One feature of thing about living in a remote part of New Zealand is scruffy men prowling through your garden with knives and/or rifles, preceded by a pack of wolves.
I’ve spent most of my life in cities, where the automatic response to one or more strangers snuffling around your gnomes is to check the doors are double-locked before calling the police.
However, in a small community, placing a 911 is considered bad form. In any case, you just KNOW the dude with a lazy eye and a claw instead of a hand will turn out to be your neighbour’s son/mother/best friend/beloved family pet or – even worse – the only hairdresser within a 100km radius.
The first time we encountered pig hunters on our premises was a few months ago; Husband and I were in the garden when a dog appeared out of the surrounding bush. While Jed investigated whether he could insert his entire head up his new friend’s arse, two men strolled down our drive followed by three more hounds.
I secured my squirming dog by the scruff while the pack of hunting dogs sniffed my ankles suspiciously. I’m thinking, “this had better be good”.
I expected an opening salvo along the lines of, “Hello- terribly sorry to disturb. We weren’t aware there was anyone here, our mistake. We simply can’t apologise enough. We assure you it won’t happen again.”
Instead, the man I’ll call ‘Claw’ (even though he didn’t actually have a claw), said, “Have you seen a pig?”
My instinctive response would normally be some loud advice based on a solid framework of expletives. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to do that here (see above). They were also better armed than us – even though I’m pretty sure Andrew could have taken Claw’s mate with the trowel.
However, I was so miffed I didn’t even invite them in for a cup of tea. If you’re Irish, you will appreciate quite how VEXED I was.
It’s lucky the situation was contained, because of course Claw turned out to be The Sherriff‘s brother from another mother, and is – according to The Sherriff – a lovely bloke when he’s not skulking.
The other day, our landlord The Mustachioed Muchacho called to let us know he’d given ‘Pail’ permission to hunt their land. The Mustachioed Muchacho explicitly told Pail to avoid our house, but we decided to keep Jed inside just in case. Any pack of dogs has the potential to gang up on one; and I’ve yet to be thrown into an envious rage by the control hunters have over their animals.
We were in the living room when Jed sprang up with the meaty WOOF! he uses to make us spill our coffee. Next thing, two men, a boy and a swarm of dogs trotted past our house. They waved in the window at us. Kind of a, ‘Hi! We’re invading your privacy!’ wave. Which was . . . nice?
They carried on down our track to the promontory. One of their dogs took a crap and I know it’s what dogs do and when you’ve gotta go you’ve gotta go, but NOBODY EVEN WHACKED THE TURD OFF THE TRACK.
On their return, they waved in the window again.
(Even though I didn’t want to I waved back and even employed all fingers.)
All this time and for the next half an hour, Jed paced, groaned, whined, yodelled, barked and howled. He alternated pacing around the living room with trying to scratch a hole in the sliding door.
Some time after that we took Jed for a walk. With Andrew’s permission, Pail had parked at the top of our drive, by the gate. On our return – an hour after the hunters said they would be gone – I thought I heard our gate clink as we rounded the bend in the road.
I grabbed Jed and called, “Hello?”
The van was still there; and so were the hunters, Pail wearing a bloody pig as a scarf.
“Are your dogs friendly?” I asked, but before Pail had even finished saying, “Aw, yeh, friendly AS,” two of his dogs set into Jed with a flurry of fangs and snarling.
Jed tore back up the road yelping, a dog swinging out of his backside by the teeth.
Long after Jed had forgotten all about it – including, conveniently, what a great big cowardy custard he was – I still had my ears flattened against the side of my head.