IN "THE Road from Coorain" (Alfred A. Knopf), Jill Ker Conway recalls her childhood on a ranch in the vast reaches of Australia's NTC New South Wales. At a time when the simple joys of childhood seem swallowed up by the frenzy of contemporary life, her description of her early years is worth recounting here:
"All in all, what might on the surface appear like a lonely childhood, especially after the departure of my brothers, was one filled with interest, stimulation and friends. It lacked other children, and I was seven before I even laid eyes on another female child. Yet this world gave me most of what we need in life, and gave it generously. I had the total attention of both my parents, and was secure in the knowledge of being loved. Better still, I knew that my capacity for work was valued and that my contributions to the work of the property really mattered. It was a comprehensible world. One saw visible results from one's labors, and the lesson of my mother's garden was a permanent instruction about the way human beings can transform their environment. My memories of falling asleep at night are to the comfortable sound of my parents' voices, voices which conveyed in their tones the message that these two people loved and trusted one another. After the windmill was built, I would wake in the morning as the early dawn wind began to turn the sails to the familiar clinking sound of the pump working. Magpies used to perch on the windill's stand and sing every morning at first light. This sound would mingle in my waking with the early morning smell of flowers in the garden. It was an idyllic world."