Saturday, May 27, 2006


Moon was a song I wrote years ago. It's about love and lunacy.
Click on thread title to stream or download.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Crowroad was a song I wrote inspired by a thread on Just click on the title to find the download or stream.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kipling's Bet

Kipling's Bet
© Fox

If people stop and ask you do you know the way, I suggest you tell them what Kipling had to say. But don't wax too lyrically or they’ll put you to the test of which verse of Kipling's 'IF' do you know the best. They'll say to you my friend, would you risk it on one pitch, would you stake all that you have gained, against a life lived in a ditch? And you in your retort may say to them in jest, "Do you think that I look so handsomely dressed? You haven't seen the tools, which I carry in this pack; you haven't heard the fools who stabbed me in the back. But the hammer's a little worn and the axe has lost its gloss. Now, that's enough my friend about my loss."

But they might twist your arm a little as your story has intrigue, and you may care to tell them something of your dreams. Tell them of your youth, and of all your lofty plans. Tell them of time you crossed the Rio Grande. Tell them of the places you haunted and the women that you met, and then tell them all of that god almighty bet.

Let them know the circumstances, how your dreams had taken over; how all rationale had left you with a girl you met in Dover. How you'd built a fair stake, but not enough to win her hand. How another man was courting her who owned half of fucking England. Tell them how your love, could lift you when you walked, how you passed through some sublime vortex that allowed your souls to talk. Then tell them of the dark side how in a drunken binge, a game of pitch-and-toss was happening on the fringe. You'd watched it for a while, whilst sipping from a can, when who should walk in but the Lord of all England. Inside your heart was thumping the adrenaline pump was on; little did you know how much would go wrong.

"Hey! You," was your challenge. One so poorly mustered, it wouldn't have had the strength of purpose to ripple a bowl of custard. In fact, as it turned out, most unfortunate in the end, the Mighty Lord of England mistook you for a friend.

"It's you," he did effuse, "My mutual friend of Nancy's and one I do believe who also shares her fancy. Come over here my man; let me know your name. I want to know my challenger in life's eternal game. Barman," he commanded. "Get my friend a drink. Let's have ourselves a little chat," he said with a sly wink. "What is it that your drinking in that infernal can? Come on get this in you." He shoved a whisky in your hand.

The "common touch" they call it, and it can be so disarming especially in the hands of someone, oh so charming. To say you'd dropped your guard would be an understatement the Mighty Lord of England had all but dropped your dacks and raped you.

Nancy was the natural topic so of her you did converse, but things slinked quickly into something quite perverse. The Mighty Lord of England started in on a rant of the bed he shared with you-know-who and all his dirty plans. Though you were sick with jealousy, as your love was unrequited what the Lord had to say made you quite excited.

You saw then for certain it was money that she wanted, and at that foul moment all your decency absconded. If you'd had been a better man, if only you could have walked with kings, you would have known to walk away and plan a different sting. But you wanted Nancy in your bed, and a chance to bludgeon this Lord's head.You wanted all that this man had; you wanted it all so very bad.

"Hey look!" said the Lord. "They are playing pitch-and-toss. Can you believe at that fine game I have never had a loss?"

"What's the odds of that," your mind numbly computed. "Pretty slim you'd have to think," something inside you muted. "It'll be just like roulette you can't keep betting black. I'll stake all that I have got and give this prick a heart attack."

"So, you've never lost a twirl at a game of pitch and toss. Well funny as it may seem I too have never lost." You let that thought drift, out there on the smoke, but the look on your face, made sure it was no joke. It was a challenge pure and simple, one no betting man could pass up, especially one like the Lord who wasn't lacking in a buck.

"Never lost a twirl, you say. How remarkable that is. Lets say we get together and give those coins a whiz. We have to have a stake. What will your marker be? How about the other man can never see Nancy?"

Never see Nancy was a price you wouldn't pay. You weren't about to give up your chance for a roll there in the hay.

"How about we make a wager of the financial kind. I'm prepared to put down every fucking dime."

"Right then. Then that's it. I'll match your marker square." Though the Mighty Lord of England probably didn't really care.

