The heat from a new angle


It’s late-ish at night here… I should be relaxing with my husband in front of the telly, after putting the kids to bed, but instead I am still waiting for him to arrive back from the paddock.

After a hideously hot day – I measured 37 degrees Celsius at about 3pm – a fire (which had broken out in a couple of our paddocks) was discovered burning too close for comfort to fire breaks in our heavily timbered country to the north of  home.


And after spending the (very early) morning driving the grader to clear more breaks, then mustering some steers and drafting them up, my husband and my Dad headed back to the fire front to try and prevent the flames leaping into our scrub country.


It possibly sounds confusing to those who aren’t used to maintaining grazing land, but there are times we want to burn, and times we don’t.  Now, when it is SO hot, is not a great time to burn especially in thickly timbered country.  Slow cool burns are ideal – early in the season, soon after rain, or at least when rains are forecast.


But you don’t always get to control the timing of these things.

And I sit here tonight with my mind working overtime, worrying about my 71-year-old Dad and my hard-working husband, and ponder how very different the same things appear, when viewed from a different angle.

To this ex-photojournalist, fire will always be an extraordinary and beautiful thing.  Not only does it have a mesmerising life of its own, the smoke does amazing things to light which are impossible not to photograph.  And (in the old days when I was sent out by editors to cover bushfires for the news) I loved the sharp ebb and flow of action around fires, and the surge of tension as a fire got too near something it shouldn’t.

You could literally FEEL that SOMETHING was about to happen.  Something gorgeous and (very likely) dangerous.  And while I was aware (and sensitive to) the devestation it could cause, I was still very much drawn to it, back then.

fires_5543 e

Now, by contrast, when my own family are out there, somewhere, without me, dealing with it… it’s less appealing.  I will categorically state that tonight, fire is not providing that adrenaline rush – it’s just annoying and inconsiderate and a little bit scary.  I know very well that few people in this state have more experience with fires than my Dad.  He’s an adrenaline junkie of much greater proportions than I.  And no-one is more strong and capable than my husband.  But they have to be tired.  And I am worried…

Twitter keeps me distracted, with @Katy_Potaty wondering what goosenecks are, and reassured as another farmer, @GusWhyte responds to a worrywart tweet of mine with:

Everyone needs wise words and years of experience, he will be well looked after.



I hear the Toyota ute drawing up beside the house.  Two very grimy, smokey, tired men climb out and make their way inside to inhale 3-hour-ovened fish and chips and coleslaw… and shower as much of that black smoke from their skins as possible.  A couple of large glasses filled with their favourite spirit and coke washes the much-needed food down.

The fire is now under control.  But my Dad is full of stories of THIS moment when flames and sparks went 40 feet into the air over their heads and THIS tree falling an unexpected direction… I imagine trying to drag him away from the action before he calls ‘All Clear’.  I’d say that would be the very definition of impossible.

He makes me laugh with his enthusiastic retelling – I think tiredness mixed with scotch has helped with the colour of the descriptions being bandied about the kitchen bench.  We count the favourite fire-related phrases:

It nearly went from being a great servant to being a terrible master.

A bit of ‘red steer’ does the country a lot of good... long as it rains.



All men in bed and deservedly snoring their hearts out.  I have finished cleaning out tucker boxes (normally a job I make them do!) and making tomorrow’s smokos and lunches for them.  I know they have to truck steers at 7am (helping the truck driver safely load our stock for market) – so have to carry out their fire watch before 6am.

I believe 3.30am was mentioned as a ‘start time’.


I ♥ my sleep almost as much as I ♥ having my menfolk safely accounted for.

So tonight, their lunchboxes are sorted.

Here’s hoping tomorrow brings a cooler change, no stray sparks and an early mark for the boys.

Will keep you posted.



10 Responses to “The heat from a new angle”

  1. Carol/Red Dirt In My Soul Reply November 16, 2011 at 12:22 am

    I’ve been there myself so many times.. Although it’s my husband and sons out there. Often I’ll go too, if it’s a little fire, and take my ambulance jump kit… Just in case. Good fire/bad fire… It gets confusing and changes very fast! Hope your guys and paddocks stay safe…

  2. Fire is one of those things I regard with, if not fear, a tremendous amount of respect. It can be so beneficial under the right circumstances, yet when out of control….. *shudder*

    Prayers all around, both for the worriers and those people and things being worried about!

    If you need a distraction, come look at the new life at my place. That should make you smile. :)
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Chloe

  3. We have also had fires started on purpose and fires started by accident. I’ve been on the line trying to control it, and I’ve sometimes been home worrying. Sending my hopes that all goes as well as possible, and all hands are safe at the end of the day. Take care!

  4. do you haul the cattle in trucks or trailers?

  5. City girl thinking of you all in the country right now…sending big hugs.

    You made me a bit teary then BB…I’m watching my Dad going through the ‘long goodbye’ these days and reading your thoughts about your Dad brought up all the usually well hidden emotions…they are our heroes arent they.

    Smoke has been covering the city here as they burn off for summer…theres nothing like that smell is there…scary but necessary.

    Hoping they all get some well deserved rest soon…

  6. Margie from New York Reply November 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I’m glad everything thing is ok there and the fire is under control.

    37c is 98F HOT, it was in the low 60F today here thats 15c to you I believe.

    Ok couple of questions what are;
    tucker boxes

  7. Margie…

    Tucker boxes – the esky/container which they carry their food and thermos in when they work out in the paddock

    Smokos – morning and afternoon tea/coffee break.

    (Sorting thru a gazillion New York photos at the moment and its making me ‘homesick’ for your amazing city.)

    Julie …

    Thanks darl. Hugs back at you and your Dad. My whole house smells like smoke – will for a couple of weeks I imagine.


    We cart/ship our cattle in trucks only – our roads aren;t good enough for trailers. We send a few ‘decks’ at a time so big semitrailers are used for this kind of load.


    THANKS… me too!


    I have been a slack blog commenter lately – my life has truly hijacked me. Congrats on your gorgeous granddaughter!!!!


    I hear you. Oh, how I hear you! Wind is up and hot today. Everything is crossed for some rain. (Doesn’t look likely!)


  8. It doesn’t look like it, but this is an example of a cool, slow burn we did in one of our swamps.
    What a wonderful wife you, BB. I bet you’re exhausted this morning as would be your menfolk.
    how awesome are tales around the kitchen table? Priceless.
    Fleur McDonald´s last blog post ..Guest Blog: Caroline Overington, Author of Matilda is Missing

  9. I read “The Old Fella” first, and so now see that your dad is just like him—living every one of his 71 years. :)
    The fires are so scary, so alive. I’m glad your menfolk got it under control and a bit of sleep before working/shipping cattle. Maybe today your heart and mind can rest a bit from the uneasiness.
    CeeCee´s last blog post ..Beep, Beep!

  10. Oh wow! Very scary! I am glad everything is okay. Those photos are lovely, I thought they were shots at dawn when I first saw them. I am sure your menfolk are thankful they had you to take care of them!! xo
    Ranch Girl´s last blog post ..It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Winter

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