Rain

 A Story from the Field Book of a Reluctant Surveyor

   The surveyor and farmer stood together on the grassy knoll and gazed out across the plains that stretched before them.

   “Don’t know what I’m gunna do,” the farmer broke the silence.

   The surveyor was slightly puzzled by this sudden cryptic remark, and failing to make a connection with anything obvious he debated as to whether or not he should ask. The farmer relieved him of making a decision by finally adding, “It hasn’t rained for months.”

   The weak, autumn sun sank behind the mountain plateau behind them. The surveyor shivered as the chill from the evening air seeped through his jacket.

   “It must be this greenhouse thing they keep talkin’ about,” the farmer continued. “It’s changin’ the weather.”

   The surveyor just nodded, trying not to encourage a conversation. He looked down at the barren property below and wondered whether over enthusiasm on the part of the farmer’s grandfather with an axe might be contributing to the present problem. He considered that sharing his thoughts may not be in the best interest of a productive communique he might have with the farmer in the future, so he let the moment pass and remained silent. He turned and watched the chainman walking up the track towards them with the target over his shoulder. It wouldn’t be long before they would be packed up and sitting in front of a blazing log fire back at the chalet. As he looked back to the view he noticed the first hint of
dew appearing on the roof of the car. It was going to be a cold night. The shadow cast by the mountains reached further out across the plains.

   “We usually get about ten inches by this time of the year. This year we’d be lucky to have got two. Shouldn’t be hand feedin’ the stock this time of the year. Should be enough in the paddocks for ‘em. Sheep aren’t worth anything. Can’t afford to bring feed in for ‘em. Can’t afford to cart ‘em away, either. Gunna have to shoot ‘em, I suppose. Gone in for deer, but they keep gettin’ out. Don’t know what I’m gunna do.”

   Some sheep moved, and the dust rose and hung in the still air.

   The chainman reached the car and packed the target and legs away as the shadow from the mountains reached the horizon, and only the very tops of nearby hills still caught the sun’s feeble rays. The surveyor shivered again, and with his hands tucked deeply in his jacket pockets, walked across to the car, leaving the farmer with his thoughts.

   “We got everything?”

   “Yep,” replied the chainman confidently as he slammed the boot closed, abruptly terminating the surveyor’s gaze into the back of the car.

   The surveyor went round to the driver’s door marvelling at the seemingly telepathic interaction chainmen had with boots of cars. They could tell from the front seat that all the gear was in the back, although “sets of legs” didn’t seem to be encompassed by this supernatural phenomenon as they were known to remain back at the office. The engine started, and with the “turning on of heat and fan” ritual completed, they bounced down the rough track to the waiting log fire and beer at the chalet.

 ***

   A week later. A week of nothing but rain…

 ***

   The surveyor and chainman splashed up the track in the car and stopped just short of the cyclone gate. They peered out into the gloom, past the rhythmic motion of the wiper blades, and watched the farmer come down towards them on his old tractor. After a few moments the surveyor stepped out into the rain and went up to the gate. He lent on the gate as he waited for the farmer to come to a standstill. A stream of water cascaded off the rim of the farmer’s hat as he looked down to take the tractor out of gear with the levers between his legs.

   “Nice drop of rain,” the surveyor greeted him cheerfully. The farmer looked up. “Losin’ all my bloody lambs,” he shouted back angrily. “The cattle are gettin’ bogged down by the river. Have to keep pullin’ ‘em out. The dam wall’s just washed away. The barn’s leakin’, so all the hay’s gunna rot, and the deer…well, got no idea where they are. Don’t know what I’m gunna do.”

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