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Originally written by TC 2008

143° (This story is located in the Kimberly region North West Australia)

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"Freddy Freud strikes again"

In hindsight, chronic fatigue was probably the main factor in one of the strangest episodes I encountered during the early eighties Kimberly feral animal culls.

Kiwi Steve P was as tired as I was and I respected his efforts to work with me when it would have been only too easy to lose the plot. 10 flight hours a day in the yellow Hillers; all day every day; at the end of a busy mustering/mining survey season; ambient temperatures rising above 35 degrees C and tropical rainy season humidity setting in made the flying draw upon all our survival skills.

1500 rounds per sortie; SLR rifle barrels wearing out and splitting due the high constant rate of fire; great aboriginal shooters; enthusiastic white shooters; donkeys which ran like the hot Kimberly wind; feral cats as big as dogs; wild brumbies racing across the hot black pebble plains; magnificent ancient sandstone hills slumping nearly vertically into the earth to form gorges and cavernous valleys; sparsely settled; freedom to take calculated risks; an adventurous environment; continuous loud noise and vibration; hunting with intense concentration and no let up; dehydration and exhaustion all contributed to probably the only place on the planet which could be considered a helicopter pilot’s wild west where he could pit his skills against nature and no one would ever know. I was in pig heaven.

After 4 weeks non stop the strain started to show. I wasn’t sleeping at all due to a bad case of prickly heat itch for two weeks and no way to get any medication being so far from civilisation. We were averaging about 110 animals per hour and often more. Every ten animals downed I put a live round in my shirt pocket to help maintain an accurate count. The muzzle shock wave from the SLR made me flinch in pain every time it fired.  (On a later shoot in a Bell47, Macca and I ran out of ammunition for a total of 450 plus animals in less than 1.75 hours flight time)

The crackling of burning wood woke us the morning we were camped near the El Questro river - up and away from the water so the crocs would leave us alone. Steve and I walked over to the camp fire from different directions looking for a cup of chow while the boys cooked up a sizzling breakfast. It was cold (20oC) and grey about 0530 am. Any stranger looking at us would have wondered why we both looked so disheveled and vacant in the eyes and kept looking all around as if trying to see something in the grey pre-dawn murk. Never had I been so tired.

“Morning Stevie – did you get any bloody sleep?”

“No bloody good mate – had a really bad dream”

“Yeah – so did I - I dreamt the bloody donkeys got us”

“You’re joking – so bloody did I”

Turns out we both had exactly the same dream and that’s why we were both not sure if we were really awake or still dreaming as we walked towards the campfire.

In the dream we had woken up vividly to the rotor beat sound of a fast Hiller coming up the gorge about two feet above the river and heading for our camp. And – here’s the good part – we both saw it being flown by a donkey which was wearing a pair of green David Clark aviation headsets, a set of pilots sunglasses and a big grin as its donkey shooter mate leant out the door and took aim at us with an SLR.

Not being sure if dreams came true, we cancelled flying for the day and slept like logs under a tree until the next day.

Seems that it’s a common occurrence – after a rather hectic pig shoot with me in the New South Wales Macquarie marshes the next year, one of the shooters, "The Porker Stalker", came up with the following cartoon.

 

 

True Story

TC

 

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