Three Years on the Road
Brett Davis

34. Call me Curiosity

Numeralla is a small town about twenty kilometres east of Cooma in southern New South Wales. Ted and Val's property is about eight kilometres south of Numeralla, right on the river. Ted is Karen's second cousin, which is a much simpler way of saying that Karen's grandfather on her mother's side of the family and Ted's father were brothers.

Karen woke late on the first morning at Val and Teds, overcoming a lack of sleep caused by the pain in her tooth. A steady diet of aspirin during the three days since the onset of the problem had helped keep the pain at bay, but a more permanent fix was required. With Ted's assistance, a dental appointment was immediately arranged in Cooma, so Karen and I borrowed Ted's Landrover and drove into town.

A few months before, Karen's dentist in Sydney had removed a tooth that had been crowding her surrounding teeth. X-rays taken by the Cooma dentist revealed that one of these other teeth, now free to move, had taken the opportunity to change its position in the gum. It was now raised above the level of the surrounding teeth, causing pain when subjected to any pressure at all. An orthodontist who just happened to be visiting the surgery for the day was asked for advice by the dentist, and he suggested that bands might provide the long-term solution but in the short term the tooth could be ground down to the level of those around it. This was soon accomplished, and Karen has been pain free ever since.

Ted had arranged for us to drop off some rubbish at the tip on our journey into Cooma, and to pick up some dog biscuits at the rural supplies centre when we were in town. On our return, he showed us how to feed his dogs and operate the ride-on mower, edger and push mower, as he would be away in Sydney for a while and needed a few chores done in his absence. Karen and I stayed for a week, helping out Val with a variety of tasks while Ted was away. Apart from feeding Ted's numerous and crazy working dogs, most of the work we did involved the gardening and mowing, as Ted and Val were trying to spruce up the place prior to putting it on the market. We spent three days cutting back the ivy, vines and native roses that had grown wild around the house, trimming it back from the walls and removing it completely from the eaves and roof. During this work we were constantly finding birds nests throughout the overgrowth. Luckily, as it was now late in the summer, the nests were no longer occupied.

We also discovered a semi-feral mother cat and two cute kittens under a large clump of impenetrable spear-grass in the backyard. Ted had apparently acquired the cat in an attempt to control the mice which supposedly inhabited the space under the floor of his shearing shed, a structure of wood and corrugated iron about a hundred yards away from the house. The cat, however, seemed to prefer the taste of birds to rodents, and had quickly moved its hunting grounds from the shed to the gardens of the main house. The birdlife around the property is one of Val's greatest loves, so the cat was extremely unwelcome. When we told her that we had seen the cat with a couple of kittens, Val decided they all had to go, and what better time than when Ted was away?

The cat was almost wild. It would bolt whenever we approached it, so shooting it would be the best method of eradication. Perhaps it knew that its time on this earth was short, because once Val decided to shoot the cat, it made itself scarce for a day or two. It finally appeared in the back garden late one afternoon, crouched beside a small stone wall as it stalked a pair of superb blue wrens. Val quickly showed me where Ted kept his rifle, a nice little .22 calibre with a four power telescopic sight attached. I loaded a couple of rounds into the magazine, snapped it into place, and went to the back door. Opening it only slightly, I steadied the rifle against the door jamb and centred the cross-hairs on the cat's head.

Unlike a lot of people, I actually like cats, and not just because they taste like chicken. I admire their hunting ability, their survival instincts and their independence. The list of cats I have owned is a long one - Ralph, Rabbit, Pussy, Wuffy, Sarah (who will always be my favourite), George, Kate, Oblong and Mr Big, just to name a few. Ted's cat was beautiful, with a coat like a Persian and striking markings, but it was in the wrong place and very definitely at the wrong time. I squeezed the trigger, hoping the scope had been sighted in for this distance - about twenty metres. Apparently it had been. The cat jumped slightly and was dead before it hit the ground. We put it in a sack and dumped it about a kilometre away, where Ted would never find it. Unfortunately, all our efforts to locate the kittens failed. The temperature that night got down to near freezing, so I doubt they survived for very long. Life can be tough sometimes.

There is one interesting sidelight to this story that needs to be told. Just as we have not told Neil and Robyn about killing their pet spider in Tallebudgera, neither have we told Ted about the accident suffered by his cat. Unfortunately there is one rather strange connection between the two events. Not only have I killed Ted's cat and Neil's spider, but it seems that I have waged a personal vendetta against this one particular family - Ted and Neil are father and son!

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