The name of the woman behind the Polly shirt is, in fact, Lucy.
You see, Polly isn’t actually a woman. She’s not even human. And, before you try out the joke, Polly is not a bird and she doesn’t want a cracker. Rather, Polly is a very fat, very happy, and very lucky cow.
But she wasn’t always that way. She certainly wasn’t fat, happy, or even seemingly lucky, when Lucy laid eyes on her two years ago.
Back then, Polly was just another poddy calf. But unlike all the others, she was the first poddy calf Lucy had ever reared since moving to Miles, west of Brisbane, to marry Bradley Davies.
When Polly came along, Lucy was in the midst of the transition from city ‘princess’ (the term her husband uses) to country queen.
She had already contended with the many voices telling her what she’d need to learn, and who she’d have to become to survive so far away from the luxuries of city living.
Sometimes, people weren’t even vocal. But whether it was words or just a look, or her own self-doubts reflected, Lucy kept hearing the same thing:
“I give it two years before you’re back in the city.”
Well, those two years have come and gone, and Lucy’s even passed her three-year anniversary living in the bush. And she has no plans to move on anytime soon.
A lot has changed over those three years for Lucy and Bradley. For one, they now have a 10-month-old son, James. That was a very instant and very welcomed change. Other change has been slower to start and ongoing.
Change like navigating the tides of inheriting a family farm – ‘Glenlomond’ – and getting comfortable making decisions about its future. And, change like investing in learning about their beef business and, equally, about the business of making a marriage work.
In one way, Lucy has been making a journey back to Brisbane. She’s been learning to come to terms with returning to the girl she was and has always been. It’s a credit to her, as all too often the reality is people lose themselves in the changes and expectations around them.
As Lucy herself said, “When you change who you are and what you like to do, you do lose a bit of your identity in a way.”
Certainly, before she moved out, Lucy felt the pressure of taking on the role of a “capable rural woman” like the ones she’d seen on social media. But, as Lucy found out, photos of women doing extraordinary things in the bush, while celebrated, can give people a “tunnel vision” of what a woman living on a station has to look like.
“Before I moved out, I can remember people that live out here saying ‘You’ll have to learn to drive a manual Ute.’ Well, I still don’t have my manual licence, so that didn’t work,” Lucy said.
“A lot of people told me I would have to change – no more of the shopping and coffee shops, those things I enjoyed doing growing up in the city.
“I did feel this pressure to develop all these skills and almost be someone I’m not.”
A registered nurse, Lucy quickly found work at the local hospital. It was a fantastic way to meet other women, and because a lot of them were “a far bit older” than her, an opportunity to “gain tried and tested ways to adapt to country life”. But there were still times when her doubts crept in.
“I actually thought I’d have to make myself sound a bit rougher,” she laughs. “Someone was late to work once, and she turned up so dishevelled and said she’d just pulled a calf. Someone else was late because cattle had gotten out on the road and they had to muster them. Or, they were tired because they had been fencing all morning.
“I found that such a contrast to why I would’ve been late in Brisbane – traffic or the rain, which are two things out here you just don’t get.
“I think it was more self-inflicted, but there was still definitely this feeling people didn’t think I’d last long here.”
Lucy has since learned the capable, rural woman does not solely revolve around having a certain set of farm skills, or just one face. Instead, she has found fulfilment in balancing life as a stay-at-home mother and an administrative partner in she and Bradley’s feedlotting business.
“I’ve found my place as a sounding board,” she said. “My husband and I run this business solely together, and while I’m learning things all the time, I can’t give him a lifetime of knowledge.
"We are still learning the ways of it together, but for him, I think it’s just as important to have that emotional support and guidance as it is the physical.
“When I moved out here, I was getting social interaction from going to work whereas my husband works on his own, so he can go weeks without seeing or talking to anyone but me. That’s something people don’t really think about.”
As a nurse, Lucy took a particular interest in the mental health issues of people, particularly men, in rural locations. She was confronted by the rates of suicide and general mental health referrals.
“I was constantly checking in with my husband during the dry part last year because you can see how much it would impact you when you invest your whole life in something that is completely out of your control, the weather,” Lucy said.
"It’s amazing how versatile a woman’s role out here can be.” She adds, “There’s also a lot more bookwork and to be business-minded about than you realise.”
For Lucy, these realisations took time to develop, and are still developing. As she says, “I take it as it comes.” But it was during her pregnancy when Lucy started to get really clear about what she wanted.
“It was more so when I was pregnant, and I couldn’t do those ‘capable rural women’ things that I realised that wasn’t making me happy. It’s probably taken me three years to realise that I don’t have to change.
“I feel much more confident about who I am as a person as well as a rural wife and mother. It taught me to completely let go of the self-inflicted pressures about being capable or ‘hands-on’ around the property and just focus on doing what serves purpose and happiness.
She said being a rural mother has fast become the most rewarding role in her life.
“There is something extra special about becoming a mother and raising children in the bush. I feel the roles of stay-at-home mother and mothers who work from home are more appreciated in the country compared to the city.”
Still, Lucy has moments when she misses the city life and anonymity it provides.
“I do wish I could do sneaky trips to the local IGA in my PJs and not worry about who I will run in to!”
It’s sacrifices like this Lucy decided to make because while she valued privacy, she valued the opportunity of a happy life even more.
Seeing how happy her husband was on the farm, knowing he’d spent a large part of his childhood on ‘Glenlomond’, and imagining their own children being brought up there amongst the bottle trees and buffel grass too. All of these things amounted to a life and Lucy was more than happy to move and start it.
And, Polly? Well, Polly just became part of all that. She was found lying in the paddock, abandoned, and so weak they didn’t think she’d make the night. Lucy and Bradley gave her a bottle of milk and wrapped her up in blankets in the dog kennel with their then-puppy, Digger.
Digger spent the night licking the milk from Polly’s nose, and when morning arrived, Polly had turned a corner, standing up and moving about. She was a survivor.
So, while Lucy tells me that “the whole situation with Polly wasn’t some big emotional revelation or initiation moment”, I disagree.
To me, Polly is like Lucy, or Lucy is like Polly. However, you want to say it, they are both survivors. They’ve had the odds stacked against them. They’ve been told they won’t make it.
And, yet, here they both are. Living.
A Final Note:
Living in the city and looking for your own country beau? Perhaps you’ll find them at your local university pub. Lucy met Bradley while they were both studying in Brisbane. He was a few years older than Lucy and out celebrating his final night before moving back out west. Lucy was out celebrating as well, but for different reasons. She’d just finished her first year. Bradley came over to her, laid on the charm and left with her phone number. A week later, they had their first date. Five years later, they are married with a baby. It’s a very strong case for those on the fence about tertiary education.
Story by : Megan Stafford