We parked in front of a clearing.
"Where are all ze animal?" Asked JJ.
"You've got no spottie JJ, how are we supposed to see them anyway?"
I was looking forward to some kangaroo meat and maybe even a skin, but so far the night was shaping up to drive around an abandoned tree farm taking photographs of the shrooms we spotted in the headlights. As a fellow fungi freak this did not mean a complete debacle.
"Ah, well. I know where the fox comes at night. I 'ave a special whistle for him." He showed me a metal whistle shaped much like the pottery one that a hippy sells at the local markets. This one didn't play bird songs or peace songs though, just the cries of a dying rabbit.
"But ziss whistle takes too much of my energy. You have to blow into it ... for hours and hours until the fox comes," he explained. "So instead, I 'ave this."
From behind his seat, from the place where he stashes his gun, he pulled out what looked like a kid's version of a CB radio. "See? You can set it to whatever animal. I will show you."
JJ stumped out into the dark and placed his device on a tree stump.
An owl flew by, silently.
Then he came back to the car and sat down next to me. He took a slug from a bottle of nasty red. "You?"
"No. Too nasty, even for me."
"Ahh. Okay Sarah."
He clicked 'play' on his remote control. "Just wait. No fox can ... ahh ... resist this."
What came next was a loud shrieking/crying/screaming that sounded like a two month old baby getting branded with a hot iron.
"What!" I shouted at him over the bedlam.
"It is the sound of a jack rabbit getting attacked. It will bring the foxes in."
"I can't stand this!" I said after about fifteen seconds of the racket. By then I had my head in my hands. "God, JJ. I'm a mother. I can't handle this."
The crying went on and on, echoing into the trees. The recording broke into sobs and then screams. Apparently this is what a jack rabbit says as it dies. In my distress I also wondered at how on earth some mixed up individual had managed to record such a thing. Did they half kill the animal and then kick it one more time?
"Okay Sarah. We try the coyote then." He clicked on another button and instead of jack rabbits we heard the dying throes of a coyote pup. The faun was worse. It cried and cried. The road runner? Nothing Acme there.
"Okay, okay JJ! Let's just do the rabbit."
In a quiet moment between screams, I asked him, "JJ, you've never had babies have you?"
In the clearing surrounded with tall blue gums, the shrieking of a dying rabbit reverberated around and around like a moth in a lampshade. We sat in the cab and waited for the fox. I smoked cigarette after cigarette and tried to stay sane. JJ drank wine. Occasionally he would turn on the headlights to a panorama quite bereft of foxes. I would have been really glad to see a fox shot dead at this point. I remembered my Mum, when my little sisters were born, complaining of sleepless nights when the cows separated from their calves were penned nearby for the next day's sales; after the lambs were weaned and yelled all night for their mothers. Mum said that the crying haunted her.
When the battery on his remote control ran out, JJ turned the car out of the clearing and drove through the labyrinthine roads to the yabbie dam. There we stalked around the edges until we found our pots and pulled up shitloads of food. Big and little yabbies wriggled in our torchlight like prawns on the beaches.
Now the yabbies were great but I never want to hear the sound of a dying jack rabbit again in my life. In fact I'm even off shooting marsupials for their meat and skins unless someone can show me a better experience than the last one I had. Ideologically, I think we should be able to kill and dress the meat we eat. I just love kangaroo meat, but after the last two shoots I've been party to, I'm not so sure the practicalities can live up to my squeamishness when it comes to the smell of an animal dying. Maybe I'm better heading down to the pet food shop for my weekly quota of kangaroo meat. As we drove home along the highway with a bucket of yabbies swilling on the back of the ute, JJ still had his rifle hanging out the driver's side window with the safety off, hoping for one last roadside kill. Finally as we got into to outskirts of town, at about a hundred clicks, he said, "Put this away for me will you Sarah," and reefed the .22 across the cab towards me.
Mmm. Yeah. Give me some net, buy me a boat and I can catch you some good food anytime, no problems. Peaceful like.