The Mob

(part one)

Can't remember if I've posted this.
Probably have.
It's quite dated now.

The Mob

Beautiful Creatures

Here is a field under a blazing sun.
Once this was good country with fertile soil. Regular rains made the pastures green and the sheep grow fat and healthy, but not anymore.
Ten years of drought have turned the land into what you see today; dry clumps of dirt dotted with yellow-brown stumps of dead grass, a dam empty but for a few millimeters of mud, and a few hundred head of sheep just barely hanging on. Hanging on only because of water and feed that has been purchased and carted to the property, then hand fed to the stock.
The Mears family has been through a lot, although the boy has never known anything else.
But everything is about to change.
Do you hear the rolling thunder?
Do you see the dark, tumbling clouds fall towards the homestead, and look, see how everything becomes vibrant, alive with colour.
Do you feel the stillness, the electricity, the expectation in the air?

The first fat drops hammer the dusty roof, sounding like gravel thrown on the corrugated iron. The Mears family waits. Ian stands on the front verandah, tapping his pipe out on the post and reloading it with tobacco, muttering ‘C’mon, ya ■■■■■■■.’
Their blue heeler Clarrie sits at attention by his side, feeling the tension both from the weather and from his owners. Clarrie rarely barks when he’s not supposed to, but he does now, short, full and deep.
‘Shut up, ya mongrel.’
Shirley stands in the kitchen, a dishcloth in her hands for no other reason than something to hold on to, watching him through the screen door, the muscles in her neck and shoulders bunched and tight.
Chooka sits in the study on the internet, anxious to check the bureau of meteorology website radar, but not yet. Not until his Dad gives the okay.
They’ve seen this before, only for the clouds to pass over, soaking farms to the north, the south, the east and west, leaving them with nothing but the sound of a handful of stones.
The clouds are almost motionless, but Ian concentrates and detects them drifting slowly towards them. That’s good, but there’s no tell-tale curtain of rain on the horizon. He knows if it’s going to come, the clouds have to burst right on top of them.
Another raft of drops scatter across the tin roof. Stuttering, holding out longer this time, before the oppressive silence returns.
The clouds are getting lighter in the east, Ian tells himself it’s just a little, but doesn’t believe his own verdict. ‘No, no, no.’
Minutes pass.
If Shirley were on the verandah, she’d say the clouds were so low she could almost touch them, but Ian doesn’t say things like that. And neither does their son.
Ian lights his pipe, takes a long draw and lets it go, lets it all go, then looks up to the sky.
‘You spiteful, malicious, deceitful little ■■■■■-■■■■■.’
A thundercrack shakes the house and makes the lights flicker. The skies open, emptying itself onto the house, the field, the dam, the sheep, the farm.
The rains are here.

It rains all night and most of the next day. By late afternoon the sky is spent, and Mr. and Mrs. Mears sit out on the verandah, her hand in his on the cast iron latticed table, sipping tea.
‘It was a close thing, Shirley.’
‘Don’t talk nonsense, Ian. We’d have pulled through.’
‘Not this time. The bank won’t lend us another cent. We couldn’t afford the water or the feed. If we didn’t get that rain…’
‘But we did. A little more would be nice, a bit later on.’
Ian didn’t comment. The skies would do what they would do, there was no use hoping. What they had would keep them going for now.
He looked out to the east.
‘The Coopers didn’t get a drop. Not one drop.’
‘God bless ‘em.’
‘They won’t see the year out. If we do okay this season, we should make them an offer. No-one else will.’
‘I don’t know darl’, it seems a bit… vampirish.’
‘You’d rather the bank sell them up? If it had been us instead of them, and I’m telling you Shirl, it could have been, I’d take a cheque from the Coopers in a second. We won’t be able to give them what it’s worth, but it’ll be something. They’ll probably be glad to get off the farm anyway.’
Shirley looked at him as if he’d slapped her.
‘You don’t mean that. That family’s been out here as long as ours have. Longer.’
She was right. He knew it would be heart-breaking for them. All that time on the land, and the last ten years hard work for nothing, nothing but debt.
‘They’ll still take the offer.’
They sit in silence, watching the sun paint the land in reds and oranges. Something catches Shirley’s eye, and she points out to the west. Two silhouettes against a red background, a couple of kangaroos, crouching over to feed.
‘Lucky bastards. They must have found the last bit of vegetation for twenty miles.’
The animals stand up, the striking image touching something inside both of them, perhaps it’s knowing that of all the people in the world, right now, they are the only ones seeing anything like this.
The kangaroos, still shadows but unmistakable even so, bound off toward the horizon.
Mrs. Mears smiles and finishes her tea.
‘Beautiful creatures.’

