Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Bin fire grass fire

Today on the fire tower was more anxiety than boredom. Once again it was a sched 5 and I was up there earlier than usual. Lots of tourists. High winds meant that small kids were freaking out when they got to the peak, scared of being blown off the mountain. The mesh fences to stop this occasioning didn't seem to make them feel any better. Parents talking 'face your fears' didn't help. The only thing that worked was someone taking their child's hand and talking them beyond how scared they were.

There's thunder tonight and no rain which means dry lightning across the southern forests region. Wheee!  Today I called in a smoke out Rocky Gully way. It was out of our district and there were all sorts of hectic happenings in our own but still, the spotter pilot radioed me for coordinates and passed it onto the neighbouring spotter. It turned out to be a few hectares of paddock going up. Grass fire. Must have been a decent one because I could see it from fifty kilometres away. Soon after I called it in, the radios went crazy.

On another note, Selkie was terribly happy when I returned home. She sleeps on my bed whenever I leave the house because she's a stinky, passive aggressive bitch. I returned to a house smelling of passive aggressive bitch. As soon as I turned up she headed down to the beach to retrieve the treasure she's been sniffing at all day. Turns out there's another kangaroo carcass down there.


I think what is in the photo is part of a spine and rib cage (including said dog). She's very pleased with herself. I'm really not sure what's going on at home any more.

I did find a bird's nest. Check this out:


I found it under a tree outside the local day care centre. When I brought it into work, the ranger said, 'That's the string and felt we use in the day care centre!' She has kids who go there. The nest is also threaded with parrot feathers and bits of serviettes from the cafe. This pretty much my best find all year.

Finally, these two ... just because they are pretty bloody funny:



If I don't get to post beforehand ... Happy New Year Bloggers. I just love you mob and think you are all awesome. Thanks for being around this year and ones past. I really appreciate it.

X Sarah

Monday, December 28, 2020


Back to the fire tower ...  My first day this season up the mountain was a schedule 5, which is the highest fire danger rating on the scale from 1 to 5. It's a different eco system up so high. I spent most of the day fighting stink bugs, those little black and orange ones that looked like wasps as they flew towards me. They were so enthusiastically mating during their mass stink bug orgy, that they got stuck in my hair or on my clothes and I ended the day feeling quite dirtied. For those of you who don't know the Australian bush, stink bugs exude an oxalic (or similar) acid that I guess is a pheromone to fellow stink bugs. For me, it's just gross.

My colleague on the fire tower said he quite likes the smell, which is weird.. But we are weird anyway, as is the tendency for most fire watchers. In America, people like us are called freaks on peaks because, after a certain amount of time at the top of a mountain looking for smoke, the brain starts trying little tricks on us. It's a very similar experience to being at sea: long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of intense anxiety and having to be alert 24/7. That's probably why they hired me and also why we are not allowed to work more than four days straight. Our eyes get sore. Our brains get sore.

It was one of those hot, steamy, thunderstormy days when every bug in the universe hatched out. Apparently lightning was approaching. We are told that when we get lightning at the top of the mountain, we should stand on the wooden floor of the tower and "not touch anything". I'm just glad the comms tower is earthed out.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Dogs are in the Senate


Christmas night was spent on the beach just down from my house, with way too many dogs who worked their political hustles like pros in the senate. Dog politics, whoo boy. Sister set up the gazebo with fairy lights, Dad and I ambled around the beach looking for driftwood. Someone managed a potato bake. Someone else organised a salad and I roasted a chook with the plastic blood bag intact beneath it on the tray. When realising what I'd done, I watched everyone closely but no adverse reactions. The chook was splendid and so, with full bellies and dodgey director chairs thrown on the fire lest there be a worse incident, we whiled away the night. It was windy and quite chilly for a Christmas Day but this is the south coast we are talking about here.

