After a few minutes of shining the spot around, I picked up a pair of bunny eyes. I tapped lightly on the roof of the cab.
Jim stuck my new .22 out of the window. He took quick aim and squeezed off the trigger, 'BANG!', the bunny fell over in the light and never even kicked.
"Ya got him mate.", I said, quietly.
"Give me the spot, Yorky and go an pick him up."
When I picked up the rabbit, I saw that Jim had him him in the head. When I got back to the Ute, I said, "Good shot mate! Straight in the head."
"That's where I aimed for. This rifle of yours is a real piss cutter mate. She's accurate as hell."
"That's what I wanted to hear.", I said as I put the rabbit in the back of the Ute and then climbed in myself.
"Ya see that stick in the back, Yorky, the one with the bent end that looks like a hocky stick? Well, stick it in the corner so it's handy, 'cause if I miss a shot you run up along side the beam and whack him on the head with the stick! That's the way most people git a lot of rabbits. They fire a hollow-point right next to 'em so it makes them sit up. They're easier to whack in the head then."
At one point in Australia, rabbits were considered a plague. They destroyed a lot of crop and made burrows all around the place. The cocky was not too happy when one of the wheels of his plow or combine sunk into a large burrow and bust one of the axle. In the end, there was such a plague of rabbits that the Government sanctioned the use of a poison that was specially developed to rid the land of rabbits. The name of the poison was called Miximotosis. Were you ever to see the devastating effects of this poison you'd understand why head-shooting a rabbit was the most humane thing to do.
After about an hour of shooting we would stop and gut out the rabbits and then pair them up size-wise by their back legs and hang them across the steel posts which were sitting cross-way on the back of the Ute.
That particular evening we shot 400 pair of rabbits and in the morning when it started to warm up and the blowflies came out we covered the rabbits over with a large mosquito net and took of to the Chillers which was situated in a scrub paddock just outside of Lake Cargelligo. In those days, we got 2 to 3 Shillings a pair, so for 1964 that was a profitable evenings work.
Sometimes Jim liked to go trapping rabbits with steel-sprung leg traps. I was not as keen on this way of hunting because I didn't like to see the rabbits caught by their leg in the trap.
One morning, as we were walking around Jims' trap line, a fox had gotten himself caught by the back leg. When he saw us approaching him he was obviously scared, so he went back to trying to chew his leg off as he had been doing before we interrupted him.
"What the hell is he doing?", I asked Jim.
"He's chewing his back leg off so he can get out of the trap."
I couldn't stand to see this sight. I said to Jim, "I'm going to let him out of the trap!"
"Be careful!" warned Jim, as I walked up to the fox. When I was only about 3 feet away from him, he lunged at my outstretched hand and tried to bit it which made me recoil in fright.
"He won't let me get him out of the trap!"
"I could have told ya that mate, before ya tried. He'll take ya hand off if ya get too close to him."
"How are we going to get him out then?"
"If I were you mate, I'd hit him on the head with the rabbit stick 'cause you'll never git him out any other way."
I tried to get close to the fox again to get him out of the trap but as soon as I got close to him, he stopped chewing his leg and made another snarling lunge at me. This time I could see that Jim was right. My response to the situation was an incorrect response because it did not alleviate the foxs' suffering and pain. The only other option left open to me was to hit the old fox on the head. This action put him out of his pain.
I didn't feel too good with myself after killing the fox. After a while Jim said to me,
"What's the matter mate? You don't look real good."
"I felt the pain the fox was in and I also felt the pain of killing him too! It felt like I was the one who was caught in a trap!"
"Yeh mate, I know just how ya feel. I've been put in that position a few times miself. It's a hard one, especially on the heart. You'll git over it mate or you'll never survive in the Bush. No one promised ya an easy life or ya wouldn't be out in the Bush in the first place. Come on Yorky, let's git these traps cleared and reset again."
One morning, Jim said to me, "We're out of mutton Yorky. Ya feel like getting a room for us mate?"
"If ya like. Where's the best place to go where it's not too far away mate?"
"You'll probably find a few in the Bush, the other side of Burgooney Road, but mind ya look where ya going mate 'cause it can get pretty dense in there and I wouldn't want you to git bushed or you'd never find ya way out."
