It started out as a crude single-person quarry – just me and a small backhoe digging out shale rock from the hot dry clay – in an attempt to gather larger rocks (yes, this is me again when living on 250 acres of sub-tropical wilderness with no amenities, meaning no water on tap, no sewage system of any sort, no connected electricity, no house) I was trying to build a small enclosure that might make a room, but that hole at the top of the second highest hill had potential and I wondered, wouldn’t it be easier to put a roof over a hole in the ground than to build walls first? It was on a hill, therefore elevated in its own way, and surely could be the start of our home.
Living directly on the land is something amazing. We started off with a shabby hollowed out caravan with no bed and a broken window, so rats and quolls (carnivorous marsupials about the size of a cat) moved in. The quolls would climb up underneath the drawers and enter them from the back, then sleep the day through as snug as if they were in a hollow log someplace. I’d open a drawer and encounter a flattened out, fast asleep quoll, with it’s white spotted back… and I would very carefully close the drawer again – one of those scared and rampant inside the caravan (which was my office) was not a happy thought. I left them alone and they left me alone.
We slept in a tent. The problem there was that first off, Greg set fire to it the very first night. We got the flames out quickly, but the fire had left a big hole in the wall, which we filled with an open umbrella wedged in it. As you could appreciate, that left gaps and the umbrella didn’t really keep things out. We knew early on that we needed something better than that.
The shallow hole in the ground, therefore, seemed like a quick solution. Greg liked the idea and together we shaped a rectangular pit roughly the size and shape of a shallow swimming pool. We never did get the floor flat, but I fashioned three steps down into it and over the top we put a large tin roof with a high enough pitch that we could stand up inside with plenty of headroom.
That became our bedroom/lounge room for the next four years or so. A lot of things happened in and to that tin tent, as we called it. Now, rather than cram all the stories together, I shall space it out, one story at a time. The first has to do with our first unexpected visitor.
We moved in and had it to ourselves for perhaps a week, when one night after our around the campfire meal, we stepped down into the hole, our hand lanterns held high, and both leapt back again when we saw six feet of tail disappearing under the bed.
It was a python. Pythons are actually good to have around, they are non-poisonous and as well as keep down the rat population, they also keep down the poisonous snake population. Unfortunately, they also kill chickens and ducks and cats and any animal small enough to be called dinner, including small wallabies (a small species of kangaroo). They can also grow into huge size and quite frankly, you might admire them and value them as wild creatures, but you don’t want them under you bed.
I had met snakes on the block several times and by this point in our adventure on the land, I had even handled them. So, recovering from our uh-oh moment, in we went again. I scrambled onto the bed and looked down the far side and saw it trying to continue its journey up the wall. Coming towards me, in other words.
Great, I thought, and grabbed it. I was okay, I had it by the neck, but the snake didn’t appreciate that at all. It promptly wrapped itself around the legs of the bed and I couldn’t budge it further.
My idea of negotiation went something like this: “Let go, or your head’s coming off.” Pity the snake couldn’t understand English, it ignored my threat entirely. Fortunately, Greg was there, so instead of a tug of war between the snake and myself, I held the thing while Greg groped about under the bed and physically unraveled it from its hold down there.
Then it was into the car, me and snake, Greg driving and off we went a couple of kilometres (about a mile) along our driveway where we released it.
I became very adept at picking up snakes, so long as it was a python of one sort or another (I wasn’t going to try that with a poisonous sort, which we also had on the block). I generally tried to leave them alone, but if they moved in too close, I shifted them.
What else did we get under the bed? Well, I can promise you it was nothing cute and fluffy, but you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow for that story. It doesn’t finish there, either!
I also realize, I’m going to have to start including photos. Coming soon!