It was early 1950’s and my Father Eric had decided to sell his Macintosh Creek property and move back to outskirts of Gympie city where he could more conveniently store trucks and tree harvesting equipment as he concentrated energy on his newly acquired timber hauling business.
The other farm, a pineapple plantation at the rural community Kin Kin was leased to an English migrant family and I breathed a sigh of relief as they moved in. No more long commutes to plough fields and help with other sundry farm chores of which there always seemed to be a never ending list.
It was a relief to avoid making the daily bike trip over rural washboard roads to high school in the early mornings and back home of an evening too. It had heightened daily stress levels to try and time a homeward journey so kids from the hillbilly family on the way wouldn’t be out on the road waiting for us. They delighted in poking sticks in the spokes of our wheels to put them out of action so we’d be vulnerable to being pushed around. Now we were back in town that stress point had been removed.
The only non-mechanical possession to exit farming life with us was Tiny the cow. I think you’ll enjoy my blog poem in which Tiny is immortalized. It was my shared job to see she was tethered in vacant meadow lands across the highway each day, to be returned to an enclosed paddock in the evening. Tiny made this chore a very unpleasant one until we had an understanding as to who was really in charge. For that story you’ll have to see the poem.
It was one of my shared chores to empty Tiny of that white milky stuff that graces a breakfast table and adds to the enjoyment of breakfast cereal. This was done in the mornings and evenings. After our time on the farms at Mooloo and Macintosh Creek I was practiced at this exercise and had even acquired skills at aiming milk jets at my brother when Father Eric was not watching, much to my brother’s ire. Being an extremely intelligent and patient brother he’d bide his time until my guard was down and return the favour.
It was one of those warm summer mornings and a Sunday as well. So I was quite relaxed without the need to hurry through the milking session and head at break neck speed for school. I’m not a shoe person, so emerged bare foot and tugging a ruminating Tiny at the end of her rope with a bucket in my left hand heading for our favourite milking grass patch on that pleasant Sunday morning.
Tiny seemed to enjoy all the fiddling of the milking process and would munch contentedly on her cud, occasionally looking round with a guttural noise and swishing me across the face with her wet tail to encourage me to continue fiddling. It was a set routine which both of us understood and accepted. The rhythmic squirting of milk against the tin bucket’s side beat out a tune as I dreamed of my future when school was a thing of the past.
Peripheral vision is a marvellous thing and it works in tandem with the sub-conscious mind. My peripheral vision had noted the rapid approach of a long brown object and sent a telegram to the brain which said, “Pump adrenalin now!”
But the snake was faster than the effects of the adrenalin and was gracefully sliding over my bare feet by the time the ‘fight or flight’ signal was given and, with a mighty leap I was six feet in the air levitating with legs running ready for flight when my feet hit earth again.
My sudden exit from the stool had alarmed Tiny and she leaped into the air coming to earth with one back leg firmly planted in the bucket. The tether was dislodged and Tiny took off with the fear of the unknown accelerating her speed, the clanking bucket on her leg added to Tiny’s terror as she sped around the yard attempting to dislodge it with high kicks while tether rope trailed behind. Occasionally the rope caught hold of something momentarily and impeded the frightened cow’s progress. Milk rained down on the grateful parched ground during this performance.
From my vantage point high now up on the house stairway I could see the snake gyrating with wild rapid swings of the body as it sped down the hill and headed for relative safety of the highway and the meadow beyond. It was not to be seen again.
After my shaking had subsided the whole scene went into mental replay as I considered corrective action to be taken next time something like that happened. A brown snake is a nasty beast and while they don’t go looking for trouble they’re quick to react with a poison prick if disturbed.
My reaction had obviously had it air borne before it could find something to lean against for a defence attack. If I’d stayed still under the circumstances it would probably have continued on its merry way with goodwill to all. Who knows what was best for that time?
However two things certainly imprinted themselves firmly in mind. Firstly it’s wise to wear shoes and leg guards while travelling in territory snakes feel is common ground. Secondly it’s wise to have your brain actively engaged in things going on around you so adrenalin pumps in a timely manner and legs mobilize instantly to action.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011, all rights reserved”