A Dying Breed

Standing at the edge of the bed, looking in.

“I can’t lose my cowboy,” I hear her say.

He looks frail. This pinnacle of strength, the constant in my life; grandfather, parent, confidant. Cowboy isn’t the right word, drover, stockman, cattleman of the high country, last of his kind, a dying breed. And for the first time, I recognise him, in this hospital bed, heart pumping, barely holding on. But strong. I picture him, on horseback, Akubra perched on his head, sun in his eyes, cattle jostling about before him. This picture of a man, a rarity in this fast-paced world.

The creases of his face, earned in the foundation of a post-war Australia, in a time before political correctness, a time long since passed. A time I have tried my best to challenge the ideals of, our conversations, more often debates; modernity almost a foreign language to him.

But the horses are no more, and the cattle are gone, the rolling hills and scrubby bush; all gone, replaced by the sterility of this place, the fragility of his face. I wish I could have seen it, the time that got you; When Ron was a drover, a stockman, a cattleman of the high country. Now, you’re my grandfather, and the life you experienced remains only in the stories you tell—the stories I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life.

© Sarah Arber 2020