Tuesday, October 14, 2008


"Alright mate, let's unload the truck."
Fencing was really hard work and as I was soon to find out but the hard work was offset by Jims' kind heart and good sense of humor.
At around lunch time, I'd almost drank all of mi water so Jim said to me, "You'll end up sick as a dog, mate, if ya keep guzzling the water like ya are doing."
"I can't seem to stop drinking, Jim. It's really hot today and I'm thirsty and dry."
"Ah well mate, don't say I didn't warn ya!"
By the time 2 O'clock came I was layed out on mi belly under the truck, as sick as a dog. Every 5 or 10 minutes I'd spew up colorless liquid and mi belly would get a huge cramp in it which made me cry.
The heat was intolerable that day. It was about 105 degrees but old Jim never seemed to feel it as he worked on, regardless. Every now and then he'd come over to the truck and check on me.
"I'm sick mate! I've got cramps in mi belly and I'm still thirsty!"
"You'll git over it Yorky. Don't worry mate."
"Can I have some of your water, Jim?"
"No mate. I told ya you had to make it last all day. There's no water around here for miles."
"How much water do you have left Jim?"
"Just over half-a-gallon. Why?"
"Cause I'm dying of thirst mate. Mi throat feels like sandpaper and I can't swallow and I got no spit left to swallow."
"Put a small pebble in ya mouth mate, but don't swallow it."
About an hour later I felt a little bit better so I crawled out from under my shady spot and walked over to where Him was still digging a 3 foot hole to put a strainer post in.
"How ya going Yorky?", he said to me with a big smile.
"I've got nothing left in mi guts to puke up. I'm still dry but I feel a bit better now."
"Good on ya mate. That's what I've been waiting to hear. Ya learned a big lesson today Yorky. I tried to tell ya but ya wouldn't listen mate so I figured yam us have wanted to learn it the hard way so who am I to git in ya way. Another few days mate and you'll hardly drink water in the hot sun again."
A normal man could survive quite a while in the Bush without food but without water he'd be dead before he knew it. The Aborigines can go much longer without water than a white man can.
Just then, Him stopped talking and cocked his head to one side. "Shhhh!", he said as he listened. After a few seconds of silence, he said "Come on Yorky, let's go!"
He stuck the crowbar and shovel in the large strainer hole and headed towards the scrub at a fast pace.
"What's the matter?", I said as I ran to keep up with him.
"I just heard the call of a 'Wee Juggler". It must be nesting around here somewhere. Stay behind me and don't make too much noise."
We wandered around the Mali country for about 10 minutes when all of a sudden Jim stopped.
"There it is!", he said as he pointed to a large Gum. "Ya see it Yorky?"
"Oh yeh!" I said as I saw the beautiful white and pink 'Wee Juggler' sat on a partly dead tree limb.
"She's nesting in that hole in the trunk right below where she's sitting."
"That's pretty high up Jim."
"Yeah mate. That's why you're climbing up there and not me."
"Yeah mate. Come on. Up ya go Yorky. I'll give ya a leg up to the first branch."
Jim linked his fingers together and leaned his back against the Gum tree and I put mi right foot boot in his hands.
"Hold it Yorky, you'll do better if ya take ya boots off. You'll git a better grip with ya bare feet."
"Ya joking mate? This bloody tree's crawling with ants. They'll bite mi feet as I'm going up it!"
"Na mate. Don't worry about the ants. They won't eat much."
Once I reached he first limb it was reasonably easy going until I got to where the parrot had chosen to nest. There were no branches under the hole in the trunk so I had to 'bear-hug' my way up to the hole. I was about 60 feet high now and each time I looked down, Jims' bush hat seemed to be shrinking.
The view from up in the Gum tree was really pretty. I could see way over the tops of the smaller trees. It was totally silent up there except for the rustling of a few leaves. Off in the distance, out across the flat, plowed paddock, a small 'whirly-wind' was having a lot of fun whizzing across the ground, picking up leaves, dried bush grass and dust as it whirled across to the fence line.
