The Siege of Deep Creek Part 3. The story so far:
In the summer of circa 1432, Suleiman The Megalomaniac laid siege to Vienna. He was a mad bugger, whose only saving grace was the fact that he didn’t secretly appoint himself to half a dozen ministries. Then again, he was a medieval despot and didn’t feel the need. Precisely 500 years later to the very day (give or take quite a bit) a blacker summer befell Deep Creek, and Wes and Alice Piddens found themselves besieged by the Red Steer. Could they snuff it while it slept? Or would it rise, enraged, to gore them in the buttock?
Now read on.
Alice’s CB radio crackled into life.
“It’s on my tail, Allie!”
Alice wigged out.
“Mother of Mercy! What the five-flavoured Fruit Tingles? Wes! Wes! Is this the end of Wes?”
Wes had almost reached his target. He had scratched a rake-hoe break nearly all the way across the head of the slumbering fire, but now, at just 9am, the sun was blistering hot and the fire was well and truly awake.
“She’s well and truly awake, Bruce.”
Bruce licked his own undercarriage in sympathy.
Eucalypts. Magnificent organisms, but cruel bastards in a bushfire. Why? They drop leaves and bark exactly when and where you don’t want them to.
Here’s what happened:
Random Leaf #4598 fluttered down from a White Mahogany. It landed near Random Mongrel Smouldering Cowpat #4312. Nothing happened.
Thirty minutes later Random leaves #9898 and #8641 fluttered down from a Grey Gum and landed on Wes’s rake-hoe break. Nothing happened again.
A dazed kangaroo hopped through the fire and knocked a curled-up bit of bark (so random it didn’t even have a number) onto Wes’s rake-hoe line. Nothing happened.
Various nothings happened. Repeatedly.
But then a chunk of rock, cracked by the fire the evening before, broke off and rolled down the gully. It only went three metres, but far enough to knock our old friend, Random Leaf #4598, a centimetre closer to that smouldering cowpat. And then the wind picked up. Just a tad, but enough to join the random dots of vegetation with the mongrel smouldering cowpat, and the Red Steer bolted.
It was only a couple of minutes since Wes had turned around to check the line, but that was long enough for major fire bastardry to occur.
“Bastardry!!” Wes raced back to attack it. Too late. He was literally in the line of fire and it was attacking him.
“Bail out, Mate!”
Man, dog and rake-hoe beat a hasty retreat.
Fifty metres later, Wes panted to a halt.
She was uphill from the fire. He took out the radio.
“It’s on my tail, Allie!”
But then the fire took a run, and so did Wes and Bruce.
And what of Alice?
Alice was freaking her pants off. The radio silence was doing her head in, but she knew better than to clog up the airwaves.
Then, “Allie, Allie!”
“I’ve lost it. It’s chasing me out. Listen, head down to the last wire gate as quick as you can. Pronto!”
“Wire gate, pronto.”
“Yep. If you come across fire, keep going. You’ve got to get downhill from it. I’ll meet you at that gate. It’s going to take me a while.”
Normally Alice would have castigated him for his failed fire strategy, but this was serious.
“OK.” She’d womansplain him later.
Glad to be leaving the falling trees and solitude behind, Alice swung the CanAm around and gunned it down the track.
But what of Wes?
It was too hot, and he wasn’t 20 any more, that’s what.
Wes knew he couldn’t climb straight out of the gully up to the track. He’d probably collapse in the heat. He had to attack it at an angle: walk further to climb slower.
Five centimetres left in the water bottle. He was about to chug it when he noticed Bruce eyeing him with interest. It was 50% mateship and 50% Alice fear: “You killed the dog!”
Whatever, but he poured 2.5cm into his hat. “Cop that, Bruce.”
Then he sucked the bottle dry and continued his trudging exodus.
A lesson to us all.
To be concluded