So Far and Yet So Close: Frontier Cattle Ranching in Western Prairie Canada and The Northern Territory of Australia
by Warren M. Eyolfson
University of Calgary Press
330 pages, $34.95
In So Far and Yet so Close, rancher and historian Warren Elofson compares late nineteenth- century cattle frontiers in Western Canada and northern Australia. There are many similarities between the regions, including the open range system and problems related to disease, weather, and markets.
Elofson goes beyond discussions of the environment to produce a social history of these regions, including his description of the rough and raucous “crew culture” that was created on the frontier by the gender imbalance of having two single young men to every woman. Compelling, too, are his accounts of the unique women who lived on the frontier — those who worked, hunted, fished, and ran ranches as part of pioneer households.
So Far and Yet so Close also includes a brief compilation of cowboy poetry from both continents. The writers often reflected on life on the range: “Horses are a lot like folks I’ve known, / some’s honest and true, others can’t be broke.”
Written by an academic historian, this book engages important questions of environmental change and human adaptation while chronicling aspects of our Canadian ranching heritage.