I grew up in Balranald. It's a country town near the NSW/Victorian border that nobody has ever heard of. When I tell people that I come from Balranald, I usually end up telling them it's near Swan Hill (a country city smaller than most city suburbs) and Hay. Hay is a tiny country town which everybody seems to have heard of, probably because it's on the Hay plains. And yes, they are certainly plain.*
Balranald - the town - consisted of a couple of houses, a hundred-year-old boat ramp on the Murrumbidgee that had decayed into a few planks of wood that nobody had ever bothered fixing or junking, and near our house, a woolshed that no-one had cared to tear up, or do much with. Every month or so a guy named Bob Heddle would pull up in a truck, go into the shed, raise a bit of dust, and leave.
My brothers and I got friendly with Bob. For some reason, we gave him the name 'Wooly Williams', and would run out around his truck shouting that name out. Bob was something of an artist as well as a truck driver; he entered paintings into the local art competitions, and drew cartoons. Once he gave several of these cartoons to us, which we thought was pretty neat.
It might have been when Wooly Williams came around once that we were first introduced to the joys of Joliffe's Outback. It's hard to find much information about these comics - they're that obscure - but I seem to remember that, after having been introduced to Joliffe's Outback, we saw them everywhere. Eric Joliffe, the artist, must have been either senile or dead by the time we were introduced to the comics; the stories seemed to mostly be about the type of Australia that Henry Lawson or Banjo Patterson idealised in their bush ballads. They featured a stock set of characters, including Saltbush Bill, his wife, and various other farm hands and animals. The comics also contained pencil portraits done by Joliffe of various characters he'd met in the countryside; you could tell he was a good artist and draughtsman. Here's a Joliffe's Outback item on eBay at the moment - I sure as hell can't find a date, but you can tell it's pretty old.
So - anyone else remember this?
*If you ever want to get to Hay, just drive down the Hume Highway until you see nothing in particular, and keep on driving. You'll pass Hay at some point, but that's no reason to stop.
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