Jenny Denton Price (My Memories of Pushing Goog’s Track)
Goog’s Track is a popular 4wd adventure in outback South Australia. Jenny Denton Price, the author of ‘My Memories of Pushing Goog’s Track’, talks about her life and the creation of Goog’s Track by her family. Jenny talks about her parents, and her early life growing up on The Nullarbor Plain and Fowlers Bay on The Far West Coast of South Australia, in The Great Australia Bight.
Please enjoy the first video in our Community Conversations series with Jenny Denton Price, titled Three Hundred and Sixty-Three Sandhills.
SERIES: Ceduna Community Conversations
VIDEO 1: Three Hundred and Sixty-Three Sandhills
Well, I’m Jennifer Denton, or Jennifer Denton Price now.
I actually grew up on the Nullarbor Station. I was a week old when mum took me out there, born in Penong Hospital, and dad was a manager at Nullarbor so we lived up there for five years for start and then we moved to Fowler’s Bay and then back to Nullarbor and then back to Fowler’s Bay and that’s where I married Goog, Goog Denton.
He had to move down to the farm, to Lone Oak Farm, which is I think about 32 or 28 kms from the north of Ceduna. That’s where I come from.
Q: So, who do you call mum and dad and how did they meet?
A: My mum actually came from Naracoorte originally and she was working in the Penong Hotel when she met my dad. I think dad was living at Penong at that stage and that’s where they met. He was known only as Scobie Beattie and mum was a Prider from Naracoorte and they met. That’s what started the family off and I had, well there’s four of us in the family. Noel my eldest brother he died at 38 with a heart attack and then there was Elaine, my sister, she’s still alive. And Dennis my brother, was the grader driver on Goog’s track, so he will be mentioned a bit. And me, I was the spoilt baby, so they all told me.
Q: One of the books displayed beside you is written by your mum and it provides an insight into your childhood on the Nullarbor Plain. Tell us about the Nullarbor back when you were a kid and what was your childhood like?
A: Our childhood… well Dennis and myself had done correspondence schooling at Nullarbor, that’s the only schooling I actually ever had. Well mum taught us by correspondence, and we used to get them every fortnight, but Dennis and I were always too busy out travelling, chasing wombats, out doing sheep, always outdoors, going down caves, and exploring. And sometimes mum used to finish our lessons off for us and send them off and that’s why I always say I never went to school. It has been said that my mum went to school three times, it was once for herself, once for Dennis, and once for me.
Because she used to do our lessons for us to get them off, our mum was so soft, she was gorgeous.
Q: How did you come to leave the family home?
A: I met Goog at Fowlers Bay, well I knew Goog before that, but we got together at Fowlers Bay. He was up there actually scrub rolling. He left school when he was about 12 and went scrub rolling from then on. He had his second lot of front dozers by then and Dennis, my brother, he was working for Goog and that’s when we got together. I married Goog the day I was 18 at Fowlers Bay in the hall and moved down to the farm with him. The first 12 months at the farm was the hardest days of my life because I just missed my mum. I wanted mum – I was so young and then I had my first child when I wasn’t even 19.
Q: Tell us about who the late Stanley Gilbert John Denton was and his connection to the now-famous Goog’s Track?
A: Well Goog’s Track… we actually lived on the edge of the scrub which goes from the, well we used to live outside the dog fence, not inside the dog fence, the electric fence went behind us after that at Lone Oak Farm. We used to sit out on the veranda some evenings and have a beer and Goog would always say, “I just want to know what’s out in that scrub, I want to know”.
Then we were out putting a trough in one day for our sheep out there because we never had enough feed, no money, no nothing, so we wanted to put the sheep out there and we were out there with the front end loader, bucket along the front of the tractor and putting this trough in. The kids and I came home but Goog didn’t. It got later and later, and I said to the kids, “I think we better go find dad”. Well, he came back in the tractor and I said, “What have you been doing” and he said, “I’m mucking around out in the scrub”. And I said, “What are you doing”, and he said, “I was just pushing a bit of a clearing out there so I can see what’s out there, I just want to see a little bit further”. And that’s how Goog’s Track became Goog’s Track.
