The Soul of the Wolf Runs Deep

 

No doubt for many of today’s domesticated dogs the call of the wild and the soul of the wolf lies buried deep in their hearts. Right down the line from your Huskies and German Shepherds to the ferocious yapping of your average Chihuahua. But somewhere along the line  an individual dog will miss out.

I have two such hounds. Siblings and rescue dogs, both with their own unique neurosis and quirks. The first inkling that they were not made of sterner stuff was the very day we bought them home. Not for them the territory-dominating process of patrolling the perimeter, marking their new territory to send word of their arrival to any other dogs in the area. No, it was straight through the front door, onto the bean bag and that’s pretty much where they stayed until a couple of years later when the bean bag was retired and their new cushioned mattress was provided.

Upon moving into our new abode with the wonderful lady of my life, a rule change meant these hell-hounds would now have to be outside dogs. Despite having the aforementioned cushioned mattress out on the covered and sheltered back deck, the first week was filled with rather pathetic looking animals sitting at the back door and whining miserably.

Why am I telling you this? Well as you may have noticed, if you’ve read any of my other stuff, I don’t mind a bit of camping. Camping is even better when you can take your four-legged companions with you and enjoy the great outdoors and see your hounds in their natural environment. I’ve managed to get my two out on two occasions so far and both outings have had mixed results.

First time was a bit over a year ago. We’d loaded Rusty, the faithful and ever-reliable (sometimes) old Landcruiser, kindly assisted the dogs to find a place to sit in among the camping equipment and headed off to Gordon Country, just the other side of Cunningham’s Gap. Upon arrival I flung open the door and stepped aside in expectation of the flurry of legs and tails of stampeding dogs as they burst forth to explore the wilderness.

What actually happened was two dogs looking out the window with expressions on their faces which could only be interpreted as “I’m not going out there.” Throughout the entire process of unloading the truck, setting up the swag and tarp, collecting firewood and lighting a fire, these two denizens of the wild sat securely in the front seats looking on and not daring to set foot on the ground.

It wasn’t until around two hours had passed and we were sitting comfortably by the fire, enjoying a coffee that they finally plucked up the courage to come and join us, although this foray was cut tragically short. From a distance of over 150 metres a cow mooed, and the fearless K9s bolted straight back to the car and gazed back at us wondering how we could be seated so calmly when death was obviously only moments away.

But to their credit, over the next couple of days they became almost relaxed in their new surroundings, although they were careful not to venture any more than a quick sprint away from their ‘safe place’. The smiling faces and wagging tails when we arrived back home as they were re-introduced to their mattress did give a hint to the fact that they never quite achieved ‘rugged bush-dog’ status though.

Cruza in his safe place.

So it’s been over twelve months since this outing and a combination of vehicle failures and other commitments meant that the required follow up to the initial trip has been a long time coming but last weekend it happened. We were back out to Gordon Country, this time in the nice comfy Isuzu MU-X, with a bit more room for the hounds.

Upon arrival the door was thrown open and unlike last time they bounded forth with enthusiasm, until a mate’s dog had stern words with them and Misha in particular fled to the security of the open car door, where she stayed for most of the weekend.

But my mighty boy-dog, Cruza, was made of sterner stuff and came over to hang out with the crew, although if he knew what awaited him he probably would’ve preferred to join his sister. You see we were sitting nice and quietly around the fire, Cruza sitting beside me so I could casually scratch the top of his head, and all was right in his world.

Then from out of nowhere he jumped, bent down and started licking his nether regions with a savage intensity. This was followed by desperate dragging of the bum across the ground, reminiscent of the worm-drag, followed by more licking and even more enthusiastic dragging. The poor bugger had just received an ant bite directly on the freckle. And did he receive any sympathy from the heartless human bastards he was camping with? No way, we all just laughed at him while he suffered the humiliation.

Fortunately all was forgiven by the following morning and both of them were happily gallivanting around the camp as we all surfaced. It wasn’t long before Misha headed back to the car, but Cruza chose to put last night’s horrors behind him and joined us for breakfast. It has to be said though that he did manage to climb onto Agnes’ chair and was careful to keep his bum a good foot or so off the ground.

So anyway, eventually we packed up and decided to have bit of a drive around Janowen Hills prior to heading home. Again poor Cruza probably wished we’d decided differently. All was going well, the tracks weren’t difficult and apart from a few bumps it was a peaceful interlude for the two troubled hounds. So much so that they even managed to lie down and have a brief snooze.

That was until a particularly steep downhill drop came upon us, the type of drop that’s as near to vertical as you can get while still feeling reasonably comfortable. The type of drop where the seatbelt is all that’s keeping you from flying forward into the dash……..unless you’re a dog asleep in the back. It was just as the back wheels left the flat and we were at full tilt that a tan and white bundle came tumbling though the gap between the two front seats and a rather shaken and surprised looking Cruza joined us in the front. He must’ve been wondering why the Gods of Doggie Fortune had it in for him by this stage. After we’d successfully negotiated the obstacle we were less successful in negotiating with Cruza about his return to the back of the car. Eventually it came down to a rather hefty push which left him no other option.

Anyway, he’s back home now and I’m sure the memories of the weekend have faded. They will both require a few more trips out bush before they are properly comfortable with the wide open spaces. Maybe I should take their mattress with us next time………

A Town Full of Melons

 

Every couple of years the little township of Chinchilla comes to life in the celebration of all things watermelon, known by all and sundry as the Chinchilla Melon Festival.

For those of you who don’t know about Chinchilla, I’ve done a quick search on the intergoogle and I can reliably, and with some authority, advise you that Chinchillas are a species of crepuscular rodents native to the Andes mountains in South America…..oh wait a minute, that may not be entirely accurate. Um….go make a coffee or a tea and I’ll be back in a moment.

