Meet George and Lino.¬†Two brothers. One, the master of technology, with a penchant for videography who¬†even has a Facebook account!¬† The other, still struggling to send an SMS and grasp the concept of email. One is an artist, the other a technician and DIY expert. One, a taxidermist and electrician, the other a heavy machinery operator. But one thing they both have in common is a passion for the outdoors, and the graciousness for any opportunity to spend it with the people they love, and me, their daughter and niece!
We all come from humble beginnings. My true introduction to the world was in the agricultural food basket of the Hawkesbury area, west of Sydney, where my brother Dave and I spent our toddlership investigating the novelty of dirt, pets, and insects (with a fair few insects investigating the inside of David‚Äôs oesophagus). Much of my Memory Lane trails through Uncle George‚Äôs small farm, which for the young eyes of two inquisitive ratbags, seemed like a boundless realm of discovery and adventure. For Dave and I now, not much has changed. We still thirst for discovery and adventure, but the world now extends a fair bit beyond the barbed wire fences of a 25 acre block.¬†
My uncle George was my stand-in Dad while Lino was away. Between doing up old Thunderbirds, (of the car variety), breeding birds (of the feathered variety), painting landscape pictures, and running a taxidermy business for not just mammals, but fishes AND birds, life is never idle for ‚ÄòUnc‚Äô. He and my Aunty Helen taught me that life is a constant quest for knowledge and self-improvement. In fact, the more you learn, the more you realise how little you actually know! I recently watched Uncle, a very experience taxidermist, hand over the knife to someone else to watch and learn their method of boning a pig jaw, with the reasoning ‚ÄúYou can never stop learning‚Äù.
For the average teenage girl, Dads exist to service your car, scare off your boyfriends, and police the length of your skirt before leaving the house. Instead, my dad watched on while I did the oil change on my first car (cringing when I dropped his expensive ratchet into the dirty sump oil bucket), welcomed the one or two boyfriends I ever brought home, (provided they were into fishing, four-wheel-driving or hunting) and suggested I could maybe wear a dress to church instead of my scabby stripey brown shorts with mismatching yellow top. He also taught me to never pay someone to do a job you can do yourself. Some call it being tight, I call it self-sufficiency. For example, you can save your daughter $50 on ratchet tie-downs by spending half the afternoon teaching her to tie a truckie’s hitch with old Telecom rope.
But one of the greatest things my dad did was to lay a solid foundation for my journey into the sport of hunting. He taught me that a good hunter is not defined by the number of trophies he or she has taken, nor their deadly precision with their weapon. A good hunter is one that loves the land and all the creatures in it, and recognises that ability to let an animal walk is just as admirable as the ability to shoot it. One thing that the extreme anti-hunters will probably never understand, is that the best hunters are, in fact, animal lovers, and custodians of the natural environment. My brother David, also loved hunting, camping and fishing as a young child. He was always the ‚Äúanimal kid‚Äù. You know the type; the kid who turned up to school with a lizard in his lunch box, had harboured a secret pet rat in his bedroom for two months before Dad found out, let our pet Koi carp free in the local creek after our fish tank exploded, because he couldn‚Äôt bring himself to ‚Äòdispose‚Äô of them.¬† On hunting trips would be more interested in catching the kid goats than shooting the billies. Although David, now a successful Jockey, spends more of his time riding wild animals than chasing them, I believe his respect for animals has come from an upbringing in a hunting family.
This year I was fortunate that he universe was able to bring together myself, Uncle George and Dad on a trip to Cape York. The abundant fish and quality hogs taken were impressive to say the least, but true to form, Dad and Uncle were just as happy driving around the property watching my friend Luke and I work with the dogs, looking at photos of my day‚Äôs bow hunting, and flicking some lures into a dam that probably held more crocs than fish. Dad and Uncle have probably been on more hunting trips and taken more game than they care to remember, and their happiness to pass on the baton to the younger generation and contentedly watch our success was fairly evident. With their binoculars spending more time pointed at the sky at some rare form of feathered life, they were equally fanatical about watching the world fly by peacefully as to chase swine around a paddock. ‚ÄúDo you like to look at birds, Mitch?‚Äù was one of the first questions to the station manager on their arrival. With a quizzical eyebrow raised in mock amusement, the dry-humoured manager replied ‚ÄúOnly at the beach!‚Äù
But when they did hunt, they did it well, with Dad and Uncle taking a few good boars each on the trip. On our way back from a successful fishing session we received a call over the UHF from Uncle and Dad who had gone up a side-track to check out a dam off the main track. We met them back on the track to find them standing beside a good boar literally on the road edge. Uncle had shot him on the run and he died conveniently on the side of the road for an easy recovery. Not so easy to recover were the Saratoga, who on one particular day were driving Dad, George and Luke insane by taking the lure on nearly every cast, but getting off the hook just before landing. This put Uncle into quite a fluster, who was trying to fish himself but would be interrupted by Dad at every cast calling for George to come over with the video camera only to film the triumphant flick of a fish tail as the Toga swam off to freedom; ‚ÄúEvery Bloody Time‚Ä¶!‚Äù
But a few Saratoga were finally outsmarted, along with a couple of Barramundi, more boars, and a catfish or two. The final day of the trip rolled around way too quickly, and we said our farewell around the Landcruisers, now heavily burdened with about half a ton of bulldust. Of course, Dad couldn‚Äôt help but to do a lap of my ute to check the load was secure, with a sneaky tug at the ropes. With a silence that I interpret as approval he goes on to add ‚ÄúNice truckie’s hitch, Chris‚Äù. ¬†
‚ÄúWell, I learnt from the best!‚Äù‚ÄÇ