‘I WAS QLD’S FIRST MOUNTED POLICEWOMAN’
Heather Crack This die-hard country girl started her riding career on top of her pet cow!
Motorists driving along the New England Highway out of Brisbane that hot November day back in 1960 pulled over and pinched themselves. No, they weren’t hallucinating. That really was an 11-year-old blonde, bare-footed girl, cantering down the middle of the road astride a Jersey cow. “My dad wouldn’t let me have a horse so I rode Heidi,” explains Heather Crack (nee Doran) today. “I was a real little cowgirl.”
Times were tough on the Doran 65-hectare dairy farm. Heather’s mum had died that August, and when the lack of money dashed her dream of owning a conventional mount, horse-crazy Heather found a new use for her three-year-old pet cow.
“I rode Heidi everywhere. She had a bridle and reins, but we couldn’t afford a saddle, so I went bareback.”
In time, Heather was able to swap Heidi for horses and she became Queensland’s first mounted policewoman, patrolling the streets of Brisbane in 1975.
After 11 years in the force, she resigned to start a family, and bought acreage at Buccan, 46km south of Brisbane, where today she has her own business clipping and spelling horses.
Now a “very active” 69, divorced with two children in their 30s, Heather, who’s now also nan to two girls aged five and four months, cherishes her idyllic bush childhood.
“Things were hard for us. Dad had to leave the farm to work in an engineering company in Brisbane to make ends meet, which meant I was a virtual mother to my younger brothers, Peter and Bruce.
“But along with the cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing and milking the cows, I had fun. Heidi really enjoyed being ridden. I think she began to believe she was a horse, especially when I set up tiny jumps in the paddock for her.
“Every day I milked her, brushed her coat and polished her horns. I loved Heidi and was so sad when she died at a good old age.
“I received a lot of attention when Woman’s Day wrote about me riding Heidi on the highway, but back then it was one lane with hardly any traffic. You’d be mad to ride a cow on that busy road today!”
In 1978, Woman’s Day talked to five women who were making waves in their chosen fields – pioneers in a man’s world.
As Australia’s first – and for the next 12 years its only – female helicopter pilot, Rosemary Arnold has led a life of dizzying ups and downs.
Qualifying in 1965, she flew mostly in Sydney until she went to live in the US in 1983, accepting a flying job that didn’t materialise. With only $10 in her pocket, she set up her own helicopter company, earning $7500 on her first day.
“I closed the business after a $10 million lawsuit following the death of an Italian movie star in a chopper crash – owned and piloted by another company – during filming,” says Heather.
She returned home in 1998, completed a Bachelor of Aviation and became a lecturer at the University of Western Sydney.
The four-times married mum-of-four, who’s now 84, also qualified as a marriage celebrant and set up another business to conduct helicopter weddings.
“I also did funerals and scattered ashes from the helicopter,” says Rosemary, who retired from flying and celebrant work in 2017.
But that doesn’t mean this active octogenarian is putting her feet up!
“I’m just about to drive my Mercedes Sprinter Winnebago from my home in Port Fairy [in Victoria] to Sydney,” she says. “I’m doing a final wedding for a friend.”
Single Rosemary won’t be alone on the road. “My three Yorkshire terriers, George, Rita and Daisy, will be coming with me,” she says. “I might not be flying anymore but I still like to travel. I’m not slowing down yet!”
Heather caused quite a stir when she rode her cow down the highway!
Rosemary is used to breaking glass ceilings.