Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


In the middle of nowhere

John was away for weeks at a time, mustering wild cattle in country as dangerous as it gets for horses and men.

Story: Kandy Curran

ImageWhen John and Terry Underwood began shaping more than 2000 square kilometres of Northern Territory Outback wilderness into a cattle station, little did they realise just how much they, too, would be shaped by this harsh, isolated, yet beautiful country.

Their story is as courageous as they come.

What John Underwood has survived is nothing short of miraculous - spinal injuries from a horse fall, a terrible goring by a wild scrub bull and a plane crash, where he struggled with consciousness, shock and injuries for 16 hours before rescue.

Terry, too, has been a tower of strength and dynamism. Positive and with energy to burn, she has juggled the hats of wife, mother and teacher of their four children, nurse, cattlewoman, cook, bookkeeper and outback theatre producer. Her creative talents as a writer and outback photographer have found outlets - a best-selling book about their family life on Rivereen, and three solo photographic exhibitions around Australia.

ImageConsidering what they started with 30 years ago - little more than John's long-held dream of developing a cattle station in untamed country that formed the headwaters of the mighty Victoria River - they have come a long way.

Nuptial blessings aside, Terry's first few years of married life were her most challenging. Living on the ground in a bough shed that John had constructed the previous week beside a small caravan, their humble dwellings were a mere speck of civilisation on a land of never-ending horizons.

Their living conditions were not a culture shock for John, who grew up in stock camps adjoining Inverway Station, and whose uncle was pioneer cattleman and renowned poet, Tom Quilty, after whom the Tom Quilty Endurance Ride is named.

But what must it have been like for Terry, an accomplished nurse fresh from the city, living on the ground, in temperatures reflecting their close proximity to the Tanami Desert?

How lonely and worrying it must have been when John was away for days and weeks at a time, mustering wild cattle in country as dangerous as it gets for horses and men. Story end

Full story: Issue 2, December - January 1999

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