The Day of the Jackhole

The Day of the Jackhole

Celebrating 40 years on this earth

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1979. Nettle thieves.

October 28, 2011

We’re visiting our neighbor, Jimmy Tanner. He lives up the road. We have pulled up to his shearing shed so my Dad can go talk to him about something. Sheep related, probably. In the sheep yards, we have to scale a fence to get to Mr. Tanner, who has come out of his shed to see who’s driven up. My Dad steps over the wooden fence almost without pause, swinging one leg over, then the other. He is tall. I am small.

Michael scrambles over in his usual boy fashion to join Dad and Jimmy. My turn.

I look at the high stinging nettles at the foot of these fences, the sharp, splintered wood, and rough-cut wire sticking out. They threaten to cut me as I climb. I am suddenly very concerned about something.

I’m wearing a pretty little signet ring. It’s gold and shaped like a heart, and there’s a tiny speck of a ruby set in it. This ring was my mother’s when she was a girl. I adore it, though I doubt I ever expressed how much I liked it to Mum’s face. Probably just mumbled ‘thanks’ or something and stalked off so I could get under my bed and talk to it.

Looking at this nettled fence with dangerous wire sticking out, very conscious of the fact that I am missing a grown-up conversation and the chance to play with Mr. Tanner’s dog, I begin to fret.

What if I climb over and a piece of wire catches in the ring and rips it off my finger and it’s destroyed?

In a flash of Janeen-logic, I make a decision. It’s a decision that comes from the ‘don’t quite think it through’ quadrant of my tiny brain.

Slipping the ring off my finger, I tuck it safely away in the pocket of my green parka. A parka so old and beaten that it’s held together by hope alone. It’s so old and well-loved that when I put my hands in my pockets, I’m really just putting them into the lining of my coat. But I forget this fact and slip the ring in anyway.

There. Safe. Phew.

I climb the fence and skip a few feet over to them.

Reach into my parka to get the ring back out. My hand goes right through the hole in the bottom of the pocket in feels around in the white polyester lining of the coat. I’m not panicing. It’s probably just drifted around the bottom somewhere. Feel around. Feel around.

Prickle of horror in my forehead. A sting in the back of my throat. Eyebrows quiveringly close together. I get a little frantic then, feeling desperately around in this green ring-eater of a coat.

I need help.

“Dad,” I sook, before telling him what’s happened. That I’ve lost the ring. Mum’s ring. That it must’ve fallen out when I climbed the fence.

We start to look around for it, but the nettles are everywhere and it’s autumn I guess, because I’m wearing the parka, so the ground cover is actually quite lush. If my dad thinks this is a pointless and fruitless endeavor – ferreting around in nettles – he never says so. He gets a stick and pushes some of the stinging plants down to try see the ground beneath. I crouch down and peer into the void, hoping that at any second I catch a glint of it and this will all have been a horrible dream.


It’s gone. I am devastated. My stupid mouth is pulled down to a stupid, pathetic sad frown and my throat contains all the tight pull of a barely held down bloody good bawl. As we drive away I look back longingly at the sheep yards. I can’t believe this has happened.

And I will have to tell Mum how stupid I’ve been with her ring.


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