakes, been charged by buffalo bulls and lived in houses where the walls were riddled with bullet holes.
“Diamonds and Dust became a bestseller, because people have a connection with the land or they have an interest in the Outback,” she said. If you look a little deeper, perhaps the trials, tribulations, challenges, joys and sorrows of a life less ordinary have also been defining factors in its success.
“When writing my books I felt as if I was reliving my life … the adventure and happiness … achievement and deep sadness …and the times I would never want to live again.”
Growing up in more-than-remote places meant no TV or telephone until she was 16 years old, and by 18 her ambitions were to work at and manage her own cattle station. She moved out into miles of wild, unfenced cattle country and later married a man 20 years older than herself – a man who was a “Tough old bastard, hard as nails. But McCorry had more faith in me than any other,” she said.
By the age of 32 she was running million acre cattle stations, which gave her enormous independence and confidence. Tragedy reared its ugly head when she ,ost her first born son. At around this time Sheryl also buried 7 aboriginal friends, digging the graves herself.
There were other hard times – months of no money, and no wages. “You probably think I have rocks in my head, but I loved my work and it was simply just a way of life,” she explains. She admits that there have been senseless events and injustices in her past like the time she fought the Government over land rights, and then later on, just when she thought she was out of the rough McCorry swung a left hook and asked for a divorce.
“We had children, land, horses, dogs, 1 brown chook and a $50 Cockatoo, but McCorry was a stockman, a man who liked his swag. Maybe he felt that he was accumulating too much baggage. We went our separate ways. McCorry died on our daughter’s 21st birthday – I think it was his way of making sure we would never forget him,” she said.
There is an honesty, a down-to-earthness about Sheryl McCorry that is beguiling and more than a little spell-binding. ‘Diamonds & Dust’ and her second memoir, ‘Stars over Shiralee’ give an insight into her fascinating life story.