CAPTAIN DAVE BECOMES A FARMER

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    Bidadisndat
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    G’day Preppers.

    For those of you who have been reading The Landscape Gardener, you might recall me advising that a story I had been writing previously had been mostly lost due to a computer glitch. Well, I’ve been able to rewrite a small part of it and I’m posting it here knowing that in doing so I will be compelled to continue the recovery. (As much for my own pride as for the benefit of any readers who also don’t like unfinished stories.)
    I do have a couple of problems though:

    First, the original beginning is missing and I have had to write a bit of introductory information. (This will be replaced as I work on the correct version.)

    Second, I haven’t thought of a suitable title for it. The one I have given it for this posting is a temporary one, and if anyone reading it can think of an appropriate one, I’d be grateful.

    Cheers,

    Bid

    Main Character: David (Dai) Morgan
    Age: 32
    Education: Leaving Certificate, gained at a Technical College
    Employment: 12 years in the Merchant Marine and
    2 Years at a Big Box Hardware Store.
    He’s a bit of a wheeler-dealer, and has saved a bit.
    (Actually, he’s saved quite a lot!)
    Sports: Sailing, Scuba diving
    (Has a P.A.D.I. O.W.S.I. License and does some casual instructing.)
    Other Interests: Wide and varied but centered heavily on self-sufficiency
    Enjoys camping and does some shooting. He legally owns 3 rifles and a 12 guage shot-gun. (Note that legally is written in itallics.)
    Curently drives a diesel powered crew cab table-top truck with long-range fuel tanks, a dual battery system, and a quantity of spares and tools, two scuba tanks and a weight-belt, locked in a large metal box bolted to the tray behind the cab.
    A two-way radio plus a scanner is fitted in the cab.
    A legal gun-safe has been bolted to the floor behind the seats and it contains not only his rifles and shotgun but also his pnuematic speargun.

    He has developed itchy feet working the same job for the past two years and as he has 6 weeks leave due, decides to take it.
    Buys camping gear from friends, (a recently married couple who had just found out that a child was on the way), secures it on the truck and heads north. (Guns and ammo locked in the gun-case in the truck’s cab.)

    A CHANGE OF PACE

    Quite some distance north of the city Dave stopped at a large town to top-up the truck’s long-range fuel tank, despite that it was still two thirds full and could very easily have have taken him to the next city if necessary. However as he also wanted something to eat he began looking for a take-away shop where he could get a hamburger, or more likely a couple of sandwiches as they were his favourite fast-food. As he walked along the busy footpath he couldn’t help but notice a very attractive girl who came quickly towards and then past him, and after turning to watch her shapely figure as she moved down the street saw her enter a bakery a little further along from where he was standing. That seemed to make up his mind for him and a minute later he found himself also inside the shop where to his surprise he found that the same girl was now behind the counter, serving a little old lady. As she was doing so he was able to study her more closely, which he somehow managed to do without actually staring, and was quite impressed with what he saw. The girl looked to be in her mid twenties, stood about five foot six and had a light tan, auburn hair that tumbled down to her shoulders, and slightly almond-shaped eyes hinting at a touch of Asian. However when she spoke it was with a kiwi accent so it may have been a touch of Polynesian rather than Asian, but either way, he thought, she sure was beautiful. With the little old lady ahead of him served, Dave held the door open for her as she exited then turned his attention back towards the counter.

    The girl behind it gave him a smile that reached from her slightly parted lips revealing teeth that made him feel that his own pure white ivories were yellow in comparison, to her lovely brown eyes, and asked how could she help him. There were no sandwiches on offer so he ordered a couple of steak and kidney pies and two vanilla slices, then asked her if there was a park nearby where he could sit and have his lunch. She suggested that the big park down by the river was the best place, and in fact as she was due to finish for the day she herself was going to walk down there to have her own lunch and throw some bread to the ducks and geese. He knew he was being a bit bold when he then asked her if it was possible that, when she got off work, she could direct him, and if she agreed he would in the meantime go and fuel up his truck, then come back and give her a lift.

    She was about to tell him that the park was only four blocks over and two blocks down, and that he could easily find it by himself, however after examining him closely for a bit seemed to make up her mind that he wasn’t dangerous and told him to come back in thirty minutes, by which time she would be finished. He paid for the food he’d ordered, left the shop and having actually fuelled the truck beforehand spent some time browsing through magazines at a nearby newsagency. When he returned she took his pies from the oven, plus a pastie and a large sausage roll for herself, added his two vanilla slices and a couple of custard tarts, said goodbye to the shop’s owner then directed him as they drove to the park. She seemed quite impressed with his truck and even more so when after parking it and then getting out a small gas burner, billy and two Bakelite mugs to make them both a hot cup of tea, he explained how he had set it up for camping.

