7 March 2023

The farmer, the author and the barbed wire Elvis sculpture

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Cowra grazier and author Harry Treasure

Cowra grazier and author Harry Treasure. Photo: Maddy Treasure.

Here’s a secret known only to farmers: when you are locked inside a tractor cabin for 16-hour days, trundling up and down a paddock while you’re sowing or harvesting, there’s a lot of time to think.

Many people listen to the radio and turn up at home full of ideas about, say, how to end the Ukraine war or the future of artificial intelligence.

But Cowra farmer Harry Treasure used his time behind the wheel to imagine stories, and the end result, published just this week, is his first novel.

It’s not the first foray into literature for the 87-year-old, who has dabbled in short stories for a while. But in semi-retirement – he’s still raising prime lambs pretty actively on a couple of hundred acres with his son Clayton – he’s had time and space to develop some of those ideas into a full-length book.

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The result is Kings Spur, set in the Dargo High Plains last century and inspired in part by distant Treasure relations who are part of the High Country cattleman myths and legends.

Although Harry hasn’t spent much time there himself, he was inspired by the wild remote spaces and the challenges faced by the first Europeans to reach those areas. The result is “pure fiction”, with its roots in history.

“I’d written a short story that was pretty successful about Dargo, so I thought before I dropped off the perch I’d like to write a book,” he tells Region.

barb wire sculpture

Harry Treasure with one of his barbed wire sculptures and his daughter Kim at her property in Malua Bay. Photo: Supplied.

Emmanuel is the foreman in a gold sluice mine when his “very headstrong” wife Emily acquires a lease on the high plains, against her husband’s wishes. He becomes a reluctant cattleman, struggles against nature and faces the challenges posed by another headstrong woman, his daughter Nelly.

Harry – who says he has personal experience with headstrong daughters – took a couple of years to write the book at night. Although he uses a laptop, the “two-fingered typist” says he’s a pretty slow writer, albeit meticulous about getting the book right.

“I’m getting close to 90 and the brain cells are starting to dry up so I thought I needed to get it down, now or never,” he chuckles.

The 70,000-word work was polished to perfection and Harry acquired an agent, but COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works, delaying things even further. Macauley Press have now printed the work and boxes of books have begun arriving at the Cowra farmhouse.

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Harry is planning a launch, although life remains busy with both lamb production and his other passion, sculpture.

“I do a fair bit with barbed wire, although I’ve lost a lot of skin to it over the years,” Harry says. “I like working with metal and welding, it gives me a chance to experiment with a lot of things.

“Farming is only part of it, but it does pay the bills!”

Among his many works are a full-sized horse and cart and a sculpture of Elvis that stands outside the council chambers in Parkes, the home of Australia’s biggest Elvis festival.

When asked about the secret to his longevity (and that of his siblings, two of whom have passed the century mark), Harry has no answers.

“I eat a lot of junk, no healthy food, it’s probably the genes and good luck,” he says. And with luck there’s plenty more of the Harry Treasure story to come.

Kings Spur will be available in bookshops but can be bought online at Amazon, Barnes&Noble and other outlets.

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