That's the Spirit: Patty Mitchell - Trangie
By her own admission, Trangie’s Patty Mitchell has “been around a bit” and has her finger in a number of local pies, including the inaugural Trangie Truck and Tractor Show, held in the middle of a roaring drought in 2019. She spoke for many Trangie-ites in describing the town as a “friendly, humble place” that pulls together when the chips are down.
Patty: We’ve only been here nearly 30 years, but Trangie is home for us, for sure. My husband and I were farmers here and then we retired to town. We had various jobs after that. I’ve been involved with the rural industry all my life.
Jen: What is it that you love about the small community of Trangie?
Patty: I love its friendliness; its great spirit when the chips are down, not just with the drought, but for any time when things get tough. For instance, if you lose somebody, there’s people on your door immediately to offer comfort and support. It’s just an extremely friendly, humble place.
Jen: What sort of things have you done over the years to help keep the community strong?
Patty: I was very involved in the Trangie Action Group, which is a progress-type group that started not long after we came out here nearly 30 years ago. We did things like get a doctor for the town and we managed to get a branch of the Orana Credit Union (as it was then known) started in Trangie because, like a lot of places out west, all the banks started to close in small towns.We have our Christmas party in the main street each year and we raise money through various events. We built the sporting complex centre at the school.
Patty Mitchell, Trangie
The Trangie Action Group is just a bunch of like-minded people who, when there’s something to be done, just hops in, organises it and does it. Thank heavens, because it helps keep Trangie in good spirits.
We’ve had droughts before but this last one has just kept going on and on and on and on, so it’s been important to do whatever we can to keep spirits up. We all just need to keep an eye out for each other, now and all the time.
Jen: Is that something peculiar to small communities, that notion that you just get in, dust yourself off and keep going?
Patty: Trangie people know that if we want something built, we have to get in there, raise the money and get it done. I lived at Trundle for 20 years and it was much the same, and I’ve also lived in Dubbo. As far as I can see, small communities are so much different when it comes to pulling together – they’re better at it, I think. Of course, living in a small community does have its down sides… everybody knows what you’re up to!
Jen: There’s not much you can do in a small town without everyone knowing.
Patty: Hmmm… you can if you’re careful! (laughs) No, I’m kidding. Yes, somebody always seems to see or say something or whatever, but honestly, that doesn’t matter. The main thing is that we all come together and help each other out.
Jen: For instance, to put on the Trangie Truck and Tractor Show (TTTS), which you’re also involved with. The inaugural 2019 event was very successful, despite the drought, wasn’t it?
Patty: Everybody on the committee was blown away by how many people came and what a success it was, particularly given the drought. We had positive feedback from all over the state and even further afield than that. We cleared quite a bit of money, too, and some of that will go back into the community and we’ll keep some as seed funding for the 2021 show. We’re looking to hold it every two years. I don’t think we could hold it every year – it would kill us!
But we do other things out here as a community in Trangie as well – we have an active Red Cross support group, the CWA, and we have a great cancer support group. We also raise money to support Kurrajong Court (Hostel aged care).
Photo by NALAG NSW.
Jen: How did the TTTS come about?
Patty: It all started one night at a car club meeting. Because for many, many years we haven’t had a Trangie Show, a couple of the car club members suggested the idea of a truck and tractor show to the rest of the committee and that’s where the baby was born. It just went ahead and grew from three.
We formed a committee and that was joined by several people who are interested in doing up old trucks and tractors and tinkering with old stuff – you know, you can take the boy out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy! They seem to get very attached to grease and diesel and all those things. I know because there’s a shed full of it here at my place!
There were lots of different organisations and businesses and groups involved (with the TTS). The CWA did a lot of the food and had a tearoom at the show, and the schools and sporting clubs, like the tennis club and pony club, did other food over the weekend. It was all done by locals. We didn’t have any other food vendors from out of town. That was really important to us.
The local businesses weren’t asked to sponsor because the whole idea of it was to give everybody in town business, the farmers, a bite of the cherry of people coming to Trangie.
Jen: It sounds like it was a whole-of-community affair – everyone came together to put this on?
Patty: Absolutely yes, and from the proceeds, there will be thousands of dollars that will go directly back into the community.
And here’s a lovely story: the tennis club was defunct and broke – no money – so the members all put in and bought the drinks. A local businessman who is a club member put in his own money for the float, and the club walked away (from the TTTS) with enough of a profit after costs to start up the tennis club again. That’s goose-bump stuff, isn’t it?
Jen: It is. Talk about “That’s the Spirit”!
Patty: It was just so much about people stepping up. For instance, if you weren’t a CWA member you became an honorary one by bringing a cake! There are three or four really good leaders in the local CWA who just put out the call and asked people to bake something and come to help – I guess they figure the worst thing that can happen is that somebody says no, but they very rarely do.
Jen: What do you think are some of the misconceptions out there in the wider world about living in a small town and what would you say to challenge those misconceptions?
Patty: I think there’s an unrealistic view of farmers. In the good times farmers work hard and they play hard – it’s a way of life. Farmers are not whingers. Many of them would never tell you if they’re really doing it hard, because they’re proud. I think people from the city think farmers are all rich people who use too much water and have an easy lifestyle.
Patty Mitchell with fellow Trangie Truck & Tractor Show committee member Kelly McCutcheon, doing one of many shifts selling raffle tickets in Trangie.
Yes, there is a lifestyle we enjoy in the bush but we work hard at it. We play hard as well. When things are good they’re great and when they’re bad they’re REALLY bad. But we’re all pretty pragmatic about it.
A lot of people who visited for the TTTS said they were quite surprised at the positive atmosphere that struck them when they walked into the showground – everyone was happy and chatting and there wasn’t any grumpiness and no negativity. I don’t think that’s because people weren’t conscious of how tough things were and are, but I think they were just pleased to get away from those worries for a while. And there was genuine positivity that eventually it will be good again.
We received a lovely letter from a group that had come from another area where things weren’t great. They said they had the best weekend and forgot about all their worries and met lots of people and had lots of fun.
That’s exactly what it was supposed to be. It was meant to be a fun day for the whole family.
The last president of the Trangie Show Society was in tears just to see his beloved showground alive and pumping. (Members of) the older generation were just ecstatic just to see their old heritage alive.
*This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of social distancing measures.
NALAG's 'That's the Spirit' hardcover book features a selection of excerpts from the stories gathered from Western NSW during 2018-2020.