    She had introduced herself simply as Bronwyn, or Bron for short, and it turned out that she was a New Zealander who hailed from the Whakatane area in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty. She’d travelled to Australia to work at fruit picking and when the season finished down south was slowly working her way up the coast headed for Queensland when her car broke down. Wanting to earn a bit of money rather than dig into her savings to have it repaired she found work in the shop where they’d just met, and sometimes she worked behind the bar of an hotel in a village about thirty minutes drive further north. Neither was a full time job and she didn’t earn all that much, but she enjoyed both jobs and having made quite a few friends in the town she wasn’t too concerned about having to stay a while longer than planned.

    For his part Dave told her how he had spent several years at sea in the merchant marine service and had come ashore to try life on terra ferma for a while. He had gained employment at a large hardware store and quickly worked his way up to become a department manager, however after developing itchy feet being in the one place for so long had decided to take all of the six weeks leave he was entitled to. He was now slowly meandering up the coast towards his parent’s farm which was close to the Queensland town of Texas but on the New South Wales side of the border. At this point he wasn’t too sure that he wanted to return to his job as he found that working indoors all the time made him feel a bit claustrophobic, but as yet hadn’t found a suitable alternative, unless of course he went back to sea.

    When Dave had finished his meat pies she asked him if he’d care to swap one of his vanilla slices for one of the two custard tarts she had brought, and he was happy to do so as he liked both. Together they broke up and threw pieces of the half loaf of bread that she had brought to feed the ducks and geese, many of which had come out of the water to stand around the park table at which they were seated. She loved watching the antics of the ducks when they played in the water and the stately gait of the geese as they strutted around the grounds of the park, and said that if she ever had a property it would have to have a large dam and enough pasture to keep a large flock of both. And chickens too, she said, because her family over in New Zealand kept them, and she’d loved collecting the eggs each morning. Her grandma also kept ducks because she and many of her friends preferred their eggs to those of chickens, and claimed that they had no equal when it came to using them for cakes and pastry.

    “Gran’s right about that, too. I won a couple of prizes for cakes that I made using them, though I have to admit that mum sat in the kitchen and guided me through the first few cakes that I baked. Mum and Gran are both really good cooks and I guess I inherited their love of cooking.”

    Dave was somehow pleased to hear her say that she would hate living in a city: She was a country at heart girl and had no desire to adopt the fashions and trappings that seemed to be so important to most of the city girls that she knew. In fact, she added, most of the skirts, blouses and dresses she wore, including the dress she had on now, she sewed herself, rather than buy what she considered to be mainly overpriced and quite often shoddily made goods. Looking at the dress she was wearing Dave said that as well made as it was, it was her that made it look really nice, but spoiled the compliment somewhat when he asked if the style was the latest fashion in New Zealand as it looked to be from the early sixties. He was rewarded for that not-so-amusing comment by her tossing the last of the loaf of bread at him and telling him with a small pout “I can walk home from here, thank you very much.”

    “Hey! I’m sorry. I was only kidding. Well, mostly, but I do think the dress suits you, and it really is beautiful. Honestly it is.”

    He managed to stop himself saying that he thought it was her that was beautiful rather than the dress, but as he sounded really sincere she admitted that the style was actually from the late fifties, and that she had found the pattern amongst the many that her mother had. Her mum had taught her how to use patterns, hand stitch and use a sewing machine long before she went to high school, and although she enjoyed dressmaking, cooking was what she excelled at.

    Emboldened by the fact that she had agreed to accompanying him to the park, and having seen it advertised on a sidewalk sandwich board he said he was thinking of going to the B & S country dance and barbeque at the big woolshed outside town that night, and asked her if she would be interested in going with him. That is, he said, if she didn’t already have someone to go with. She’d only been vaguely aware that there actually was a dance being held that night but now that she’d been asked decided to go with him. And as he was obviously going to be staying overnight she told him that if he was going to stick around for a while there was also a big market at the local showground on the following day if he was interested. He was, although he had to admit to himself that that was probably due more to her wanting to go, and that he was quite attracted to her. They spent the rest of the afternoon together, looking around town, after which he took her to her lodgings to change for the dance.

