Not the Boss, But Still a Man

Smyth, Elizabeth (2017) Not the Boss, But Still a Man. In: McDonald, Sally, and 2017 Anthology Committee, , (eds.) Free Fall. Tropical Writers Anthology, 7 . Tropical Writers, Cairns, QLD, Australia, pp. 92-94.

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[Extract] Once a croc clamps onto you, nothing will get it off. It rolls you over and over, thrashing and splashing, until you drown. Barry Starke knows this. He wades through the turbid water wicking up towards his armpits. In one hand, he grips a red fuel drum; in the other, an open pocketknife. He could be pulled into a death roll any second. Because all it takes for a croc to kill is hunger and awareness of prey.

Barry tries not to make a splash. Crossing the Uncanny River is crazy, he knows, but he has to get home to call the bank. He couldn’t go back the way he had come because the lead to the spark plug broke when he crashed. The bike won’t run. At first he was angry. He should have been looking where he was going, instead of gazing into the distance, searching for a missing bull. But worse than that, he’d left his toolbox and phone in the shed. So he did what he could: kicked the ground, wiped his grazed arm with a dirty hand, and set off for the river.

Research Statement

Research Background North Queensland literature is known for a focus on white men as ‘explorers, pastoralists, miners and police’ and for ‘an uncritical acceptance of entrepreneurial values’ (Taylor and Perkins, 2007, 214). Clashing with this construction of rural men as tough opportunists is a higher rate of suicide among Queensland men involved in agriculture, transport, and construction (Anderson et al. 2010). In response, how can a creative writer show the vulnerability of a grazier in rural Queensland?
Research Contribution “Not the Boss, But Still A Man” is a short story depicting a grazier, Barry Starke, who chooses to swim across the crocodile-infested Uncanny River to return home after crashing his motorbike. On the one hand, risk-taking can be read as adventurous, yet on the other, it can reveal a man in need of help. “Not the Boss, But Still A Man” troubles the masculine ideal by depicting Barry’s vulnerability, his willingness to die, and his shame in having to take underweight steers to the saleyard.
Research Significance This work uses fiction to explore how a masculine ideal can be both troubled and maintained in a pastoral setting. It is an experiment in writing against a pastoral ideal through depiction of a harsh reality. The story was published in Free Fall, the 2017 anthology of Tropical Writers Inc, where it adds to a wide collection of stories by contemporary writers based in Far North Queensland. This work adds a new original voice to the literature of Australia’s Wet Tropics Bioregion.
Item ID: 79895
Item Type: Book Chapter (Creative Work)
ISBN: 978-1878352285
Keywords: Creative writing, north Queensland, crocodiles
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Copyright Information: © Tropical Writers Inc 2023.
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2023 05:14
FoR Codes: 36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3602 Creative and professional writing > 360201 Creative writing (incl. scriptwriting) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1301 Arts > 130103 The creative arts @ 50%
13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1302 Communication > 130203 Literature @ 50%
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