Hunger Games, Anyone?
When old-timers prefer being deadly to being dead!
Jim firmly shut the tailgate on our station wagon. “It’s time for our holiday!” He grinned.
“Okay then,” I returned his enthusiasm, making myself comfy in the passenger seat. “Let’s go camping, and get some archery practice!”
“Yep,” he replied gleefully. “It’s time to make sure we can protect our perimeter!”
Boom! There it was! A simple statement spawned from hours of late-night news sensationalism. We were tired of watching an ever-increasing pool of sad, old buggers who had been beaten up by home invaders. It was truly pathetic viewing; black and blue eyes, split craggy cheeks, puffy swollen lips too engorged to properly answer the interviewer’s probing questions.
“We can’t let that happen to us!” We had agreed.
“Time to brush up our skills!” announced an excited Jim, fist-pumping the air as he climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Hunger Games, anyone?” I bellowed through the open window, to no one in particular.
Startled, old Mr Jenkins, tending his flower garden next door, waved his gnarly hand.
“Oh yes, please, if you’re offering. Fish and chips would be super!”
I treated Jenkins to a sad shake of the head, then grinned at Jim. “I hope he’s not going to wait there for his tea until we get back.”
“He might die waiting.” Jim slapped the steering wheel jovially.
“At least,” I muttered thoughtfully, “that would put an end to the pest breaching our perimeter every other day or so.”
Jenkins had a nasty habit of popping in for ‘a nice cuppa’ several times a week.
“There’s still the compound bow option!” suggested Jim.
Cousin Graeme’s Farm
It was a four-hour drive to cousin Graeme’s farm — enough time to remind Jim of the inadvisability of shooting intruders in our home. Aussie laws did not allow for all-out self-defence, defence.
“I believe the wording is, reasonable force,” I reiterated.
“If an arrow through a punk’s jugular isn’t reasonable force, what is?” questioned Jim.
I was beginning to despair that my husband, who is approaching the middle of his seventh decade, was becoming a bit too gung-ho.
“Hey, slow down, cowboy!” I admonished, as we finally drove onto Graeme’s property, bumping and sliding our way along a rutted track. “We don’t want to be stuck out here with a busted suspension!”
Jim pulled the car into a grassed paddock that offered a few shade trees.
“Is Graeme about?” I wrestled my cramped limbs from the vehicle.
“Nope,” Jim grinned happily. “He was too busy to come out this week. The produce store keeps him flat-strap!”
“Why does he call this a farm? There’s no crops, house, animals, or anything at all farmy that I can see.”
“There’re cattle in the far paddock. They only need water and grass — except for an occasional dipping for ticks,” Jim added.
I nodded, happy to be spared the company of cousin Graeme.
Learning About Poo and Other Things
By the time our camp was set up, the sun was setting. I was preparing a simple meal on our new two-burner stove when the light breeze swung gently around to blow directly into our campsite.
I gagged. “My Gawd!” What in hell is that smell?”
Jim lifted his head and sniffed. “Shit!” he exclaimed.
“It’s bad alright! What is it?” I gagged again.
“No, really — it’s shit!” he declared matter-of-factly.
I glared a warning.
“It’s called biosolids,” he rushed to explain. “Treated human waste that comes directly from the sewerage plant — a perfectly safe and successful way to improve soil.”
I was aghast. “They couldn’t treat the stink out of it?”
“You knew Graeme was using this stuff?”
“Sure,” replied Jim nonchalantly. “Didn’t know about the smell, though.”
“Oh, my God. I don’t think I can eat — it’s putrid!” I poked disinterestedly at simmering baked beans.
“Sure, you can. Wind will probably change again, and then everything will be okay.” Jim patted my shoulder consolingly.
Dusk was shortly replaced by a pitch-black country night. I flicked on our you-beaut, bright light, and that’s when the flies popped by — en masse; big, black buggers that could bite right through your camo gear. They were soon joined by every conceivable insect known to mankind!
Jim quickly shut off the light, leaving the camp in darkness. We both had nasty little welts burning on exposed skin.
“Probably a good time to go to bed,” he announced.
Before we retired, Jim sprayed a choking amount of insect killer through the flap, (we forgot to zip up at mealtime), and hung another fancy light on a support in the middle of the tent, assuring me I would easily find it in the dark, should a trip to the loo become necessary.
We were comfortable, except for the incessant irritation of our burning insect bites.
At midnight I was shaken awake by the horrendous noise of a road-train hurtling metres from our tent!
Terrified, I sat bolt upright and smacked my forehead on Jim’s dangling light.
“What the hell?” I managed to screech as the front of our tent was suddenly bathed in intense light.
Jim was spotlighted, standing naked in the open entrance. He turned around to give me an encouraging shrug.
“It’s okay, hon. Just a few semi’s delivery poo to the back paddock.
“At midnight?” I blathered, rubbing the large lump burgeoning on my forehead. “And what’s with the spotlight?” The glare was giving me a headache.