    The jeans he was wearing were O.K. but he took the oportunity whilst she was changing to put on a clean shirt that was more suited to the dance than the shirt he was wearing. He also put on the Western style boots and belt plus the Stetson that he’d bought when in he was in the U.S. When Bron came out she was dressed in a denim skirt with matching top over a checked shirt and was also wearing a pair of high soft leather boots, but after seeing Dave’s outfit she quickly dashed back inside and reappeared wearing an Akubra cowboy hat. Together, she said, they looked the part, and that all they needed to do now was arrive at the dance in a horse drawn surry with a fringe on the top, just like the one in that old movie Oklahoma!

    The dance was a roaring success, as B & S events usually are, and they had a really good time, especially after Dave taught her the basic steps of the Texas Two-Step which he had learned at The Palamino, one of San Diego’s popular night spots that he frequented when he was there. Bron was a quick learner and picked up not only the basic steps but a few of the more advanced ones as well. They soon found themselves demonstrating the steps to several couples who had been watching and wanted to join in, and by the end of the night seemed to have gained a bit of a following. They were asked if they ever went to The Brumby, which was a local steakhouse that featured a Country and Western band and had a dance floor, and Dave had to admit that he was new in town and hadn’t heard of it. By the end of the night they both felt totally exhausted, and after taking Bron home again Dave had no trouble falling asleep, once again on the back of the truck, parked at a truck stop a little out of town.

    After waking at 6 a.m. he showered and had a substantial breakfast at the truck stop, then drove back into town where he picked Bron up and took her to the markets. It was actually quite a big affair, with food vans, side shows, pony rides for children, and sellers coming from all over the county, and they were both amazed at the ammount and types of goods on offer. It was lucky that he was driving the truck because one of the items she found and quickly purchased was a fully adjustable dress-makers manneqin fitted with a hem marker. Well, it was almost fully adjustable as its only fault was that its stand was firmly stuck in the extended position and it couldn’t be rotated, or moved up and down to alter the height, thus it might have been a bit awkward putting it into a car. Going to his tool-box he retrieved a can of WD-40 and gave the shaft and collar lock of the stand a good spray, hoping that it would help free up the mechanism.

    “I guess this will come in handy for your dressmaking,” Dave said as after wrapping the manneqin in an old blanket they placed it on the back of the truck and secured it with one of several hanks of rope that hung on the bulkhead of the tray behind the cab.

    “Yes, but the main reason I bought it was because it was so cheap. If you wanted to buy this particular model at a retail outlet it’d be very expensive, and considering it’s in almost new condition it was a bargain just too good to pass up. I could easily sell it for twice or more what I paid for it if I decided I didn’t really need it.”

    Dave grinned and thought to himself that she just might be a bit of a crafty trader somewhat like himself, or at least have the makings of one.

    For lunch, whilst sitting on the grass and listening to a small trad-jazz band they each had a steak sandwich with all the trimmings, shared a large bucket of chips and downed a middy of light beer each.

    “It’s only just gone twelve thirty so there’s lots of daylight left,” said Bron after they had finished eating. “Got anything in mind for the rest of the day, or are you keen to continue on your trip?”

    “Nothing planned,” he replied, draining the last of his middy. “I’ve got plenty of time on my hands though, and having seen the town I thought it might be a good idea to take a drive and have a look around the outlying countryside.”

    “Well, that sounds like a good idea, but it would probably be better if you had a local guide. And fortunately for you I happen to know that there’s a very knowledgeable one currently available.”

    “Not too expensive, I hope,” he said with a grin as they got up to leave. “Dinner for two at a local restaurant is about all I can afford,” he added as he dropped their cardboard meal cartons and beer cups into a rubbish bin.

    “Hmm… OK, I think the guide could be persuaded to accept that. We might as well start from here and head inland as that’s where the road leads. Most of the roads are sealed but there are two or three that aren’t, though nothing so bad that would stop your truck I should imagine.”

    “Yes, I have to admit that with its under-body armour the truck is well suited for off-road travel, and its long-range fuel tanks give me quite a range too. I can do Melbourne to Brisbane without having to stop for fuel, though unless I have no choice I never let the tanks go under a third full.”

    “Under-body armour? Are you expecting to travel over mine-fields?”