From there you muscled over to the edge of the game, where the Lord seemed to know the spruiker by name. They had a casual chat in a private kind of way before the spruiker turned, and had this to say, “Leave it off then lads. We've got ourselves a bet. We all know that Ed 'ere ain't ever been bet. He got 'imself a challenger, a likely lad as well 'e says 'e'll bet every dime or see Ed 'ere in Hell" Well the laughter fair rung out and if you'd have had your doubts now was the time for everyone of them to count. But the odds had to be even or slightly in your favor, as time and chance were against Ed, but would they be your saviors.

"Clear the ring!" the spruiker called, as he gave the coin a kiss. "What it'll be then Ed?" The coin resting on his fist.

"Heads" was the call and the glint of metal hit the air. The game of pitch and toss is irrevocably fair. It flipped and turned and landed and spun out of control it twirled while it standed, commanding fate over lost souls. It drove a final listless circle and landed on its tail with its head there for all to see, fate had prevailed. The laughter and the back slapping left you in despair, Ed turned and took your hand; he fixed you with his stare. He could have made a joke and belittled you even more, but instead he gave you the key to another door. "If you can cop this on the chin, treat it all as just good fun, then yours is the earth and all that's with in. And what's more you'll be a man my son."

Join the CFA and Go to Blazes

Join the CFA and Go to Blazes
© Fox

"Join the CFA and go to blazes," my brother would quip, as we gathered the essentials needed for an afternoon setting fire to all the roads and bush in the district. The Country Fire Authority was on the frontline of fighting bush and paddock fires; and in bushfire management the best defense is always offence hence the old expression 'fighting fire with fire.' So it was that at the end of every spring or early summer we'd burn the sides of roads to create firebreaks through out the district. It was the kind of activity with high appeal for any young lads. It was manly, moderately dangerous, and there was always the possibility of some real excitement should one of the burn offs turn into a raging grass fire, something that happened with alarming frequency.

The CFA was a volunteer organization. Its members were farmers, their sons and laborers, and a few pyromaniacs from the local townships. Each CFA station was equipped with fire trucks, radios, uniforms, axes, ladders and the like. The kind of paraphernalia every five-year-old boy dreams of one day owning. Stations were distributed amongst districts and each station had its own fire chief, usually of captain's rank and lieutenants. The role of these senior officers in the CFA was to ensure the equipment was well maintained, coordinate burn offs and keep the local volunteer membership in order. In many places, the local stations became small community centers where men would gather and tinker with the equipment, exchange stories of bravery in bygone fires, remember the fallen, and plan the fire season ahead. There was rivalry too between CFA branches. Most of this was centered on equipment especially trucks and radio systems. It was all pretty entertaining stuff and frequently brought rye comments from my dad, as we’d drive past men out buffing hose brass and Bedfords on a Sunday afternoon.

All the same it was serious business and at times dangerous. Fire plagues the Australian bush during the summer threatening homes, incomes, and lives. With our own farm close to the edge of national forest, we weren't immune from this scourge and every fire season was treated with trepidation. Burn offs presented excellent opportunities for the CFA captains to test the equipment, their communication and coordination skills, and train greenhorns. All of which is essential especially the communication and coordination element. Every year CFA firefighters die fighting forest fires and it is poor communications that are responsible for the majority of these deaths; something I very nearly experienced first hand.

The most dangerous job fighting bushfires isn't fighting the fire directly dousing it with water. Though that is usually pretty hot and dirty work, for the most part you can see the fire, are not down wind of it, and are generally fighting it from some access point. The most dangerous job is cutting the firebreaks ahead of the fire. Usually this involves a bulldozer and a support vehicle such as a fire truck. Communications are paramount as you can't see the fire front and are completely reliant on those that can. On one occasion fighting a bushfire in national forest near Heywood, shortly before CFA volunteers were banned from fighting fires in national forest, the Tahara CFA, of which I was a volunteer member, was called upon to be the support vehicle for cutting some firebreaks. At the time, I didn't think this was a very sexy option and much preferred what we were doing fighting the fire front on. But my mates soon informed me that this wasn't going to be a picnic; the fire will be exploding right over our heads.