“It’s an automatic light on the track. Graeme must have set it up for the drivers.” Jim re-zipped the tent flap and returned his fully visible nakedness to bed.
“Don’t worry,” he added. “Looks like that’s the last of the trucks. The light will go off soon — bloody hell, what happened to your head?”
I pointed to the offending object and flopped back onto my pillow.
“Geez, you want to be more careful!”
The spotlight dimmed and went out.
The rest of the night was disturbed by men shouting, and loud radio music wafting from the top paddock. Trucks tipped their loads, then raced back down the track. The bloody light went on and off at least three more times.
Several hours later, I dropped into a deep sleep.
Fortunately, when a cacophony of shotguns went off at dawn, I managed to hit my head in a completely different place!
As Jim applied a wet compress to my twin lumps, he explained that it was common for farmers to install automatic, gas bird-scare cannons to protect their crops from cockatoos. They commonly timed them to go off at dawn.
The scare is real!
With all the gas guns going off in surrounding paddocks, you would be forgiven for thinking you had awoken to an uprising of some sort.
“You do realise,” I snarled, pushing the compress aside, “that our perimeter has been breached by flying and biting insects, vile smells, trucks, lights, voices, radios, and unholy gas gun noises, all of which would have been completely impervious to a counter-attack by bow-wielding wrinklies!”
Jim scratched at a particularly nasty-looking bite. “Point taken. Let’s set up the targets!”
The Battle Ground
The breeze was smell-favourable that morning as we set up, and began to reacquaint ourselves with our compound bows.
Jim’s arrow fletchings were blue, and mine multi-colored, making it easy to identify who was the best shot at any given time. I am pleased to report that the misfired arrow firmly embedded in a stinking, long-dead cow’s rump, belonged to Jim.
We lost an hour searching for the lost missile, during which time my right foot slipped down a blue-tongue lizard hole, severely twisting my ankle, and ricking my knee.
Jim was a good sport about it.
He sat me on an upturned stump, then set about demonstrating how his new auto-trigger worked. His pre-shooting posture always looks impressive. I watched, admiring his steady, straight left arm. His right arm tensed as he pulled back the bowstring, arrow correctly locked in. Suddenly, the trigger released too soon — the arrow shot off, and Jim’s fully stretched arm flew back, delivering a mighty punch to his bottom lip, instantly breaking the skin, and drawing blood.
As we limped back to camp, Jim’s arm supporting my weight, his handkerchief stuck to the dried blood on his swollen, blue lip, I supposed we looked as if we were returning from a serious conflict.
We were exhausted and covered in nasty spots that were beginning to look infected. Jim always reacted badly to bites — some of his were raised, like small eggs, irritated by constant scratching. His lip had puffed to twice its normal size.
My forehead sported twin bruises that were turning purple. For some reason, my eyes had gone out in sympathy, appearing both swollen and bruised. My ankle was badly sprained, also puffy and discoloured; I thought I was possibly in for a knee replacement.
Mr Jenkins Awaits
Having cut our trip short, we arrived home three days following our departure.
Old Jenkins was still in his front garden!
As we pulled to a stop, wondering how we were going to successfully navigate the extrication of our bodies from the front seats, Jenkins yelled out across the low fence.
“Did you get the fish and chips?”
Ignoring the annoying bloke, we staggered to the back of our vehicle to begin the painful unload.
“Well?” demanded the old man, who had miraculously appeared behind us.
Jim and I both leapt involuntarily. How had Jenkins arrived so quickly?
I was about to deliver the bad news about his dinner when he interjected.
“Fuck’s sake!” he exclaimed. “What the hell you two been up to?”
I knew we were a pathetic picture; my black eyes, and bulging forehead, infected insect bites on exposed skin; Jim’s puffy lips too swollen to properly answer the probing questions of our heartless interviewer.
Disinterested before we had the chance to respond, Jenkins commented, “You’ll want to get me my dinner because I watched out for your place. While you were gone, there was an attempted home invasion.”
“Vhat?” Jim lisped through his painful mouth.
“Two little punks with knives and a screwdriver tried to get through your front door.”
“Did you report it?” I squealed.
Jenkins shuffled his feet awkwardly on our concrete driveway. “Well, no. Didn’t want to make a fuss.”
Jim appeared incredulous. “Vye didn’t voo call vah copfs?”
“Snuck up on the buggers in the dark, and bashed ’em with me garden spade.” Jenkins began waving his arms wildly. He was about to launch into more tales of bravery when I cut him off brusquely.
“We’re very grateful, Mr Jenkins — will get you some fish and chips tomorrow. In the meantime, we’re kinda busy.”
“Don’t suppose those compound bows are for sale?” The old codger winked as he turned to question Jim.
Jim nodded, avoiding eye contact with me. “Could ve. Von’t ve cheap, vough.”
“Swap yah for me garden spade!” suggested Jenkins.
More fun with seniors: