Three Fat Females

As Charles Dickens wrote, “it was one of those March days when the sun shines hot, and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.”
In my case I was high in the ranges on the East Coast, the first of the autumn snows lay upon the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges and the sun had, just an hour ago, put on a glorious display as it climbed up out of the Pacific Ocean.
The westerly wind was strong and cold as it buffeted my ridge-line silhouette, but I knew better than to strike out with an overburden of clothing. Once the sun stepped out of her eye-catching horizontally striped, pink and orange skirt, she’d bare down with a golden smile so scorching she’d have me sweating in my boots.
Half an hour later, I was indeed sweating and cold at the same time. None of that mattered when another being joined me on the crest of the ridge. He slipped sideways from his route to accompany me for a minute or two. Long enough for me to say “gidday gorgeous” and shuck my daypack like an amateur stripper. With wings positioned just-so he maintained eye contact, stationary but in flight and just metres away.
“Please stay, please, please stay,” I mutter, dragging the camera from my pack.
The potential photo of a New Zealand falcon in-flight, sun-kissed and so close I could see the glint on his eye was mouth-watering. But, as I lifted my bulky camera aloft, my airborne friend tipped a tail feather, and, without further ado, continued his sideways slip before streaking off into the great beyond.
Later, much later, when I’d lugged the camera and my work gear for hours on end, when the sweat had risen from my boots all the way up to my scalp and saturated my clothing with salt and stink, I still had no reward from a photographic point of view.
As I begin to climb a steep and bluff-strewn spur out of Hell’s bowels I glimpse a lone goat below me. Only days earlier the aerial cull crew had flown, sourcing all life forms with their thermal and blitzing them from above. Poor goat had done well to survive but now she is obviously lonely and looking for a friend. Stock-still she watches my antics as I scramble ever upward. I look back at her often, a dull pooh-brown, she faces directly towards me, never moving, never calling. No photo opportunity here, just a boring old goat watching another boring old goat.
As I accrue metres, I ascertain a better viewing angle. Old Mrs Pooh-Brown sure is a narrow, leggy critter. One could almost be forgiven for thinking she resembled a chamois. One would be mistaken, there haven’t been chamois seen here before, and now, now there’s professional cullers ensuring one doesn’t see much of anything other than a sweaty woman working the hills and lugging a redundant camera.
On one of the many stops I make to assess the terrain (aka taking a rest) I look back at Mrs Pooh-Brown. Just then a down-draft catches her flaring nostrils, and she finally registers me as human. She promptly bounds from rock to rock, tail high – she doesn’t have distinct chamois markings, but she sure does move like a chamois!
At the last rock before diving into cover, leggy old Mrs Pooh-Brown pauses, side-on, and whistles – just like a chamois. Yup, the old girl ain’t no goat, and I ain’t never took a photo to prove it.
Days later I’m out early, hunting with dogs, rifle, and, of course, lugging the heavy camera. We work hard, looking to find a fresh ground trail or to catch a pork-scented waft of breeze. It appears the cupboard is bare, there is nothing here – just three fat females and Boston, who sorta reminds me of the Bear in the Woods joke, him being as big as a rabbit and with non-stick fur.
Eventually Pearl and Kola wend their way up onto a high terrace, working hard in the metre-high summer-dried grass. At their level it is an impenetrable jungle, dusty and devoid of air movement. They’re unfit but they press on, both experienced and determined.
Down below I wait silently while Boston samples a dehydrated sheep dung. He is too small, too lightweight, to make headway through the grass with the others. Above I hear a grunt, a bark. Pig on. We’re off.
The pig squeals and a little part of me feels disappointed. Something bigger may have resulted in a bail. A bail may have resulted in a good photo. The bloody camera, lugged so far and so often, is going to be redundant again. Still, the dogs have had an outing, and the pork will not go to waste. Watching Boston trying to forge his way through the vegetation has been hilarious, laughter is good for the soul.
Well, hello! The squealer is the smallest tusky boar I have ever seen. Clean-held he is no contest for the dogs, nor the knife-wielding human, but he is remarkable for his teeth. He is a tooth-paste advertisers’ dream.
Is the wee boar old, but stunted? Or is he young, but with tusky genes? He’s not even the length of my rifle, which is of the cut-down variety.
So, the camera does get a workout after all, with me behind it and the other fat females and Boston in front of it, posing, begrudgingly, with Little Boy Blue – surely the toothiest 50 pounder this side of the Motu!

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