Happy Christmas Bloggers! I hope you've had a few lovely days, whether it be with family, your friends or lying in bed reading a book. XXX Sarah Toa

Thursday, December 17, 2020

In the warm dusk water


 I love the sound of kids playing, that rising and falling cadence of a dance, like faux brawling puppies. Sometimes when families come to stay at the AirBNB nearby, the parents apologise for the intrusion on my solitude and all I can say is ... 'that sound of kids playing is just the best.' It's so quiet here, most of the year. During the winter double grey months on the inlet, the silence is so absolute that I can hear the old tinnitus in my ears. The sound of children reminds me that it was once peopled extensively pre-colonisation ... that the sound of children is nothing new and also a kind of loss.

My dog Selkie loves it too when kids come to play. Selkie is a great healing dog for anyone, child or adult, who is afraid of big dogs. She looks scary initially, being a big rotti cross, but all she wants is to be loved/patted/sit on the lap of a homo sapien.

This evening a mob from the city turned up to stay at the AirBNB. Their son fell in love with Selkie on the beach and I had to cut a phone call short to make sure he got his cricket ball back. Selkie doesn't give up her trophies easily. She claims ownership over every spherical object on the beach. 'It's a bit slimy,' I explained to the boy, after I'd extracted said ball from the dog's jaws. 'Take care and don't tease her.' Selkie has a squeaky ball that looks ominously similar to the COVID19 virus, so I gave it to him to do a bait and switch with his own cricket ball.

Naked babies wallowing in the shallows at sunset. Their parents told me this is heaven. I tend to agree with them. Selkie had a ball, pun intended.


Monday, November 30, 2020

Picture window

 I have a window that faces west.

From left to right: On the left is a pile of stones with holes in them that I've neglected to put back. I guess that after my puritanical posts about stones, someone could jump on me about these stones but ... ok. They are the ones I haven't put back.

Poked into them is the stone axe an ex lover made for me out of grass tree resin and kangaroo shit. A fire on the beach. We were catching mullet at the time. Look, um, apparently we were in love back then.

Five little jars of honey, given to me by fellow beekeeper Kyabla. In the yellow frame above, a picture drawn by my daughter. I will keep this drawing forever because it reminds me of how it is to be a child. 

The second nautilus shell from the right was when someone surfed the the biggest wave in the world in the lil ol town called Walpole a few years ago. It's called The Right.

We went down to the beach when it was happening and all we got was this lousy nautilus shell T shirt. My mate Tim was on the beach that day. He handed over the drowned rakali he'd found and the nautilus shell and we were all like whoo! 

The wine glass, I got it from an op shop. It was silver and called to me in all the languages from the Celts. I'm giving it to my fellow Celtic tragics really soon.

The clear quartz crystal.

The clear quartz crystal.

My daughter's father owned this crystal and when he died,we had to go through all of his stuff. I remember how he used to carry on about this particular crystal. 

There is a spoon in the pic of when I found that spoon at Kundip, The place where I bought my first patch of land. There is a last photograph from a women's fish market in Turkey: Who would have thought that Sarah Toa would end up in a fish market in Turkey.

Sunday, November 29, 2020


 Beasts of the Southern Wild... I watched it last night and reckon I'll be thinking about this movie for a while. Not least because it plays into the Tatterhood themes of an undervalued girl child who has no mother, but also Joseph Campbell's ideas about the hero's journey (for which there seems little alternative for women in myth. I mean we have the faithful Penelope FFS, Helen, Cassandra, Mary, Hera ... they all seem to be bouncing off what their blokes get up to.)

I've been on a major purge of stuff recently and packed The Hero with a Thousand Faces into an op-shop bound box, only to sigh deeply, shake my head and put it back on my shelves. The hero in Beasts is a child of six, played by force of nature Quvenzhane' Wallis. I've never seen a child actor so loyally ferocious in a role*. Her name is Hush Puppy and her Dad, played by Dwight Henry, is the ubiquitous kinetic and unassembled 'bad dad'. 

