Sunday, January 20, 2008

The joys and sometimes perils of country campaigning - beware of cows

I think that I am completely seriousnessed out on this blog. Just too many serious stories make Jim a boring lad. Time for a change.

That small band of somewhat insane readers who look at this blog on a regular basis will know that at one stage I was actively involved in politics and indeed tried for Country Party, National Country Party preselection. As a complete break, I thought I might share some with you some of the joys and perils of country campaigning.

The first key thing that you have to remember about country campaigning is that it involves driving, lots and lots of driving. This can be fun, can also be incredibly boring, and has its perils. Getting close and personal with local animal life is one of these.

I had been to a function in Barraba on the western edge of the New England Tablelands. It had been one of those very hot, still, days with a glimmer of heat haze and the smell of gum leaves in the air. It was now late afternoon, still hot, but with the western sun low in the west. I love this time of the afternoon because it makes the Tablelands a magical place.

Instead of taking the direct route back to Armidale I had decided to take the back roads. I was a bit bored with the same old drag, some of the back roads are very pretty, and I actually enjoy driving on dirt roads.

The road I was on climbed up the side of the hill with a sharp left turn at the top. There is an old bush saying, probably still is, drive slow on pot-holes, fast on corrugations.

This road was very corrugated and I was travelling quite fast. Sweeping round the curve I came upon a large mob of kangaroos. This time I was lucky because I was able to fishtail through the mob. Not skill. Pure luck.

I was not so lucky on my next livestock encounter.

This time I had been to a pre-selection meeting at Crookwell on the Southern Highlands of NSW. There was the usual gathering afterwards, and in this case it was after two in the morning before I left the pub where the meeting had been held to start the drive back to Queanbeyan where I was then living.

I really hate driving in fog. It was cold, visibility was low, the windscreen kept misting. This time when I came round a corner there was a bloody great cow in the middle of the road.

I was not travelling fast. Even so, the beast mounted the bonnet and attempted to come in through the windscreen! For obvious reasons, the car stopped. I got out shaking to see the cow hobbling off into the fog.

One key thing about country people is that they are hospitable.

Someone came along and gave me a lift back into Crookwell. I rang the branch president who was also the Shire President, and they put me up for the night.

Next day we reported the matter to the police The local constable was mildly annoyed that I had not reported it immediately, but came out to see the car and also found and shot the badly injured cow. A friend then drove down from Canberra to pick me up.

There was a sequel to all this.

The accident happened just over the boundary with the adjoining shire. This took the view that because I had killed the cow, I should pay the costs involved in the removal of its body. I took the view that since the animal had got out through a hole in the fence and was on a public shire road, I should not. In the end, and after longish discussions, I did not have to pay.

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