And it was. However, initially the mission was pretty tame. There was only one glaring fault with it that I could see and that was very shortly going to prove near fatal. Our job was to follow the bulldozer watering its cabin as it cut a firebreak through thickish scrub. I was holding the hose on the back of the fire truck and remember it being particularly unpleasant as in exchange for the stream of life giving water I was generously affording the bulldozer, it sent back plumes of thick black diesel exhaust. That wasn’t what alarmed me, however, it was the fact that as we followed this bulldozer deeper into the bush I realized there was no way for us to turn our truck around, or the bulldozer for that matter, should the fire arrive. And it was just as I was having these thoughts that a fireball exploded overhead. It sucked all the oxygen out of the air around us and as I gasped for breath the heat of it burnt my lungs. "Right. Time to pull out," I thought.

"What are we doing?" I yelled into the cabin of the fire truck.

"We're staying here. They want us to keep going the front is away off yet," came the reply from inside. "This is why we're here. Keep dousing that bloody dozer." I could here the radio crackling with the same intensity as the fire and the hurried but calm voices of different trucks calling back their positions and circumstances.


The fireball had started a small spot fire in the canopy so I turned the hose on it. Canopy fires can be pretty dangerous but don't generate the same heat and intensity as when the undergrowth catches. The smoke and heat from the canopy fire meant I lost visual with the bulldozer but it was fine and the driver, clearly a seriously brave man, kept carving through the bush, but things went badly very quickly from there. What I first thought of as being a small canopy fire turned out to be just the entre for the whole disaster. The fire was behind us.

"Get him out! Get him out of that dozer," I could here the boys inside yelling out to me. But I wasn't really sure which way to turn, keeping the water flowing seemed to me to be the best option, but I was wrong. The best option was to get the friggin' hell out of there because we were about to be cooked. Then the radio operator jumped out of the cabin, ran forward to the dozer, and dragged the driver from its cabin.

"Blankets!" He was yelling as they ran back to the truck. "Get out the fucking blankets!"

Training the hose, which was hard enough to operate with two hands with one, on the boys as they ran back to the truck, I frigged around and grabbed the fire blankets from the stupidly hot metal cage where they were stored, and tossed them into the cabin keeping one for myself. The dozer driver and radio operator jumped into the cabin and draped themselves in the blankets, whilst the truck driver got out and helped me cut off the water. We weren't going to need it. Then he jumped back in and bought that old 1950's four-wheel drive Bedford into its full glory. The power it found in reverse was gut wrenching and our driver blinded by the smoke and only able to drive with mirrors and instinct crashed back through 50 meters of burning bush which our useless firebreak had done nothing to contain

As we spun out onto the gravel road we'd came in on, I felt a lot safer. But we weren't out of the woods yet as the gravel road afforded little protection. However, fire moves in mysterious ways and we didn't see it again until we were well clear of it and watching it from some distance. My hands were shaking a little from the adrenaline as we pulled over and the driver called, "Smoko!"

Cigarettes have a curious way of inserting themselves into every aspect of a fire season, but after breathing in the burning bush for hours the insidious little reward they offered at this moment must have been fire's greatest triumph. We puffed away like maniacs lucky not to attract an airborne water bomb. Then one of the men asked me if my mom had packed any of that sultana cake as we could do with bite and a cup of tea.

The Hindu's say you can taste the love in good cooking and that must have been true of mom's sultana cake. And with five sons, four daughters and a husband 'that sultana cake' as it was so often referred to had a certain omnipresence turning up at shearing smokos, sports pie nights, school fates and church outings. And on one particular occasion earlier on in my CFA volunteering days had very nearly cost a man his house.