They live in a fictional multicultural Bayou community in the backwaters of Louisiana called The Bathtub, beset with alligators, climate change and moonshiners. They survive by subsistance - crawfish, catfish, the chickens and their eggs. The fireworks scene is completely feral and quite joyous. A neighbouring industrial city has erected a levee against them, protecting commerce from the rising waters about to impact upon The Bathtub in what is to be a catastrophic weather event.

The dreamy encounters by the girl children with the lighthouse barge, the floating brothel and finally the aurochs - massive tusked boar-like creatures melted from the glaciers and on the march across a new world tundra - are not to be analysed by a sober reviewer intent on making meaning and I think this is what I love about the film. 

'Myth fracking' is a phrase by one folklorist, about our need to curate an allegory from a story. Beasts of the Southern Wild shows, as in the myths, that our longings, personalities, foibles and storylines are all far from perfect. Here's the trailer:

*Anna Paquin in The Piano comes close.

Friday, November 27, 2020


 This is a 'what I did today' kind of post.

I woke up with a hangover and the associated anxiety that jogs alongside it. Decided to give up drinking forever or at least for the next month. Then I realised that that next month was December and giving up alcohol in December might not be such a great idea. I lay in bed and listened to the shrieks and hollers of the mob who were finishing two weeks of guiding groups of up to twenty school kids through the wilderness. My dog was missing. She always goes on a surveillance mission around my house just after dawn but this morning, yes, definitely missing.

Buses and cars sounded their reverse beeps and, lying in bed, I could hear them stacking canoes and loading boats onto trailers and whooping hello to returning crew. It is my first day off after working ten days straight for Parks and Wildlife on the radios and phones during the beginning of the burn season.

Yesterday was hectic. Obviously I can't write about that because *government department*. We have to sign something to say we won't write about our jobs. So .. today, I got out of bed and thought once again that when we work the radios during bushfire emergencies, making sure planes don't crash into each other etc. that daily debriefs could be a going concern for us. Of course I never actually wrote that here.

I brushed my teeth and washed my face. then I turned to Netflix and watched the latest episode of Fargo and then the last one of Wallander. Give me a break here. This was after I'd done the dishes and folded clothes and it was after I'd spent a week and a half at work. I've been treating my house like it's a hotel and it's so nice to be home. Cut up and salted some more cabbage for sauerkraut. Chopped wood. Carried water.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Robodebt Zombie Apocalypse

 So it's just been announced that the federal government settled a class action lawsuit against them to the tune of $AU1.2 billion. The class action was brought against them by the people of Australia who had been financially wronged by what has been called the Robodebt scheme.

I was directly involved in the Robodebt scheme, not the class action but because I was a casual worker who applied for unemployment benefits between 2015 and 2016. Look, this is a terrific country when it comes to policy around healthcare, social security and social housing but over the last seven or eight years the conservatives have strove to obliterate all that. To portray people who need those services as 'leaners not lifters' bastardised an entire egalitarian system and won them an election. Yes, I'm going all unrepentant leftie here.

I applied for unemployment benefits when I first moved to Broke, mainly to tide me over while I found a job and find a job I did - at the service station. (Any aspiring writers who think that once their first book is published, will never need to work a day in their life again, think twice please.) I was stoked to work there and met a lot of locals. The work was nourishing and I reported my wage to Centrelink every fortnight. I was unsure of ongoing work due to the casualised nature of the job, so I stayed in the system.

Last year I received a letter via registered mail from Centrelink saying I owed them a shit ton of money from that particular financial year. They were setting the debt collectors onto me. Here is where it gets messy. I rang someone ... someone? at the office and said, 'I'm just going to suck it up. Send me the bill. I'm sure it's not much, prolly just a few dollars. I've made a mistake somewhere in 2015.' It was then that she explained how the Robodebt was calculated.

