Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The broken vase

Break a vase .. and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. Dennis Walcott.

This line kept reappearing in my mind as I stood on the sand bar that guards Broke Inlet from the sea. ...  the love that reassembles the fragment is stronger ... His father cut open the grey plastic urn with his pocket knife. 'Let's get this show on the road,' he said. Young men my son's age, raw and stricken, lit up tailormades and hunched into the wind. It didn't seem to matter how they did this thing called grief. Some fell down in the sand crying. Some waded into the sea that had taken their mate, to challenge its power and throw a messaged whiskey bottle into the rip. They spread loose feathers into the waters of the inlet and, with the winds that day, the feathers would arrive on the shores below the shacks where he grew up.

We motored many boats to the bar to spread his ashes. That swell crashed and churned all day, and with it at our backs, we fished for gardies and whiting. We drank beer. We watched his sister throw his ashes into the inlet, standing knee-deep in the water. Her clutching the urn and arcing it over her head again and again. A potential future as powder flying through the air.
'Oh, you go girl,' whispered the woman next to me.

 I'd asked him a month earlier if I could go on a pig hunt with him and his mates. Not that I hanker for this kind of entertainment as a rule. It is the culture and experience that I want to write about, in a gonzo kind of way. He probably thought I was an annoying wanker writer for asking to come on a pig hunt, but he did say yes.

When I first met a mob of pig hunters on the Broke track they scared the crap out of me; these jaw-chomping blokes with their ute trays full of lurchers in leather harnesses and brindled killer pitbulls in cages. Straight out of a Mad Max movie that lot, post apocalypse and all. But like commercial fishing, pig hunting is not a visible culture. Muggles only get an occasional look in. You may see at the pub younger, less disciplined dogs spilling off the back of a ute, bristling the GPS wires attached to their collars, and quickly bundled back on board by young men carrying slabs of beer. On New Year's Eve, my sister saw a headless pig hanging from a truck parked at the local supermarket. It's a culture I wanted a closer look at.

Anyway, I met him in the summer at his father's hut. (His dad was the partner of my friend who had died just before Christmas.) He told me a bit about the hunting, about his dogs. He told me how bush ticks fall off a pig as soon as it is killed, much the same way as fleas drop away when a dog dies. There is no place for parasites once the blood stops running, apparently.  I didn't think much about these conversations, just that I was invited along for a pig hunt at some stage. I kept my Broke radar on for when he turned up again. He was a nice lad. I liked him. Then Johnboy rang me.

the love that reassembles the fragment is stronger

Back at the hut after the spreading of his ashes at the bar, some serious drinking set in. Spy, who'd decided he was driving the 100km home to Manji, sat in his Cruiser in a huge sulk, alternately sleeping/trying to co-opt kids, adults and dogs into finding his car keys. His wife sat beside me, pokerfaced. Cam sailed up and down the front steps, vodka in hand, until his every voyage became a party trick. Someone started an argument about mutton. I jingled my pocketful of stolen cigarette lighters. Someone filleted and then cooked up all the salmon, whiting and herring on the fire. The gardies were left forgotten in iceboxes. All the hut folk were there.
Johnboy, his nephew and the drowned boy's dad stayed sober, looking on.

I reckon it would have been close to nine when the women came back. They drove around Spy who was parked in the middle of the track, still sulking. Two of them were leaning out the window shouting, 'We got a pig. We got a pig!' They stopped the car and got out. They stalked around the camp, a bit amped. These women were tall, well over six foot tall with long black hair and they looked like Valkyries. Their lean whiskery wolfhounds jumped out and slumped on the ground beside the car, exhausted.The women had taken a boat in from his wake at the bar and gone pig hunting in the early evening. Not with guns, mind you. They'd gone out hunting, with dogs and knives.

I walked home along the track that night, my headlamp bobbing light ahead of my steps, thinking about those women, his father, the dogs, and this life.


  1. In amongst this epic little story you have let out a bit of information about yourself which troubles me. So you are a lighter stealer...

  2. Wow. Such a lot of grief around you. And a subculture I don't see these days, who will probably be the ones to survive when the economic shit really hits the fan in this country. Good friends to have methinks. They remind me of my brother's wild Carlisle/Rivervale motorbike riding/car burnout mates. I used to hang out with them all when I was a lot younger. Makes me realise how 'civilised' I have become. You seem able to sustain a degree of wildness. Those women sound awesome.

  3. Replies
    1. I get where you are coming from Rachel and I partly agree. But I also think this is a simplistic view because I know - because I know myself - that women are more than capable of being absolutely savage, wild and murderous. I guess it's a choice. I wouldn't choose to go out and knife a pig. But I could do it in self defence.

  4. His moment of testosterone was diving into the sea to save a girl. It's a funny thing, that hormone.

    1. I don't mean that facetiously, it is just what happened.

  5. That's true Sarah. And both women and men have testosterone. It's a matter of knowing how and when to use it.