Q: The other book displayed beside you is titled My Memories of Pushing Goog’s Track of which you are the author. It’s a great read Jenny, well done. It’s full of stories about that time of your life and for those stories, I can highly recommend our viewers purchase the book from you. I’ll provide a link to the buying page with this video. It made me laugh a few times, it made me cry too. But sometimes, something that really came through or shone through for me is your love for the Australian bush. What does the outback mean to you? And what is it that ignites such a fondness in you?
A: I think the outback means everything to me because you never know what you’re going to find or see and it’s just so remote, it’s a quietness, it’s the stars at night, it’s the beautiful days, the wildflowers, the trees. It’s just a different life and it’s a life that I love. And I miss it terribly now that I’ve got older and got a bit of a disability like I’ve got. I do miss it because I used to go a lot on my own, but I do miss that.
Q: Something else that’s frequently mentioned in your book is campfire cooking. You must be a master of outback open fire cooking with all your experience. What does it take to feed everyone in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a fire and eskies and do you have any tips for the rest of us novices?
A: I don’t know I suppose it just comes to you. We used to have barbies I suppose and when we were pushing the track my mum was great, she used to cook stews or something. Always I used to cook a leg, we used to it mutton, because they weren’t lamb it was big legs of mutton. Cook one of them that came off the farm and that would be our cold meals during the day. At night sometimes we’d have a stew because camp ovens, they are the go, and as long as you’ve got… you don’t need much if you’ve got a bit of tin stuff throw it all in and it comes out okay.
I can tell you one little story about a camp oven cook. When we were finished the track actually, and we were out there with some friends from Smoky Bay. Some of us grown-ups decided to go through to Tarcoola Hotel to have a few beers. Well, we got stuck in Tarcoola Hotel and our friends were back at the camp with all the kids, two or three of them, and they were going to cook stew for tea but it turned out that we had all the water. So, they made the stew with coke. The first time I’ve ever had a stew made with coke!
Q: And how did it taste?
A: Well it wasn’t too bad; well from what I remember I suppose. We didn’t know much else; we would have eaten anything by the time we got back there. It was okay. So, you can do what you got to do.
Q: So you’re talking about the Tarcoola and of course you made many trips up there to the races and lots of good times.
A: We only ever missed one race meeting from when we finished the track until the Tarcoola races shut down. We only ever missed one and there wasn’t or never just us, there’d be sometimes like 12 cars in a row. The locals, they supported Goog’s Track very much so even when we were pushing it. But who would have thought that Goog’s Track was going to be what Goog’s Track is today? I think heaps and heaps of times I’d love to know what Goog and Martin or Dinger would think of it all.
Q: When you were pushing Goog’s Track, when was the first time that you broke through to a spot and truly thought to yourself, “wow it might be really special out here”?
A: Well the first one was what we call “shitter’s dip” and Goog said, “There’s something out there”. He was so clever, like no compass, no maps, no nothing. He never had them all the way through, nothing. He said, “There’s something out there, I can see something”, and he used to get up the top of his dozer and have a look. And he said, “We’re going to get to this spot because I know there’s something there”. So, we kept pushing, anyway we’d come across and it was just a little plain with a few bushes on it and he said, “I’m so disappointed what a bloody shitter’s dip”. And we have had many and many birthday parties out there. Just not far off from home and duck out there for a barbie and there’s still a grill plate out there actually of Goog’s that we’ve never ever found but it’s there somewhere.
Q: As much as the book focuses on the funny stories and the setbacks and the achievements of pushing Goog’s Track, I can’t help but think that even though you clearly loved it, it must have been very challenging for you, not only the farm during the week and also working so hard pushing the track on the weekends, but also with the three children and even doing it with a broken leg for over year when you were run over by a tractor. How did you do it all, Jenny?
