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Traveling Salesman in the Outback

I never became accustomed to the isolation of St. Vigeon’s Station. So far away from my nearest neighbors, it was impossible to get together for a chat over a cup of tea or coffee. A visit to the policeman and his wife entailed a forty-five-mile drive and usually an overnight stay. During one visit, Nell* and I reminisced about ordinary occurrences we’d taken for granted before we moved to the Outback.

“I miss the encyclopedia salesman,” Nell said, joking.

I’d heard of door-to-door salesmen, but my only experience in the small Mexican town where I’d grown up were the Tarahumara women who created woven goods and raised medicinal herbs in the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua. Then they took their goods to sell in cities and towns in the central and western parts of the state. My mother always purchased from them, telling me those women worked so hard she couldn’t refuse.

Nell and I agreed we’d never see any type of salesman in the Territory.

About six months later, my baby son and I were alone at the homestead, the men were out at mustering camps. I heard a truck and thought one of the men had returned to replenish supplies. Instead, an unknown vehicle parked and a man got out.

When he came to the front door, he carried a small suitcase. With the men away, I was not happy a stranger would think he could spend the night at St. Vigeon’s.

With a cheerful demeanor, he asked if he could come in and show me his array of books for sale.

“A door-to-door salesmen?” I asked, hesitation evident in my voice.

“Yes, Nell sent me. She said you needed an encyclopedia.”

I laughed. “Really, an encyclopedia?”

“Or like Nell, you can purchase a subscription to the classics – Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Dostoevsky, and others. A book arrives every three weeks.”

Imitating my mother, I could not refuse. After all, he’d traveled a long way to bring a little culture to the Outback. It was a great investment – it’s how I read the classic novels.


Visit me at I love hearing from readers. Ask questions, suggest an idea, or comment about this blog. (All previous Outback blogs are on my website.)

This series of My Life in the Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons. All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.

*Names of people have been changed to protect their identity since this is not a memoir, but merely my recollections of Australia.

Photo credits:

Tarahumara Woman by Gaela

Man with suitcase: James, I think your cover's blown! by laverrue is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Harvard Classic books on a bookshelf by Runner1928 is marked with CC0 1.0.

My Life in Australia, a blog, is brought to you by Tortuga Publishing, LLC


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