Author(s): Bruce Ansley
The historic Mesopotamia Station is located in mid-Canterbury at the headwaters of the magnificent Rangitata gorge. 'Mesopotamia', named by Samuel Butler in 1860, means 'the land between two rivers': it lies between the Rangitata and Forest Creek rivers. Author Bruce Ansely has brilliantly captured the spirit of this great sheep station: from the early pioneers who first braved its harsh winters and searing summers to the ingenuity and drive of the present-day owners, the Prouting family. His description of the landscape is at once poetic and immediate and magnificent, taking the reader right to the heart of the high country. The Mesopotamia story gives an astonishing overview of the history of the area, while the imposing power of the rivers, the hills, and the weather are ever present. In this country the mountains have as much personality and character as the members of the station's longtime owners, the Prouting family. The Rangitata River flows like a rogue throughout. We ride the 'curious tide of extremes' that farming embodies: the heartache, the exhilaration, the grandiose, the bombastic, the gracious, the laconic humour. This is a man's country, where the women who wish to stay have to hold their own; a country where the past is repeated and echoed in the present. Ansley's portraits of the Prouting family and others who are drawn to this special place are insightful and perceptive. He throws open the farm gate on the iconic farming family. Laurie, the patriarch, is a gem of a man with an appealing, deep-seated humanity and a great love of the high country. The four seasons are celebrated in true 'Meso' style giving the modern-day workings of the station all set within the great amphitheatre of the mountains. Here the romance of the high country is tempered with real life and bellowing stock. Peter Bush's photographs, taken over a 50-year period, grace Ansley's story, capturing the great musters of days gone by, the dignity of the shearing teams, the majestic country and the characters who people Mesopotamia's story.
Bruce Ansley is one of New Zealand's most experienced and respected feature writers. For many years he was a staff writer at the Listener. Since then he has freelanced and written four books. A keen sailor, he lives in Christchurch with his wife,Sally. Peter Bush is a legendary New Zealand photographer whose outstanding work, especially his rugby photography, spans decades.