Thursday, November 10, 2011

Snake Tales

There are times when a chore has to be done that you weren’t planning on doing any time soon. Circumstances force your hand into action. My case in point is the wood pile that has been sitting just inside the back yard next to the duck pen for the past few weeks. It’s been drying there until we were ready to move it to a sheltered spot under cover. However, there are many tasks on the ‘to do’ list, and this task was not at the top of the list. Yet.

This little tale has two parts to it. So I’ll start at the beginning….

Living in the country has its own quirks and challenges. In the city we took for granted that every Monday morning, the council would send along a dump truck to collect our rubbish and recycling. Not so in our rural patch of paradise, West of Melbourne. We have to save our rubbish and take it to the refuse station ourselves. Now you have to be organised to do this as the station is not even open every day. The drop off days are every three or four weeks. You go the council and purchase a booklet of tickets. You need one ticket for every bin of regular rubbish you want to dispose of. A ticket costs $4. If you want to dispose of your recycling (glass bottles, plastic and paper) it’s free. Nice of them!  

Frans has done a rubbish ‘run’ once since we moved here. He took the main roads and it took him forever to get there and back. When he mentioned this to our neighbour Graham, he found out that there was a short cut. So I decided to go with him this time. He was going to go through the State Forest and needed my ‘expert’ navigation skills. Frans loaded the trailer with three big bins (one rubbish and two recycling). We were just about ready to hop into the car when out of the corner of his eye he spotted a snake on the wood pile. (I told you there were two parts to this story… here comes the second part). He bolted into action. (pun intended!) I was instructed to keep an eye on the woodpile while he rushed into the house to get his rifle. Yeah right. I stood at what I thought was a safe distance from the pile and kept a vigilant eye on it, hoping I wouldn’t see any movement! The hunter was back in a few minutes (he’d had to unlock the house and retrieve his weapon) and his adrenalin button switched on. He took aim and let off two shots in quick succession. Got the tail. He thinks. Great. Not the head which would give us a sense of safe relief, but the tail. He then hurriedly passed the rifle to me and told me to keep watching the pile and he manically started throwing cut wood blocks away from the heap. Wood was flying in all directions.
A very scattered wood pile before we started sorting it

He was hoping that he had injured the snake and that it would still be somewhere in the middle of the pile. Did I mention that it was a tiger snake? Oh.. well… yes. One of the most deadly snakes in Australia.  So I stood guard in my turquoise linen shirt, with a rifle held tightly in front of me, barrel pointing to the sky (safety has to be observed at all times even when you may need to aim at a snake in a flash..) How surreal my life had become at that point. Well, we never saw the snake, and the rubbish had to be driven through the forest before the refuse station closed. So we turned our backs on the snake and headed down the farm driveway.

We headed down to the refuse station through the forest and through some of the prettiest countryside in the district. The hills are lush and green after all the winter and spring rains. We drove around 15kms to the refuse point. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what we arrived at. Refuse stations in the city are large, sophisticated set ups with many areas designated for different items of disposal. There are usually a number of bulldozers shovelling piles of rubbish together and the stench is usually quite aromatic! There is also usually a queue of cars and a fair bit of noise. But we were no longer in the city. Silly me. We drove up to the local oval in the village of Gellibrand. The sign at the turnoff indicated “Refuse Station”. The station turned out to be a dump truck parked beside the footy oval. Next to the truck was a wire cage the size of our duck pen, in other words, not very big. And that was it. It was quiet and we were the only customers.  The rubbish contractor was a friendly enough fellow. He was dressed for the occasion of receiving trash. He wore a grey singlet (wife beater) over a pair of stained grey trackie dacks. To finish off his ensemble, he wore a good pair of steel capped work boots and a brown woollen beanie. He had no upper teeth, but then it was Sunday, so he was probably in a relaxed frame of mind. Frans and Mr Brown Beanie sorted the rubbish. It took a while. We had not separated our recycling, so this had to be done beside the truck.  Eventually the job was done and we bid the man farewell and we were on our way again.

So back to the snake…. The next morning, we started sorting out the wood that was now lying scattered across a larger area of the yard. We had no option but to stack the wood that had been home to a creepy crawly for who knows how long. It was a task we took to tentatively. Thick leather gloves, workboots and sunnies were donned . Frans made sure the rifle was ready for quick action.
Rifle at the ready....
We passed and stacked wood, working like an experienced chain gang.  All the while we were careful when disturbing another piece of wood on the pile. An hour or so later, we completed the task of creating a new wood stack. And no snake. Nada. Nothing. Zip. But, the upside is that the woodpile looks like an art installation and the ducks are safer for it. There is nothing prettier than a wood stack that you have stacked yourself!

Even the ducks approve of the new wood stack!

There are all sorts of dangers in the country....
This fellow made himself at home in Frans' car!

Then there are the dangers you create for yourself! Frans cut some of the branches that fell down onto the chook shed. We've called a contractor to come and remove some of the tree branches to make the area safer. But he still hasn't turned up. This is aparently a common theme in the country. Good tradies are hard to come by!

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