The Day of the Jackhole

The Day of the Jackhole

Celebrating 40 years on this earth

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1982. Be verwy quiet.

October 24, 2011

In the rolling heat of a late afternoon, my school uniform clingy and damp, I wander down the right side edge of the big oat paddock out the front of our house. It’s called the oat paddock because it once had oats in it, I guess, but it doesn’t now. Now it is fallow. I am with my brother, carrying an empty Milo tin with holes punched in the bottom, and some newspaper. Michael is swinging rabbit traps lazily as he walks, two in each hand. We stop near a warren.

I fill the tin with dirt as he clears rubbish out of the entry to the rabbit hole with the ball of his desert-booted foot and hammers in the steel peg attached to the trap with a rock. Crushing his foot down on the mechanism, he opens and sets it, then gets down on his knees to carefully place it. He hunches over and lays the newpaper on the trigger plate, then motions to me for the Milo tin.

I hand it to him and watch as he shakes the tin to sift a fine layer of dirt over the rig. Sometimes he lets me do it, but not today. We set another before deciding to cross to the other side of the paddock and off I go, leaving Michael finishing the illusion of safety for the rabbits. Over the spindly grass and contour banks I trudge. And then…

Ack! Ack! Ack!

I am being dive-bombed by spur-winged plovers and I bolt for the tree at the fence, squealing. I am terrified of those birds, and my hand-me-down JC sandals are picking up great wads of dirt under my toes as I run because they are just a smidge too big. I have no idea they’re called JC because that’s short for Jesus Christ and it’s a joke. I don’t make connections like that. Australians. What a sense of humor!

When I get to the fence, safe and waiting in the sheep camp under the small tree, I turn back and watch my brother run. He is a grey flash running towards me in his school uniform. Flat out and carrying two traps. I see a bird dive bomb and swoop at his head. It’s very close. He stops suddenly in the middle of the paddock.

Waits.

The plover arcs high, then comes back down towards him. I see Michael gather energy, his knees bend as he takes purchase of his momentum and hurls a rabbit trap skywards. Up up in the air. Right at the bird. He misses, and his to dodge and side-step his own earth-bound projectile.

He re-gathers, both the trap and himself, and waits. Cocks his arm in readiness. He is yelling at it. Making whooping ‘yaaaah!’ noises. He hurls the trap again, and once it lands, grabs it and runs towards me. Full pelt. Swearing as he hunches over in the expectation of being pecked in the head.

When he gets to me, he’s huffing. He looks back at the bird as it circles off then lands somewhere in the paddock.

“I’m gonna tell mum you swore,” I say. Always looking for leverage.

“Aw, shut up,” he says. There’s a pause.

“Let’s try down near the dam.”

We slope off.

Rabbits and kids. Circa 1976

 


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