Wednesday, 21 May 2014

THE WILD,SHOELESS KID

As you do. A goat and I standing on the roof of a car. circa. 1964.

It’s really hard to confine a kid with a non-existent attention span  in the Australian bush. I know. I was that kid who if my parents turned their backs I was off seeking adventure.

I think my mother was always hovering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, always worried about where I would end up.  My father was more laid back about my wanderings. Or maybe he had resigned himself  to my fate. There was a strong possibly I was going to die in childhood and the bush has many ways to kill you, especially if you’re a kid. 

For a start there was the nearby river. I couldn’t swim. Dad had attempted to teach me but without success. I did only manage to nearly drown twice. I think I’ll do a drowning blog as both episodes are interesting.
Talking about near misses. There was the wild pig that charged at me when I went with dad to check a dam. Luckily my father was there to save me. Wild pigs are big, black brutes with razor sharp tusks. They can do a lot of damage. Then there are the snakes. Venomous ones.  I once rode over one on a tricycle. Dad grabbed me before it could bite me. Can you see a theme developing here? My father was a good rescuer.

I think the closest I came to being taken out was when I wandered into a stock yard  full of cattle aged five. I climbed into the yard only to have them rush at me. Fortunately for me they stopped in front of me or I would have been trampled to death. Was that all of the near misses.

 I ran away for a whole day and managed to come home. I was aged all of three.

That deserves its own blog. Stay tuned.


 

  

Saturday, 3 May 2014

SWIMMING WITH CROCODILES. PART TWO.


My father was going back to the river care of the crocodile.  He had heard recent reports from stockmen that a crocodile had been in the river near the homestead. Having just been nearly taken crossing the river overnight, there was clear evidence of that.  He knew it would be most probably at the Big Hole as it was known. Crocs liked to sun themselves during the day and where better; The Big Hole.

The Big Hole was a large bend in the Suttor River which flowed past the Lornesleigh homestead. Its measured depth was over twenty feet deep. A large sand bank jutted into it and it was a great place to swim on a hot day.  Years later, I remember that it looked like an expanse of beach.  Only difference is the river sand is course and the water wasn’t rolling waves but murky still water. In fact, my mother had been recently swimming in The Big Hole while she had been pregnant with me. Obviously a croc was not in the big hole at the time or was it?
My father left the homestead armed with a German Mauser bolt action rifle 9.3 calibre. It had previously belonged to a game warden in Kenya. The homestead was two miles from the Big Hole. Dad said he stalked the croc upwind along the river for a mile. He knew by previous experience that crocodiles were sensitive to smell and movement.  Getting to a hundred yards from the big hole he was able to first see sight of his target. Thinking it was going to one crocodile, instead it was two; a male and female.
My father stepped slowly forward, but started to sink into a patch of soft sand up to his waist. He pulled himself out of it but the noise of his exertion, started to unsettle the crocodiles. They slid slowly towards the edge of the sand. Dad knew he only had seconds to shoot. He slipped off the safety, aimed and fired just as they slipped into the water. The male buckled as it was hit and then both crocodiles disappeared under the dark water. 

Thinking he had missed, dad returned disappointed to the homestead. A few days later, the mailman was crossing the river when he spotted the male crocodile floating dead on its back. It measured 16 feet ( 4.8 metres). The female crocodile disappeared but there were always suspected sightings over the years. Swimming in the river always made me feel a little uneasy as a kid. Would the female crocodile ever return? Thankfully, she never did.