The early season went well for the Mears. The following rains were light, but after the initial good soak, enough to keep them going. For those who missed out the first time, which was almost everyone, what fell later was ‘■■■■■■ useless’.
The family drove the forty minutes to town. They had errands to run. Shirley needed to restock on groceries and gossip, while Chooka had to register for the next term at the Catholic school. After years of home-schooling, his mother put her foot down, insisting he start his proper education before he turned ten.
Ian had a small issue he wanted to discuss with his local member.



The .2 deduction is for the missed opportunity to include “petrichor”

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I know nothing about farming.
It’s a little embarrassing reading it now.

Edit: Also, pretty sure I have posted it before.

It’s always embarrassing putting your creations out there, but it’s part of the process.

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Expectation in the air is 10x better than feeling the expectoration in the air.

Tom Hunter was a politician of thirty years standing and a good man. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and perhaps this is why he remained a good man, but fiercely principled and determined. Recognised in parliament as ‘the voice of the bush’, insofar as the bush consisted of Christian farmers. Colleagues and opponents alike treated him with the sort of vague good nature that politically came very close to contempt. Few, however, dared stand against him when he spoke for ‘the little bloke’ or the ‘average Australian’.
How the average Australian had unarguably become a man on a farm rather than, say…a working mother in the suburbs, was something that infuriated and bewildered his fellow members in equal measure. Nevertheless, every politician must pick his battles.

‘Gee, I don’t know Ian. That law’s been off the books since the nineties. How big is the mob?’
‘Only about a hundred at the moment, but getting bigger every day. God knows where they’re coming from. If we don’t start thinning the numbers soon it’ll be a ■■■■■■ mess.’
Tom scribbled some thoughts on a notepad as he spoke.
‘Generally speaking they don’t compete for the same feed anyway, unless there’s nothing else, or the mob grows so large that no patch of land can provide for them.’
Ian didn’t like the sound of that. He’d really only come in on humanitarian grounds.
‘I just don’t want the poor buggers to starve.’
‘Oh, no danger there, at least not initially. Kangaroos are faster and smarter than sheep. They eat fresh shoots, just out of the ground for preference. Your stock will starve before they do.’
Things suddenly came sharply into focus. A moment ago he’d just dropped by to save a few animals a little suffering, but the more Tom spoke, the more Ian realised he was kidding himself. It was always about the farm. Now Tom was spelling out all the possibilities he’d never allowed himself to consider.
‘They’ll be coming from the west. They had a few good seasons in a row. Plenty of time to get the population booming. Dry as a bone now.’
‘How many?’
Tom looked up from his notes. ‘A lot.’
‘Maybe they’ll pass through? There’s enough feed here for my sheep, but that’s about all.’
‘No, Ian. They won’t do that, and I’ll tell you why. Come up here.’
The Minister picked up a pointer and walked Ian to a map of the electorate on the wall.
‘Here’s your property. You’ve got the Coopers to the east, whose crop appears to be dirt this year. To your west is crown land, which they’ve eaten out. There’s a pine forest to the north, which has all the undergrowth and biodiversity of a firebreak, and to the south there’s a few square miles of land that would smash a tiller in minutes, followed by a quarry, followed by a salt lake.’
‘You know, that lake wasn’t always so salty.’
Tom raised his eyebrows. ‘Not very diplomatic, mate.’ He shook it off. ‘As I was saying, there’s nowhere else for them to go.’
They returned to the desk.
‘How big’s your property?’
‘Eight thousand hectares. So what am I looking at here? How big could the mob get?’
Tom Hunter leaned back in his chair, the tips of his fingers touching, his hands cradled over his stomach.
‘A similar thing happened in Queensland, back in ’83. You remember that one, we all thought that was a drought.’ He shook his head. ‘Anyway, it was a thirty thousand hectare property.’
Ian leaned forward. ‘How many, Tom?’
‘Twenty-five thousand.’

