Hunter or gatherer?


Before I get into these fundamental decisions about hunting or gathering – I am a traveller, full stop. I spent 20months in this beautiful place called Sydney – also known as the Big Smoke – and there is the rest of the continent (and the world) to investigate. I came upon a place called Jervis Bay (pronounced by the locals “Jurvis” Bay), found out that some part of it contained a naval base, which was cleverly excised by the Federal Government from NSW and became part of the Australian Capital Territory, that Government ran out of chips –( or was it ships?) And leased some part of the naval buildings to the tourist industry. It did place a Rehabilitation Centre there and I got a job in that centre as a “useful”. In order to polish the floors and wash the dishes and act as a runner for the disabled inmates playing cricket, I was obliged to swear allegiance to George the 6th (imagine – this was even before the enthronement of Betty the 2). So I signed up, swore and hopped on my trusted stead otherwise known as a JAWA 250cc bike (the name stands for JAnacek and WAnderer –Czech and English) and off I tootle south past the Illawarra region, admire the Kiama blowhole, through the Shoalhaven country and land in the naval base.


There is this beautiful country around Nowra and Jervis Bay, full of green pastures – just like in the old country and there are dozens, nay hundreds of ears jumping out of the tall grass.  They are bunnies, rabbits, millions of them. If you are not careful you could easily slip on one and break a leg. How come this country which only has four percent of arable land produces such over-abundance of animal and vegetable pests? You need a couple of hundred of camels to help build a telegraph line and at the end you finish up with a million feral ones, probably more than King Saud has in his paddock. You have plenty of useless kangaroos but you need some water for your bovines and fluffy sheep, so you put up some dams – and presto – your roo population blows up to 50 million. The same with plants; do you know about the prickly pear?  But that is about hundred years ago – an ornamental cactus literally ruined large tracts of pastures. Same other “ornamental” plants were planted at NSW railway stations. They are called lantana, and they infested northern lands and edges of rain forests. And I better not talk about toads.


But I really want to talk about bunnies. They made me realise that I could not be a gatherer as I get a backache if I bend down. I found that out when the Rehab management sent me to Huskisson to collect some slimy creatures called oysters for a picnic.  So a hunter I shall be and rabbits will be my target. I purchase a .22 calibre CZ rifle in early spring of 1950 and am ready to pounce. What I did not do was to follow the world news and I missed the fact that the Government had a scientific organisation which had finally produced some toxic substance called myxomatosis, which they released about the same time as I purchased my weapon (for mass destruction) and the effect was so quick that my rifle never had a look-in – there goes my testosterone fix. Rabbit proof fence in Western Australia did not stop them but myxo did. The bunnies did re-appear, but in smaller numbers and yet another chemical substance keeps them in check.


Manufacturers of the classic Akubra hat now use other materials with the rabbit skins to produce the iconic hat. And, yes (I bought one on Sovereign Hill – not far from the Eureka Stockade). Foreigners in ancient lands immediately affirm that the Akubra hat is indeed an iconic Australian article.


And as far as the Hunter and/or Gatherer – well luckily in this modern civilisation – there are other means of skinning the………


But that is another story