    Dave laughed. “No. It’s not really armour, but there are several heavy metal plates fitted underneath to protect the engine, transmission and fuel tanks from being damaged by rocks and stuff if I travel over really rough terrain. It also has a good winch mounted behind the ’roo bar. That stuff was already fitted when I bought the truck but I added the roof-rack over the cab, the kangaroo high lift jack and a few other accessories.”

    Climbing into the truck and looking more carefully around the cab now she discovered that it was fitted with a hand-held dry-powder fire extinguisher, a fire blanket, a large first-aid kit, and what looked like two CB radios but which turned out to be a radio and a scanner. A large back-pack sat on the squab behind the front passenger seat, kept in place by bungee cords attached to the metalwork of the cab. He explained that it was his friend BOB, short for Bug Out Bag, and it contained enough equipment and supplies to last three or four days if he was ever forced to abandon the truck and hoof it. On the opposite side, hanging on a hook above the window behind the driver’s seat were two suit bags, one of which contained his diving wet-suit. On the squab under the suit bags was a large echelon bag containing his mask, fins and snorkel, diving boots and gloves, two underwater torches, a diver’s knife, a scuba diver’s regulator and gauges, a B.C, and a lift bag for raising heavy objects from the sea-bed. A pouch on the side of the bag contained an underwater slate and grease pencil, Dive Tables, plus his Log-Book, a small book on fish identification and The Diver’s Medical Companion, each sealed in a zip-loc bag.

    As Dave put the truck into gear and drove out of the car-park she thought to herself that she had never known anyone as well prepared as Dave seemed to be, and realised that she felt completely safe being in his company. Not only that, in her opinion he wasn’t too bad looking either. She decided with a smile to herself that having a BOB probably wouldn’t neccessary if she had a Dave like this one to take care of her, however the smile faded a bit when she remembered that he was merely passing through town and would most likely be gone in a day or two.

    There were several very small hamletss that they passed through, all surrounded by properties ranging from five acre hobby farms to fairly large acreages, and Dave closely observed the many various enterprises that were being conducted in the region. He was pleased to note that there appeared to be a quite a good and diverse range of farming operations including pasture grazed beef, dairying, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and even alpacas, plus vineyards, orchards, and market gardens. Grain cropping seemed to be pretty much small scale when compared to the vast fields further out west, but he did find that wheat, barley, corn, oats, soy beans, lucerne and more were grown. There were also bee hives in abundance and they stopped at a roadside stall where they purchased two small buckets of honey at prices far lower than what supermarkets were charging. A little further along the same road a sign outside another property invited motorists to “come in and buy mushrooms direct from the farm that grows them”. It was an offer too good for Bron to pass up, so once again they stopped and she took advantage of the low price that the grower charged. Of course, everybody knew that as often as not these sales were cash in hand and though the ATO would no doubt be aware of it, nothing was done in the way of trying to collect GST on them.

    Another road on which they travelled had cultivated farms on one side and mostly virgin bushland on the other, and Bron told him that the bush there was popular with several of her friends who often used it for bush-bashing in their 4WD utes. On the same side, a signpost beside a rough, unsealed but obviously well used road pointed the way to a rifle range used by the local gun club, and he grinned when she admitted that despite being unlicensed she herself had on several occasions sent quite a bit of lead down-range. Despite that admission he thought that, at this point anyway, it would still be best not to mention anything to her about the gunsafe under the truck’s rear seat, or the rifles and ammunition it held.

    The circular route that they had taken during the drive brought them out onto the freeway quite a few miles north of town and the sun, already low on the horizon when Dave began the drive back, had fully set by the time they arrived at the small Thai restaurant that she had chosen. The restaurant was a recent addition to the town and had quickly become very popular, however despite it being rather busy they didn’t have to wait too long for a table. Dave was glad that they’d had a chance to look at the menu while they were waiting as there was a large selection of dishes to choose from, and all were very appealing. They finally decided to go with two seafood dishes for the main course and during the dinner conversation he learned that she loved fishing, and knew of a good spot not too far from the hotel where she sometimes worked. As she wasn’t rostered to work the next day he offered to drive her there: They could both go fishing and afterwards maybe have a beer at the hotel where she worked. She was pretty excited about the idea and wanted to get a really early start the next day, so after dinner he took her straight home to get a good night’s sleep. They unloaded the manneqin from the back of the truck, finding that it now rotated freely on its stand even if it didn’t yet go up and down. Going to his tool-box Dave came back with a small hammer and while Bron held the mannequin up in an horizontal position he turned the locking collar back as far as it would go and gave the base of the stand a few light taps. The stand moved slightly so he gave it a slightly heavier whack and that did the trick, freeing it up completely and allowing Bron to adjust the height quite easily. After carrying her prize up onto the front porch for her Dave said goodnight, then it was back to the same rest stop that he had stayed at the previous night for another sleep on the back of the truck.

