As a boy of 13, Syms Covington leaves his home in Bedford and goes to sea, passing into manhood as he sails the world, surveying Patagonia, and losing his virginity in the Pampas. Aboard the HMS Beagle, he enters the service of Charles Darwin as an energetic and precocious 15-year-old, and in the course of their voyages together he shoots and collects hundreds of specimens for his "gent", specimens that become fundamental to the formulation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Into the hard-living world of travelling shearers in the Australian outback comes internationally acclaimed writer Roger McDonald, driving an old truck rattling with cooking gear. He has abandoned writing for a time and found work as a cook for a team of New Zealand shearers working through New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Written with an insider's affection and familiarity sharpened by an outsider's perception, this moving account of working life in a classic Australian industry gives a new twist to a long tradition of outback travel writing.