 

Ok, well that’s slightly embarrassing, but I can now reliably, and with some authority, advise you that Chinchilla is a small town on the Warrego Highway in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, a bee’s whisker under three hundred k’s from Brisbane. Normally populated by around 5 500 locals, this weekend the population rose by an extra 15 000.

This obviously puts accommodation in the small town at a premium, as witnessed by the rows and rows of caravans packed, sardine-like, into the showgrounds. Now to many travellers, this type of high density touring might be appealing, but this husky gent does not. So we headed about 10 km’s out of town and threw down the swag at the Chinchilla Weir campgrounds. There’s about a dozen powered sites if you’re into that, but we had our own power so we just picked a nice shady spot to set up.

The rope swing hanging from a tree about twenty metres from the water’s edge is a pretty fair indication that the water level was somewhat below its peak. When it’s full though, I imagine it would be a great view. But regardless of the low level, it was still a nice spot to spend a few days and have the occasional swim to escape the heat for a while and to also have schools of small fish gently exfoliating your skin while you sit in the shallows. Seriously, people pay big money for that kind of treatment at a fancy spa.

Speaking of the heat, bugger me. It was as hot as a Swedish backpacker in a bikini. The mercury spent much of the daylight hours in the high 30’s and low 40’s, instantly scorching any bit of exposed skin on the unwary traveller. But then again if you head west in the middle of February and expect cooling sea breezes and mild temperatures then you should probably do a bit more research while sipping your latte and waiting for your smashed avocado in your trendy suburban café.

But they’re a tough breed out West and the temperatures didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the locals or us visitors. We got there on the Friday, so missed the Twenty20 Big Bash cricket held on Thursday evening, but we made sure that we were in time to catch Friday night’s Rodeo.

Now as surprising as this may sound, for a bloke who grew up in a country town I’d never been to a rodeo before. I’d always seen the big 10 gallon hats, checked shirts and dinner plate sized belt buckles and just thought it’s just an impersonation of the American ‘Good ol’ boys’ with all their Yeehaws and rootin’ and/or tootin’. While all that is fine and dandy in the land of the Red, White and Blue, anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the steady insurgence of American culture in Australia. But dear readers, you are now to be witness to a momentous occasion, because right here and right now I will admit I was wrong.

It was a fantastic evening. There were some serious skills on display, and not only from the poor buggers sitting on top of angry bulls and horses. The people who get the animals into the pens and help the riders mount down to the blokes ensuring the gates are opened swiftly are an amazing example of organisation in not only keeping things moving but also in ensuring the safety of the riders.

I think my horse is broke

After a few brief moments (for some riders they were very brief moments) the next lot of unsung heroes come into play. The ‘clowns’ who rush in front of the horns or the kicking legs in order to distract the bull and prevent serious damage to the cowboy are an absolute joy to watch in action. As are the horsemen who manage to manoeuvre their trusty steeds alongside a jumping, twisting and kicking horse to give the rider a safe way of dismounting once the eight seconds have been achieved and then take control of the horse to ensure it too leaves the area without injury. Very impressive and it certainly won’t be the last rodeo I go look at.

So anyway, after a balmy night in the swag Saturday rocked around. This is the main day for events related to the mighty melon. We had all the best intentions of participating in some of the events of the day, but the water of the weir was way too inviting and so we missed the registration. Oh well, we still got to watch other people making the most of the events.

My personal favourite was the melon skiing which basically consisted of participants being shod in watermelon skins and being pulled along a watered plastic sheet covered in smashed watermelons. Much hilarity ensued as all sorts of people lined up to test their mettle. Most face-planted within the first couple of metres and were treated to a further 40 metres of ploughing through the red and green debris to be dumped unceremoniously at the end.

Others had more success and made it part way down before they too ended up with their melon-clad feet in the air and a face full of sun-baked watermelon carcases. Very rarely, with the planets aligned and the omniscient bellybutton fluff appropriately consulted, some magnificent athlete would make it to the end, upright and triumphantly punching the sky in ultimate victory…..only to have one of the organisers give them a face full of watermelon.

Melon skiing. It’s a thing.

There were many other events of course, watermelon bungy, tug-o-war, pip spitting and a chariot race. A bustling market filled the main street with all the usual wares as well as some more unusual items. They even bought in a couple of lads from Showtime FMX – that’s Freestyle Motor Cross for the uninformed among you. So all-in-all an action packed arvo in the ‘chilla as the inhabitants like to call it…well they might, I never asked them.

But anyway it was time for another cooling dip in the weir before the free concert and laser show was due to kick off. Upon returning to the area the old bobcat was busily scraping up the crushed remains of hundreds of watermelons as we set up our seats for the concert. Things were going well until a storm started to roll in, and some inkling convinced me that we needed to return to the campsite. While things were calm for the next hour or so, quite suddenly the wind picked up and it became apparent that one peg in each corner of the gazebo wasn’t going to be enough.

I’m sure anyone who has camped on a regular basis will be familiar with what followed. With the wind trying to throw the gazebo in all directions, my better half was holding it down while I went around in the dark, attempting to bang more pegs into the ground. I probably missed more often than I hit but we got there in the end, and after the storm blew itself out we got to spend a slightly cooler night with some light rainfall, which was much appreciated.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and so on Sunday we bid farewell, but not before posing with a couple of strategically placed melons in front of the Chinchilla sign. Just as we finished up, another fine cultured young bloke also rolled up with a couple of melons of his own for the same photo opportunity. Great minds think alike.

That’s a big pair of melons.

It’s on again in two year’s time, and I can guarantee that I’ll be there again, lapping up the fantastic atmosphere of a country town letting its hair down. See ya in 2019 Chinchilla.