    Waking early again he topped up the truck’s tank with diesel then purchased a large bag of ice, most of which he placed in an empty esky, but also some in another where he kept his milk, butter, cheese, bacon, sliced ham and a few salad vegetables, then drove into town. Parking outside Bron’s digs he was half expecting her to be a bit late coming out however she appeared at the appointed time all ready to go. Throwing her fishing gear and a large bag onto the back of the truck she climbed into the cab and they left, heading towards the freeway junction and the road on the other side that led to the village. She explained that the new freeway by-passed the village by a large margin and due to a lack of passing traffic several businesses there had been forced to close down, though those that remained still supported a small but close-knit community. According to the sign he saw as they entered the village it was named Brocklesbury, and it had a population of 1200, though Bron told him that number included many families that lived on properties in the surrounding area. They passed through the village just before seven a.m. and about ten minutes later left the sealed road and drove along a dirt track to her favorite fishing spot, which she’d named “Hook’s Eye” because of its rounded shape and its position at the top end of Fish Hook Bay.

    After parking the truck he thought it might be good to start the day with a hot drink, so retrieved both the gas burner and a percolator from the truck and began brewing some coffee. He thought she may have been surprised by the percolator however when the aroma of hot coffee began drifting through the air it was she who surprised him by producing from her bag four large croissants that she’d brought from the cake shop and put in her landlady’s freezer several nights before. He placed them on a hotplate above his gas burner to warm and with the addition of a little tart marmalade that she had also brought they were soon enjoying a continental breakfast.

    “Hook’s Eye” turned out to be an almost circular shaped pool of water about 100 metres across that over time had been carved by nature into the rocky coastline, and with the wind being offshore at present it was as smooth as a millpond. The water was also incredibly clear and wearing his polarised sunglasses Dave could see the bottom for a good distance out from the rocks on which he stood, noting as he looked that there was quite a bit of kelp growing in the deeper part.

    “Do you lose many hooks and sinkers here?” he asked.

    “I’ve lost the odd one or two, and I learned quickly not to throw my line out into the centre where the kelp is thickest. I don’t use heavy line either because if it gets snagged it’s too hard to break and has to be cut. What I really don’t like here though are Moray eels: If one of those takes the bait it twists and squirms and tangles up the line so much that you have to cut it free and risk being bitten. That’s happened once so far though I felt pretty bad about the poor things being so tangled up that it wouldn’t be able to work its way free and would eventually die.”

    Dave then told her that once when diving he had once found a Moray that had a hook with about a metre and a half of line attached imbedded in its mouth, and the poor thing looked half starved. He had managed to grab the line and after holding the eel’s head firmly under the flat blade of his diving knife was finally able to work the hook free. When released, the eel quickly disappeared under a ledge of rocks so he had chopped up a load of sea urchins and pushed the roe under the ledge in the hope that it would get a bit of a feed. As he dived regularly at that spot he began taking small bags of fishing bait in a pocket of his BC each time he went and after a couple of months of feeding the eel, which had remained in the same spot, was able to entice it out and eventually had it literally feeding out of his hand. It had never bitten him and he named it Elmo, and it had become a star attraction when he was able to show his students just how tame and friendly a Moray eel could be, especially when it learned which pocket the food was in and began trying to get at it itself.

    The morning’s fishing was very successful and well before midday, while he managed to catch six fish of reasonable size, plus one small puffer-fish that inflated itself into a spine covered globe when he pulled it out of the water, she landed five big bream, plus three large flathead. Whilst she impressed him no end by quickly and skillfully gutting and scaling the fish he made them both some ham and salad sandwiches and another mug of hot coffee. The fish were placed in the ice filled esky and after clearing up they began the drive back towards the village.

    Back on the sealed road he’d driven less than a quarter mile when he saw what appeared to be an old abandoned farmhouse at the end of an eroded driveway leading from a rusty gate that was chained, padlocked and seemed not to have been used for a long time. He pulled the truck to the side of the road and asked her if she knew anything about the place. She didn’t, apart from the fact that it had been abandonded some two years before, but as she was just as keen as he was to go and have a look they got out, he locked the truck, and they crossed the road to the property.

