He had a small mobile with pictures of a dead mare and the remains of the foal the dogs had pulled out of her backside and eaten. His white mare, one hundred thousand dollars of white mare Wendy lying dead amidst the broken camphor laurel saplings. There must have been a great thrashing and kicking about. The foal too, though clamped tight in savage teeth.
This was three hundred yards away, and just the other night. He had a pic of the foal’s head, the dogs hadn’t eaten that but they had cleaned every soft bone they couldn’t chew down on. He said it wasn’t easy taking the pictures.
I looked at him then, not a big man, but rugged up tight and hard for the coming cold tonight. He looked like army without a uniform, everything on him strapped down, that and the big-sighted Ruger 223 slotted into a plastic holster on his quadbike. He was setting up some new infra-reds tonight, in the gully.
He showed us a pic of a great tawny alsation, a handsome dog, his ears erect even in death.
‘Killed that last week,’ he said, ‘ it was fat.’
‘Killed it where?’
He pointed to a sunny knoll about five-hundred yards away.
‘That was the first of them.’
Wayne was born here and he roamed all these hills and gullys as a boy, all day, in and out of the creeks and all over the great boulders that Warning shot out onto the coast so long ago. The same gullys are all overgrown now, they are small dense thickets of strangling growth. Boulders and caverns, wet streamways even in drought, pug marks.
Now our neighbour is a hunter. The property and the stock are his and he knows every stone on the ground. But there was this one the other day. A still black shape amongst the stones he knew.
‘Just looked at it, don’t know why but I didn’t ever remember it being there.’
‘Not a rock then?’
‘How’d you go?’
‘In the shoulder, then it bolted.’
He reckoned the big dog he killed earlier had been wild for generations, and had travelled as far as forty miles in the past few days to come down from the ranges, its real home.
Come to feed on the breeding farms, on the foals and calves. You only hear them at night here, they howl at about the same time that the strip is coming home from their nightclubs. Though when they are pulling a cow down they are silent: not so the stricken beast, sometimes it will call for an hour in great roaring bleats, as it fights off the shadows that tears its flesh. As it dies.
He couldn’t say it in any other words.
‘These kids,’ he said, looking at the little boys playing around us. Grandsons. ‘The dogs are just down the hill, I had to come by and tell you, the gate was open.’
A stricken look from this hard little man.
‘Don’t let them them go too far down there.’
There are children up here, like there are children in the sea, and children on the strip, and the wildness is all around.