Remote rural life inspires poet in Australian farmer


COME-BY-CHANCE, Australia, April 5 (Reuters) - As hungry cattle look on, May McKeown pushes an eight-foot bale of hay off her truck and onto the ground below.

It's one of her regular chores on Longview farm where the 78-year-old McKeown has lived alone for most of the last 15 years.

She has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"I will keep going on doing this for as long as I am fit," she said in a recent interview on her farm near the town of Come-by-Chance, about 700 km (435 miles) northwest of Sydney.

McKeown's family has been farming in the northwest corner of New South Wales state since the late 19th century.

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Woman lives alone on 6,000-acre Australian farm
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Woman lives alone on 6,000-acre Australian farm
May McKeown looks up at the stars as she stands in the front yard of her homestead on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown watches the sunset on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May McKeown shuts a gate on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown inspects an old Sydney tram that her father used to store grain, on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown drives her truck in a paddock as she prepares to hand-feed her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May McKeown prepares to unload a bail of hay from her truck as she hand-feeds cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown rests in a chair out front of her homestead on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown sits at a table reading her poetry in her homestead on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
A book of poetry by May McKeown sits next to a poetry book by Australian poet Banjo Patterson on a table in May's homestead on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown rolls a bail of hay off her truck as she hand-feeds her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown drives her truck in a paddock on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown rolls a bail of hay off her truck as she hand-feeds her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown opens a gate as she prepares to hand-feed her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown watches the sunset on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown rolls a bail of hay off her truck as she hand-feeds her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown hand-feeds her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown stands at the main gates at sunset of her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown's hat sits on a chair in her homestead on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
A track can be seen in a paddock on May McKeown's 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown drags a metal grate as she prepares to hand-feed her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown jumps onto the back of her truck as she hand-feeds her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
Heat haze can be seen in a paddock on May McKeown's 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown opens a gate as she prepares to hand-feed her cattle on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray
May McKeown is reflected in a mirror on her truck as she shuts a gate on her 6000 acre (2400 hectare) property of 'Long View' near the town of Come-by-Chance, located over 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney in Australia March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. McKeown, aged 78, lives and works on her property mostly alone as her son is constantly travelling. She daily inspects the property and hand-feeds her cattle, writing poems in her spare time about her lonely life on the flat north-west plains. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Recent rains have brought some relief to an area hit by years of drought that forced McKeown to cut back her cattle herd and hand-feed the remaining animals.

Working alone in a male-dominated field like farming has also raised some eyebrows over the years.

"Oh, you get all sorts of comments," McKeown said. "But I know sons of farmers nowadays who can't drive a tractor, let alone ride a horse like me, and I'm nearly 80!"

In her spare time, McKeown enjoys writing poetry about life on the northwest plains.

She takes inspiration from the works of the Australian "bush" poet, Banjo Paterson, who wrote about rural life around the end of the 19th century. Among his most famous poems was "The Man from Snowy River."

She also remembers when her father recited poems from atop his horse on their way home from a day of mustering.

"They are memories that I think of and write them down. Like a certain tree in a paddock where something happened," she said.

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