    Climbing carefully through what was left of a rusty barbed-wire fence they walked down the drive to the house, which was much larger than it appeared from the road, and by walking around the outside and peering through all of the windows they confirmed that it definately was deserted. Both the front and back doors were locked however after checking above the door frame and then the timbers supporting the roof of the front porch Dave found a key which opened the front door. If the key hadn’t been there, he said with a grin, it would probably have been under one of the old flower pots that stood on the porch.

    Once inside they found themselves in a small vestible that had an open doorway on the right giving access to a lounge room, and although the room was unfurnished there was a free-standing combustion fireplace positioned along one wall. The fireplace sat on a raised hearth of tiles that had been laid on fireproof sheeting placed on the wooden floor, with the same sheeting and tiles extending about half-way up the wall behind it. An insulated flue went from the rear of the firebox straight up through the ceiling and a metal hot-plate set into its top was a very practical feature that would be ideal for keeping a kettle or a pot of soup or stew hot. Bron said she thought that on a cold winter’s night, with the heater going and the right furnishings it would be a very cosy room in which to sit and sew, or curl up with a good book .

    A wide doorway to the left of the fireplace led to a combined dining area and kitchen separated by a row of bench-top high cupboards that, judging by dimpled impressions left in the linoleum floor covering, once had several bar stools arranged along its length. The kitchen part was quite large and along with built-in benches and wall cupboards featured a combustion stove with a tap on one side at the front, indicating that it had a built-in water heating tank. He was surprised to find that there was also a very large walk-in pantry off the kitchen and stepping inside noted in the little light available there that a number of large cardboard boxes were stacked on the uppermost shelves. They were too high to reach without having to climb onto the lower shelves though, and a step ladder would be needed to get up safely and examine their contents.

    The interior walls were lined with Masonite and over time most of the panels had buckled quite visibly, and though not really enough to require replacing at present, apart from one that had had a hole kicked into it, Bron thought a lick of paint might improve their appearance. The house was fully wired for power, with light fittings and several power outlets evident, however there was no electricity connected and Dave had noticed that there were no wires connecting the house to the power lines that ran alongside the road in front of the property. He had also noted that there was a telephone connection socket on the wall above the benchtop dividing the kitchen and dining area, however as there was no handset he assumed that the service had been disconnected before the McKenzies had vacated the house.

    Further exploration revealed that there were three bedrooms, one large one being the main bedroom, with a small en-suite, and two more each of a size able to acommodate twin beds. There was a bathroom that had the usual wash-basin, bath and shower stall, plus a separate flush toilet, This was quite something considering that the house would have been built at a time when toilets were usually incorporated into the bathroom. It must have been connected to a septic system, although it would have been difficult to keep in operation as there was no town water supply to any of the properties along this end of the road, and the rainwater tank he’d seen at the side of the house would have been inadequate. In fact given the dry weather conditions that had prevailed over the past few years it would have been barely adequate for drinking, cooking and bathing unless water was being delivered regularly by tanker. The tank sat on a stand about 4 feet off the ground, but showed obvious signs of leakage at a number of points around it, and he knew that any water in it now would be undrinkable. About two cords of dry firewood, half of which had been cut for use in the combustion stove in the kitchen, had been neatly stacked beneath the tank stand.

    The back door, unlocked with the same key as the front door, opened onto a veranda running the full width of the building, with steps down to a short path leading to a small building that was probably the laundry. A large box on the veranda held enough firewood for a full day’s use, obviating the need to fetch wood from under the tank stand if it was raining. From the verandah he could see that to the western side of the house there was a chicken coop and meshed run, and the remains of several raised garden beds within a fenced area designed to keep rabbits out, although the wire mesh of both run and fence had all but rusted away. Several citrus and other fruit trees, most in dire need of a savage pruning, struggled to survive in what was probably meant to be a small orchard.

    Almost hidden in the grass above where the citrus trees were located was the circular concrete top of what was oviously the tank for a septic system as it had a sealed access hatch, air vent, and a protruding pipe that curved over and was fitted with a connector for attaching a pump-out hose. It didn’t take Dave long to work out that the tank had an attached leach field in which the fruit trees had been planted and it would have supplied them with most of the water they’d need had the house been occupied.

    There was another small building further over, however many weeds had sprung up thickly around it and probably would have covered it if the long drought that the area had suffered for some time hadn’t kept them somewhat in check. Because recent rains had brought renewed growth he knew that it wouldn’t be too long before the weeds would completely take over the building, and probably the house too if they weren’t kept in check.

