John Charles Klumpp: Port Macquarie U3A
One Saturday morning at the very height of the Great Depression, when I was about 10 years old, I was at a loose end. I had finished my chores – probably milked the cow, or washed up after breakfast, or started the fire under the copper for my mother to do the washing. Saturday was wash day. I can still see my father with a brown stick poking the clothes back under the water as they boiled and tried to escape from the copper. My elder brother Hal worked Saturday mornings at the Chemist in town, delivering scripts on his new push-bike that he was paying off at what would now be 25 cents a week. He had a job and an income the equivalent of one dollar a week.
My brother’s mate Bill walked in the front gate – 13 or 14 yeas old and already about six feet tall to my four foot.
What are you doing?” he asked me.
“Nothing,” I replied.
“What about we go down the creek?” he suggested.
Seemed like a good idea and the deal was set.
Off we set for adventure land, Bill, Trixie (my dog) and me – two boys – no shoes, short pants – and a little white foxie ‘femme fatale’. Our house was in Bogo Road, Wauchope, on the edge of the rainforest. All we had to do was climb the six-foot back fence (intended to keep the foxes away from the chooks) and we were away. The first thing we did was to find a big stick (about the size of a golf club) and of course a pocket-knife was a must. Trixie was our insurance, mainly against black snakes. She could smell a snake, a goanna or a feral cat long before we could.
We were nearly to the creek when Trixie took off like a rocket. She was chasing something – probably a feral cat, we thought. Our adrenalin kicked in and we took off after her. Foxies bark as they chase so at first we had no trouble following her, but by the time we reached the creek silence was screaming at us. No Trixie, no cat!
A few feet away was an old log that had fallen across the creek. It had inches of moss growing on it so we knew it had been there for a long time. And yes- we looked at each other – it was hollow! Instinctively we knew what had happened, the thing as a child in the country you feared most – your dog going down a rabbit burrow and not coming back or up a hollow log and getting stuck – obviously what had happened here. Whatever Trixie had been chasing had run up the hollow log and she had gone after it.
We squatted on the moist mattress of leaves but could see nothing. We called to Trixie – at first no response – but then we heard a muffled bark, seemingly miles away. She was wedged in all right, literally barking up a hollow log.
What to do?
Bill said in his quite way “I’ll go and get one of my father’s axes.” His father and mine were mates and worked together as timber cutters, working from dawn to dark felling trees and cutting them into railway sleepers for which they were paid today's equivalent of 25 cents each. I stayed beside the log.
On Bill’s return we walked along the log and then crawled along the length of it as it overhung the creek, tapping it with the axe to make Trixie bark so we would know how far she was in and indeed if she was still alive. We worked out that she was about half-way in, so Bill, barefoot and fifteen feet in the air above the creek, began chopping.
We were lucky, the white ants had been at work and the log was really old and hollow with only a few inches of hard crust. It didn’t take Bill long to break through, being careful not to fall into the creek or chop a toe off in the process. As we pulled the loose chips away we saw it – a very dead, half-grown feral cat which resembled a piece of mouldy, soggy old carpet.
When Trixie smelled fresh air she struggled to the opening but at first it wasn’t big enough for more than her head to poke out. I had to shove and talk her back into the log until Bill made the hole bigger, she was terrified but must have sensed I was trying to help her and she didn’t bite – she was my dog after all. We eventually pulled her through the opening like a piece of rubber.
After that we packed up and went home, forgetting why we had gone down to play at the creek in the first place. We’d had enough adventure for one day.