Sing out

I had thought I was deer stalking, sneaking along with a rifle cradled in the crook of my arm and my every sense tuned to my immediate environment. It wasn’t until I did a U-turn and detected the faintest of breezes on my warm cheeks, I realised I’d been distributing my scent and spooking all before me. Bugger!

As the afternoon light dulled and rain clouds gathered a brown tree frog sang out – the plaintive trill of a lonely heart, “is anybody out there?”

Two other wee frogs began to chirrup in response, “we’re here, you are not alone.”

Then, as the first fat drops of rain spattered down, more solitary frogs tentatively answered the call.

Then it happened – from rotten logs, tree boles, rock outcrops and rank grass clumps dozens of frogs sang out and began to celebrate in the warm spring rain. Hundreds of trills and chirrups reached a crescendo and it was then I detected that familiar chant, “party at Toady Browns.”

The light was poor as I neared my ute but I could see well enough to note a couple of fallow yearlings had just partied-up-a-storm on my fresh-laid boot prints. What fun they’d had pronking and pawing and making a fool of me. So much for deer stalking – who’d stalked who?

As night fell a familiar form ghosted across the road ahead of me. A coloured boar. A safe boar too, as my rifle scope was ineffective in these conditions. Too dark. Too bad.

I came back, of course I did but it was days later. The weekend warriors had been and gone. My dogs were excited by the scent markings and spoor of their dogs – so much information, so much news – almost like me finding a new Fishing Paper & Hunting News in the mailbox!

Credit to the weekend warriors, they’d hunted almost everywhere. They’d driven and walked every road and track. I thought I might find virgin ground up an off-road side gully but no, there were prints and paw marks there too.

There was only one thing for it then – head towards a steep ridge slathered in blackberry vines and dotted with rock outcrops – a horrible place where no hunter or his pooch would voluntarily go. Here to puff and pant and sweat till the dogs stopped sniffing paw prints and started sniffing hoof prints.

Sure enough, a boar had had the same idea as me. As the weekend warriors had looped-the-loop all about him he’d laid in his rockstrewn bed with both ears cocked and one eye open. As their dogs had stretched out a weaner and then been smoked by a wise old sow, he’d fidgeted but kept his nerve. Now the weekend was over, the rev of engines quietened and the forest almost back to normal.

The boar was soundly sleeping as young Nugget tracked uphill. It heard his near-silent approach in time for a great squirt of adrenaline “`to charge its porcine battery. It was red lining the speedo within seconds. Nugget now had to make up extra ground, and if he was to stop this runaway pig, he’d have to do it physically and with great determination.

It was a drag race then, steep downhill, through the blackberry vines and over the rock outcrops. Nugget in hot pursuit, his mother Pearl some ways behind but tracking at full pace.

The young boar had done this many a time. He’d learnt a crafty trick or two – the double-back, the creeksplash, the sidestep.

Extremely fast and agile, Nugget was not to be outrun. If ever he was momentarily outwitted, if he faltered for one moment, Pearl would overtake him and set him back on course. Then once again he would forge ahead, recovering lost time and distance.

The boar knew he was running the marathon of his life, the tricks hadn’t worked so now it was the long game – keep running, don’t stop. Leave the ridge, leave the compartment, leave the block.

That’s when the mistake happened. On unfamiliar ground, pressured from behind and running on instinct instead of following a game plan, the boar encountered a fence. If it had been a standard seven-wire fence he’d have run right through. It was a netting fence. Tight and impenetrable.

From my vantage point up high, I heard Nugget bark. Nugget had never barked on a pig before. He’d never figured out dance and sing. It had always been dancing only – slowly, cheek to cheek, getting well acquainted with his partner. Sometimes he’d clasp his partner in loving embrace until he was exhausted and fell by the wayside. Sometimes he’d hang-in there until another dog arrived to help him. Today, finally, he was singing out.

The boar died, as boars often do. But the day was not about him, nor me, it was about a young dog, who’d learned it was okay to sing-out and ask for help. He didn’t have to hold on till he was exhausted and had to give up, he just had to let it be known that he needed a hand. Sing out and someone will come.

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