    On the other side of the house stood a large double lock-up garage, with a single carport attached to the side nearest the house. Going inside he found that it had been organized so that half was actually a generously sized workshop, with a long workbench against one side wall and several shelves above it. The shelves held a variety of tins and jars containing a large assortment of mostly rusty nails, screws, nuts, bolts, and washers, and an old bakelite mantle radio. Opening several drawers and doors of cupboards under the two benches he found a number of old tools that despite looking quite rusty could probably be restored by the use of a wire brush and some oil, and be put back into use.

    Having completed their exploration they retraced their steps back up the driveway and when about to go back through the fence discovered a large piece of plywood that had fallen into the thick grass alongside. Picking it up he saw that it was a sign that was probably once attached to the gate and although very weathered it was still possible to read on one side ‘LAND FOR SALE – 32 Acres – Enquire Within’, and on the other ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY – KEEP OUT’. Which side faced the road probably would have depended on whether the owners were at home or not, but how long it had lain unseen in the grass was anybody’s guess.

    Remembering that he hadn’t seen any power lines leading to the farm house he had a look at the roadside power pole and found that there were cables that led to a galvanised pole close to two large trees just inside the fenceline. A check of that pole revealed that wires had been run down inside it, and a plastic conduit that probably contained the telephone wiring had been fixed to its outside. He assumed that the McKenzies had probably had all the lines to the house buried to avoid spoiling the view of their property.

    Back in the truck and driving on he made the comment that despite its dilapidated appearance the house appeared to be structually sound, and it wouldn’t take too much work to make it once again habitable, and even quite comfortable. He was silent for some time, appearing to be lost in thought when she said rather suddenly, “Are you thinking of squatting there?” He smiled at her but was non committal in his reply: “I’m just saying it wouldn’t be hard to fix the old place up. I actually enjoy doing that sort of thing.”

    Arriving back at the village she directed him to the parking area at the rear of the hotel where, she assured him, the truck would be quite safe to leave without having to lock it. Despite her assurance Dave, explaining that it was a habit he didn’t want to break, locked it anyway. He lifted the large fish laden esky off the tray of the truck and carrying it between them they proceeded through a back door to the kitchen. They had barely set it down on the floor when a casually but impeccably dressed man a little taller than Dave strode in from the dining room, his face alight with pleasure upon seeing Bronwyn.

    “Our prayers are answered!” he exclaimed, his voice dropping as he added “I hope” when catching sight of Dave.

    “What’s happened now, that you need me to rescue you… Again,” she laughed.

    Before he could explain his current predicament, she quickly introduced the two men to each other.

    “Dave, this is Tony, who is a dear, dear friend, and is also half owner of the hotel. Tony, this is Dave, a new friend who was kind enough to drive me out here. Not that we came directly: He also drove me down to “Hook’s Eye”. Look!” And in so saying she pulled the lid off the esky, revealing their catch. “Don’t suppose you could put fish on tonight’s menu, could you?” she asked.

    “Good Lord!” cried Tony. “You are an angel!”

    “Had some help,” she said quickly. “Dave caught some too.”

    “Yes,” added Dave with a smile. “The six smallest.”

    Tony appeared flustered for a moment, then “Oh? Oh! Oh I really am being rude. Really I am. Please forgive me. How do you do Dave. Any friend of our Bron is always most welcome here. Come, come: You must meet the other half of this little enterprise.” And in saying this, he led the way from the kitchen and through the dining room to the entrance foyer. Bron gave Dave a wink and a shove in the direction that Tony had taken, and he dutifully followed along. Once in the foyer he was introduced to Trevor, who was unmistakably the other half of the enterprise as he and Tony were identical twins. With the introductions done, she asked Tony what he was praying for when they arrived.

    “Oh, yes. Well, we’ve suddenly got a few unexpected guests for tonight, and because our husband and wife kitchen team is off work due to an accident, we’re short of staff. The public bar and lounge are staffed OK, but that’s about it. Trev said he could handle the kitchen by himself, but only if the guests like baked beans on toast. Of course, they’d have a choice of hot beans on toast, or beans on hot toast, but not both hot together as that’s quite beyond his expertise.”

    “So not only do I bring you the “fish of the day”, you’re now asking me to cook it too?!” she exclaimed with a laugh

    “Well, honestly, I didn’t have any idea of what to do. The company that takes bookings for us called rather unexpectedly and I said yes to them before thinking about it. Could’ve fobbed them off I suppose, but then we might lose future business, which is something we don’t want to do. I tried ‘phoning you but Rebecca said you’d gone out and she didn’t know when you’d be back.”