A: It was hard work but because Goog was never home, he was always away working and when we knew he was coming home we’d pack up on the Friday night, be ready for when he got there and Mum and Dennis would come down from Penong and we’d all go from there. It was hard work packing and unpacking because we had no swags, no nothing in those days. We didn’t even have a car fridge or anything and those foam boxes we tried them so many times but everything broke and the foam boxes fell apart and because we only had two-wheel drives to start with but then the hills got too big.
Then, mum made most of the little mattresses for the kids, cut up feathers and rags and she made all that stuff for me for the kids. But the packing up and unpacking when you come home and the washing of it. There were a few tears, a lot of laughs but a few tears and very hard work for me with my broken leg. They used to pack me up in the front of the ute with pillows and whatever and I would sit there. But when I went to the toilet, well that was another thing. I had to have two men each side of me holding me up and somebody holding my legs up and yeah. I done it because I wasn’t going to go out there without a beer!
And then at night, they had to lift me out because we had no tents just tarps, out in the rain and everything was wet. But you know when it was finished, we thought what an achievement to get it done. We didn’t intend to do what we done really, but the further we went, the more it got, mainly Goog, the more he wanted to see.
Q: What can those travelling Goog’s Track today expect and do you have any words of wisdom to the newbie adventurer?
A: Well, I suppose they can expect the experience, they can sit and think about what it was for us to do it. It’s like Goog’s Lake, Goog was the first white man to set foot on that. Well, he wouldn’t let any of us down there until he did and then we all flew out of course. It was a big excitement to get to the lake.
They can expect to see the memorials and just stop there to reminisce, and I always say to please have a beer with my men. There’s getting more and more and more plaques on the memorials. I’ve got another one to put on there now for my brother Dennis. Just expect… well apparently there’s a Malleefowl’s nest getting built out there on the track at the moment and that’s the interest. The rock hole, there’s no sign for the rock hole but before you get to the lake you’ll see where the tracks turn off to your left. The sandhills, the flies… just take it easy, just take it easy, that’s my advice and please let your tires down.
Take it easy and don’t go speeding over the hills and wave your flag and keep calling on your UHFs. Because it’s got so busy now like we never realised that this would happen. We didn’t think that it would be known Australia wide that’s for sure.
Q; World-wide even now Jenny, I think…
A: I think it’s got world-wide now, I have posted two books overseas. This year’s been extremely busy with South Australian people because they can’t go anywhere else. So that’s been very busy and I think I’ve enjoyed where I live now because I’ve moved from Smoky Bay to Thevenard to live with my son Jeffrey. I’ve enjoyed seeing the people going out there because I love talking to people that are going or been. Then I get so many letters and emails and it’s really interesting. It’s kept me alive. It’s kept me going.
When Goog actually died Christmas morning. I woke up Christmas morning in 1996 Christmas day and he died alongside of me. We were at my friend’s place at Sterling North near Port Augusta, first Christmas we’d ever been away without the kids and that happened. All the kids, well they weren’t kids they were all grown up, and we’d already lost our son by then, our eldest son.
And coming home, Dennis my brother drove me home or he brought me home. And coming home I was of course a bit upset and he said to me, “You know what Jenny, there’s one thing that nobody can take from you and keep it in mind and that’s Goog’s Track”. I’ve never forgotten that, those words.
I don’t own the track, but I know what he meant, and that’s a part of me… and the book, there’s a lot in the book.
It’s not a huge big book but as I said I never went to school and I think I’ve done a pretty good job. The particular way I wrote it, I had it spread all over the table, it took me a long time, well I couldn’t spell properly. Thanks to Nannette, she was my editor, to put it all together for me and we got it printed.
Q: You mentioned Goog’s passing and Dennis who isn’t with us now either, and the memorial’s out on the track for Goog and Dinger.
And Mum, I’ve got a plaque there for mum as well now since the book.
Q: So, there will be soon Goog, Dinger, Mum, and Dennis. Do you want to just talk people through so when they get to that part of the track they understand what they’re looking at?
