A Difference

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Some sorting out needed to be done after an arguement.

Submitted: November 06, 2016

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Submitted: November 06, 2016

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In a way it was fortunate that Henry was a home in his hut when Bert called. Usually on a Saturday morning he was out with his dogs trying to reduce the feral pig population up in the forest but instead he was cleaning his kitchen. Henry was never keen on the cleaning thing but it was a monthly event for him! He cooked on a coal range, not that he used coal, he fired it with wood because he had a plentiful supply. Well, as a forester he would wouldn’t he? Monthly he had to clean the firebox, flue and the rest of the innards of the range to keep it clear of soot and ash. With no brushes to do the job, Henry had developed ‘a method’! In the cooled firebox he placed a sardine tin with some petrol in it. Standing back as far as he could, he tossed a match into the firebox and the resulting woof cleared the firebox and flue! Trouble was, it blew soot and ash from arsehole to breakfast in the kitchen!

‘Gidday Bert!’ Henry greeted, ‘You’re early on the job, cup of tea, coffee?’

‘Yeah,’ replied Bert, ‘make it a thick coffee will ya.’

Thick coffee? Anyway Henry whacked a couple of teaspoons of coffee and three of sugar into a mug, he knew Bert was weaned at an early age so wouldn’t want milk.

Henry knew Bert had something on his mind and he knew to exercise patience because Bert liked to test patience. The coffee went down in complete silence.

‘I want you to be my second.’ Bert said quietly and eventually.

‘Your second what?’ Henry was mystified.

‘In a duel.’ Bert replied matter-of-factly.

‘A duel?’ This was a new one on Henry! ‘A duel, you silly old bugger, what do you mean a duel. And me as a second?’

Bert was decidedly sheepish! He had been at his mate Doug’s place, drinking their copious amounts of Doug’s home-distilled whiskey. An argument had ensued and the upshot was that Doug had challenged Bert to a duel, with .22 rifles, up on Charlie Jones’ hill on Sunday morning. Bert was no fool but would never back down, so he foolishly accepted the challenge!

Henry knew Doug, a rough-as-guts farmer who was always broke. Doug’s theory was not to do the practical thing and mend fences, that’s just too simple. Any sheep that pokes through a fence and out onto the road is shot! Not just shot, but shot as it is poking through the hole in the fence. This is a good idea, he reckoned, for three reasons: it blocks the hole so no other sheep can poke through, it kills of the leader – sheep follow the leader you know, and it teaches the rest a bloody good lesson! Doug fancied himself as a mechanic, but he was rough as guts about that too! Really good at pulling things apart, but never washing parts before refitting them, a waste of petrol he claimed! Always there were bits left over when he had finished the reassembly, which is why there were all these pieces of machinery lying around the farm!

‘What the hell did you think you were doing agreeing to a bloody duel?’ Henry demanded, ‘It’s illegal and there haven’t been any for a hundred years!’

‘Yeah,’ mumbled the sheepish Bert, ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time. He pissed me off and I tried to clock him one, but I fell over the bloody coffee table and that riled up his missus. She fired Doug up, so he challenged me!’

‘That’s crazy, you didn’t have to accept, you could have just gone home!’ Henry suggested.

‘Nah, he’s not going to go around the district sayin’ I’m gutless!’ Stubborn Bert replied, ‘Not in me nature to back away!’

‘I know bloody well, you silly old bugger.’ Henry said, ‘What have you told Edna?’

‘Nuthin’, she don’t know.’ Was the answer.

‘So, if you get shot, I have to break the news to Edna?’ This stunned Henry.

‘I wuz hopin’ so.’ Bert mumbled. ‘But Doug can’t shoot for shit, so I’ll be Jake!’

Henry tried his best to talk him out of but it was wasted breath, he might as well have been talking to the old plough Bert hadn’t used for twenty years! He had a saying referring to his plough: ‘Ya can’t scratch me hide with a plough-shear, it’s me feelin’s that are sensitive!’  That about summed him up, he might have been a quirky old bugger and tough as the soles on his boots, but some things just got to him, and he never wanted to be accused of being gutless!

Henry reluctantly agreed to be his second, with the hope of talking the pair out of it face to face and tried to figure out phrases that might still the troubled waters. Charlie Jones’ hill was just up behind Henry’s hut, so Bert said he would walk to the hut, ‘In case Edna needed the car!’

The allotted time was 7:00am and Bert arrived at 6:30 with his pump-action .22 (magazine full) and a hip flask of Johnny Walker Black Label: ‘To settle your nerves’ he said to Henry. Bert himself though was cool as the Waianakarua River water on a winter’s day! Shoulder to shoulder, silently they climbed to the top of Charlie Jones’ hill.

The pair stood in the grassy clearing on the hilltop and the morning sun peeped over the distant Mt. Charles, no doubt brightening up the headstones in the local cemetery there! Henry didn’t know if that was a sign or not!

Seven o’clock came and went as the pair stood waiting, Henry shivering, but not form the chill! At half past seven Henry said, ‘C’mon Bert, he’s not coming, let’s go!’

‘Always reckoned he never drunk enough milk when he was a kid!’ Bert grumbled.

Well,’ replied Henry, ‘I reckon old Doug has more sense that I gave him credit for!’

Two weeks later, a rabbit was munching on cabbage seedlings in Bert’s vege garden. He carefully aimed at the furry pest and squeezed the trigger. Misfire! The bullet was a dud!

Bert and Doug? Oh they were still good mates!


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