During the Siege of Deep Creek, Alice would rather have her feet on an Ottoman

It was the worst of summers; it was the freakin’ blackest of summers. Fires had been coming at Wes and Alice Piddens from the wind’s twelve quarters for over two months. One had torn a chunk out in the north. They’d pulled another one up at the western fence, the Piddens boys working like greased demons. Crews halted one at Pickabooba. Big Minch held an all-night vigil to block one from the east, but now it was coming from the southeast. Crews and neighbours were caught up elsewhere, so this one was up to Wes and Alice.

Conversation in the Marital Bed.

“I think I know how the Schnitzels of Vienna felt.”

“Schnitzels? What?”

“Siege of Vienna.”

“Siege of Vienna? What, a bunch of Mozart freaks trying to get hold of the Magic Flute?”

“No, in 1529, Suleiman the Major Bastard and his Ottomans laid siege to Vienna for two weeks.”


“Nearly got in, but for two things. A lot of his soldiers were busy back home tending poppy crops.”


“I speak true, Alice. And lotsa soldiers, who were living off the land en route to Vienna, ate rye bread infested with ergot and died of St Anthony’s fire.”

“So, Blessed Tony was a pyro?”

“No, the disease. Ergotism. Horrible death. Horses too. Anyway, the Turks had to slink off with their tails out of shape.”

“Ho hum.”

“And legend has it that the Viennese invented the crescent-shaped croissant to rub the invaders’ noses in it.”

“Noses? Well that’s just a waste of a good croissant.”

“And those ISIS freaks are still banning croissants today.”

“Really? That’s just an egregious offence against taste, decency and patisserie!”


“And the significance of all this?”

“Well, I bet there were times when the siegees in Vienna felt like, Oh bugger it. Let the bastards in and be done with it!

“So, it’s like the fire is the Turks and we’re the disheartened Austrians?”

“I just want it over, Ali.


(More silence)

(A bit more silence)

“But this morning we’re going to snuff this bugger while he’s sleeping in the gully.”

Alice was dubious.

“I’m dubious.”

“Fiddle de dee! Get up! Let’s ride!”

The fire had crept over from The Bulls Nest into the head of Deep Creek overnight.

Just before dawn, Wes parked the CanAm in a clearing high up on the watershed.

(Sound of falling trees)

“That was close, Wes.”

“Yep. Keep your eyes open.”

“What do I do?”

“OK. Wait here. If I can scratch a break around this fire in the gully before it wakes up, we may be able to pull it up. I’ll radio you to pick me up when I finish or if it gets hairy.”


“If you spot any more fire coming from The Bulls Nest, head for burnt ground and call me.”

Alice looked around. “It’s burning.”

“Burnt-ish ground, well.”

(Sound of another tree falling)

“The trees, Wes…”

“Scary, eh? See you later.” (Heads off down gully with rake-hoe, water bottle, radio and dog)

Alice didn’t like it.

“I don’t like it, Wes. Wes…”

A lesson to us all.


To be continued.

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