Beyond the Country

By Kiara Blinco

The year was 1962, Gary Blinco was just 14 years old when he dropped out of the eighth grade to start working full-time.

That was the norm in Millmerran at the time. Large families often required the help of their children to bring in extra money or help around the house.

For Gary, he assisted his dad on their small crop farm. The Blinco’s earned their keep by selling their crops door-to-door in the town nearby while his father went away for days at a time doing labour jobs.

“My dad set up a bit of a saw mill and built houses for people. He was a bit of a labourer and I guess I inherited a bit of that from him as well,” says Gary.

Gary Blinco as a section leader in Vietnam in 1969 and a business executive in 2009

Gary acknowledged the tough upbringing he had, describing their living situation as primitive. Despite this, his relationship with his parents had always been good. 

“I suppose the things you don’t know about, you can’t really miss,” says Gary.

Gary spent his free-time playing with his eight siblings and learning everything about the world for himself. He dabbled in writing short stories and other things to entertain his friends and family.

“Everything I know I taught myself. I didn’t even start going to school until I was 11, before that I taught myself to read just by looking through comic books.”

Gary continued to help his family on their farm and also as a cattle rigger for many years. His life ultimately took a different turn when the National Service Scheme came into effect. 

“We didn’t do the teenager thing. We went straight from being a kid to working full-time acting as an adult. There was no time for anything else, especially if you became involved in the Army,” says Gary.

At 20 years of age, Gary was conscripted and made to start his basic training to eventually serve in the Vietnam War.

“Everyone was young, they thought they were bulletproof. I was made to go there but I still knew what I was fighting for. I still wanted to help really badly,” says Gary.

Gary was disappointed with the outcome of the war, but it was this experience that convinced him to stay involved with the army indefinitely. 

Years were spent working his way up the ranks from squad leader to sergeant and eventually to warrant officer. Gary’s hard work continually paid off as he even spent a few years training new recruits.

Gary’s upbringing and experience in the war made him the good person he is today. It also gave him the inspiration to start writing novels professionally on the side.

“I can look after myself, I call myself a unit. That’s what happens when you’re in the jungle with a platoon of soldiers under your command. Because of that, I had success I wouldn’t normally have had if I didn’t put my mind to it,” says Gary.

Once returned from his years in the army, Gary set out to get a tertiary education.

With his qualifications he’d earnt, Gary entered corporate life and continued his successes in national executive management. This is where he stayed for 20-30 years.

“The corporate world is a bit like the war, I had to fight my way up the ladder. Being in the army gave me the resilience needed to make it in everyday life”.

A few years before retiring from the workforce, Gary put his plans into action to eventually produce his first book.

Gary was 56 when Down A Country Lane got published. The novel entails stories of his childhood that eventually led to his experience in the Vietnam war.

Five years after his first book was published, Gary retired in 2008 and pursued writing further.

His new found free-time meant Gary could focus on his stories more and now has 6 books available that come together to depict him as the person he is today.

“I had a dream I wanted to be a writer, ever since I was little, I knew I would come back to it,” Gary says.

Currently, Gary is working on a book of short stories. He also has plans to write sequels to all the novels he has already.

“I’ve made all my books into eBooks, but they are still available as paperbacks. Each book is different and although some are written as fiction, they are still somewhat biographical. I did it that way, so I could avoid hurting anyone’s feelings,” says Gary.

Gary’s strong-will and past experience is what lead him to where he is today. His upbringing gave him the skills to build his own daughter a cottage on their acreage while his persistence in the workforce gave him the ability to provide a positive lifestyle for his family as a whole.

Now, as a 73-year-old, Gary lives with his wife Marlene and often goes on trips around Australia in his caravan. His passion for writing was passed down to several family members including his daughter, his nephew and myself – his great niece.