Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pandora by the river

Apart from the wildlife, welcome and not, I had a dog and a horse for a while when I lived on the banks of the Never Never. The land was in two section, the road and a couple of paddocks where the house was, then the river and a large 10 hectare back paddock which was really a flood plane surrounded by forest, very private and only accessible by crossing the river on foot or tractor.
My horse, Pandora, was an autistic horse, somewhere quite high up the spectrum I think, she'd been deprived of the company of man and beast as a foal and was beyond being socialised. I knew she was a bit strange but thought that if I could work on her in a kindly manner all would be well. One day I threw some big cabbage leaves into her paddock for her which she picked up to eat, the leaf started flapping in the wind in her mouth and there she was galloping round the paddock in terror of this live thing after her, clenching her teeth tighter and tighter over her tormentor, terrified of a cabbage leaf. I think I knew that she was really daft from that day on, but I wasn't giving up.
The strange, non connective relationship continued for some months until the time I was riding her in the back paddock, it was a hot January afternoon when she suddenly bucked and pig rooted many feet into the air, I remember seeing the sky go round two or three times before I landed. First thing I pulled my boot off to ease my broken leg, and then lay down, my hand hanging from the end of my wrist, Pandora galloped back over the river, reins and stirrups flying, where luckily there were some friends with a four wheel drive who came over the river to get me. Then it was ambulances, hospitals, sets, resets, months with an arm and leg in plaster, delirious from pain killers, the end of my life with horses.
I think now that Pandora must have seen a snake sunning itself in the grass on that hot afternoon and over reacted as she had with the cabbage leaf. She went off to become a brood mare with a local arab stallion, she was a well bred horse herself, but this was a failure too, she ran away through several fences to another stallion, a runty beast,  her bit of rough, and got pregnant with him to have a foal that nobody wanted.
I'd wanted my own horse since I'd been a kid, I painted and drew horses my whole childhood in lieu of actually owning one, maybe it's the idea of ownership that was my problem. I went to visit some polo ponies in the dark and cold this morning and they came snuffling up, frost on their whiskers, we spent a few amiable moments and then they galloped off to do what horses do.

The third river (cont)

I drank the water of the Never Never for three years, it was pumped up to the house through a very inefficient filter that would have stopped a dead rat but not mush else. One day when I was swimming and the wind was blowing a carpet of casuarina needles onto the surface of the water, I noticed one of the needles wriggling and swimming. That's how I discovered that there were liver fluke in the river and started boiling all the drinking water, there were cattle upstream so it was to be expected.
The Never Never rises up on the Range before plummeting rapidly down three thousand feet and on out to the sea, from my land you looked straight up to the source, into the blue sky and the ancient forest on the edge of the escarpment. The land on the edge of the Range is too steep to log and remnants of the old forest are still up there, sometimes I used to be able to see the left -behind red cedars flowering, gloriously alone up on the mountainside. They always grew a mile apart to combat disease. The escarpment is a place of big thunder and lightening, usually in the evening and often at the cocktail hour, wonderful to view from a safe deck with a drink in hand and the ground shaking, or when the substation blew up on the other side of the paddock, so much more exciting than television.
My studio had a service station door of clear corrugated plastic that swung open upwards and looked straight into the trees and down into the river. I could eyeball a tawny frogmouth owl during the day as he disguised himself as a tree branch, or in the summer holidays dismay passing canoeists by making unearthly, heart stopping noises.
When I lived there on my own a tiny bat kept me company at night, it lived behind the bedding that was folded away during the day and dive bombed me in the dark, I liked it much more than the rats.
I tried lots of things with the rats, I even borrowed a cat, a cat that I found out was scared of rats, at one point I bought some traps which looked large and substantial but weren't heavy enough to kill the beasts. The rats would flop about on the kitchen floor with their heads caught in the traps, strangled but not enough, and for several nights I was sitting naked on the floor, crying, with a hammer bashing them on their half dead heads. Then I put the whole bloody mess into the slow combustion stove to deal with in the morning. I don't know if you've ever tried to light a fire using a stack of dead rats and their traps as kindling, there are easier things to do. My whole life had imploded a few months before and being alone in a house out in the bush with a load of rats, alive and dead, seemed just pitiful. So much against my principals I went and bought some poison and it was bye bye ratty.