One thousand square miles of coastal scrub—inundated by monsoon floods in the winter, baked dry in the summer, and filled with the deadliest animals in the world—Stilwater Station seems an unlikely home for a cattle operation. But in the countless miles beyond the station compound roam tens of thousands of cows, many entirely feral from a long period of neglect. Twenty-three years old and traveling with nothing more than a few pairs of boots, shirts, and jeans, Rafael de Grenade has been hired on to a ragged crew of ringers and stockmen to bring the cattle in for drafting. Over a season they use helicopters, motorcycles, bullcatcher jeeps, horses, ropes, and knives along with intuition, strength, muscle, and wit to win Stilwater Station back from the wild.
A deeply poetic inquiry into our desire to make order where we find wildness, Stilwater suffuses us with salt and scrub and blood, blurring the line between domestic and feral in wondrous, unsettling ways. This is a whirlwind of men, women, cattle, horses, machines, and landscape in collaborative evolution, all becoming different manifestations of the same entity—the Australian Wild.
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Praise and Prizes
“Rhapsodic . . . Rafael de Grenade provides a stirring natural portrait of her environs, profiling its tireless, weathered crew of cowboys. . . . She imparts sharp-eyed views of salty mudflats, of freshwater holes sentineled by crocodiles and her own adaptation as her sense of identity ebbed and bloomed. A vivid, sweeping chronicle of the Australian Outback.”
“An extraordinary setting for an absorbing and finely tuned memoir. Crocs, swamps, drought, wild horses and cattle—this portrait of a young woman’s life on a seemingly endless cattle station in northern Australia is simply too good to put down.”
“This contemplation of compassion and its place in the outback tells us about this narrator’s priorities and perspective. She knows that place was and always will be first. That place has its way with us and we humans should honor that for the infinitesimal time we are here.”
“Rafael de Grenade conjures an almost unfathomable world that is at once prehistoric and yet so impacted by man that it is hard to draw clear distinctions between the domestic, the feral, and the wild. The vivid precision she brings to her descriptions and her extraordinary ability to explain their web of connections make her one of the strongest and most surprising voices to emerge in some time.”
“This monumental adventure on a cattle station in the remotest part of the Australian Outback is told forthrightly and without sentiment. Stilwater Station was no theme park. It was ringers, bulldust, blood, grime, being on horseback under a helicopter in the maelstrom of a muster, solitude, introspection, growth.”