"No worries Jim. I'll just follow the fence line. That way I'm bound to find mi way out to the road again."
"That's the story mate! Make sure ya git a half-grown one. Don't shoot a big old buck 'cause they're as touch as old boots and mi teeth aren't in real good shape these days. Fill that small canteen up with some water before ya go. Ya never know, ya may need a drop if you're out there for a while."
After I'd filled the small, tin canteen up, I slung it over mi shoulder and grabbed mi rifle and a box of hollow-points and last of all, I grabbed mi new Akubra Squatters had that I'd bought from Chamens the last time were in town.
The dark brown Akubra had a wide brim which kept the hot sun off mi shoulders. I'd put the traditional Squatters crease in the top of it so it sat on mi head real comfortable.
"See ya later Jim!", I said as I walked out of the yard with the rifle in mi left hand, hanging down at mi side.
"See ya later Yorky. Good luck Mate!"
Once I got out to Burgooney Road, I took mi bearings from the position of the sun and made mi way off into the Bush.
The trees and bush weren't too thick for the first couple of hundred yards but after the landscape changed to thick bush which was now all around me. Every now and again the Bush would give way to a natural clearing which was dotted with large rock formations.
After about an hours walking in silence, I sat on a rock in a clearing for a bit of a spell. The Bush birds were hopping from bush to bush as they played and looked for small seeds to eat. A few feet way from me I saw the track of a wall-eye snake which disappeared under a large round rock. He was probably sleeping there, out of the hot sun.
The air was crystal-clear and not a cloud in the deep blue sky. There were no such things as airplanes and helicopters flying around the skies. Every now and then a Wedge-tail Eagle would call out to its' mate as it hovered and glided on the warm air currents.
Wedge-tails are very beautiful and graceful to watch as they circle the clear blue skies looking for young rabbits or mice to take back to their nests. They nest high up in the branches of dead trees. Their nests are quite large because a full-grown Wedge-tail could, quite easily, have a 6-foot wingspan. Usually one of them will hunt while the other feeds the young with whatever was caught for the day.
I walked for about another half-hour before I spotted a small mob of Roos laying and sitting under the shade of a big Eucalyptus tree. 'I had better keep downwind of them', I thought, 'so they don't pick up my scent or I'll never git close enough to get off a good clean shot at one of 'em'.
While most of the mob sleep in the shade, a couple of sentries are left to guard the camp. The sentries usually walk around looking for bits and pieces of things to eat and then they sit back upright, check out the landscapes and then put their heads down again.
Very quietly, I moved slowly from tree to tree until I was in decent range of them.
A .22 is not considered a big rifle, especially where Roos are concerned but a good hunter can always bring one down with a well-aimed shot. I decided to try and make it to the next large Box tree before attempting a shot. Very carefully, I moved ahead. Once I was leaning against the large Box tree, I took a slight breather because now my heart was pumping and banging away from the concentration of sneaking up on them. As soon as I felt steady enough, I very quietly turned around and leaned against the tree which made good support. There was already a bullet up the spout 'cause I'd pushed the bolt home when I first saw them. Very slowly, I eased off the safety catch so it didn't make a clicking sound. I raised the rifle to mi shoulder and leaned mi left shoulder more against the tree. Taking my last deep breath, I sat the bead of the front site smack in the middle of the back V shape and took careful aim at a half-grown Roo who had his head down in the bush grass, eating. I aimed the rifle about half an inch above his shoulder 'cause I was still a long distance away for a .22. The two sights of the rifle were now as steady as I could hold them. I carefully started to squeeze the trigger. 'Careful Yorky', the inner hunter said to me, 'don't pull it or it will pull the rifle off target.'
Squeeze, squeeze, BANG! The Roos were up and off as the sound of the rifle cracked the silence like a big stock whip. A flock of grey and pink Gallahs flew into the air, squawking out their warning signals. The mob of Roos were now thumping out a retreat paradiddle as they headed off deeper into the scrub. (All except for the half- grown one that was kicking its' last, under the tree.) It was almost dead when I reached the spot, so I put a bullet between it's ears for good measure.
The Roo was a young gray male. He was not too big or too small. The first bullet had gone straight through his chest, right under his armpit. It was a fast, clean kill which was the only type of kill that was acceptable to me.
