This ramble was written in November 2010 and just a warning: this is not one for the faint of heart.
Sunday afternoon Brian and I were at home catching up with some overdue office-work, which was leading to reasonably warm discussion, when the phone rang. It was one of those calls you don’t want to take.
On the line was the boss of the trucking company we use. A stock-truck had tipped over coming into Coolatai and could we help?
Arguing over office-work was forgotten. Brian went straight to the phone to organise some quad bikes and another stockman, Ian, while I grabbed the dogs and the ute.
We arrived in Coolatai and what a scene it was. A B-Double truck, loaded with fifty bulls and bullocks, had fallen on its side, crushing the cab and causing havoc and mayhem to the stock. I recognised the number plate and, with an audible gasp, thought it was our regular driver. It wasn’t. With the help of the village people the driver had been rescued and taken to hospital with minor injuries. Unfortunately the injuries to the stock ranged from minor to horrific. Some had been killed outright, about thirty had run off, and the remainder defined carnage.
Brian and Ian set off to the south to muster those cattle that had escaped the truck. I stayed at the scene. The police were there, along with a dozen SES (State Emergency Service) volunteers and a gallery of local spectators. Injured animals were winched from the wreckage. One managed to regain its feet and chased half a dozen men, head-butted a ute and ran through a village garden before being collected by Brian. Surprisingly there was only silence from the injured – bewildered and in shock they awaited the man with the gun.
There was little I could do. After arranging a tractor and a tip truck to remove the dead, I retreated to the spectator gallery to wait for Brian. Night fell. Blue and red lights flashed to warn oncoming traffic, the SES bathed the area in floodlights, a tractor lifted carcasses and two specialist tow-trucks arrived to pick up the pieces of a semi-trailer.
In the middle of this surreal evening Brian took a break from the mustering. Looking at the fat, dead bulls he suggested we take a couple of legs for the dogs. Dazed, I looked at him as though he were a six-fingered, banjo-plucking hillbilly. Undeterred, he marched over to one of the village people and asked him to help me cut off the legs. Then there were two people looking at him as though he were a six-fingered, banjo-plucking hillbilly. In a matter of matrimonial diplomacy I suggested that rather than evoke the macabre in front of such a large audience we at least wait until the bodies were deposited at the tip. Satisfied he departed.
When you are involved with animals there is always a downside. A thoroughbred breaks a leg in a race, a bull is broken by a truck rollover, a dog is bitten by a snake, a pet dies. It is distressing for those of us that love our animals but it happens. We love and sometimes we lose. Such is life.
And in case you’re wondering – 10pm Sunday night at the Coolatai tip, by spotlight and headlight, several legs from prime, stud-raised Shorthorn bulls are stealthily removed. Not all is wasted.