All of this transpired at a time when the Tahara CFA was undergoing a leadership crisis. Two local identities were vying for the captaincy of our CFA brigade. They were neighbors and sworn enemies. Roger Wilson was the manager of the biggest farming estate in the district called "Hamilton Hills", and Greg McCloud was the owner of another large farm called "Riverdale". Both these properties bordered one another and our own farm. We were all well acquainted. Roger was like farming royalty, and Greg was a successful farmer's son on the verge of bringing financial ruin upon the family farm through an international currency farm finance scheme that was about to turn disastrously against him. If risk taking were the measure of men then Greg was a base jumper and Roger would have sat out a game of lawn bowls.

On this particular occasion we were conducting a burn off along a road that ran between their two properties and were about to come to an intersection. Because of a particularly wet spring we were burning off late in the summer and there was quite a bit of fuel about in the form of long grass. Greg had already cut and baled his hay and two new stacks stood neatly in the corner of his hay paddock. Across the road from these haystacks was the Miller's house, a farm laborer's cottage belonging to Hamilton Hills. I had been teamed up with Roger and was on the back of a small one-ton farm pickup. We had a large water tank, hoses and pump, all fairly standard farm equipment. However, before the burn off had reached the intersection we'd almost run out of water and so had left the others, who had nothing more than knapsacks, to fill up our tank. The fire was burning pretty tamely at this stage and there was hardly a breath of wind about.

We had to drive a couple of kilometers away to fill up with water and the whole process was going to take at least twenty minutes. Roger didn't seem too concerned about leaving the others behind so ill equipped, and maybe he was right because Greg was at the rear of the burn off in the fire truck ensuring that nothing was left smoldering.

Hamilton Hills had a specially designed quick-fill water system and the tank was overflowing in no time. But we were positioned in a valley so that we didn't have a very clear view of the burn off which was just over a rise in the hill.

"It looks like there's a lot more smoke up there Mr. Wilson," I said.

"Oh. I don't know Dan. There's a lot of fuel at that corner," Roger said stifling a yawn. "It's time for smoko."

"But Mr. Wilson, don't you think that's too much smoke? I think it might be one of Mr. McCloud's haystacks."

"No. Forget it Dan. Anyway bloody McCloud's there with that fire truck. Did your mom pack any of that sultana cake?'

We sat back munching away on mom's legendary cake and with a couple of cups of Thermos' tea were lulled into something akin to an opium stupor as we watched the smoke thicken on the horizon from plumes to the very definite intensity that a serious fire gets when it starts to generate its own wind. Roger seemed to be slowly coming around and was ready to rouse himself.

"We'd better get back there Dan, and see what trouble McCloud's gotten himself into,' he mumbled.

So we indolently packed up our smoko kits, and climbed into the pick up where Roger took his time fastening his seatbelt something nobody usually bothered with in those days before we started moving at sheep-muster speed back to the burn off. But Roger's languid demeanor was about to receive the same treatment dealt up to overdosing junkies, pure adrenalin, because as the pick-up crested the hill we saw a huge paddock fire licking at the edges of the Miller's cottage.

"Jesus H. Christ!" Roger stammered. "And we've been sitting there eating that bloody sultana cake."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Young and Jackson's Hotel

Young and Jackson's Hotel
© Fox

Years ago when I was about 21 or 2, I was a trainee manager at Young and Jackson's Hotel in Melbourne. It is a downtown hotel opposite the main railway station and a city icon. It was so famous that every politician, boxer, racing identity, country folk, movie star, gangster, street punk, and derelict would stop by there for a drink at some stage. And it was because of this reason that the Victorian premier of the time John Cain had decided to launch his reelection campaign there. He, however, was a well known tea totaler and had organized his photo shoot for 8 am before the doors opened at 10.

Everything had apparently been organized on very short notice, as I had no idea what was about to occur and was at the pub cleaning the lines and putting on the barrels. At about 7am I received a call from the owner, Marcel Gilbert, the largest independent hotel owner in Australia, and a guy with a remarkable memory for names. I picked up the phone and he said to me in his cultured Jewish accent, "Daniel, is there any one else there? Is Michael there yet?"

"No, sorry Mr. Gilbert. It's just me. I'm cleaning the lines," hoping to give a good account of myself.

