Good Fences

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 14th, 2011 by MadDog
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As you read this I am likely being hurled across the mighty Pacific at a frightful speed on my way to lovely Hawaii. I hope my hair doesn’t catch fire again. Eunie and I had our first big Hawaii adventure in Honolulu with our son, Hans. After our brief island holiday we flew more or less directly to Madang and arrived, tired and bewildered, thirty years ago yesterday, the 13th of April, 1981. That was a lifetime ago.

I certainly do love Hawaii for its multi-culturalness. Hmmm . . . I seem to have coined a new word. If it doesn’t exist, it should. Oahu has provided us much amusement over the three decades we have been stopping there to visit friends and supporters. Kaimuki Christian Church has backed our work in Madang in spirit and cold cash for all these years. I’m going there to show my gratitude and report on the sad events of 2010.

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with today’s subject. I was just leading you down the garden path.

It’s said that “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”. Well, that also has nothing to do with what I’m going to talk about, if I ever get around to it.

On Sunday, I went out to the great Oz bush (actually not far from Gympie) to pretend to work with a group of nice people from the Gympie Rotary Club. I must admit that the whole Rotary thing is a bit mysterious to me, but the folks have their fingers stuck into a lot of very helpful pies. I’ve been to a few meetings in Madang, but never had the energy to join. Really, I’m not much of a joiner. That’s a poor excuse, I know.

The amount of damage done by the floods in Queensland earlier this year is astounding. Thousands of people are still out of their homes and fifteen lives were lost. I believe that nine are still listed as missing. What we were dealing with here is more mundane, but nevertheless a personal tragedy for many farmers. I’m talking about this:

I reckon it’s impossible to say how many kilometers of fencing were destroyed in the floods. I’ve given little thought to fences in the past. If you’re a livestock farmer, I imagine that you care a lot about your fences. Livestock do not tend to stay at home willingly. They naturally prefer to roam and herd more or less randomly. They are like Hollywood actors in that respect. In the shot above you can see Val toiling in the foreground to remove the tangled mess of . . . stuff . . . which had been deposited on the fence by the flood water. In many places the fencing is knocked down completely and in other areas it has been washed away. We were warned not to breathe too much while clearing away the trash. “It’s flood debris.”, we were told, as if this explained it all. I tried not to breathe. I was not successful.

After clearing the mess, we were told which areas needed to be cleared completely so that new posts and barbed wire could be installed. While we were there this truck hauled away several loads of tangled wire. It was a very tricky job to collect the stuff and get it up on the bed of the truck. At first it seemed impossible to me:

After a while I got the hang of it. Barbed wire is scary. It bites!

We came across an entire irrigation system which had been washed down from upstream:

The pipes looked very heavy, but I soon discovered that they are made from very thin aluminium. I could carry an entire length on my shoulder. These too went on a truck to be hauled off somewhere. I have no idea where all this stuff was going.

When we took a break it was all so very rural Australian. I wished sincerely that I had a beautiful, sweaty Akubra hat to suit the mood. Then again, I’m not sure Yanks are allowed to wear them.

As if the barbed wire were not enough to contend with, there were plenty of noxious plants:

We were warned of poisonous snakes also. I think that Australians like to scare each other. I never saw any.

After clearing the old fencing, we had to deal with downed fence lines which had salvageable wire. This required learning a skill which I’d previously never even considered – rolling barbed wire by hand. It is very tricky indeed. I managed to do quite a few rolls, scratching myself in the process only once:

The main problem is that the roll becomes quite heavy as you snake more and more wire into it. You also have to turn your body around as you roll to accommodate the wire as it wraps into the coil. You can’t twist it. It’s a lot like rolling a stiff garden hose, but it’s heavier and it wants to eat you.

In the evening we went to a classic Australian barbecue. I got my last chance to practice eating like an Australian. It’s highly amusing. The fork is held with the tines curving downward instead of up (probably appropriate for Australia) and the knife is used to pile food on top of it. Much care is given to getting the proper mixture of foods onto the fork and carving the pile into a precise shape. I have not quite gotten the hang of this yet. I need more practice. Then the whole conglomeration is shoved into the mouth with little ceremony. Someday I may take some pictures to demonstrate the process for your amusement, if I can find a willing participant. Australians seem to require both hands to eat. If you tied an Australian’s left hand behind his back he would starve.

While at the barbecue I walked out to the obligatory swimming pool and stared into its eerie blue-lit water. Whatever I was looking for, I didn’t find it there. So I took a picture to record the moment of non-enlightenment:

When I saw the image on the screen, I scratched my head, trying to remember why I wasted the pixels. Then I was suddenly overcome by an intense urge to express myself in art. Nothing unusual about that. It would be so much better if I could draw or paint or sculpt or whatever. It is frustrating to have so many beautiful things floating around in my head with no escape route. It’s very crowded in there. I’m left with no option but to fake it, as usual. This is my tribute to nonrepresentational art.

There is a ghost of me in the image. The two dark diagonal bars on the margin of the pool are shadows of my legs.

That’s all there is left of me. I’m gone.

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