Joanie wrote all about that in her more or less last book, Memories of a Riverina Childhood, published by the University of New South Wales Press in 1993.
That lifestyle never left Joanie when she moved in 1941 to the much more sedate western district of Victoria to become a farmer’s wife; she played polocrosse competitively for years and immersed herself in breeding stud Hereford cattle and running a mixed farm with husband Ken.
In the 1950s I smuggled an 1886 history of Hereford cattle out of the Victorian State Public Library and Joanie used that as the basis for an updated history of the breed, her first book. I later smuggled it back.
From Plough to Porterhouse was published by Cheshire in 1966.
Then Joanie discovered Ken had the handwritten diary of his grandfather, who had arrived in Victoria in 1840 as a baby, and become a pioneer of the western district at Wando Vale near Coleraine in the 1850s.
Initially Joanie thought that it would just be a matter of tidying up grandfather in law’s grammar and adding the odd footnote.
But that became endless hours in the State Library and several years of work footnoting Bill Moodie's 124 page handwritten diary into a modern context. It eventually filled 145 tightly typeset pages as William Moodie – a Pioneer of Western Victoria , published in 1973.
In 1975 Rigby published The Great Days of Wool by Joanie with illustrations by a friend of mine, David Symes. Joanie's family had once controlled the genetics of 85 percent of Australia's Merino wool production and I think this involvement spurred her to write the book. But what really made it were the illustrations of shearing sheds, sheep and wool people, drawn by David. Son of a clergyman, he too had caught the rural lifestyle recording bug.
Joanie's involvement with polocrosse meant she played on the same team as long time Olympic equestrian Bill Roycroft. He made his debut with a team gold medal in Rome in 1960 on a horse called Our Solo. On returning from Rome, Bill semi-retired Our Solo and gave him to Joanie to use on our farm. Our Solo's history and eventual interment near Benalla, became in 1982, another albeit much shorter book called Our Solo.
My father Ken bought an old Cessna aeroplane in the early 1970s and because he had a slightly dicky heart, he taught Joanie how to land it in case he had an attack.
This led to Joan undertaking Goggles and God Help You, another largely diary-based book about the flying exploits of Frieda Thompson, an early aviation pioneer between the two world wars. Again, extensive footnotes and additions made the text more readable for a modern audience.
Joanie was focussed on her writing all through her life, to the extent that she had a notice pinned to her front door, which said you weren’t welcome unless you had made an appointment. That caused a bit of friction with friends.
In the mid 1980s, in her early seventies, Joanie sort of got her head around computers, particularly recognising word processing software as a convenient way of making easy but often almost endless revisions to manuscripts.
But she never trusted them and always printed out whatever she had written.
Printers too could be contrary in those days and incurred her wrath, much as a particularly difficult typewriter had 20 years before. She sort of typed the following when trying to get an old Remington stirring its stumps in the 1970s. I read this at her funeral in 2013.
“You are slightly erratic I find you old bastard Why aren’t you winding through What ui s wronh nnndThis is hopeless IS that better? No it bloody isn’t Try that again it did move bugger, bugger, bugger It worked befo why not now. Hurray that’s better…it just needs seven rows of typing t get it going.”
Joanie’s output diminished in her 90s but she read The Australian from cover to cover every day and endlessly clipped and pasted items that interested her. Her Benalla newsagent told her 40 years ago she was the only one in the city to get the Nation Review when it was around and I still get the fortnightly London Review of Books which she subscribed to for ages as well.