"Only you Dan." I could hear the disappointment in his voice. "Well, Daniel you're in the lion's den today my boy. The Premier is coming this morning. They are going to take some photos. He'll be there at 8 o'clock. I want you to be ready to meet him. But don't say anything, you know what I mean? Don't say anything."

"Yes, Mr. Gilbert. I understand."

"Good. Now, do you have anything to wear?"

"Not really. I'm only dressed in shorts and a T-shirt."

"Well you go next door to Smith's, I'll ring Ray and have him waiting there for you."

There were very few people in Melbourne who had the capacity to snub the Premier and send their lowliest employee to greet him and at the same time call the tailor next door and tell him to get down to his shop at 7 am to dress some greenhorn. But Marcel was just one of those guys, all charm and balls.

So with in half an hour I was standing out the front of Y&J's waiting for the Premier to come by and as the designated representative of the hotel I was the focus of the press and the premier's forward party. The premier's PR guy gave me a quick rundown on what they wanted, perhaps a nice somewhat ironic picture of the premier raising a glass to Melbourne and the people of Victoria through a second story window.

That much I could handle. Then we settled down to wait for the premier's arrival.

There was an old blind guy who for as long as I can remember, and is likely still there today, selling newspapers out the front of the pub. He was there that morning waiting for his regulars to stream by once peak hour hit; and someone from the premiers forward party had got it into his head to have this guy moved in case he got in the way of the premier's photo shoot. So they started discussing it with me and as part of that repartee the photographer from the Herald started telling me a blind joke.

" A blind guy is crossing the road with his dog, but instead of crossing on "walk" the dog has dragged him out in front of the traffic. After the screeching of brakes, a few near misses and the occasional "get a cane you blind cunt" from the drivers, the blind guy makes it to the other side. He then proceeds to take a dog biscuit out of his pocket and feed it to the dog. A guy standing next to him says, "Do you know that dog nearly killed you?" and the blind guy replies, "Yeah, I'm just trying to find out what end his head is so I can kick his ass."

This bought the obligatory gwaughs of laughter from everybody standing around me. Then seemingly by happenstance the blind guy started to move on. He gathered up his few humble belongings locked up his paper stand, and picked up his dog's water bowl which was full of that kind of spew like mixture you get in dog's bowls when the water has all mixed in with the dry food. And as he was walking past our little clutch of meanies he emptied that water bowl with the eye of William Tell all over the cameraman from about four feet away. Whooha! My new suit! Not a mark on it. Then we are all really laughing, like almost rolling around until who should stride down the street but the Premier.

"Jesus," he said to Derek (the photographer) "Give up the grog. You look friggin' awful."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Shearing Shed

The Shearing Shed
© Fox

It's a scorcher and if the mercury rises above 113 in the shed we'll flicker. I'll be rousaboutin', pickin' up the fleeces, sweepin' the board, keepin' the sheep up in the catchin' pens and probably pressin' a few bales by the end of the day. The cricket broadcast will kick off at about 11 so we've got possibly the oldest HMV wireless you'll ever see perched just so to catch a signal and woe befall you should you bump it with the broom.

The shearers, two brothers, Ken and Ian Rook are guns, surgeons, pranksters, smokers, drinkers, and competitors. They'll have their eye on gettin' through 120 each today, as they're first cross ewes with not too many skin folds. It'll be my job or one of my brothers to keep the tally for my oldman when we count 'em out at smoko. It's still early in the morning but the yards are dry and a kind of green dust infused with the dried shit of generations of sheep floats above the restlessness of the ewes as Sam, one of our dogs, wanders by making her way up into the shed to camp in the locks under the table. It's soft and cool amongst the wool.

There's a northerly blowing, and it's a bad fire day. Nobody told the weatherman though and a total fire ban hasn't been declared. That raises the tension and we'll be on lookout all day for smoke on the horizon or worse, much worse, the smell of it.

The shed is made of corrugated iron so you'd think it would be pretty hot inside already, but the roof is high and gabled and the air circulation is good and it's dark. It's got windows and a single skylight to help my oldman class the wool, but the only direct sunlight is two squares at the shoots where the sheep are released after being shorn. The sun glistens here on the grease stained shearing boards and it'd be already too hot to stand there in bare feet.

