were Australians—the outfitter and hisrntwo hired hands and six guests. The 12rnof us drank billy tea, slept in swags underrnthe stars and sometimes under clouds inrnthe rain, wore oilskins, watched wildrnbrumbies graze on remote bluffs, visitedrna gold mine, negotiated narrow mountainrntrails, rode through dense eucalyptusrnforests, crossed and recrossed rivers,rnand shook our eyeteeth loose gallopingrnacross alpine meadows. My wife andrndaughter ride regularly and were onlyrnsore and tired by the end of each day. Irnwas paralyzed. Fortunately, the packrnhorses carried cans and bottles of strongrndrink that warmed our insides andrnnumbed the pain while the campfirerntoasted our outsides. Aussies firmly believernin the medicinal value of strongrndrink.rnThe leader of our little expedition wasrnSteve Baird. His grandfather was a minerrn—a real digger—who took his son andrnthen his grandson into the mountainsrnand taught them something about goldrnmining. Early on Steve learned the techniquesrnof panning and how to followrn”color” up a stream and into a mountain.rnSomewhere he also developed a love forrnprose and poetry. At night around ourrncampfire lie would discuss literature, tellrnus the stories of the Australian bush, andrnrecite the poetry of Banjo Patterson. Hernalso recited his own poetry, which couldrnhave been mistaken for that of Pattersonrnhimself. Steve Baird is a man of manyrnparts.rnWe closed our last night on the trail byrnsinging “Waltzing Matilda,” the unofficialrnnational anthem of Australia. Hackneyedrnthough it may seem to a few of thernmore cvnical and jaded in Australia, itrnwas sung with sincerity and feeling byrnour group before bedding down in ourrnswags. I wonder if this piece of Westernrnmusic, with a melody, both melancholyrnand rousing, and words, plaintive andrnpoignant, will some day stir the samernkind of emotions in the children of Orientalrnor Middle Eastern immigrants thatrnare stirred in most Aussies (or Americans)rntoday.rnAs in the United States, those in citiesrnand on college campuses think theyrnknow how the wilderness should best bernutilized. Some time back they decidedrnthat stockmen should no longer use thernHigh Country for grazing and broughtrnconsiderable pressure on the governmentrnto outlaw the practice. The stockmenrnwere a wee bit upset at the arrogance ofrnthose who rarely venture beyond the endrnof the pavement and called for a newsrnconference to be held on a grassy plain inrnthe High Country.rnAt the appointed time, a small numberrnof government officials and politiciansrnand a large number of journalists,rncameramen, and news commentators assembledrnon the plain, but no stockmen.rnThen the ground began to shake, and arnsound like rolling thunder began tornsweep across the plain. Suddenly, over arnsmall rise came 100 horsemen, on line,rngalloping toward the assembled group.rnBehind the first line of horsemen came arnsecond and behind that a third. It wasrnlike the charge of the Australian LightrnHorse at Beersheba. Some of those waitingrndove for cover, others fled in panic,rnwhile a few brave cameramen let the filmrnroll. As Steve Baird, riding in the firstrnline, said: “We scared the sh— out ofrnthem.” The proposal to restrict grazingrnin the High Country was defeated.rnIf only all Aussies retained more of thernbushranger spirit demonstrated by thernHigh Country stockmen. During thernlast 2 5 years the country has succumbedrnto the metric system. Now I have no argumentrnwith the metric system in science,rnbut why kilometers instead of milesrnout on the highway? Why the 1,500 meterrnrun instead of the mile? What thernheck is a 2.3 meter high jump? Doesrnpumping gas in liters make more sensernthan in gallons? Also, why centigrade insteadrnof Fahrenheit? These are allrnchanges that did not need to be madernand offer no real advantage. Again, usernthe metric system in science, as we havernbeen doing for a few generations, andrnstandardize foreign exports, but whyrnmess with road signs and sports andrnweather reports?rnNo Aussie was able to offer an adequaternexplanation for the change and allrnexpressed a nostalgia for the old system.rnI told them that when the Carter administrationrntried to foist the system on us,rnwe rebelled. I described road signs goingrnup in kilometers one day only to be shotrnfull of holes by the next morning. By thernend of the week every metric sign thatrnI saw was thoroughly perforated andrnabsolutely unreadable. God bless thernAmerican spirit.rnThe Aussies listened to my stories ofrnAmerican civil disobedience with a certainrnsense of awe and admiration, butrnseemed to feel that the change in theirrnown country was somehow inevitable.rnIn other ways, however, Aussies havernstubbornly resisted change. Even in bigrncities, small shops still dominate thernmarketplace. There is the bakery, thernmeat market, the fish market, the bottlernshop (liquor store), the vegetable andrnfruit grocery, the dairy outlet, andrndozens of others.rnMoreover, most of their food is betterrnthan that we now get in America. Milk isrnreally milk, not reconstituted from milkrnsolids. Their whole milk tastes like meltedrnice cream. Their low-fat tastes richerrnand fresher than the best of our wholernmilk, and even their skim milk is good.rnAustralian milk does not have a list of ingredients,rnas we now have on our cartons,rnbecause none is needed. It is made fromrnonly fresh milk. Their eggs have rockhardrnshells and deep, rich-colored yokesrnthat stand up. They taste like the eggsrnthat I used to get from my own whiternleghorns and Rhode Island reds. Theirrntomatoes, like their milk and eggs, have arnflavor that takes me back to childhood.rnActually, the tomatoes that we now getrnin California have no flavor at all. Theyrnare all grown in Mexico, and like otherrnfruit from south of the border, whichrnlook good enough, they are entirely flavorless.rnApparently we can’t even growrnour own tomatoes anymore. NAFTArnand CATT strike again!rnOne explanation for the quality ofrnAustralian food is the vitality of the familyrnfarm. Throughout the states of NewrnSouth Wales and Victoria, thousands ofrnfamily farms dot the landscape. The factoryrnfarm may be producing cotton orrnsugar up in Queensland, but most of thernfood that goes on the tables of householdsrnin the hundreds of small towns inrnNew South Wales and Victoria comesrnfrom just down the road.rnIn this and other ways much of Australiarnresembles the American Midwest,rnexcept with an ocean and surf nearby orrngenerally not too far distant. OutsidernSydney and Melbourne, and I mean immediatelyrnoutside, the country beginsrnand the pace of life slows dramatically.rnCountry towns are filled with dogs,rnchildren, parks, football fields, warrnmemorials, and churches. Althoughrnchurch attendance has dropped significantlyrn—even in country towns—sincernthe I950’s, Australia remains a nationrnwhere Cood Friday is a national holiday.rnChristianity as religion may not be asrnstrong as it once was, but as tradition it isrnomnipresent. Families are still relativelyrnintact, and the average bloke can buy arnhouse, even in a beach town if the townrnis not immediately adjacent to one of thernJULY 1997/45rnrnrn