Tuesday, August 30, 2011



Neighbour Phil in the depths of his back yard
Straddie has more than its fair share of characters.  It’s a community with a lot of friendly give and take.  If someone has a party and the noise gets pretty horrendous then you either join in or buy a pair of ear plugs.

On the other hand if something needs doing, like a blocked drain, or leaves in the guttering, or a snake in the bedroom then chances are it will be a neighbour who comes to the rescue. There’s always specialist help of varying ability somewhere nearby.

Neither the Reluctant Traveller nor I have many practical skills worth offering so more times then most we find ourselves on the receiving end of countless bounty.  To explain; I’m not a good cook, so when I arrive at a neighbourhood soiree everyone expects me to bring curried eggs, and I never disappoint.  The few times I’ve foolishly deviated from the tried and true have been hugely disastrous.  I am at the very least a quick, though basic learner.

I do however often stand in loco parentis when a family pet is left home alone on necessary overnights to the mainland. Every second Saturday Ron and Lyn King’s two fluffy feather dusters next door for example,  accept my ministrations when their owners go over for their beloved Aussie Rules football matches.  

Tony Wallace’s constant companion, Max the orange Kelpie heeler, knows full well that the moment his master goes off on day shift to the mines, a simple stroll through our house to the big white frig in the kitchen equates to a tasty snack.

Neighbour Phil, wife Jen and my Reluctant Traveller looking down at the depths of their back yard
For years neighbour Phil two doors up, also a mine worker on shifts had a regular dog bathing appointment for his large and sturdy Rottweiler, Billy.  Now Billy had a reputation, in my opinion undeserved, as being a dog one couldn’t quite trust.  Many feared him especially the dog washer who point blank refused to do the pushing and man handling needed to get Billy into his bath contraption on the back of a truck.

Enter the Reluctant Traveller’s wife, me.  ‘Rob, could you hang around and get Billy in the truck later, I’m off to work and he’s due for his bath this morning.’

No problem.   Up I trot, Billy is one heavy lump of fur.  He and I look at each other, meaningfully.  Bill knows what I’m up to and he isn’t going to make it easy.  But I’m smarter than the average Rottie, and a simple trail of chocolate coco pops does the trick.  Once he’s securely locked in the bath truck, the washman emerges and the deed is done.

Sadly Billy the Rottweiler passed away some years ago, and a heartbroken Phil never replaced him.

Then, just recently, he acquired three chooks.  This wasn’t his first foray into poultry.  The first effort went astray when the chooks turned out to be roosters and consequently failed to produce eggs.

I really wasn’t aware of this latest acquisition until Phil lobbed at the front door,  ‘Rob, I’ve got to out of town for a few days, think you could round up the chooks and pen them at night for me while I’m away’.

‘Chooks?  What chooks?’  I was hugely amused that he had resurrected the old chook pen down the farthermost end of his yard.  ‘Are you sure they’re not roosters?’

This time he assured me the chooks were the real McCoy, and no doubt very soon they would begin paying their way.

Off he went and that afternoon the Reluctant Traveller and I played catch the chooks.

Here chookie, chook, chook

Job accomplished
The old bribery trick worked a treat, this time with nibbles of dry bread.  Safely locked up for the night the Reluctant Traveller and I climbed back up the hill to our place.

It wasn’t until a good while later he made the comment, ‘funny he only has the three chooks’.

Now up to that point I didn’t have a worry one way or the other,  the job was to shoo the chooks into the chook house, shut the gate and leave them to it.   Until now, when doubt began to raise its ugly head.

I had memories of my daughter and her husband, Jenny and Chris in Tasmania when their chickens were picked off one by one by a marauding eagle.   No, of course not, I tried to convince myself, there’s only the three.

But niggling  little thoughts wouldn’t let me rest until I emailed Phil over town... just how many chickens am I supposed to be hatching? I asked him.

Then an agony of waiting until his reply arrived.

Now I could breathe easy, just the three.

Off to bed with a clear conscience.  It’s quite a responsibility looking after a neighbour’s pets, as my Reluctant Traveller agreed.


A postscript – what Neighbour Phil didn’t know and we soon found out, those pesky little chooks had discovered they had wings, and the moment we released them into their daytime yard they waited only until we were out of sight before taking off into the wild blue yonder.

Rounding them up at days end was not easy!

Robyn Mortimer ©2011