We don't have a bell to kick off the shearing, which starts at 7:30 on the dot and goes through to 9:30 smoko. Ian and Ken have already fitted their combs and cutters into their hand pieces that are now rumbling in idle on the shearing boards. They're ready to go and though it'll be a test of physical endurance in the hardest job known to man both are puffing on their roll-your-owns lookin' into the catchin' pen. Then right on 7:30 my oldman gives them the, "Righto boys" and they flick their smokes down though the battens at the floor of the pen and push through the catchin' pen doors that swing like those on a Western saloon.

The machines roar into life and there is a flurry of kicking feet as the shearers get the sheep into position, sticking the head and forelegs of the ewe under arm pits that have never known the luxury of a deodorant. It hasn't even been invented yet. The bellies are the first part to come off and I have to be on my guard ready to move in and take it out of the way of the shearer, remove any stains and then practice my fleece thowing technique as I launch it from a distance into the belly bale. The rest of the fleece comes off easy and the sheep is almost sedated by the smooth rhythm of the combs and cutters sweeping along its flanks and quite possibly the gas from the shearer's underarm. Then the shearer tips the ewe back between his legs and it scrambles to find grip from its hooves on the glistening boards before hurtling down the shoot and giving a jump for joy. Now I must move fast as the shearer swings past to catch another ewe, I have to pick up and the fleece and throw it on to the table. It's a hallowed skill and not easy for a 10 year old to master, but I've so honed it by this stage in the season I can land it perfectly spread out on the table from a yard and a half away then swing round to fetch the broom and sweep the locks under the table just as the sheerer muscles backwards out of the catching pen with another for his tally and a wink of appreciation for getting the job done and not holding him up a second. And so goes the day 'til lunch as I work on perfecting my every move around the boards as shearer and rousabout dance to the tune of the first session of play in Sydney.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

A vixen

A Cute Little Cub

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


© Fox

There's a famous Fox family photo of my brothers, sisters and cousins all under 13 and each armed with a rifle of some description. It's a picture that would've cheered the heart of Charles Taylor; and though we weren't freedom fighters, as kids, we fought a war for economic supremacy over a range of fauna mostly rabbits, 'roos and foxes. I didn't know anyone at that time who didn't share our blood lust. There were a variety of missions we undertook to eradicate our lands of these low lives from chemical weapons to fumagate them, traps to ambush them, and a biological weapon called mixymytosis to blind them; however, the mission we were most enthusiastic about was the nighttime raid known as spotlighting.

There weren't any aspects about spotlighting that I didn't like and there were two basic approaches, one involved the use of polythene piping packed with mud and dirt at one end to make an effective knobkerry and the other, rifles. Because our Scoutmaster had some sense, spotlighting with rifles was banned on Scout outings. This meant that we had to settle for the knobkerry. It also meant our prey was restricted to rabbits. I've never heard of anybody taking on a 'roo with a club, though I have heard one quite disturbing story of a stoning. That aside, spotlighting in Scouts was about as much fun as a farm kid could imagine having. The basic approach was to all clamor on the front bonnet of the Scoutmaster's ancient Austin whilst we took turns holding the spotlight. The light would pan the night pasture illuminating the occasional eyes of sheep and cattle until hopefully they'd settle on the eyes of a rabbit momentarily transfixing it with blindness. A frenzied rush ensued as we scrambled off the moving Austin taking care, in that chaos, not to block the spotlight and make as little noise as possible whilst running at full tilt in a large arch to take up our individual positions surrounding the rabbit. The rabbit's situation was typically hopeless but not always. Its only option was to run the gauntlet and for us that was when the fun began. It's frightening thinking back on it now because what ensued was Rwandan in its savagery. By contrast, spotlighting with a rifle was far more civilized at a stretch something akin to the debate over chemical versus conventional warfare.

