Sandra Lorraine Rogers was born in Sydney Australia
of Scottish/Russian heritage and finished her senior education at Manly Girls’
High School. Sandra lived many years in Cairns, North Queensland. Also the Greek
Island of Santorini for two years where she found the inspiration to write her
first book It Begins But Never Ends. She has been living on the Gold
Coast now for thirty-four years and has two adult children from a past marriage.
Sandra is an advanced Padi diver and, with her
husband Bruce, has dived many shipwrecks around the world. Now retired she is a
dedicated swimmer with Miami Masters’ Swimming Club and enthusiastically
competes in swim meets around Australia.
Over the years Sandra has been a guest speaker at
various Writers’ Groups including the renowned Somerset Celebration of
Literature. As well as writing three novels and an authorised biography, she has
studied screenplay writing and written four feature-length screenplays; Waves
of Torment, The Telemarketer, No Hope in Hell and It Begins But
Never Ends along with writing and directing several short films.
It has been seven years since Sandra wrote her last
book and some time ago the idea of Cooyar took hold in her mind. Cooyar
Station is a vast cattle property that was once owned by her late mother-in-law
Fay McDougall’s family back in the early 1900s. While visiting Cooyar and the
surrounding area the inspiration of an outback romance adventure started to grow
and after many changes in story lines the result is now in your hands.
*I truly hope you enjoy reading Cooyar as much as I did writing
it. Sandra Rogers
With love for Fay McDougall
Introduction to Cooyar
Aboriginal name: Gubi Gubi
(land of the wattle)
Cooyar Homestead was built in 1905 by the McDougall family.
Their long history started with the arrival of Andrew John McDougall when he
came to the Australian Colony of NSW as a free settler aboard the ship
Barwell in 1798. From there a large pioneer family grew with many sons
running properties and breeding cattle, sheep and horses throughout the vast
land. Andrew’s grandson had many properties throughout the Brisbane area and in
the mid-1800s, he purchased Cooyar as an outstation, which later became the
family seat. The family is too large and widespread to bring in more detail
except to mention that my late mother-in-law was Fay McDougall to whom I have
dedicated this book. Her parents owned Cooyar Homestead in the early 1900s.
As well as cattle, Fay’s father was a keen horse breeder
and bred a colt from one of his mares, Regret. Before this, Regret had won the
Cooyar Stakes at Nanango Amateur Racing Club in 1908 and my husband Bruce was
fortunate to have inherited the silver tray trophy for that race. The story of
old Regret’s colt is Australian history. It is the horse in The Man from
Snowy River and is mentioned briefly in this story.
The small town of Cooyar, approximately one mile from the
homestead, was established around the same time. The town had a sawmill, the
Royal Hotel, a general store, a post office and a bank. Crow’s Nest was the
largest small town in the area and the train line went from there to Toowoomba,
which was the largest city in the Darling Downs.
While the homestead and visual backdrop is fact, the story
itself is fiction and by no means reflects persons living or dead connected to
Cooyar. In writing this story, I wanted to capture how life was for people
during that era, their struggles and passions with the outback country. I have
used historical events that occurred, in particular World War II, with as much
accuracy as I have researched, along with family situations during that time.
Also some time frames may not be correct as this is a work of fiction and not
all true factual history. Various events and situations, while similar to those
that may have happened in the area, have come from my imagination and are
The long wide verandas sweeping graciously around the huge
homestead looked in need of a coat of paint, while the corrugated iron roof was
showing the first signs of rust. Jack wiped his sweat-covered brow and inspected
the brown wet dust on his white linen handkerchief. His nostrils curled up in
distaste. What on earth was he doing here! He shoved the handkerchief back into
the pocket of his Levi jeans and started to walk towards the majestic bunya tree
that seemed to dwarf the huge pencil pines soaring way above the rooftops of
Cooyar homestead. Standing beside the trees, he turned around and took in the
wide expanse of just a tiny section of the 71,660-acre property, and let out a
“You’re impressive…but you’re not Sydney Harbour,” he said
Standing six foot two, with olive skin and a rippling
physique, it was 19-year-old Jack’s haunting blue eyes that always captured the
girls’ attention. His rugged face and bushy hair seemed somehow out of place
with the sort of young man that he was.
