The event in this column actually occurred, and has left me very wary when strolling through the scrub of late. The drought drags on; rain to the North, the South, and even to the West… yet the land round here is aching for moisture.
During the last couple of years I’ve been trampling through the bush at the back of our house in order to exercise the dogs, and keep them sane after being locked up in the backyard all day. The funny thing is, I’m the one who didn’t want the mutts, yet somehow it’s become my duty to walk them every day. How that happened I have no idea, but there you go.
So, while the dogs eagerly fossick in the long grass for any ripe smelling carcasses, I meander along behind them, sorting through the days’ mental clutter and pondering some of the big questions of life. But thanks to this long drought, a new terror has appeared in the bush. Far more alarming than the time I stumbled across some people dumping a fridge and a roll of carpet in a small gully. Even scarier than being mowed down by wild-eyed kids on motorbikes. And, much more frightening than the time we were chased home by two large and extremely angry dogs. It’s the trees. Big trees. They’ve started dropping branches harder and faster than a down-on-his-luck millionaire dumping excess family, friends, and mistresses. And some of the more stressed trees have become so panic stricken that they’re opting for an even more drastic way of ending their suffering.
A couple of weeks ago I was wandering along a well beaten track, grappling with the question, “What would happen if the entire state voted for independents at the next election?” when I was snapped out of my reverie by the sound of a cannon shot. If you’ve never been in close proximity to a large tree that has decided to commit suicide, then you have no idea how loud the noise is. I was in mid-step when the first big branch cracked off the trunk, and my left foot remained in mid-air but was soon joined by my right foot as I levitated on the spot. Both feet hit the ground, decided that my brain was taking too long to react, then took immediate action. Had they actually stopped for a moment to discuss which direction to run in, things might have gone a little better, because each foot took off in different directions. As a result, I galloped about in small, frantic circles while large lumps of timber rained down around me.
By the time I regained control of my flailing hooves, the bulk of the tree was on the ground, so I wrapped up the hysterical discussion I’d been having with God, then went and surveyed the damage. At that point, my faithful hounds returned from wherever it was they’d escaped to, while their Lord and Master fended for himself. A quick look at the tree’s remains revealed nothing out of the ordinary, but, I’d like to point out that my knowledge on the topic is fairly limited, i.e., kindergarten level; the brown bit goes at the bottom the green bit at the top.
As I stood gawping at the wreckage, a large branch from a neighbouring tree thudded to the ground alongside me, at which point I leapt into the air, resumed my earlier discussion with God and fled home, where I poured a beer with a shaking hand, and recounted my miraculous escape to Long Suffering Wife. “Well,” she said, “if the dogs come home without you then I’ll know exactly what has happened, and what to do.”
“And that is?” I replied, keen to hear her rescue plan.
“First I’ll call the Merry Widow Insurance Agency, then book a nice sea cruise to get over my grief,” she said brightly. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected to hear, but it did give me an idea, and as a result I’m seeing a bit more of the ocean myself these days. The dogs and I are now strolling across the treeless mudflats until we get some decent rain.