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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Crooked Mick's dog and the locusts

Somebody asked me in an unbelieving tone the other day about Crooked Mick's dog, the one that could round up a swarm of plague locusts, and drive them through a small camp fire.  Now don't get me wrong: I didn't say that Mick's was the only dog that did this, but it was more efficient at it than most dogs.

You see, a plague swarm is usually a few miles (let's say 5 kilometres in your terms) wide, and many of the swarm are well out of the reach of even the best jumping dog, as they fly up to a mile above the earth — call it about 1.5 km.  Narrowing the swarm's front is easy, but getting the high fliers down low enough is always a problem.  The important point is that Mick's dog got around this difficulty in a new and rather creative way.  He was dead lazy, as everybody knows, but Mick's dog was quite good at solving unusual problems.

Plague locusts will always settle on anything green, and Mick's dog had somehow worked out or noticed that male blowflies on the Speewah are green.  So what he used to do was to round up all the blowflies (something any Speewah pup could do) and then cut out the males into a compact mass.  Driving this mass of male blowflies under the swarm of locusts, the dog would then have to lead the locusts back to where the campfire was lit.

Then came the really hard part.  To keep the locust swarm moving down, the dog needed a compact swarm of male blowies, and that meant keeping the blowies in one group while driving the locusts through the flames, so their wings were singed, and they dropped to the ground to die. 

That wasn't hard: even my dog could do that on a good day, but the hard part was that the smell of dead and dying locusts brought all the female blowies around, and keeping them out of the way, and controlling the male blowies, AND driving the locusts through the flames, but not so close that they put the fire out, and gathering enough wood to keep the fire going at the same time, that was pretty hard.

So as I said before, Crooked Mick had a pretty good dog there.  In fact, if we had a few more like him today, we could use a lot less chemical spray than we do.  Which reminds me: Mick's dog also had a good way of dealing with the Speewah mosquitoes.  Now this really was amazing, because the dog was born in the middle of a small drought, and so he was eight years old before he saw his first mosquito.

Yeah, that's a small drought as they come and go on the Speewah.  When it rained after a real Speewah drought, one of Mick's mates fainted at the shock of water on his face, and they had to throw three buckets of dust over him to bring him round.

Anyhow, the mosquitoes came when the drought broke, and like everything else on the Speewah, they're big.  They don't whine, they go FLAP!  FLAP!  FLAP!  It's just as well they aren't around in the times of drought, or they'd blow all the dust away to New Zealand.

Well, Mick's dog didn't hesitate.  As the first mosquito flew over, the dog sized the situation up, and jumped, taking a lump out of the mosquito's proboscis, the giant stinger thing on the front end of the mosquito.  Hardly letting go, he slipped to a new spot on the stinger, and bit again, as the mosquito flew on.

Finally, the dog had chewed all the way around, and the proboscis fell to the paddock below, where it speared into the ground.  The mosquito was now unbalanced, and it spiralled down to the ground, close to its stinger, and wandered off, looking dazed.  As the mosquito landed, the dog let go, stepped safely onto terra firma, then turned around and looked for the next victim.

It took him a week, and by the end of that week, the female mosquitoes were all unspiked, and the whole of the Speewah home paddock was full of proboscises, all stuck in the ground.  Later, when the floods came, the proboscises all filled with water, which made them really useful in the drought that came after that.  All you had to do was chop a wedge into the side, and hold a billy underneath to catch the water flowing out.

But don't get me wrong: other dogs could probably have done the same thing, but I doubt they would have worked it out quite so quickly.

* * * * *

Somebody told me the other day that Crooked Mick's dog couldn't have seen that the male blowflies on the Speewah are green, because dogs are all colour-blind, but that is a false assumption.  You see, the dogs on the Speewah are all kelpies, brought out to Australia from Scotland, and the kelpies have a dash of seal in their pedigree, and seals can see colours quite well.

In any case, as I mentioned before, the dog was born in the middle of a drought, so until he was eight years old, he never saw anything green.  So not being used to green things, he immediately saw the colour when it appeared.

So you have to face it: there's no sense in underestimating the brainpower of a Speewah dog.  Although Mick's dog did have one failing: it could set up a camp fire, fill the billy at the nearest water hole, and put it on the fire, but unless you gave it matches, there was just no way it could light the fire.  And not just any old matches: it had to be given safety matches, and quite often it used three or four of them.

Nobody could ever work out why: the dog was completely normal in every other way, but it just couldn't handle that one simple task.  Probably it got upset by somebody asserting within its hearing that it was colour-blind.  Or maybe it was just that the dog was lazy.  That was its real failing, laziness.

* * * * *

Note: there is a whole book of these stories, which I have been pitching to publishers, but they will probably appear in an e-book.

There will be quite a number of these on the blog, all with the tags Speewah and Crooked Mick.

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