Merredin Kyle Hughes-Odgers
I live at Hines Hill, twenty kilometres west of Merredin. We farm sheep and wheat. The highway intersects our farm, so I’m often out there stopping traffic to get sheep across between the trucks. Fate brought me to Merredin. I grew up in Perth but I left as soon as I could. I just had some sort of yearning for the bush. I’m a speech pathologist. I’ve only ever worked rural. I’ve never worked in the city. There’s just something about it. I first came out here with a job in 2002 and stayed about fifteen months. Then, after I moved away, I met my now-husband
at a rugby game I went to with Merredin friends. He has lived here all his life, on his family farm. So I did a big circuit and got my old job back. I guess work brought me here but love has kept me here. Back in the day farming was more of a lifestyle, and people talk about what a great lifestyle it was. But the margins are so tight now in farming, and the inputs are so great that it’s less about lifestyle and more about business. I know that the way that we work and the way that my husband works, it’s a seven-day a week thing now, and we’re at the mercy of the
weather. One thunderstorm and you can get hail that flattens a crop; 2017 was probably one of our poorest seasons on record. We just didn’t get the rain in the winter. That has a lot of impact mentally. How do you just get up and get on with it when there is nothing you can do about it? I think we’re lucky in our business that we have enough behind us to get through it, but if you get consecutive seasons like this it really becomes an issue; and for some people, they’ve already hit the wall. But I love the work, and being in the outdoors. I like the physicality of it. Every day is different. I really enjoy being able to switch my brain off a bit and just do something physical and manual, whether it’s sorting wool or drenching sheep. The other day we were crutching, so you’re pulling the wool out from under the crutching cradle and just generally keeping the sheep moving. Shearers don’t want to wait for sheep. You’ve got to just basically make sure the sheep are continuously moving through and keeping the pens full. It’s great for our kids to grow up on a farm with so much space and opportunity to learn all these things. I like being in a smaller town, Merredin is a good size for feeling connected in your community. Cummins Theatre looms large in my life personally, because I am part of the theatre group and we use it. We’re very lucky to have something historic like that in town that is still used. That’d be the crown jewel of Merredin for me. I’m involved in a lot of community groups and I get a lot out of feeling connected and giving back. I think if we ever lived in the city, which is unlikely, we’d feel a bit lost there. You don’t have the same connections with people. People don’t notice if you haven’t turned up to something whereas in the country its “Oh where is so-and-so? Why aren’t they here?” and you’ll message them and find out what’s going on. You’re very privy here to what’s happening in people’s lives and you support them. I’m just addicted to small town living I guess.