I was in a deep dream, some seedy bar in East Java when a projectile hit me. It was Garden Gnome trying to wake me up. Reminder to self, close window next time you go to sleep.
‘Grab your passport and electronics.’
She had the fastest route to the airport planned too, no doubt.
‘A bomb threat,’ she said.
‘Wait,’ I replied, as I made myself an instant coffee. It was Robbert Tims, and seemed a bit more refined and smooth than Maconna. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a big fan of Nescafe and the cheap no frills type.
I’m supposed to be the Barista for the new cafe she’s opening. She doesn’t like the name Camel Express I’ve suggested. She’s a fussy bitch. Camels use to bring in building material before this place was a town port.
‘Metal sheet by metal sheet,’ says Garden Gnome, who suggests we hit the Flinders again for some metal healthy space.
More like using me as a dog body again. I was awake to her ploy.
I went outside to see if the front street of Desert Town was really closed off.
‘Don’t leave the building,’ said the nice copper. He was six foot seven. Do they clone policemen these days, I asked Garden Gnome as we packed our stuff for a day trip to her orchard.
‘They do have a DNA strand for coppers,’ she says. ‘They sacrificed intelligence for height, but it’s all show in their profession.’
She’s being unseasonably charitable again. I suspect she’s been having a few battles with the coppers. She’s tight-lipped.
Ok, I get it. It’s unfolding. Something to do with caves and ice pick and a broken skull. She has reason to be tight-lipped. Could it be the cave next door to her property?
Anything is possible in her world. If I keep up my cheek, I might be another dead garden gnome in her cave.
‘There’s a cellar at my property,’ she says, as we jump into the car for the hour trip up into the hills that rise about 500 meters. She hands me an ice pick too.
I’ve been warned.
‘Don’t upset a senior citizen,’ she says. ‘We can turn like the schizo weather we have been having the last few days.’
Driving the back roads of the Flinders, on the wheat plains side, I spot a willy-willy. It’s firing up and swirling and carrying on.
‘It’s a twister of dust, raised by the hot air.’
Well what are you waiting for? Lets follow it. We turn down Whim Road.
It’s a wild chase and a truck passes us on the dirt road, threatening chaos to the windscreen as little rocks kick up all over the place.
The car is bucking like a wild bronco as we tear through a water course, on each side are ancient eucalyptus. They were thick gnarly stumps, the size of a road train in width just hanging out on a water course in the middle of wheat belt country.
‘They were the ones the pioneers never got,’ she says, as she chucks a hard right back to the hills.
The willy willy has fizzled out but Garden Gnome hasn’t. She’s hooning down the back roads and creating her own willy-willy in her wake.
‘Now don’t get excited,’ she says, ‘I’ve got a few tree species I want to point out.’
I put my window down which filters her spiel on the local fauna. I’m smoking a cigarette and look up at Mt. Remarkable. A few degrees to the left is a large communication tower. Just below that is her property, where she wants me to cover her pear trees with white netting.
‘The idea is that when the roos eat the leaves, they get a mouthful of petroleum based netting.’
It was a bitch to cut and the flies were getting the better of me. Roaming up and down the hills had me in a funk. The wallabies looked on as I tried my best rendition of Farmer Joe. And Garden Gnome was plonked on the ground, pruning weeds. She stayed in that spot for hours.
I looked up from my bent back position, trying to spot another sheep grazing. There was only one inanimate object.
She’s getting tired. Sitting on her ass is tiring. We are pioneers in the wild Flinders trying to get a pear foothold.
‘The fire came through here,’ she says, as she takes a big gulp of an electrolyte. ‘It came in as a tornado, intense heat. The roos were trying to outrun the fire. Some survived, other’s became instant charcoal .’
She said it was harrowing. Even her crop of gray hair is standing on end as she tells me about it.
‘There was plenty of static electricity that day,’ she says, back in ’14 when the fire came through this part of the Flinders.
The heat was reaching 35 degrees, ideal fire weather. She wasn’t going to put the fear into me. I know she was trying to scare me. She was also caressing her ice pick. Props, that’s all they were. And telling stories wasn’t going to get the pears and apricot trees covered with protective white netting.
I’m getting heat stroke. I can feel a rotten headache coming on.
‘It’s some ancestral memory that someone is going to eat me.’