It's the income averaging estimate. Say if you were on the dole for a month in 2015 and then got a plum job at $100K a year, Centrelink averaged your income over the whole year and decided that you owed them *a shit ton of money*. It's called Robodebt purely because there is no human interaction in this decision. At the time the government were campaigning hard for a surplus budget to get them re-elected. The current Prime Minister was Social Services minister and these numbers (billions of bucks from welfare recipients) gave all the pollies hard-ons and shored up their budget. Scott Morrison then moved onto Treasury and kept up the pressure on so-called dole bludgers, handing the portfolio to new social services minister Alan Tudge*. By the time Morrison was Prime Minister, the job was done and people in casualised labour like me were being told we were bludgers and welfare cheats. Many people had their tax returns raided - by the government - to repay a debt that has now been deemed illegal.

To collect the debts owed by unicorns and other dole bludgers, the federal government used a particularly nasty debt collection agency called Probe - an uncomfortable name that calls to mind what aliens do to their human abductees - to collect their dirty work's cash. I've had a fair bit to do with Probe, given my Robodebt, and I'm really sorry/not sorry about the visuals I've given you here.  

To satisfy Probe's demands I went to my bank and had them print out the entire year's record from 2015/2016, and then highlighted all incomings. Handed that in ... and that's when the phone calls started. While I accepted the debt, Probe workers were trained to ask for more per month. They go hard. When I lost my job and rang them to say my fortnightly payment would be delayed, they asked me to lend some money from my Mum to pay them. No really. It was twenty bucks.


So I'm pretty pleased to see the news that this class action has been settled. I'm a bit pissed though that the federal government hasn't been held to account. It's odd that that it settled before the PM was called up. Their policy has allegedly caused the suicides of many folk who weren't as robust or as settled in community as I am. Can you imagine being homeless and having to go through this shit? I've got a PhD, very few mental health issues and a stable home, and yet I still found the Robodebt thing hard going and really stressful.


  * As social services minister, Alan Tudge illegally leaked Centrelink private data on sole parent journalist Andy Fox who just happened to be taking a swing at the Robodebt scheme.

& Thanks to Andy Fox, Peter Van Onselen and Asher Wolf who covered this story over the last five years.

Brain food and brighten up your day food ...

 After a long and ongoing week that involves a ten day stint, I came home to a gift on the back veranda.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Stone Stories #3 Flint

 We walked for hours along the shore, past the stone fish traps, past the desiccated remains of a more ancient meteorite strike. We got to Signal Point where mounds of granite huddled together like huts. We stopped there for a lunch of boiled eggs and crackers, sitting on the beach sand with the stones as back rests. I tested out my theory there that we could dig into the sand for a layer of fresh water beneath the salt. My dog was thirsty. But it didn't work, the water was still salty and so I gave her a drink from my water bottle instead.

Last time I walked this far, I'd taken a diary, my camera and put a pelican feather in my hair. All these things were a bit silly I realised, after several hours walking. I hadn't used the diary, pen or feather and all I wanted was a drink of water and something to eat.

So this day, we had supplied ourselves sensibly. After lunch we left Signal Point and headed into the clay pan. This part of the inlet was mostly above water now. Blinding white sand for miles and miles, with a clutch of standing stones in the middle, like a pagan altar.

I felt quite exposed as we headed for the standing stones. It's like being in the desert. There was nothing to shield me from the sky and the whiteness was overwhelming. It's an incredible, dynamic landscape. Underwater, above water, fish and then no fish. We were looking for the stumps of trees from the drowned forest, back when the last great sea level rise was a big deal for the forest that used to live in this inlet. We found one, right before we got to the standing stones, a fossilised tree stump seven thousand years old.


We also found some flints on the dried out floor of the inlet. They were knapped from a kind of quartz alien to here. I held the evidence of thousands of years, tens of thousands of years, of trade and commerce, in the palm of my hand. Someone had made these sharps, possibly from before the inlet was an inlet, and someone had brought the raw material here from somewhere else. It's quite a moment, coming across such physical evidence of occupation and it charged something within me. 'I must have it.'

Once again, when I talk about stones, I talk about ownership. The latest thing in Western ideaology about writing is to avoid anthropomorphism. I think this is a bit of a crock. We live on Boodja (or Country) and we all know it is a storied country, that there is history, culture and memory imbued within Boodja. The aversion to anthropomorphism is to deny that the landscape is peopled by critters other than ourselves or that humans are connected to this interchange of species. (I may leave this shit fight for another day now and move on).

