Fiction Work
  The Back Country
    The Tip Pig
    The Evening Ride
    Time Trap
      Life progressed at a slow pace there. A previous maths teacher told us that in order to see if time had progressed there you just had to look at the numbers on the petrol bowser, which stood on the boards outside the general store, to see if any of them had changed. I'd also heard that old joke, the one we say of any place which is slower paced than our own:

"If I only had a week to live, I'd like to spend it there. It'd seem like a lifetime".

So was that back country town, sleeping in a baking sun. Why hurry?

I lived away and farther East then but I'd dined out on stories of the place for a long time and over the years a few people who'd heard those stories had travelled back there with me. They'd seen first hand what slow is all about. In those days we'd go there for the shooting. A mate and I would travel the long road out on a Friday evening or Saturday morning and get there ready for a day in the scrub chasing wild pigs. All the way on the drive up I'd regale them with stories of wild past adventures. How we used to drive and park somewhere out of town and spend the whole weekend walking. How Louis had shot into his own station wagon trying to deal with the pig in there. How Rod would circle a kangaroo on a clay pan, firing his service pistol at it through the driver's window. Eventually we'd arrive in that quiet town and I'd deliberately take the tourists for a lap of honour. You know the drill for most towns. You check out all the lovely spots, the scenic areas, the lookouts, the quaint little places and the busy main drag. Well, it was no different there, but there was only one block, and a drive around it took all of 5 minutes. The post office, the pub, the CWA hall, the police station, the bowling club, the school, the post office, and the pub again. 5 minutes.

We arrived once on a Saturday morning. We expected the typical routine. Talk for a few hours, drink for an hour more, change a tire, drive to a mate's place for a spanner, fix the washing machine, have lunch. We'd be looking forward to the shooting trip but it usually took place only after several hours of procrastination.

Usually my companion was new to the wonders of the back country. Life in the city or in a provincial town father East was definitely faster than this. They'd become bemused by the lowly pace, bemused by Billy's conjuring up of new duties which just seemed to get in the way of our main purpose. Then there was the water. In that back country all the houses had a tank which supplied good rainwater for cooking, but they were also attached to artesian bore water and that water was used for washing and in the bathroom. It was amazing stuff. Very soft. If you used too much soap in the shower or washed your hair then the suds would fill the room. It also stank of sulphur. If you could force yourself to use it, then you smelled and felt like rotten eggs for days. I recall one evening when a previous mate made the trip. After all the doings of the day we'd retired to the backroom to sleep off the drive and the food and an evening of imbibing. I remember him getting up just 1 minute after getting into bed, and he was out the door in disgust, and into the backyard for a smoke. When he returned I said

"What's the deal? Do you need to smoke now?"

and he told me that by mistake he'd brushed his teeth in the bathroom, using the artesian bore water. He thought he'd eaten rotten eggs, and couldn't remove the taste.

On this trip we arrived and expected the same procrastination. There was no need to hurry. I did the usual slow lap. Just 5 minutes of sight seeing, driving past Billy's place on the first half lap. When I wound around again and arrived and stopped at his low bungalow next door to the pub, Billy was there waiting outside.

"What the hell are you doing driving around the block? We haven't got time to sight see. We're goin' now!"

Something had changed. It wasn't the slow back country town that day. Oh no. There was a chiller in town. It was a crate or shipping container, resting on blocks and with its own refrigeration, tapping away with the sound of a generator. The chiller was empty, and put there by buyers from Brisbane who had clients with tastes for feral meat. Apparently those clients could tell the difference between wild animals, dressed in the field, compared to domestic stock. That chiller was resting there but was soon due to be hauled away. It had to be filled by 7am the next morning.

No food or drinks for us. We barely made it out of the car. Billy shoved us into the Willies jeep, its windscreen opaque with bugs. We lurched off into the scrub. We howled out along the Hebel road for several miles, then, without warning shot off on black soil to the left. In a paddock of tussock grass, which we jolted through, we spotted our first running boar and gave chase. The vehicle bounced over the ground and lurched from side to side. We got close enough and hopped out and made a shot. Usually we left them there, the pigs, to lay among the grasses and the sand and usually we moved on. Not this time. This time we hauled the carcass up on the side of the vehicle and cleaned it out. We did a field dressing with the heart left behind, but split. This was apparently how the overseas clients wanted them and we prepared them as required for the cliller.

In the late afternoon we arrived at the first of two traps Billy had set up. These were large weld mesh cylinders, sitting on the ground and standing with sides 1 metre high. They were about 8 metres in diameter and had a top, or roof, over them, made from the same weld mesh as the sides. There was one doorway. A tunnel actually, which allowed the pigs to get in but became narrower and so didn't let them out again. They pushed their way in for the dead and rotting meat Billy had put in there as bait.

When we arrived at the first trap there were about 5 pigs in it. They were agitated and angry and running about, but they were easily dispatched through the side walls. Then we looked at each other. Someone had to get them out. Someone had to go in there, into the weld mesh trap with the pigs. It wasn't just a walk-in job either. That trap was low and whoever drew the short straw had to crawl in, through the tunnel and under the roof. We drew straws somehow without actually drawing any, and it was me who had to do the work. I zipped up my jacket and shouldered my way in, pushing into the tunnel like the pigs themselves must have done. I don't normally suffer from claustrophobia but that place was tight. It was dark now too and I had to shuffle around on my hands and knees most of the way. I had to find each pig and drag it along while kneeling, a foot at a time towards the tunnel. Then I'd somehow position myself at the narrow end of the tunnel and shove and shove. Actually the pigs were the easy part. At least they were whole, and they were fresh, they were heavy but in-tact. Not so the bait. Billy had laced the place with bait in the form of old dead sheep. These weren't whole any more. They were falling apart, they were wet and bloody and foul and they stank. I retched and retched. Somehow I finished and got out. Then the other two complained about how I stank. Each pig was field dressed, the heart was split, and it was hung on the side of the Willies. A bloody game.

We drove and worked all night. By 7am we were back in town and with 40 pigs, all dressed and all ready for that chiller. When we carried them in, there was just one pig already inside, a huge animal with its hind legs touching the ceiling and its snout on the floor. Billy made $600 that night and he was pleased.

Somehow we made it home on the long drive the next day. We recalled that slow back country town, where only the numbers on the bowser spelled a difference from one day to the next. That weekend was just a blur.