So it was back to Navarra, a couple of weeks earlier than planned. With Beastie racking up bills for me, I was happy that I’d accepted Andy’s offer of a few weeks’ work. I would need money for repairs and I would need a place to stay while I got her sorted.
Caroline and Greg were caretaking the place while Andy was down in Toowoomba with his partner Mary. I called my best friend back in Sydney and asked him to dig through the boxes I’d left there: would he please find and post an old pair of jeans and some long-sleeved workshirts. I set about making myself useful.
It was still bakingly hot during the day and some of the ewes were lambing.
Greg had rescued four newborn lambs, fearing them mismothered, and brought them into the house yard. There was also a baby goat, and the five of them made up an insistent, fluffy posse that roamed the yard demanding to be fed. One of the lambs was suffering from an eye infection which had impaired its sight; we were treating the infection with antibiotic powder but in the meantime, it was forever losing its mates among the garden beds and bleating mournfully.
Greg is a big softie and loves his troupe of lambies. Here he is, telling me the story of how he found the one called Rambo under that tree over there.
I had the place to myself a few days later when Greg and Caroline went into Longreach to catch up with Caroline’s sister. They would stay overnight, let their hair down a little. I was glad to be able to help them out by feeding the animals and keeping an eye on the place while they had a night out. I also enjoy a bit of solitude, a sense of space; I figured that 60,000 acres to myself should be just enough.
I wasn’t all alone, though: Nutmeg, the little red cattle dog, had my back.
She’d welcomed me back like a long-lost friend. It’s a wonderful thing to be the recipient of an intelligent dog’s unconditional love.
Days passed, a week. Andy came back from the coast with a list of jobs and I set about renovating the sheep yards with Shawn. It was peaceful work under a hot sun: pull down the old fencing, dig the post holes. I mixed cement while Shawn installed the posts, and my world became very simple: sluice the inside of the barrel, four shovels of sand, one of cement, add more water until the consistency is right. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I waited and waited to hear back about my bike.
What was wrong? What was the prognosis?
It seemed like it had been a really long time.
This is what I look like when you have my bike, and you don’t call me about my bike.