What I want to say is that when I saw those flints, I did a total Bilbo Baggins when he discovered the covetous power of the ring.

 So I put them in my pocket and took them home. I put them on the window sill of my kitchen and wondered at them every day.

An ex boyfriend used to do this a lot, in fact he gave me many stones that had been knapped into flints, or the remaining shards from previous flints. He saw it as 'saving them' - from sea level change and incoming tides. 

When studying at a south island university in New Zealand, the Australian lecturer asked us students why there wasn't a more common history of handing in artifacts between the two countries. I was the only Australian student in the room and I knew why. 'European Australia is just discovering this thing called Native Title, through Mabo,' I put up my hand. 'People think if they find stuff on their property, that it will be taken away from them. New Zealand has a treaty.'

It's this problematic colonial relationship that began to bother me, as I looked at the flints I'd taken. If I'd left them in place, someone could work out later where they'd come from and what was going on those thousands of years ago. Sitting on the windowsill of my kitchen, well I'd taken the evidence away and put it somewhere else ... if I die, or if I left the flints in my garden ... who on earth will know where those stones came from? By my actions I was obfuscating history and also the legal processes of Native Title, which on thinking back, is pretty much a crime.

So, it was at this point I decided the flints needed to go back.

An Aunty came to visit me during the lockdown era. She brought her tiny flopsy mopsy dog and I was a little worried about this because Selkie is a big dog and tends to go for aggressive little Flopsies who try to attack her. Anyway, we had some ham hock soup and then headed for the fish traps.

As we walked along the beach, two sea eagles began stalking us. I could tell they were after Auntie's dog who probably looked like a rabbit. It was obvious they were hunting this little dog. I've never felt so afraid of sea eagles as I did that day. I had the flints in my pocket. I'd explained to Auntie that I wanted to put the flints back while she was here. She's an Aboriginal woman and agreed and, after we'd walked beyond the fish traps, I laid the flints down on the ground, and walked on. I could see that she pretended to ignore what I'd done. The sea eagles kept up their swirling patrol over head.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Stone Stories #2 Putting them back

A boy with brown feet and brown eyes has been hanging around me over the last few days. His parents and siblings are camping nearby. When I first met him he was trailing a thick sisal rope tied around his waist and was trying to tow the campervan away with his brute strength. Later, he followed Selkie back to my house. He carried two bamboo sticks that he’d been carving. We’ve spent hours going through my boxes of big and little treasures; jewellery, sharks’ teeth, whale bones and gemstones. He announced that the fossilised megalodon tooth and the smaller of the curved sperm whale teeth were his favourites.

‘What about Fergal?’ I asked him.


‘Yeah, Fergal Sharkie,’ I said pointing to the stuffed carpet shark hanging on the wall.

‘Oh, he’s alright,’ he said. ‘But the fox skin is better.’

I could feel my seven year old alter ego swell with pride.

On the beach just down from the house are gemstones, clusters of tiny stones coloured like garnets and amber. The larger stones contain striations of gold and chocolate, kinda like those chef-endorsed ice cream brands. When the inlet fills, the corals and other critters colonise the stones, living all over or under them. Mullet feed on the coral aggregates. In the 1950s, someone built a break water for the boats. It’s possible they constructed it from ancient Aboriginal fish traps. Fish trap stones, concentrated in one place from hard labour a long time ago, are an easy source of stones. 

When the huts were all broken into a few months ago (read all about the dastardly Quokkas here), a lot of the hut owners came down to the coast to inspect the damage. Most of them live in far flung inland towns and having a hut ‘at the coast’ is one of those deliriously wonderful privileges open only to the generation previous to me. That is, unless you own several CBD premises, a city beachside house and a business that allows you to call yourself an interior decorator (ie you sell tiles).