She’s talking about the tame kangaroos that are eating the leaves of her nearly planted fruit orchard. And she’s thinking of bringing in some desert rats who the kangaroos are shit scared of. She’s not talking to me. She’s taking a social call on her smartphone. Her phone even has a signal this deep into the jungle.
‘But they take no notice of us at all,’ she continues. She’s playing with her ice pick. The kangaroos are now paying special attention to her.
‘If I had a rifle, I could have shot enough roos to feed a small village.’ She’s thinking of buying a gun too. Is she being influenced by the deep valleys that over the years have bred all kinds of evil?
‘But if I aimed my ice pick, I bet I could pick off a few wallabies in one go.’
I leave her to her conversation. I’ve still got about 30 pears to cover with netting. Half an hour later, she’s still talking to her friend about the friendly wallabies that she wants to either poison or have them choke to death with the new netting she laced with some rat poisoning.
‘The pears are resistant to it, but the pesky Kangaroos won’t be.’
The sun is setting. Best we get out of here while we can. We have disturbed the gentle valleys with our evil thoughts. Even the roos are picking up on it and hoping out of our way faster than when we arrived.
‘I think we’ll definitely put some kangaroo on the menu.’
A wallaby is listening in, and lays a turd on one of her apricot trees. But Garden Gnome is too busy trying to mow down another one that’s hopped in her way, as we exit her fruit orchard.
‘Mental head space,’ she says, ‘we all need it.’
But you don’t need to be hacking the roos to death with an ice pick. I’ve put her back on her leash again before she jumps out of the car. The last thing we need is a visit from the RSPCA.
Through the forest road and onto another main dirty road, the kangarooos are grazing. My legs are hurting me from the rolling hills of her estate. She’s thinking about setting up a reserve for the tired kangaroos of the rangers.
‘And we can put in the cold room run off solar.’
She thinks she has found a market for wallaby tail.
‘The Anganu in the lands, they’ll love the tender wallabies of the Flinders.’
She was softening. ‘And parsnips and potatoes.’
And avocados. You might not make as much money as you would on dope, but Avacodas are profit makers.
And green weed too. One crop of it and I could afford to travel for the rest of my life.
‘Problem is the Anganu on their migration path to the ocean would sniff it out and raid it and the roos too. Then what would have left on my property?’
I’m not sure. I know she had a few caves and cellars to explore. There could be hidden treasure. It seemed our only hope at this stage if the pears and apricot trees decided to die.
But rain is coming early. She’s on the Bureau of Meteorology site, and light rain is coming over the ranges.
‘They might just survive after all.’
This smells like victory.
We have entered the group country and Garden Gnome is in rally car mode.
‘It was cut out by millions of years of water flow,’ she says. The 20 kilometer stretch of the gouge which covers over 50 curves, ‘is one of my most favorite parts of the world.’
She’s looking out for fenal plants that grow wild. The last clump I pulled out on the windy road is doing very well in her greenhouse.
Is she alluding to being a green thumb? I feign shock and horror. If we can cap the other trees soon with the white cloth, we may just save them too and her honor.
‘If they die I’ll just buy more.’
She says the original pear trees were burnt from the last fire. A few have survived and a pomegranate is thriving.
All is not lost. If that’s thriving, I say, maybe the other newly planted trees will too.
A kangaroo jumps off the road and over a fence. It’s DNA has kicked in and taken flight from the Garden Gnome on wheels. A light rain falls. I can hear the collective sighs of the pear trees.
Wiabra, we’ll be back.
The hills had nearly defeated me.
The ceilings and electric wiring at Head Quarters had seemed more accommodating.
‘A week roaming up and down those hills is just what’s needed to sort out your moaning muscles,’ she says.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to take up another title of farm manager. I have made a mental note of a large dead red gum that is just about to tumble down from its perch.
It just could be the killer in waiting.
‘Safer than bomb threats,’ says the Garden Gnome who drives through a landscape of Tangerine skies.
‘And you can tether all you like on my mobile if ever want to take a week off.’
It’s really tempting, I tell her. I might even get some netting done and bond with the resident wallabies.
‘They are stupid enough,’ she says.
Whatever that means, I may just take the offer up.
‘And we have 4 G speeds on the wifi port.’
And sitting around a cottage built in the 1800s and watching my favorite cam girls could put another spin on the rustic lifestyle.
But I don’t like the idea of fire tornados.
‘I didn’t think you would,’ she says, ‘so what about the idea of a concrete pill and two shoes to match.’
See, the countryside brings out her best side.