April 5, 2017 / 8:03 AM / 5 months ago

Remote rural life inspires poet in Australian farmer

COME-BY-CHANCE, Australia, April 5 (Reuters) - As hungry cattle look on, May McKeown pushes an eight-foot bale of hay off her truck and onto the ground below.

It's one of her regular chores on Longview farm where the 78-year-old McKeown has lived alone for most of the last 15 years.

She has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"I will keep going on doing this for as long as I am fit," she said in a recent interview on her farm near the town of Come-by-Chance, about 700 km (435 miles) northwest of Sydney.

McKeown's family has been farming in the northwest corner of New South Wales state since the late 19th century.

Recent rains have brought some relief to an area hit by years of drought that forced McKeown to cut back her cattle herd and hand-feed the remaining animals.

Working alone in a male-dominated field like farming has also raised some eyebrows over the years.

"Oh, you get all sorts of comments," McKeown said. "But I know sons of farmers nowadays who can't drive a tractor, let alone ride a horse like me, and I'm nearly 80!"

In her spare time, McKeown enjoys writing poetry about life on the northwest plains.

She takes inspiration from the works of the Australian "bush" poet, Banjo Paterson, who wrote about rural life around the end of the 19th century. Among his most famous poems was "The Man from Snowy River".

She also remembers when her father recited poems from atop his horse on their way home from a day of mustering.

"They are memories that I think of and write them down. Like a certain tree in a paddock where something happened," she said. (Reporting by David Gray; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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