So, I was out the back of Hyacinth and Rupert’s hut with them, inspecting where the thief had broken a window to get in, when I looked down to see stacks of Broke Inlet stones from the beach. There weren’t only a few stones. I was looking at hundreds, if not thousands. Given the earthworks, I gathered H & R had taken them from the beach to build a retaining wall. The corals snail-trailed over the stones were calcifying as they died. 

‘Where did you get those stones from, Hyacinth?’

‘Oh, we hauled them here,’ she said, striding away, ‘from somewhere else.’ Both were stressed about the break in and so I left her lie where it lay. It was obvious they’d come from the beach. One half of the wall was already cemented in.

After ruminating on the stones for a few weeks, I sent Hyacinth a text message. ‘Please put back the Broke Inlet stones. They are habitat for all kinds of critters and should stay where they are. They’ve provided homes for invertebrates and fish for tens of thousands of years and you are using them for a retaining wall? Really?’

Didn’t hear back.

Another month. I bailed up the Parks and Wildlife ranger outside the Post Office. ‘Here’s a hypothetical for you .. say someone was building a retaining wall at Broke Inlet, using the stones from the beach …’ She looked at me warily. ‘Look,’ I said. ‘I’ll get rinsed if I dob anyone in. It’s the Code of the Coast. What happens at the Coast stays at the Coast. But I know this is wrong. How do I change their minds about this? Is it actually illegal?’

It is illegal to remove any natural material from below the low tide mark, according to the 1984 CALM Act, an Act I’ve always railed against, but anyway. So, I sent another text to Hyacinth. ‘Would you like me to save your backs and a criminal conviction? I’ll put the stones back myself if you like.’ 

For someone so status oriented (I haven’t called this character after Hyacinth Bucket for nothing) she sure kept her cool. She replied that her and Rupert had so many family issues going on right now, they would deal ‘with the problem as soon as humanly possible.’

While I was glad ‘the problem’ had been recognised as a problem, I began to entertain doubts about my stand. Yowie changed the subject whenever I brought it up, as did other squatter hut dwellers. Maybe they thought I was a crank or a control freak. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe I was one of those tree changer newcomers who starts up a ‘Friends of XXX’ group and becomes a total pain in the bureaucratic arse? I asked Flame’s partner, an old-time resident, what he thought. ‘No, it’s fucked,’ he said. ‘They’ve got enough money to buy whatever they want. They just felt entitled to take those stones. It’s fucked.’

‘As soon as humanly possible’ involved Hyacinth and Rupert cementing the rest of the Broke Inlet stones into the retaining wall the next time they came down from the city. When I saw the slopped cement over the corals and the stones, I felt disappointed in them and in myself. All I wanted was for us all to be better people.

No one at the inlet wanted to talk to me about it anymore. ‘You’re like a dog with a bone about this,’ said the squatters who’d agreed with me previously. Outsider folk said, ‘Well I’m glad you are taking up the fight. I can’t do conflict, myself, so thanks for taking this one on.’ But they had no idea what it is like to live here.

I’d just alienated my only neighbour within 25 kilometres. Hyacinth and Rupert have helped me out in the past but now they disappeared into their hut as soon as I drove past. The last message I sent to them was; ‘Hi just letting you know I’ve dismantled part of your retaining wall and returned the stones to the beach. When you are next down, I’d love to talk about dismantling the rest of the wall and putting the stones back. Sarah’ 

I did that on a Sunday afternoon long weekend, in fuck-it mode, in front of everyone.

I went into Albany after that and learned that Hyacinth and Rupert would be back that week. Hyacinth slunk into the hut when I returned (I doubt she will ever speak to me again) and Rupert, once he’d gone behind the hut to inspect my wilful damage, came out to glare at me. ‘Would you like to talk tonight about returning those stones?’ I asked him. I was expecting that a good dose of valium would get me through this encounter.

‘There’s nothing to talk about Sarah.’


‘You took one load back to the beach. We took another two. We built the retaining wall out of quarry stones in the end.’

