October 7, 2009

Trauma up the back paddock

The day starts as normal

We set off pretty early on our planned day’s activity: Chris clearing scrub on the dozer, me poisoning some regrowth. I did my own thing on the quad bike and we agreed to meet for morning tea at the dozer.

I was working away, lost in my thoughts when he turned up unexpectedly in the car and talked to me through the window, “I found a dead cow at the dam. She was stuck in the mud. There was another old girl stuck as well. I pulled her out but she didn’t get up. Don’t know how she’ll go.”

It was bad news, the impact of the drought. The shrinking dams were turning into death traps with too much exposed mud. It wasn’t a good start to the day. Chris set off to check all the dams.

The Recovery

My work done, I fired up the quad to meet Chris as arranged. As I reached the dozer, I saw him approaching unexpectedly on foot from the opposite direction. I wondered where the car was.

“I got dry-bogged.” He informed me. “I’ll have to get the dozer down there to pull it out.” He had walked a long way from the car with no water. It was fortunate we arrived at the dozer at the same time.

The recovery operation swung into gear when we got to the bog site.

The Patrol’s right wheels were almost buried in the dust and she was leaning rather alarmingly. It’d faltered trying to pull the trailer up a steep bank, coming out of the gully. The trailer was jack knifing behind at an awkward angle.

“You’ll have to steer the car,” Chris said. I could feel my heart racing in my chest immediately.

With the snatchy strap in place I opened the driver’s door gingerly, hoping that wouldn’t tip it over. It was awkward to climb in but I managed. With the dozer purring, Chris inched forward to take up the slack on the snatchy. He gently tugged the car with the dozer. But instead of the car moving forward, it sunk further on it’s lean to the right! Chris stopped immediately.

I was panicking now, my hands trembling and my chest in pain. I didn’t want to be in that car if it rolled over! We got out and circled the situation again – inspected and re-inspected the predicament. It took a bit of doing but we managed to unhook the trailer.

Its moments like these I hate living in the bush – facing harsh realities with no one around to help. You have to rely on your own ingenuity – ingenuity I don’t feel confident I have. But you can’t walk away either though I wanted to just ride home and have a cup of tea. We had to get the car and trailer out and Chris needed my help to do it. I had to dig deep.

I faced my worst fear – the car might roll over. What would happen to me if it did? Probably not much as it would just stop on its side. I climbed back into the car and wound up the window. At least it would provide some meager protection. The seatbelt was locked due to the lean so I couldn’t put it on. I couldn’t really say I was calmer but I was determined.

We tried again with Chris pulling from a different angle. I worked hard to keep those wheels turned in the right direction. My heart was in my mouth. Success! Now that it was no longer weighed down by the trailer, the dozer was able to gently drag the car to firmer ground without tipping it over. Phew!

I feel sick in the tummy just thinking about it even now.

By the time we had pulled out the trailer as well, re-hooked it to the Patrol, and driven them to surer ground, our day was over. I felt rather exhausted. It was good to get home and have a glass of wine. You just never know how your day will turn out when you are out in the bush!

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