Chooka, Charles for the moment, didn’t talk during the interview. He wasn’t uncomfortable with strangers, it was the small room, the desk and the smiling rhetorical questions that made him nervous.
‘There’s no need to worry. Charles will fit right in, won’t you Charles?’
Fit right into what? His chair?
The principal frowned and lowered her voice, although obviously not enough so Chooka couldn’t hear. He was sitting right next to her. What was she, mental?
‘We’ll start him in fourth grade for a few weeks and see how he goes.’
‘Alright then,’ she continued in her talking to the whole room again voice, ‘I think we’re all done. Listen, I don’t suppose you could do me a favour? I promised to get out to my sisters today, but Father Matthew’s taken the car. She’s about ten kilometers out Clayton Road.’
After Chooka’s performance, She could hardly say no. Shirley wouldn’t have blamed the silly old nun if she suggested the special school.
‘Of course, Sister Margaret.’

Ian paced the Minister’s office.
‘I could have six thousand kangaroos on my property?’
‘Maybe more. Maybe less of course, but I wouldn’t count on it. What have you got invested in this year?’
Ian stopped, the colour drained from his face. He grabbed the back of his chair, not pleading, he was too proud for that. Instead he spoke with a gruff sort of directionless anger. Tom had long ago interpreted this as the same thing.
‘Everything. This is the last roll of the dice, Tom. I can’t just break even, I can’t just pay for next years feed, this has to be the one. It’s not like I’ve been reckless, it’s been ten years, Tom. Ten ■■■■■■ years of drought! You have to let me cull them.’
‘I understand your position, Ian, but you’re asking me to go to parliament and suggest you be allowed to blow the heads off thousands of kangaroos. City blokes get very squeamish about that sort of thing. There’ll be protests. All the usual ratbags will come out of the woodwork to give me a kicking. Not just me, mate, but the whole ■■■■■■ bush. Once again we’ll be stereotyped as backward rednecks who want nothing more than to wipe out our national emblem for a bit of a laugh.’
‘I don’t want to wipe them out!’
Tom put his hands up, trying to calm him down.
‘I know mate, I know. Believe me, you couldn’t. Not even if you spent the rest of your life on the back of a ute with a spotlight in one hand and a shotty in the other. The kangaroo is the most populous untamed large mammal on the planet, but try telling the bleeding hearts. There are websites actually dedicated to saving the kangaroo! Trust me, they’ve been saved.’
‘Then why won’t you support me?’
‘Now hang on, I didn’t say I won’t support you. I’m just saying it won’t be easy. This isn’t about how things are, it’s about how things look. And few things look more shithouse than thousands of kangaroo carcasses.’


Good start, Wim. I don’t recall these from previously.

One thing that jumps out at me a bit. Part one is written in a different style or different ‘tense’ or aspect to how part two is written. Which is fine, if that was intentional and you’re happy with it.

I once wrote a motorcycle tour article where i changed tense midway through and didnt even realise until much later.

I think it’s great that you’ve put this out there for reading.

I appreciate that, sal.
Thank you.
It has to be ten years old, at least.

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