Third Time Lucky

by Frances McKay

Our area of Australia is in the throes of a twenty-two month drought. Country people and native animals have their own ways of coping with these hard times.

Birds have  promised rain for months. Currowongs, with their sad, “I’ll wait forever” call, have been visitors far longer than their usual stop- over.  The flock vanished for a month after a light shower, but has returned for another optimistic stint.

The rain bird, a migrant from the north, has given up.  After months of monotonous, unmelodic promises, day and  night, it has vanished, daunted in his endeavor to find a mate. A slight relief for the shift workers who made dire threats, as they tried catch their ZZZs in the heat.

A bower bird torments us  with a realistic rendition of  rain on a tin roof, then mews like my cat to activate dogs from their sleep in the shade.  The cat, of course, has her own comfort zone and won’t appear until the sun goes down, or she hears me mix her milk.

This morning, Saturday, is my slack day and I’d planned to relax, write my response to the exercise and catch up on my emails.

The dogs had other ideas. Their barking alerted me to a change in our routine.  I investigate as horses neighed, a quad bike raced down the street and a herd of pitifully thin cattle appeared in view.  Rival dogs excited ours.

Under drovers’ supervision the cattle ambled along, grazing on the meagre dry offerings our vacant blocks offered.  Another farmer seeking an alternative to culling his stock.

It was good we could still offer the poor animals something in this twenty-two month drought, although kangaroos have had the best of the pickings.

They come in after dusk, and in the cool they browse from juicy plants. The thumps as they hop through our yards, and their distinctive harsh cough, barely disturb our pets.  It still surprises me, how privileged I feel when they come prune my garden.

The cattle cavalcade vanished towards the golf green, leaving behind a touch of nostalgia mingled with manure.   Old Australian customs revived in times of crisis.

Black cockatoos call, an eerie cry in the distance.  “Bushies” say the number of cockatoos predict how many days until rain will come. And – would you believe – the rain bird is back for a third try?

I hope the signs work better than our weather forecasts, but I still wait for the mock-orange to bloom.  It never lies.