The Mother 'Wee Juggler' had squawked quite loud and flown off into a nearby tree as she saw me coming up the main trunk. I felt like a big Goanna as I clawed mi way up the last little bit. The parrot had chewed away large splinters of wood from around the natural hollow in the trunk so as to make it big enough for her to get in and out easier.
Jim stood below looking up at me now and shouting, "Stick ya hand in the hole Yorky and be careful not to break the eggs, if there's any in there."
Very carefully I got a good grip around the trunk with my left arm and both legs and then stuck my hand downwards towards the nest. The inside of the trunk was cool and the sides were quite rough as mi hand very carefully slid downwards.
"There's 2 eggs inside!", I yelled down to Jim.
"Alright mate. Leave 'em alone and come back down."
It always seems harder to climb back down out of a high tree but pretty soon, after being very careful, I was back on the ground again.
"Those little ants bite, Jim!"
"You'll git used to 'em Yorky. Were the eggs warm?"
"Yeh, they were real warm."
"Good man.", he said. "Let's git out of here now before we disturb her too much. She's sitting in that Box tree over there. See her?"
The 'Wee Juggler" was sat high up on a limb looking towards the hole in the Gum tree.
Jim and I headed back towards where the truck was and we chatted quite excitedly as we walked through the Bush.
"How will ya know when to come back for the young ones?", I asked.
"I know how long it takes for 'em to hatch and when they're ready we'll only take one of them 'cause that's my policy. If we take both it would upset their breeding program too much and pretty soon they'd be well down in numbers and we don't want that to happen.
Let's go a do a bit more work Yorky. It's cooled down a lot now. Ya feeling any better mate?"
"Yeh, I forgot all about water as I was climbing the tree."
" That's it mate. All ya have to do is concentrate on work, the same as climbing the tree and before ya know it mate, one little sip of water will last ya for an hour or two. Besides that, it'll be good discipline for ya mate!"
The rest of the afternoon we finished digging the big round strainer post-holes so we could then start on the next part of the fence construction. We lifted one of the big wooden strainer posts into the hole that we'd just dug. Then Jim said, "You fill this hole in while I mark out where to drop off the steel pegs, Yorky."
I pick up the shovel and started to chuck the soil and rocks down around the strainer post hole.
"Not like that mate. This post is what will hold our fence so it has to be as tight as possible in the hole. This is how ya do it mate. Ya only throw a small amount of dirt around the post, then ya turn the crowbar around so the round knob is at this end. Then ya pound the dirt with it till it's packed as hard and tight as you can get it. Then ya throw in some more dirt and rocks, but only a small amount. Then ya ram it tight again. Ya keep doing that till the dirt is packed tight around the hole, 'cause when I strain the wires up tight, the strainer post will start to lean over if it's not rammed well enough."
"Alright Jim, got it."
Jim grabbed the axe and a long piece of braided wire which was 18 feet long. Every one length of wire he'd mark the ground with the back of the axe.
After I finished my job, I walked down the line to meet Jim.
"Ya finished Yorky?"
"Yeh mate, it's as tight as a fishes arse and that's watertight!"
"If it's as tight as old Burt Booths' arse it'll never move, and we'll get a real good tight fence out of it."
We both had a good old laugh out of our little jokes and Jim lit up another Monopol while I rolled up a Drum.
The hot sun was now disappearing behind the Mali trees in the Western Sky line so Jim said, "Tell ya what Yorky, we'll go back to the truck and drop off the steel pegs on our way home and that will do us for today. It's been a bit of a rough day for ya today mate and I don't want to burn ya out ya first week or I'll be stuck on mi own again mate.
What d'ya think about that?"
"Sounds great to me Jimmy, mi hands are as sore as hell. I've got blisters on blisters. Just look at 'em!"
"Oh that's good.", he said with a smile.
"What d'ya mean, 'that's good?'"
"Well mate, stop ya floggin' ya maggot. Won't it?"
"Fuck you Jim! Come on, let's go home. I'm a bit hungry now. I could eat a cool green salad and some cold mutton with a lot of salt on it."
"Good idea Yorky. I'm so hungry, I could eat the arse out of a mangy fox!"
We roared with laughter as we walked off down the fence-line together to get to the Old Bedford.