Jam tins replace fox whistles

As I write this I am sitting in a beautiful holiday house in Kangaroo Valley with all mod cons and beautiful expansive views up onto the sandstone ramparts guarding this magnificent landscape.

My wife Kerry and I share an annual weekend getaway with two other couples, the Adamsons and Elliotts, one family who shoots and hunts and the other who doesn’t, but who tolerates the fact that the others do, their interests and practice lying more toward pure mathematics and choral music and a slight anthropological curiosity about what motivates hunters. It’s a weekend filled with leisurely strolls, big meals, alcohol and all types of paper puzzles to fill the time.

Notwithstanding my liking for puzzles, after a few hours of this I go a bit stir crazy and have to do something else. Once I had knocked over the latest Phantom comic I needed to physically occupy myself and, seeing I was in the middle of magnificent bush-fringed rural farming country, I thought I’d go out with a camera and fox whistle and see what I could rustle up.

“Any takers? C’mon, you’ll love it when a fox comes tearing towards you out of a distant bush – how about it? Nup? Alright then I’ll go it alone.” I almost sulkily mumbled.

Now, camera? Left it at home – no worries, I’ll borrow Mark’s. Next, fox whistle? It’s at home too. Nutz!

I wandered into town to the rural supplies depot and asked them if they had a button whistle. The owner produced two incredibly rusty specimens from a box on the foot-level bottom shelf and I asked how much. He looked on the bottom of the box and marked there was $12.50. In forlorn hope, as this is a tourist town, I asked,  “So what are you going to charge?”, to which he replied “$12.50”. I snapped back that I would make one from a jam tin lid and save the money. “Suit yourself” came the jaded reply.

“Ma-a-a-rk! Got any tools here, so I can bend and cut tin?” I kind of picture Mark as an Indiana Jones type, resourceful and ready for anything, even annoying mates who take your attention away from your World War 2 Aussie Airmen history.

“I’ve brought my Leatherman”, he enthusiastically responded. I thought of what my Dad’s woodwork master at pre-War Telopea Park High School, Harry Randall, told him upon offering up a pass-grade assignment, “O’Dean… a rat could do better…and a rat doesn’t have a tool!”
So I set to work on a Baked Beans can, repeatedly bending the tin lid along a couple of roughly parallel fracture lines, until metal fatigue caused them to break apart. Then I bent it across its long axis using a 3mm thick twig as a curved form. Next, I punched two holes inboard with the awl tool, enlarging one a little more than the other. A bit of file work to limit its ability to cruelly shred my pockets or fingers and the first trial blow went really well. All the neighbourhood dogs went ballistic and stared fixedly across their fences in my direction, affirming that it would probably do OK with foxes.

It was now around 4pm and Mark and the others had settled for the pre-dinner drinkie ritual, so I took a short 20km run out to Tallowa Dam, stopping at likely looking places where bush joined farmland, to whistle them from bushy boundary fencelines (yes dear reader – I am addicted) and nothing poked its head out of the bush, except magpies, spur-winged plovers and kangaroos.  A bit further on and I saw a telling sign on a gate. Further out towards the Dam, there were increasingly frequent 1080 Baiting signs at short regular intervals. It was apparent that the National Parks, DLPI and locals had combined in a widespread fox control baiting program. No wonder they weren’t responding – they had put their proverbial “cues in the rack”.

I was a little disappointed, but I’d had a pleasant drive and disturbed a few birds, but I was happy those birds now had a more certain future, free of predation from the red menaces that have taken over since the fur industry had been all-but closed down by the animal libbers. It’s nice for farmers to know though that there are still people like us who work to give the foxes a quick way to vulpine heaven, if they want to control them that way.




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Marcus O'Dean