Jack Peters lived in an exclusive high-rise apartment
overlooking Sydney Harbour. He had finished senior school with top marks and had
just been contemplating university when his parents were both killed in a
shocking car accident. Suddenly his life was turned upside down and in more ways
than he could ever have imagined. He was an only child and with a distant aunt
and uncle who he only saw a few times a year, it was his close school mates
constantly by his side who had got him through the heartbreaking tragedy.
It was two months after the funeral when his parents’
solicitor called to talk about ‘something’. The Will had been read to him the
week before; he had inherited the family home along with an estate worth
approximately three million dollars.
“What is this something else the solicitor wants?” Jack
thought as he pushed the button in the elevator to the tenth floor office
building. Opening the door, he was greeted by the never-smiling secretary Doris
and led into Charles Derwent’s office. Charles stood up from behind his old
mahogany desk and smiled at Jack, then walked over and placed a firm caring arm
around the young man and gave him a hug.
“Sit down, can I get you something, a coffee, water? How
are you, my boy?” he said. Jack hated it when Charles called him boy, but he
forced a smile.
“Just…I’m OK…got my mates,” was Jack’s unconvincing reply.
Charles cleared his throat and let out a soft “good”. Inside he was in turmoil;
shit he hated what had to be said to the bright young man in front of him.
Charles rummaged through the files of paper on his desk as he made small talk to
cover his nerves.
“What is this ‘something’…what’s happened?” Jack looked
Charles in the eye.
There was no easy way to tell him. The solicitor leaned
forward and saw the worry in the young man’s eyes.
“Your parents left a letter for you. They left one for me
also, not to be opened until a few weeks after their death.” Charles cleared his
throat again then continued.
“They wanted you to read the letter after I spoke to you,
probably best in your own time.” Jack shifted uneasily on his chair; he had a
bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“What? What is it?” he said in a raised voice.
“You know your parents loved you with all their hearts. But
they had to tell you, it would have been so hard for them...please try to
Jack cut him short and yelled, “Tell me bloody what?”
With lowered eyes, Charles said as compassionately as he
could, “Your parents adopted you.”
Standing on his balcony and looking out over the harbour
with the many small boats, yachts and ferries going to and fro, Jack remembered
only too well that mind-numbing day a year ago. He had struggled through a haze
of depression for several months while seeing a councillor and a psychologist.
God knows how he got through, but he did. Now what was left was a reserved and
guarded young man still raw from the deaths of the parents he adored. But he did
have another side, a stronger more determined part that would put the adoption
fact away and only live with the beautiful memories of those he considered his
real mum and dad. Birth parents meant nothing to him, end of story. Now it was
time to live his life, maybe buy a farm, travel for a while, and then
decide on university or whatever.
Jack walked inside, poured himself a coffee, picked up the
morning paper and started to read the news. The sound of his phone ringing took
his eyes away from the paper; he leaned backwards and grabbed the receiver. It
was his mate Justin reminding him they were meeting up for drinks about seven at
his place. “Yep, thanks for the reminder, see ya then,” he replied. The real
estate section loomed up at him as he flipped through the paper. For some
reason, his eyes were drawn to the auction pages. There were the usual stately
homes, various properties around Sydney, and then he turned the page.
A full page took up a historical Queensland property for
auction on 3rd September, two weeks away. The photo of a large elegant homestead
taken in the early 1900s occupied half the page. It was called Cooyar and was
near a small town of the same name. As Jack read about the huge property, he
wondered where on earth Cooyar was, and more importantly, why he was interested
anyway. He stopped reading and flipped to the next page, starting to feel
interested in buying a small farm not too far from Sydney. In the course of
about half an hour and another cup of coffee Jack was again back looking at the
advertisement for Cooyar. Still questioning why he would consider buying
a place in Queensland and one so large, he started to accept the fact that yes,
he wanted to look at it. What was the harm, he thought; he’d just fly up on the
weekend and take a look.
