Larnook. Tuesday, 11.45am
The tractor expertly swivels right, turning its slasher over a tall grassy tuft, cropping it into horizontal swathes, and heads off down the hill, mowing into the remaining rectangle of overgrown grass.
‘God, I love mowing,’ I say. And I sip a noisy sip of green tea.
I’m sitting with a neighbour on my verandah under the cliffs. From here we have a grand view of Slasher Bloke doing his thing.
On the white plastic table in front of us, where ‘Coca Cola’ is emblazoned in raised red lettering, is a tarnished silver pot of green tea. Tea tastes better from a pot. Always. We drink from tiny Chinese cups.
‘Yep. Mowing. Some people hate it you know,’ I continue. ‘Don’t know why…’
I put my feet up on a red Coca Cola chair.
For decades I have mowed this hill. Not always like this. No. For years, I swung a brushcutter about, giving the hill a close shave, but the hill always regrew its bush beard.
For hour upon hour, I have swung and sweated – dreaming of beer and third floor units – while wallabies looked on, pondering the strange habits of the human with whom they share the land. And the hill always regrew.
I’ve had enough. I don’t want to brushcut anymore. The hill has beaten me.
No, that’s not right. It hasn’t beaten me. I’ve just changed tactic. Now I get a man in.
‘More tea?’ I ask, while filling both cups. You must keep hydrated when mowing.
Whatever tactic you employ – DIY or hired help – it’s maintenance. It’s looking after the land.
It’s a responsibility as old as human culture itself. The land supports you; you support the land. It’s not a difficult concept. In fact, the connection between the land and human survival used to be an obvious one.
But that’s changing.
The slasher strikes a rock and a tortured cacophony bounces around the valley. I wince. I really should wear earmuffs when mowing.
‘You can see the road now,’ my neighbour says.
Yes, I can. It’s been a while. The hill hadn’t been cut for a year – the longest time between mows ever.
But hey, I’m a busy man. Like most people in the modern era, I keep distracted. Because if you’re not distracted playing with the toys that capitalism throws at you, like rubber bones to a dog, you will get angry.
While we revel in eBay, smart phones and My Kitchen Rules, the connection between the land and us is being purposefully ignored, our anger diverted (I hate Manu), and private profit made by destroying the common wealth.
Corporations, created by humans, but, like Frankenstein, now beyond human control, are turning a living planet into a dirty quarry and protest into terrorism. But they keep us distracted. (Who’ll win The Voice?)
With government barely more than the executive arm of big business, the reneging of our responsibilities to the land (with whacko stuff like CSG mining and logging in national parks) has consequences from which no app can save us.
Yes, we should be angry.
But, here and now, a silver-lined cloud hangs over my hill. The tractor stops, job done. Slasher Bloke leans forward and back as he applies the handbrake, kills the motor.
A ringing silence floods the valley.
For a moment or two, the three of us – my neighbour, Slasher Bloke and I – sit in our various seats, not moving.
A kookaburra flies to a low branch on the ironbark to survey the newly mown hill for some confused tucker. A scrub turkey races in from the lantana to scratch about.
I stretch my aching muscles.
Responsible land management is tiring. But rewarding.