    “OK, Tony.” She Said. “I’ll handle the kitchen, though I’ll need Trev’s help.”

    “That would be absolutely wonderful,” gushed Tony. “Now I’ll only have to dash between playing waiter and barman.”

    “Well,” said Dave. “As you’ll all be busy enjoying yourselves, could you make use of my services? I can handle beer taps and plutos, and I’m OK with mixed drinks. I could handle the bar for you.”

    “You’ve done that before?” Bron asked.

    “Yes. A man of many talents I am,” he replied.

    “I noticed that gutting and scaling fish wasn’t among them, or was that particular talent just kept hidden while I did all the dirty work?”

    “Each to his own”, he said. “Want to go ‘roo hunting some time? That’d give you some gutting and cleaning practice. Maybe you could learn some butchering too.”

    In answer she screwed up her nose and poked her tongue out at him, but he had the distinct feeling that she would probably be more than up to that task too, if required.

    Tony gladly accepted his offer and told him that he would be given accomodation for the night, in addition to being paid for his time. Due to his new position as temporary barman for the evening Trev assigned him a room in the staff quarters for the night, and he was able to have a good hot shower and change into clothes more suited to the occasion. He had intended wearing a pair of slacks and a plain coloured open necked shirt, however when he returned from the bathroom he found that a pair of black trousers and a crisp white shirt, plus a ready-made bow tie, had been laid out on the bed for him. Surprisingly, both trousers and shirt fitted him very well and he found later that Trev had the ability to size people accurately without the need to run a tape measure around them. The only change that Trev had to make to the clothes he had laid out for Dave was to take up each leg of the trousers a little, and this he had done correctly to within a quarter of an inch. Dave had caught a glimpse of Bron through the kitchen door later and saw that she too was dressed for the part, being attired in the chequered pants and white jacket of a chef, replete with cap, though she was far too busy to notice him.

    It was now 6:30 p.m. and several guests at the bar kept Dave making polite small talk as he filled their orders for various drinks, however neither of these tasks was at all difficult and in fact he was quite enjoying the moment. He wondered how Bron was faring beyond the kitchen doors across the far side of the dining room, but would have been very surprised not only at the professional manner in which she had arranged the menu and schedule for cooking the various dishes that were ordered, so that they would arrive at the tables both hot and within a reasonable time, but also in the way that she had organized Tony and Trev into a well run team. And despite the fact that she was under a lot more pressure than Dave, she was also enjoying herself.

    To the great relief of all, the evening wore on without any problems, although there would be quite a lot to do in the kitchen in the morning as without sufficient staff it was impossible to have a clean-as-you-go system operating. By 10 p.m. the kitchen was able to close down and Tony and Trev joined a few remaining guests at the bar for a nightcap. The real hero, or rather heroine of the night joined the group about fifteen minutes later, having doffed her uniform and donned a pair of comfortable slacks and a sweater, and was roundly applauded by all present for her efforts.

    The bar was officially closed and Dave was relieved of his position, however drinks were still being dispensed by either Anthony or Trevor, (please Dave; ‘Tony’ and ‘Trev’ is fine by us), depending on whose glass was empty at the time. During the evening it was found by those who engaged him in conversation that Dave was a masterful storyteller, and he spent quite some time entertaining them with hillarious yarns about life on the ocean blue. Bron suspected that several of the events that he described were perhaps tinged with more than just a bit of the blarney, however his way of describing them often had his audience roaring with laughter, and it was all good fun anyway.

    Over the course of the next two hours Dave and Bron both managed to put back a drink or two more than they might normally would have, and a little after midnight they decided that rather than have any more it would probably be wise to call it a night. After calling a “good-night” to Tony, Trev and all the guests they headed for their respective rooms and shortly after parting were both sound asleep, oblivious to the many kind remarks being made about them after they had left.

    #65094

    Siskiyoumom
    Participant

    Can hardly wait till you restore the rest of the adventures of Dave and Bron.

    #65210

    Bidadisndat
    Participant

    Hi Sisky,
    I don’t know why there isn’t more of the story here as all I had written was posted under the previous website. Somehow it seems to have been lost during the changeover to the new format. I can retrieve it from my files though, and restore it. Probably have to do the same to my other stories too!
    Cheers,
    Shin.

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