What’s your name?

It was the place that bowed strong men. The place where a planting spade was essential.

Without the spade providing a third point of contact you could lose your footing, tumble base over apex and cartwheel into the gulch.

It had been logged in the recent past and the topsoil had been swept away by hauled trees. The new ground cover of creeping blackberry vines had then been sprayed. Now the dry, thorny vines were nature’s snare, set to trap the weary planters as they contoured back and forward. One hundred thousand pine cones lay in wait like marbles on a tilting floor and sun-cured logging trash accumulated in the guts and gullies. Tree stumps, knee-high, queued in rows, marching to nowhere.

If you should be the unlucky one, the one who’s ‘base’ touched-down with a thump and a cuss, you’d pucker your anus and grab for one of those sedentary stumps as desperately as a drowning sailor.

If you missed the handhold you’d slide in a shower of dust, blackberry thorns tearing your skin, loose rocks battering and bruising both your sharp bits and your rounded bits. Worse, was the very real threat of inheriting a new anus, very close to the original model. Of all those pointy-ended, sun-cured sticks strewn across the face, more than one was aiming uphill at your downhill descending posterior.

A summer evening two years on and I’m back. There’s a rifle over my shoulder, a knife belt around my waist and a pair of binoculars in my hand.

A nor’west wind blows strong and cold as I stalk my way ever upwards. As the sun dips on its journey towards Australia, the light weakens and my senses heighten. It’s time. Time for game to emerge from cover. I’m ready.

Bum parked on the road edge, I scan the boundary of the block expecting a pig or a deer to slip from mature trees into the regrowth. The young trees are two metres high now, as are the woody weeds and rank grasses amongst them. Cleavers and blackberry climb the greyed slash piles. It’s still an unfriendly place.

After a prolonged wait, with the wind whipping the vegetation and me with equal ferocity, my subconscious notes a new sound. Somewhere below me is a ‘thing.’ It is a cautious thing, moving slow and quiet, perhaps feeding amidst the weeds and trash. It is isolated far from the big trees so I’m presuming it is one of two options. Either a couple of weaners without a sow’s guidance or a crafty boar hiding out where hunter and pig dog are unlikely to seek him.

Which is it? I wish I knew.

I stealth back and forward doing my best to ascertain its position. The strong wind distorts sound. Trees and weeds bend and shimmy every which way so spying movement is unlikely. The tiniest crackle, the pop of a breaking vine. Little hints to taunt my imagination. What are you? Where are you?

Time becomes irrelevant. Ears and eyes tuned. And mind, goddamit, playing The Zombies’ Time of the Season on auto-repeat. “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?”

At a guess the thing is 70 metres below me. Then 50, maybe. Or maybe not.

Then it is closer, I’m sure of it and then it’s so close I can hear it brushing through the rank grass. I can hear it scenting despite the wind. It knows I’m here and it is trying as hard to pinpoint me, as I am it.

The golden seed heads of the grass sway tellingly. A dried blue bugloss stem crackles. Finally I know where the thing is but I cannot see it. What is it, potbellied orphan weaner or eater?

I hear the thing suck in a draught of human-tainted air. I hear it blow out that air as only an alerted animal will do. I remain motionless, heart pounding, rifle ready. It takes another tentative step, then two more. Four metres away and still invisible.

I sense the thing is going to make a dash. It’s going to burst from beneath my feet and in two or three bounds be across the road and gone. My heart rate changes from fourth gear to overdrive, the scope is to my eye, my body braced.

Here it comes – black, adult, edible. Shoot quick, shoot well.

The boar is pumped with adrenaline too. He kicks violently and accurately, dislodging my hand as I attempt to stick and bleed him, this despite his creamy brain being splattered in globules all about. As one we slide back down the steep face, rolling rocks and crushing vegetation.

Stilled at last, his heart stopped and mine slowed. I don’t know his name, nor his daddy but, till this moment, he had been rich like me. Free to roam and rove and rich beyond monetary value.

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