As a lad in the high country of eastern Victoria, Tag Wardell shows an extraordinary gift with animals: he is followed to school by his pets; his rapport with his horse, Dimble, becomes the talk of the district; and he even manages to befriend a mob of brumbies during an adventure with his schoolmates in the Dargo high plains.
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Later, when he becomes a blacksmith, locals come to watch him at work, amazed at his ability to calm the meanest of nags. But 1914 brings war, and the government’s patriotic fervour entices Tag and his mates to join the Light Horse Brigade.
For Tag, war begins as an adventure. On the convoy to Egypt, he is quickly singled out to help the distressed horses. Then, while on leave in Cairo, he meets Jill, a nurse, but their brief romance is cut short as Gallipoli looms. Tag’s life spirals into one of survival in the day-to-day madness of the trenches.
In the years that follow, Tag comes up against conditions that are terrible for man and beast, and he discovers the hardship and joy that come with wartime love. In the face of it all, his unique abilities bring about essential changes in the handling of horses under fire — and expose him to death and disaster.
Barry Heard, author of the bestselling Vietnam War memoir Well Done, Those Men, has here produced a deeply moving, fiercely anti-war novel that blazes with authenticity. Based on the experiences of a World War I veteran whom the author knew, it brings new insights to the Gallipoli legend and Australia’s battles on the Western Front.
Tag is unforgettable — a bush tale, a family saga, a romance, and a revelation of the human spirit’s ability to survive war’s inhumanity.