One of our neighbors was a man called John Goodman. John was the sort of guy who almost everybody admired and had an instant affinity with. He had rugged good looks complimented by a handlebar moustache, back when they were fashionable, and was something of a local sports star being coveted by the local teams for his footballing, and cricket ability as well as his general affability. He and his wife, an artist, had what could only be described as a whimsical love that lasted. His farm wasn't large enough to support his family so to supplement his income he plied his trade as a plumber. This meant my father had fairly regular contact with John. They shared a boundary fence, which was in their mutual interest to maintain, and my father had endless requirements for a plumber. So it was that John became a frequent visitor to our place and struck up a friendship with my father. Dad would wax with him nostalgically about his days as a publican in Melbourne next to the dry suburb of Box Hill where John had originally came from, and John for his part learned the ins and outs of farming from the hands of a master farmer, something my father surely was. It was well before this time, however, that dad invited John to come spotlighting with us. John had just moved to the district and dad thought it would make a nice icebreaker activity. Though I'm sure he had another term for it.

The thing about spotlighting with guns is that communication is paramount. Hardly a month went by during the spring or autumn months that the news didn't carry a story of an accidental shooting death. Whilst we had no formal training in the use of firearms we had a pretty strict routine we had to follow. For spotlighting we usually drove an old Toyota Litestout pick up and when we were out in the paddocks my brothers and I stood on the tray and used a series of knocks on the roof of the cabin to let my father know to stop if we'd spotted the enemy. It wasn't exactly Morse code more of the order of one tap for stop and two for move on, but it was the sort of thing you didn't want to fuck up or you'd risk having somebody flailing around behind you struggling to keep their feet with a live gun. There were four principle roles: the driver, the runner, the spotlighter and the shooter. Shooting was prized of course, but each role had its fun. Usually when spotting rabbits the goal is not to shoot the rabbit, but to whiz the bullet between its ears so as to make it sit. Then the runner gets his turn to pounce on the rabbit before it knows which way is up and wring its neck.

I'm not really sure what Lesley Goodman, John's wife, made of our arrival only a week or two after they'd moved in, but it was after dark. We crunched up their gravel driveway, through the pine trees and cypress trees that lined it. My father in the cabin with his thick Irish face and terry-toweling hat pulled down low over his brow in a rusted out pick up that had only been saved from the tip by necessity. My brother and I on the back wide-eyed and keen with 50 mile an hour hair having stood on the tray all the way from our place to the Goodman's. A large spotlight and guns could be glimpsed through the cabin windows and with the dogs howling and stretching their chains as they snapped at the possibility of intruders it must have been unsettling if not downright frightening for a city girl.

But John was keen, perhaps overly so. This was what it was all about for him. This was giving up the city; and this bunch of hillbillies was going to be his first foray into another life, a better life though Lesley was probably thinking a decidedly shorter life. It wasn't like we really had time to give John a crash course in the arcania of spotlighting. We gave him a briefing of sorts on the roles each of us would play and he opted to sit it out in the front cabin with dad just to see how we did it. That was always a nice option anyway because spotlighting did have one major downside, it was frigging cold.

We couldn't have long left the Goodman's when we spotted the first enemy for the night, a fox. Foxes are notoriously difficult to spot as the light stops them only momentarily so you need to get a shot off quick and if it's over any distance and they start moving you have to lead them slightly. I was first up with the rifle, a small bolt action Winchester 22, all that was required. I guess I hit him, because I know that I traded places with my brother so that I got the spot and he the gun. Rabbits unlike foxes will sit if you are close enough and the light is intense enough. In fact they will even come crawling toward the light. It a weird thing to see especially when one considers the fate that awaits them as they crawl toward their enemy's position. Typically you don't shoot at a rabbit that does this because there's little point and the runner just takes off after them. That is exactly what happened next. I spotted a rabbit not minutes after the fox just yards in front of the truck. One tap. Truck stops. There he is. Loud whisper. I've got him. Safety off. Cabin door opens. John leaps out. What the fuck. Gun fires. John falls forward. Mad scramble. John stands up. Rabbit in hand. “That's how it's done boys,” he says with a grin.

You can bet your life on that one John, and you did.