A: Well, how the memorial started, Dinger, Martin’s his name but he was known as Dinger, the same as Goog was Goog. He got killed just down here, just by the railway line when you’re going out to Goog’s Track passed Ceduna. Jeffrey, our youngest son, was working at the Ceduna Hotel at that stage, and when he finally went back to work after he got killed the local lads wanted to put a memorial where he got killed. And Jeffrey said, “There’s no way in the world that you’re putting a memorial there”. He said, “If you want to put a memorial, I’ll talk to Mum and Debbie about it”. He said, “I’ll talk to them about it, but I would like you to put one out where the shack was, where we had a shack”. The national parks made us pull it down years and years and years ago, and he said, “I’d like one put there because Dennis carved his name on the tree”. That’s how the memorial started. There would have been 80 or 90 people out there for the laying of his plaque and the same for Goog.
So, we went out and built the memorial and then got the plaque made and that’s how it started. There’s a money tree there alongside of Dinger’s memorial and that started by one of his mates that night who pulled his Toyota in there and he climbed up on the roof and he put a 50 cent piece right at the top of this tree. We said to him, “What’s that all about it?” He said, “Well I’ve put the 50 cents up there for a beer for him but he can pay for the rest his bloody self. Because I think I’ve bought him a few over the years so he can buy his bloody own”. So that’s how the money tree started.
And then we put Goog’s memorial up there. But just last year we had to redo them up because Goog’s was all cracking away. So, we went out there with my good friend again from Port Augusta, and Dennis my brother and myself, and a few others. We all went out there and we’ve joined them together now. These join them all together, put a plaque there for mum because mum never missed one trip either.
You know it was us five, like my family of five and Dennis and mum; we were there every trip, never missed one. Dennis was a great driver out there for us and mum was there for the kids and just to be there. She walked the track I think picking up sticks with the kids and throwing them off the track. I’ve got a big sign behind the memorial now, they’re beautiful, they really look nice.
Now I’ve got to raise enough money to put one there for Dennis because they’re not cheap those brass plaques.
Q: The community has pulled together for you for all of them, haven’t they so far, Jenny?
A: Yes, we got around and sold cans and bottles, that’s mainly how we’ve done it. We’re not able to do that anymore so I’ve been talking to a few of my friends and a few people and even the guy from the National Parks; I’ve been talking to people about it. I might, I’ll see how I go, but I’m thinking about what we’ve talked about, about maybe putting it on Goog’s site and just even if somebody could give me a couple of dollars each until we raise the money. Because they are between seven and eight hundred dollars each and we are doing it for the tourists that go out there so they can read what’s on the plaque and reminisce a little bit of what we did.
Q: Four very important people in the creation of the track, like you said, not missing a trip, but even Dinger as a child did a lot of the driving..
A: That’s where they all learned to drive, Debbie, Dinger, and Jeffrey. They learned to drive out there. Poor little Dinger couldn’t even see over the steering wheels, because we built three Land Rovers out of nothing so we had four-wheel drives. He used to go with mum, and she’d say, “Come on, you can do it, Martin, you can do it, Martin”. And he done it, over the hills and down the other side. Then I had Debbie, but Jeffrey was always wanting to be with Dad but he couldn’t be much because there was no cage on the tractors or anything and it would have been dangerous.
Q: Because of course it wasn’t a track back then, even with Dinger not being able to see over the steering wheel and yet taking on these fresh new sand dunes that aren’t even a track really yet much… it’s amazing.
A: You’d be surprised how may stones come out of those hills and the flats mainly. That’s where I said mum probably walked the track because they used to go and throw sticks off. Because I was always driving the Land Rover, even the year after I got my leg out of plaster, I still wasn’t doing good on my pins, so they walked the track mum and the kids. That’s how we know there’s 363 sand dunes from where we started until we finished the track because mum counted them a few times.
