Monday, January 3, 2011

Mutiny on the bounty (of wild pigs)

MAYBE I've told you a couple of times before how lucky I was to have relatives on sheep and cattle stations in central western Queensland where I could spend all my holidays riding horses, mustering, fencing and everything country people do, as well as shooting wild pigs to help pay for my trip.
We used to get two shillings and sixpence (25 cents) bounty when we took the pig's snout and tail into the local shire council because wild pigs were, and are, a big problem in the bush.
After you killed the pig you would cut the tip of its snout off, then the tail, and thread the tail through one of the snout's nostrils. Back at the station homestead, in this case Vandyke, outside Springsure, you would dip the snouts and tails in arsenic to preserve them, and deliver them to the shire council for the 2/6 bounty when next in town.
Righto! Back in 1956 when I was married, I took my wife, Jan, to Vandyke for a holiday. She was a very good rifle-range shooter but had never been pig shooting, so she was in for a bit of a shock when the blood started flowing out pig shooting. With us this first day was my little cousin, Shane, about 8 or 9 years old at the time.
By the way, its worth mentioning that at this time Jan (pictured) was a top model in Brisbane after winning The Sunday Mail Sun Girl title, and with it a Holden Special sedan in the mid '50s. I risk being belted up for writing that because she hates me mentioning it these days ... but they're the facts ma'm, so check 'em out if you like.
Anyway, back at Vandyke in her sparkling blue Holden Special, we had driven to a beautiful, wide-open black soil plain about six miles from the homestead, when we encountered a big mob of pigs - a huge boar, a couple of big sows and about a dozen little piglets. Naturally, I bowled the boar over and while I was cutting off its snout and tail, young Shane, who was too young to use a rifle, was running down one of the piglets and started stabbing into its chest with a rusty old pocket-knife.
Unfortunately Jan had followed Shane as he caught the piglet and was standing, shocked, just a couple of metres from the stabbing Shane and the screaming, squealing piglet.
I trotted over to the pair, carrying the boar snout and tail which were dripping blood, snot and mud - and a few blow-flies. When Jan saw me coming, she screamed: "For God's sake, kill the poor little thing. Put it out of its misery right now."
Here was my opportunity to be the hero I always am, so I said to Jan: "Here, hold this will ya?"
She reached out her right hand and I plonked the pig snout in it, walked over to Shane and the piglet, and cut the poor thing's throat.
Then I turned to see Jan's reaction.
She was horrified, looking pale and shocked at the still bleeding but now definitely dead piglet.
I glanced at her right hand. The snout and tail were still there, with blood, snot and mud dripping through her dainty fingers.
I couldn't help it - I just burst out laughing seeing a dirty, bloody scene like that in the hand of a leading Queensland model and beauty queen.
Suddenly she turned to see what I was laughing at, saw me staring at her right hand laughing insanely, looked down at the bloody snout and tail and screamed, much louder than before.
Then she hurled the bloody snout and tail at me, hitting me fair in the kisser, which made me laugh even louder. I don't think I've ever laughed so much or louder, even at Laurel and Hardy picture shows.
Wait until I tell my uncles and aunts, cousins and stockmen mates about it back at the homestead. I'll be a bigger hero than I am right now, I told myself.
After I picked up the boar's snout and tail and cut the piglet's snout and tail off, we climbed back into the Holden, me in the passenger seat, Shane in the back, the pair of us still wetting our pants laughing, and Jan behind the steering wheel with a cruel look such as I'd never seen before.
Well, that's the way it is when you pull a mean trick over someone. It's crook for them but really great for you.
A couple of hundred yards from that scene we came to the River Paddock gate. Jan pulled up the Holden, I got out and opened the gate, still wetting my pants laughing and waiting for her to drive through so I could close the gate.
And she drove through with what appeared to be a slight smirk on her dial, which I thought was strange because it was my big joke putting the snout and tail in her hand.
Then it all fell into place because she drove through the gate and kept right on driving, leaving me with a six mile walk back to Vandyke homestead in the middle of summer. For some strange reason my smile disappeared - and it got worse.
Because when I finally arrived at Vandyke late that afternoon, the whole population was waiting outside the homestead killing themselves laughing at poor, stupid Lawrie who thought he was smart but was left for dead by his beautiful wife. My little cousin Shane had spilled the beans and I was no longer the laughing hero but the dumb cluck.
It took them weeks to stop laughing and me to stop frowning. It's been like that for the past 54 years.

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