Chapter Two

You'd have thought I had sworn at him by the way he reacted.

The next day was a cracker. There had been a hard frost, and the landscape looked like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie.

It was a busy morning and by the time I got to Lou’s farm I was running a bit late. His property was at the end of a long gravel road that snaked up through some regenerating bush. I thought the road was a bit rough, but compared to Lou’s driveway it was a highway. On top of a hill was the farmhouse. It was surrounded by gorse and at large monkey puzzle tree towered up at the front of the house. As I crested the hill, it quickly became obvious it was no longer lived in. All the windows were boarded up and there was enough grass growing in the guttering to feed a mob of sheep .

I spun around and followed the tanker track to the cowshed. I wandered up to the shed to the accompaniment of Hotel California echoing away on the shed radio.

“Hello, anyone home?”

No one replied, remembering that Lou was a bit deaf I made my way into the shed just in case he hadn’t heard me. I’ve seen a few cowsheds in my time, and this one was the roughest. The paint was peeling off the walls, and the concrete floor looked like a lunar landscape. It amazing the damage years of cow pooh can do to concrete.

By the door was an ancient old blackboard. It had a list of things that needed doing around the farm. Some were ticked; others were still waiting to be completed. On the bottom of the board were two columns each of which contained tally marks. One counted 9 and the other tallied 10. There was a question mark by the column with 9 in it.

I was being nosey, so paid the board no more attention and headed off to the bush to set my traps. The farm was a train wreck. Gates were pushed off their hinges and buried in the mud, wire on the fences was broken and lay in tangles, the race was a sea of frozen mud and the paddocks were badly pugged . Amazingly, the few stock I saw looked quite healthy.

By the time I made it through the mess to the back of the farm and got my line out It was well past 11:00.

As I chugged my way back down the race, I spotted a tall, lanky figure walking towards me. He wore the tattered remains of a yellow raincoat over what had once been green corduroy pants. On his left foot was a white gumboot and on his right a black.

It had to be Lou. It was one of those rare occasions when a person you had never seen before matched their voice.

I stopped the quad and turned off the motor.

He squinted at me, sticking a dirty finger into a very hairy ear.

“Are you from the council?” he boomed.

“No, I’m Bryan, the ”

“Who?”

It was groundhog day all over again.

“Bryan, I rang last night.”

“No, you didn't.”

“But I did, don’t you remember, you thought I was the Bryan that borrowed your trailer.”

“What trailer?”

“Your trailer.”

Shaking his head he looked at me as if I wasn’t all there; I was beginning to wonder myself.

“You didn’t speak to me”

Stalemate.

We stood silently looking at each other. He was a lot taller than me and I could see a huge intertwined mat of hair where his nostrils should have been, it was impressive.

He broke the silence. “You can’t of, I don’t own a phone”

And then it dawned on me.

“Is your name Lou?”

You'd have thought I had sworn at him by the way he reacted.

“No” he bellowed, “certainly not.”

This was not going well.

“Um,” I stammered,”Who are you?”

“Len.”

I tried to smooth things over by telling him that I had spoken to Lou and had his permission.

He scratched his balding head, thinking.

“Well,” he said after a few seconds, “You ring him and tell him to put it on the blackboard.”

“Sure thing” I replied, not knowing quite how Len fitted into the scheme of things, but not wanting to complicate things any more than they already were.”

“Righto,” he said.

He wandered off down the race, looking like a huge stork .

I wasn’t looking forward to ringing Lou that night.

But I was curious.

 

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