This property seemed a world away from Sydney, like a
foreign country. Jack had never travelled out of New South Wales, even though as
a young child he remembered he’d always been asking his parents if they would
take him to the country. He wanted to see the wide open spaces. “Well, you’ve
sure got them now!” he said to himself as he continued to stroll past the bunya
tree and through the old rock fence that surrounded the homestead, down a dry
grassy slope. In front was a section thick with Spinifex grass. For some reason,
this didn’t seem to bother him and he strode through it towards the far cattle
There were several large sheds and five cattle yards with a
large loading ramp that would have had thousands of cattle pass through them
over the years. Placing his hands on the posts of the fence, Jack thought about
men loading the cattle and what life would have been like back in those times.
There was a dozen or so cattle in the next yard, and he
walked around the fence towards them, inhaling the unfamiliar smell of cattle
dung hanging in the dry dusty air. He flipped away a few flies from his face as
he leaned on the railing and peered at the black cattle. He didn’t have a clue
what sort they were; to him cattle were cattle. Some you ate and some you
milked! He suppressed a giggle at how little he knew about the Australian
outback and the animals. Funny though, he had started to relax and was really
enjoying the day.
From out of nowhere a blue cattle dog came up beside him.
Jack looked down and saw it was a female.
“So where did you come from, mate?” The dog wagged her tail
and started to sniff Jack’s legs. She gave a little bark and wagged her tail
again as Jack knelt down to pat her.
Continuing to walk around the vast cattle yards with the
dog close beside him, Jack thought to himself why he had never bothered to have
a dog when he liked them so much. He checked his watch; he had about 20 minutes
before the auction was due to start. The crowd of 20 or so buyers was scattered
around the property, though most were looking through the homestead. He realised
he hadn’t even looked inside yet.
Turning around to make his way back towards the homestead,
Jack stopped and took in the vast beauty surrounding him. To the left, past the
open space of Spinifex grass, there were wide rich green fields of lucerne. Tall
gumtrees were scattered as far as the eye could see, with a few wattle trees and
the occasional ghost gum hauntingly reaching for the sky. And the sky was so
blue, blue and empty and still. No planes, no high-rises, no pollution, just the
occasional sound of birds. To the right and just beyond the last shed near the
cattle yards stood a huge bottle tree and close by a pepperina tree. Jack
remembered the names of all the trees. He had asked about them when he’d first
arrived. He also noticed the large blue and white hydrangeas, wild daisies and
small purple flowers that were bordering rock gardens closer to the homestead.
From this distance they were just coloured specks. The cattle dog stood close to
his leg and then placed her paw on his foot, making eye contact as if to say ‘I
know how you’re feeling’.
A deep stillness filled the air as Jack inhaled deeply and
closed his eyes for a moment, taking in the essence that was Cooyar. When he
opened them he was looking directly at the far bottle tree and a cold shiver
passed through his body. Suddenly from behind the tree there was what appeared
to be an old Aboriginal looking directly at him. Jack blinked his eyes then
rubbed them as the dog started to bark loudly and wag her tail. He couldn’t
believe what he was seeing: an Aboriginal wearing only what seemed to be a
loincloth and something around his neck. And what the hell! Holding a long
spear! This was not on, he reasoned.
With the dog still barking, though not as loudly, Jack
walked slowly towards the bottle tree and the tall dark stranger. At about
thirty feet from each other, the dog stopped barking; they all stood looking at
each other intently. The strange stillness still hung around as the old
Aboriginal smiled at Jack, a long wide smile. “You, you child of this land,” he
said, pointing a long finger at him. Jack felt strange and leaned down and
patted the dog for reassurance, “What do you think he wants, mate?” The dog
wagged her tail yet again and gave a soft yap, not a bark. When Jack looked up,
the tall dark stranger had disappeared.
The loud ringing of a bell blasted through the property and
quickly brought Jack back to the reason he was here. The bell advised potential
buyers they had only five minutes before the auction started. The past 15
minutes or so had gone by in a bit of a haze. Now he was running up towards the
homestead with the dog hot on his heels, at times passing him and leading him