After a while, crocodile

Don’t look twice it’s alright

Mint is now the canine equivalent of a teenager. Recently, a switch flicked from grovelling face-licking puppy to wanna-be hunting dog in that cute little head of hers. She has finally realised her nose holds the key to every door and following it takes her to all sorts of exciting places and on all sorts of exciting adventures.

Those big long-legged red animals; they may dwarf a young dog but if you chase them, they run. Oh boy do they run. And ol ‘long ears’, him with the flashy white tail he’s a bit of sport too and the animal she’s been fed for dinner sometimes he can be a feisty and furry foe. At dinner time the boss has prepped him so he’s devoid of insides, outsides and the sharp bits – but in his den, fired-up and facing forwards, those sharp bits sure do hurt!

With a youngster as sensitive and intelligent as Mint, I must tread a fine line to help her understand her role is to target only one of the numerous species of wildlife in our local environment. I don’t want to curb her enthusiasm, her work ethic or her independence. Luckily, I have able-bodied assistants and mentors on my team – four-legged teachers who double as Mint’s parent and grandparents.

So come the day Mint’s sire and grandsire hurtle up through the trees, their body language telling me ‘pig on’, I hope the youngster picks up on their excitement. It’s actually Pearl, Mint’s grandmother, who appears to gather the young dog by the canine hand – “come with me child” – and away they go, noses to the ground. Once out of sight, the tracker tells me the pair continue nose to tail all the way to what becomes Mint’s first proactive piggin’ experience.

It’s not a big pig, nor fat, but I exclaim aloud it’s the best pig this side of the black stump. After all the ‘no Mint’ animals in the recent past, this one in the company of her whanau is a ‘yes Mint’ – her bright brown eyes indicate she understands the significance of the day, her bob tail wiggles as if to second the motion.

The pig is perfect in another respect too. It is just the right size for a plan that’s been brewing inside my head for nearly a year now.

The Marlborough Bow Hunting Club leave their lifelike foam targets stored in my care. There are all sorts of creatures in the shed; a couple of tusky black boars, an entire family group of white-tail deer, rabbits, a turkey and a partridge in a pear tree. But wait, there’s more, there is even a large and very life-like crocodile. It’s him who plays a starring role in the plan in my head.

To enact the plan, I have needed the croc on his day off, me on my day off and a pig about 20 kilos – tomorrow then, we will all come together, same place, same time and we will make a scene.

I toss and turn all night and by wake up I am equally excited and anxious. What if the prank gets taken too seriously? What if the police are called out? What if it gets in the paper?

Then, under cover of predawn darkness, the large crocodile and the dead pig migrate in a westerly direction. As daybreak shines some light on the situation the croc lays on the edge of the Waihopai River, the pig in his mouth and a glint in his eye.

The pair lay just downstream of a singlelane bridge, where traffic is slowed to a crawl and alert drivers look upstream and down.

Autumnal hues and light showers of drizzle set the backdrop perfectly. The school bus will head up the valley any moment now and there’s a log truck calling on channel Old8 he’s passing the dam. I can hear a local’s vehicle approach as they head out to work – shit’s about to get real – I’m about to prank the valley residents big time!

I hide impatiently under the bridge laughing in anticipation of the reactions, which will surely follow.

I am cold and wet, but it will be worth it.

The local crosses the bridge but does not slow. The school bus trundles overhead, rattling planks as it goes. The log truck driver puts on a show of changing gears and air-braking before thundering across the bridge without a pause.

The golden light brightens. The pigeons under the bridge pack their satchels and head out for the day. The croc’s tail resists the silty waters, he rocks gently, creating eyecatching movement. More locals head out. More trucks come in. The school bus trundles back, children all aboard.

An hour passes. Despite the crocodile being directly in line-of-sight from the bridge railing no vehicle stops, no voice breaks the silence. An entourage of gravel trucks have begun their steady up-and-back route but not one driver hesitates, or brakes or toots. No one sees a thing.

Two hours. Chilled to the core, my back is now stiff and sore. Hawks and flies are circling the croc and his prey. Six log trucks, five gravel trucks, a dozen light vehicles and the school bus have all passed overhead, some of them several times over. Are they all wearing blinkers, or do they all need glasses?

Troll-like, I eventually stomp stiffly from under the bridge before heaving the crocodile over my shoulder and dropping him out at the edge of the road. All the excitement, anxiety and expectation – bah – after a while, crocodile, it’s just not fun any longer. Croc, pig and I migrate east – the plan, and the prank, an epic fail.

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