I waited for a few minutes until the adrenaline had subsided from the run across the scrub from my hiding tree. As soon as the body had calmed down to its' natural, unexcited state, I re-loaded the rifle and pushed the safety catch firmly forwards into the on-position and then I leaned the rifle against the tree. Although the Roo was not full- grown, he was, by no means, light as I grabbed the butt of his thick, sinewy tail and slung him across my shoulders. As soon as the Roo was comfortably positioned, I grabbed mi rifle and started back the way I'd come.
Back-tracking was always the hardest because now I was a good few pounds heavier. Over the last 3 months I'd spent with Jim, I'd gotten a good Bush education so I was able to find my way back out to Burgooney Road, no problem at all. I stopped for a rest as it was now really hot. I took a small sip of water and rolled miself a Drum.
Although the body had acquired the habit of smoking, I did not smoke a lot. Not because I didn't want to, but it's always more difficult to smoke in an environment that has clean, pure air. Smoking in the city was much easier because of all the lead pollution and various other contaminations.
I was glad to see Burgooney dirt road because the Room was now getting fairly heavy and the sweat was streaming down from under the brim of mi squatters hat. When I got back to use the house yard, Jim was busily building a new Avery that looked like it was going to be 5 times the size of his old one.
"Yorky mate!", he said as I got close to him. "Ya got a real beaut there mate! He's the perfect size for eating. Fetch him over in the shade and we'll clean him up. The Missus will make us some Roo-tail soup. We'll git enough steaks off of him for a couple of weeks mate. We'll make a Bushman out of ya yet Yorky, ya Pommy Bastard!
It was about 3 weeks later when Jim said to me, one morning after we'd got home from spot-lighting, "Well Yorky, it's too hot to fence and there's not enough money in the rabbits now, so I've got no more work for ya mate. I'm gonna have to find a job for miself now."
"Oh shit", I said, with a sad feeling in my heart. "What are ya gonna do for work Jim?"
"Oh, I'll probably git a job driving a header for the wheat season. There's a couple of wheat Cockys' that I drove for last year have asked me to come back again. I'll either do that or I'll git a job driving a wheat truck to the Silos in Lake Cargelligo, mate."
"What am I gonna do? I don't really know anyone, only you and old Burt and I'm certainly not going backwards Jim."
Jim had a bit of a laugh at this and then said, "Don't worry mate, I've got a job lined up for ya already for 10 quid a week."
"Oh, this is a bludge, mate! You'll git to ride around on a header all day in the wheat paddocks."
"About every hour you'll jump off and grease a big automatic header for the driver while he's emptying the bin into one of the semi's. After that, you'll git back on and ride around for another hour. Ya can't git better than that, mate!"
"Who'll I be working for?"
"The Cockys' name is Dick Skipworth. He's got a big place out on the main Lake Cargelligo West Wyalong road. He's a pretty decent bloke and he's got a couple of sons. One's called Colin and the other ones called Kevin. They're real hard doers, mate. You'll like 'em."
"Isn't that where Peter Smith works?"
"Yeah mate. Peter's on Fred Harzeys' place just down the road aways so you'll probably get to see him. He usually drives the wheat semi for old Fred."
"When do I start?"
"I'll take you over to there place tomorrow morning mate. Give ya time to pack up ya gear and I'll pay ya up all the money I've been saving for ya Yorky. It's no good hanging around here mate. Ya not makin' any money sitting on your arse."
I was still feeling a bit apprehensive at leaving Jims' place because once again I was off into the unknown. That evening as I lay in the darkened bedroom, I was thinking of all the things I'd learned from Jim about the Bush when I heard the voice of silence whisper to me, 'Don't worry Yorky, everything will be all right for you. It's necessary for you to move. Don't forget, what pleases you holds you back.'
The next morning, Shirley made me some breakfast and gave me a couple of items of clothes that she'd very graciously washed out for me.
"Thanks for all the meals and washing you've done for me Shirley."
"That's alright Yorky, I'm glad to have been of some help to you. Don't forget to stop in if you're ever passing by. You're always welcome here Yorky."
I loaded my 2 cases, the trumpet and mi rifle into Jims' old blue Holden Ute and waved goodbye to his small kids as Jim and I drove out of the dirt yard, down the Bush track and out onto Burgooney Road.
We drove in silence that sunny morning.