Cometh the Man

Sunday, and a sleep in. There’s a dull light behind the curtains and the beginnings of an avian ensemble outdoors before we stir. It’s very nearly winter solstice so the nights are long and cold, the days, snappy cold.

It’s that time of year for mid-winter swims. When ordinarily sensible folk voluntarily immerse themselves, togged-up and goose-bumpy, into frigid lakes and seas. A brisk and invigorating dip to celebrate the coming of spring and summer.

Me, I try to avoid inundations in anything colder than tepid, but almost inevitably I will end up getting a dousing sometime between June and July. There’s nothing brave or sensible about it, more a case of ‘shit happens’.

After our brief lie-in, it’s time for Hubby and me to venture into the wilderness with our canine besties, each going our separate ways with our separate packs of pig dogs.

I wish, very shortly after starting out I’d not worn the snug winter woollens or the oilskin vest. The steep climb results in free flow sweat on brow, back and bosom. The dogs wear winter coats too but they cannot sweat as I do. I am the lucky one, able to lower a zip or shuck off a layer.

Whilst route planning, I’ve taken into consideration a pig’s need of food and shelter and the warmth of winter sun and after a long walk up through mature pines, my wisdom may pay off, for the dogs seem to have found a promising lead.

Between tended tree trunks I see all three dogs track into a gully of wind-throw. The pig before them has eased through the maze of fallen trunks and branches with its wedge-shaped head and tough snout, its long bristly hair assisting its silent travel. The dogs are not silent. Their bulky tracking collars snag on branches and their travel is punctuated with claws scrabbling, panting and the breaking of branches.

A boar, snoozing deep within the maze, hears the approach of the enemy and has time aplenty to escape. Once clear of the gully of wind-throw, he knows every track and trail within his territory. He knows how to lose himself and lose those who pursue him too.

High up here, above the valley floor and amidst the mature pines and filthy gutters of barberry and native vines, I can only wait silently and shiver as my sweat-soaked clothing cools.

While I chill, the dogs sizzle – using every ounce of their energy and determination. They have the disadvantage of scent tracking, while their quarry runs without constraint. He has free will, but they have teamwork.

The boar runs a clever route, he is young and fit and strong. The age-old game trails contour across faces, through saddles and below rock outcrops. Sometimes dodging from one trail to the next, other times doubling back. These switchbacks cost him dearly for this morning is still and calm and the dogs hear him as he crashes through the vegetation.

Eventually, when the boar can hear a lone dog hard upon his heels, he leaves the hill and deviates for the sanctuary of the river. He and Pearl tumble down the steep embankment and into the torrent. Nugget and Chop have overshot the mark and are momentarily void.

It’s old Pearl on her own then. It’s down to her to prevent the boar from escaping up the opposite bluff. She manages to catch a hold of him as he clambers out of the torrent and slips on the algae-covered boulders. Here, her paws and claws are more effective than his hard-edged hooves. She hocks him, spins him about, then latches onto his hair-fringed ear, panting and gasping between clenched teeth.

The boar is heavier than Pearl, and he’s fighting for his life. He manages to fling her off and when she comes forward for another round he attacks her, holing her midriff with his sharp tusks. She hesitates, so he resumes his desperate flight but during the melee he was dragged downstream of his crossing track and now he is in peril.

Sure enough, Chop and Nugget tumble down into the riverbed and forge into the torrent, their quarry now in plain sight. With a scoff and a surge of panic the boar boosts straight up the cliff face. It is insanely steep and dangerous, and there is no escape from here, but nor can his pursuers reach or harm him.

Still in the forest, so high above, I hear, then see, three white dogs on the bluff across the river. Damn!

How am I going to get to them? It’s dangerous steep getting down into the river. It’s dangerous swift getting across the river. Even if I get all my ducks floating in a proverbial row, how the heck am I going to get the boar out of there?

Just like the boar and dogs before me, I get into the river by tumbling in. Then I get the boar shot and the dogs rewarded.

I float the boar back across the frigid and swift bluff-bounded river – a second involuntary mid-winter swim for him and for me. I reckon I can carry him up out of here too, not without great effort and exertion, but, once I have the shivering dogs back to the warmth and comfort of the dog box, I’ll come back and give it my best shot.

Of course, it would be easier if I had a hand, or better still, a strong man, but what are the chances?

As dogs and I plod back to the ute, I send subliminal messages to Hubby – ‘Come hither big strong fella.’

But, yeah nah, that’d be pushing my luck aye and I’m not a lucky kinda woman. Or am I?

Is that a vehicle I see in the far distance? Is it on my side of the river? Is it? It is! Cometh the moment, cometh my man.

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