Meeka insights a worthy read

Jo FulwoodCountryman

Even in one of my darkest hours, Anna Johnson managed to make me laugh.

Don’t Try This at Home is the latest release from the Canadian-born former city girl, whose hilarious and often irreverent tales of life in Meekatharra are sure to make even the most metro-centric among us want to instantly be part of the new outback life she has accidentally fallen into.

You will also find it hard not to fall slightly in love with Johnson’s handsome personal fire-fighting partner Gary Hammer — as long as you don’t mind men without teeth or underwear.

The book is a series of short essays originally produced in the Meekatharra Dust, and if you read only one book this year, Don’t Try This at Home has to be the one.

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ManyCountryman readers will relate to the self-described woman of a certain age and certain girth who left a high-profile television- producing career in Melbourne to satisfy her mid-life crisis by touring Australia in a bus.

Little did she know that life would never be quite the same again.

Johnson stopped in the outback town of Meekatharra five years ago for a quick beer and, after five days and many drinks later, found she had accidentally bought a house on the main street, with excellent views of passing road trains and a stone’s throw from the pensioner flats.

As she so rightly says in her book, “location, location, location!”

Reading this book, you’ll feel like you are part of the everyday conversation of the Meeka locals — just don’t forget to take a breath every once in a while.

In her early days in Meekatharra, Johnson admits her greatest fear was the idea of being bored in a town not even a kilometre long.

“I soon realised that small-town life means going to pick up your mail and five hours later sitting down exhausted for a much-needed cold beer after giving old Paddy a lift home, helping Dave find his dog, giving Andrew a hand at the ice-works, showing Raelene where you last saw James or whoever else has wandered off from the hostel, loading Nellie, Pam, Robyn and Don some groceries and a dog into your car and dropping them off at the shops, pensioner flats, hospital and Gabby’s, then ringing Jo to tell her some tourist has just found an injured wedge-tail eagle, which you’ve helped transfer to the back of Phil’s ute, and can she come over and pick it up on her way back from cleaning the court house,” she offers.

And if after reading this book, you plan on heading out to a remote community looking for your own handsome personal fire-fighter, you might find the men are a slightly different breed.

“Outback blokes are worth their weight in gold, but you’ll need to assess your priorities,” Johnson says. “Are teeth important to you? What about underwear?

“Generally, outback blokes are gentlemen and once they have used your Gillette lady razors to shave off the feral pig carcase in the ute, they will return it promptly to your bathroom kit.”

Don’t Try This at Home can be purchased for $27.50 via eBay, via email at dingomeeka@gmail.com or $19.99 in select bookshops.

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