If you want to know where, what we call drum camp is, because you won’t see it anymore, it really wants a sign put there so people know exactly where Goog stopped pushing. I’m going to see National Parks one day and I mean I’m quite prepared to put a bit of money in for signage. I would like to put a sign there and then if they want to know exactly where it is then they’ll have to count the sand dunes. That’ll keep the kids busy!
Q: What does our local region of the Nullarbor Plain and the Far West Coast of SA, and I must say you’ve lived in some of the more beautiful being up there at Fowlers Bay and all that, as remote as it is, it’s also God’s country. The Far West Coast of SA and The Nullarbor, what does our region and its people mean to you Jenny, why do you live here instead of anywhere else?
A: Because I love it. I actually got married again after Goog died. That’s another story but I did get married again. And I went to Adelaide to live with Ray for nearly eight months before we got married. And I hated it and so did he. You know, I just felt so closed in. I love the remoteness; I love the Nullarbor, absolutely love the Nullarbor. Every chance I get I like to go out there because it is remote. It just means everything living to me here, the family are here and everything, grandchildren. I’m no good in big towns, no good at all. I always said I would never ever, ever live in Ceduna but here I am, not in Ceduna, well I’m in Thevenard, but here I am.
It comes to that age I suppose where I think well it’s about time, I lived closer to doctors and that. Not that I want them now and family. I live for my family and my grandchildren and my little great-grandchildren.
Q: Where does a traveller of Goog’s Track acquire their all-important souvenirs of their trip?
A: You can get them direct from me, there is a site you can go to which is www.googstrack.com you can go there and get them through PayPal or you can get them direct from me, you only have to send through a message on Goog’s site on Facebook. I can do direct debit and I can post them immediately and you can also get them from the Ceduna Tourist Centre. The Nullarbor Whale Station, they have my books and my mum’s book. That’s about it.
I did have them at Port Lincoln and everywhere, but I’d just rather do it myself and sign them and send them off. I have got stubby holders which are really, really popular. The Goog’s Track stubby holder, well I’ve run them right out at the moment that’s how popular they are. I said to Shanna, “I didn’t even keep one for myself”. I probably got one somewhere but I’m still unpacking from moving from Smoky Bay to Thevenard so there could be one in a box somewhere and I asked Jeffrey did he have one and he hasn’t got one. I think we better keep a couple. I have got more ordered and I’m prepared to post them out. I do post a lot out now that people put on the site or as I said through direct debit. But they are available at the tourist centre as well.
Mum’s book will be there as well. My mum wasn’t young when she wrote that little book and she’s put a lot of stuff in there of how she done it hard at The Nullarbor, making food out of nothing. Same as I did, I suppose when I first moved to Lone Oak. It was a bit hard.
You get the souvenirs directly through me, probably is the easiest and best spot.
Q: I’ll have to read mum’s book, Our Life on the Nullarbor, I haven’t read it yet, but boy there’ll be some stories in there. If it’s anything like what you allude to at the start of Goog’s track and your early life, it’ll be a great read that’s for sure.
A: It’s only a tiny little book but I wanted mum to put more in there. When she wrote it, she said, “No that’s all I want to do” and that’s all she did, and it’s been really popular. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve got it reprinted. It’s written in here somewhere. Well, the first time was 1993 and it’s been reprinted one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and this would be her ninth time coming, which I’ve got 500 coming. It should be here tomorrow or the next day.
Q: We’ve got the spot there that alludes to where a stubby holder should be, but we’ll just have to pretend that it’s there but they’re super popular, and they’re on their way. What else have you got there, Jenny?
A: I’ve got stickers, I’ve got this sort of stickers and I’ve also got a strip sticker which I’ve sold out of. Magnets, the map which Westprint maps came and I went out with them and camped out with them when they made this map of the track and a bit of the Gawler Ranges and the coast down from Ceduna. I went out with them and told them where the spots were, and we had a good old chat and came back around the dog fence and that’s how we made the map. I have got them as well. I don’t know whether the tourist centre’s got any left but I get these direct from Westprint maps. I think you can get these online anyway, I’m pretty sure you can.
Q: That would be a really handy thing to have along with you on the trip.