‘That is the BEST possible outcome Rupert!’ I said. No valium required and I kinda half believed his yarn. Big sigh of relief.

And then he offered me some bull herring and I thanked him.

I have more to say about the taking of stones. It's a biggie in this country and yes, I’ve done it myself. This is just one story and I’ve had a great few days, hanging out with a kid who appreciates stones as much as I do.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Stone Stories #1

The serpents were fighting again, this time over eggs, their own eggs or maybe it was the muttonbird’s eggs, laid in burrows on the island. They writhed and rolled through the sound, smashing boulders and letting the water in to the place where once there was a wooded valley with a creek running through. Jarrah maybe. I don’t know. It’s been flooded for a while now and that was all the work of the snakes.

One of the water snakes shone like paua shell, glossy with the rushing water, given the incoming tide. The other snake could see her reflection in her partner and tormentor. Her skin was reddish brown like the bloodwood kina and soon, after he bit her and slid back to examine the wound, in a rare moment of comradery given what had been happening for the last seven days, nodded to her as she watched her wound sprout blood in the mirror sheen of his hide.

She wanted to kill him then, kill his glee in her damage and, knowing she could never kill him, that killing her fellow progenitor would cause their mutual extinction, she burrowed into the earth to escape. Her skin became ruddier as she nosed through deep black sand and deeper into the white sand of sea dunes. She swam under the mountain, beneath granite tors and found the underground stream, followed the stream gulping at the sweet water rich with minerals to keep her going. Behind her, there was a rumbling sound. 

He followed the path she made under the mountain and then swam along the underground stream, now red with her blood. He knew from the dank scent that she was failing.

She burst out the north flank of crow mountain. She asked the people to help her. They wore cloaks and stood in a small circle, looking shocked, their sticks shipped to their sides. We don’t dare, one of them said. What if he comes after us next?

Distract him then, she said as the rumbling under the mountain grew louder. She slid away, through the reeds of the wetlands, past the Big Tree and into the creek. She knew this creek flowed into a lake filled with yakka tortoises. She knew this because she had made it herself. Dug it out to let the water flow when the water rose up that time. Here and now, she rested a bit, hoping the people would make good on their promise. The little fish gathered, nibbling at her body, and it felt like a sweet massage.

When he came out of the mountain, he wasn’t gasping like her. He emerged straight into the sky, his colours pulsing in the sun. Where is she? He asked the people and they just looked at him. They didn’t seem to know what to say. A kid with windblown hair raised her arm, like she was about to point out the lady serpent but she was cuffed and she dropped her hand and looked at her feet. He looked down and saw the track of brushed aside rushes in the wetlands. He was fully emerged from the mountain now and towering above them. Where is she?

One man picked up his dog, cradled the dog, whispered into its ear. As the serpent took off through the rushes, the man threw his dog into the air. The dog howled and flailed as it landed in the serpent’s path. He had to either go around the dog or stop to inspect a likely feed. He bit the dog in half, swallowing the torso and flung the tail and the head back at the people in reproach.


The rock in the shape of a dog’s head stands in the place where all that business with the serpents happened. The main road runs so close to Dog Rock that the town council painted a luminous white collar around its base, ostensibly so drivers don’t run into it. The rock sells postcards, advertisements for car yards and tourist moments. Whenever there is talk about removing the collar citing cultural concerns, the council overrides, citing safety concerns. Yarn bombers knitted the dog a new collar and that was removed, citing safety concerns. 

Two hundred metres south is the church, attended on Sundays by processions of families and led by men in robes, carrying sticks. Outside the church is the dog’s tail. It’s a tall, upright monolyth of granite. A rectangular cavity was carved into the dog’s tail and inside that grotto stands the Virgin Mary. 

Recently, but not so recent as the epic battle between the snakes, someone stole the Virgin Mary. The thieves carved away the concrete that bound her feet to the granite, and took her away. It was considered by many as an act of desecration.

There are rumours of tunnels under the crow mountain, dug out during the war to help soldiers move around unseen.