A: Yes, that’s right that’s why I’ve got them because a lot of people ask for them. As they say, it’s a hands-on map so that’s why they’re interested.
Q: I think it would be absolutely wonderful to have the map and the book and you’re reading along as you’re experiencing the spots.
A: And when we had done our book, I had a book launch in Thevenard for this and I was blown away. I was so nervous, there was over 200 people at that book launch and we had them from every state bar Queensland and Tasmania. They rocked up and I didn’t know they were coming. It was unbelievable. How popular this is, I’ve had three thousand copies to start with and I’ve sold them, and I’ve just got another 500 printed. It’s not very big but it’s all in there.
Q: It’s story after story, I decided to read it because it was my chance to get away from the computer for the weekend and I sat out on my couch by my fire in the backyard and I had the cat lounging in the sunshine and I had the chooks in the garden and Robert in the garden pottering around and I frequently burst out into laughter and everyone would jump a foot off the ground and the serenity was broken. And it was a great weekend. It’s just story after story of good ol’ Aussie happenings.
A: Well that’s it, we are fair dinkum Aussies. I think that’s why I love the outback and living in the outback. As my editor Nannette said to me, she couldn’t’ believe that I am country music crazy because we made the track with Slim Dusty and Charley Pride and you know in the old Land Rover with the old tapes getting tangled up. And then you’d have to try and untangle them, but they were playing all the time with the cassette player, we had nothing, just us wrapping around in the Land Rovers and Nannette put in there that she couldn’t believe how I all of a sudden I got up and went to Melbourne and travelled everywhere to see Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson and whoever I wanted to go and see. I just up and went, it was awesome, I loved it.
Q: This outback girl in the big city.
A: Yes, that’s right!
Q: Where are your family now and what are they doing?
A: As I said I’ve only got the two left. I’ve got Debbie, she’s Debbie Burge, and she’s married to Anthony and they’ve got farms out here which is about 30, 000 acres and farming out here in the northeast of Ceduna. And then they’ve also got, they own Siam Station when you go from through Goog’s Track and down to the Gawler Ranges, you go straight past the turn-off. You see the house, they’ve got a manager there and then they’ve got land down at Cummins, which my grandson, their son, that’s his little party. They’ve got two children. Kayla’s a nurse in Adelaide and Wayne he’s a diesel mechanic in Ceduna.
And Jeffrey, well he’s not married, and he owns Penong and Thevenard Hotel. So, he’s busy and I’m living here with him now. Well, I’ve got the grandkids, they’re always around. And Dinger’s also got a daughter, she lives in Adelaide and she has three little girls. Bradley’s down at Cummins and they just had a little boy. So I see a bit of him, he’s awesome.
I live for family.
Q: And Jeffrey, you mentioned he’s got Penong Hotel and Thevenard Hotel. So, he’s definitely on the country and your daughter’s still definitely like you know, she’s gone to the Gawler Ranges, so she hasn’t gone that far but she’s gone to another part of God’s wilderness for sure. It’s beautiful out there.
A: I used to go out there cooking because as I said I got married again to Ray but he passed away with cancer which blew me away a bit. I used to go up to the station cooking between four or five times a year for the shearing, landmarking, whatever and I loved it and there I was out. Because the men would all go through the day, and my brother Dennis would potter in and out, the men would go and I would just give a sigh of relief and think, “Ah this is just the life on its own, sitting in here quiet with just the birds and not a soul, just me”. I loved it.
Q: What does the future hold for Jenny?
A: Well the future… I think just living with Jeffrey now as I said and I’m loving it. The future for me I think would be to still love to go out in the scrub and that, but I can’t do it on my own and my kids are busy. Just concentrate on Goog’s Track I think and keep that going as I said, my future is that. Being with my family and my children and now I’m living up here I see so much more of them and I’m loving it.
Q: Jenny Denton Price, Thank You.
A: No worries, thank you, Shanna, that’s been awesome. Thank you for coming to interview me, it was great. Thank you.
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