We pretended we had caught and killed a bona fide sea monster, which we then attempted to eat. But it was the era preceding Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, Top Chef, Master Chef and a culinary television explosion that converted cities and households into bombastic and conceited food critics.
The internet was still conceptual, and we weren’t Greek so we had no idea how to prepare or cook octopus. We boiled it. I still remember it tasted of all the salt in the ocean and was inedible.
Spearing this presumably heinous serpent reminded me of the feeling when I smashed to death a dragonfly years before – where I convinced myself it was me or it. Combing the reef at low tide my foot ineptly landed in a rock pool adjacent to where this creature was gaily squirming about in a rock pool of its own. I looped my hand through the rubber jelly, stretched the elastic down the gidgee and gripping the shaft to harness its resiled tension.
I extended the gidgee tip over it, let it hover, hesitated, gulped, and fired the four prong barb into the skein of its body. Given its modest girth I was convinced I had missed, yet certain I had pissed it off royally as it violently wrapped itself around the shaft of the gidgee. I didn’t want to lift the gidgee in fear I would release it into immediate retaliation against my ankles. When gumption and vague evening hunger eventually motivated me to lift the spear, the relief that my aim yet again was successful was brief. It coiled itself into such a mucilaginous mess around the gidgee, vainly biting into the aluminium shaft with a rack of fiendish fangs that dad blew its head off with the .22 so we could safely free it.
My younger sister and me also had fun killing shit together.
However, I think my sister gradually stopped enjoying killing shit. This probably wasn’t helped by our fishing expedition out of Coffs Harbour with the creepy old fishing boat captain – even though she reeled in the two biggest catches of the day.
I sometimes wonder if I should shoulder any responsibility? Did I enable my sister the same way I felt like an accessory to my brother’s actions?
Not when it came to rabbits. Downunder they did themselves no favours. And given their destructive reputation and pestiferous role buggarising our fair nation I never had much qualm about killing Flopsy, Mopsy, Peter, old Br’er Rabbit, Bugs or Benjamin Bunny. The animated version of Watership Down was a traumatic experience. But it didn’t subtract the deep gratification I derived from fishing and hunting for food.
I admit the process was a delusion sort – and while stalking prey or casting a line into the deep blue unknown I’d conjure storybook fantasies of a shipwrecked castaway, having to survive by wit and a few salvaged possessions. But another fantasy was the effusive sentiment people volunteered to cute animals like psychopathic cats and baby seal raping otters.
Rabbit was also one of my dad’s favourite animals to eat. So he showed me how to set traps so that I became an expert trapper. He demonstrated how to humanely kill a rabbit by grabbing it by its hind legs and back of its head and snapping it taut so it made a sound like when you quickly pulled a bendy straw. He showed me how to dress a rabbit, which I always found an odd term because it kind of felt like I was doing the opposite – making short incisions behind it’s legs so I could peel its pelt like a stubborn sport sock over its head. My dad also taught me how to set snares from picture hanging wire, but admitted he never found much success snaring rabbits. And neither would I, although it wasn’t through want of trying.
While I (and especially my brother) excelled at killing shit on land, my forte for killing shit belonged to the expansive fertile coastline of Western Australia.
My brother was handy killing shit with rod and spear. However, I was turning into an expert fisherman.
So I exposed myself to various methods of fishing. I even harvested stingrays’ barbed and venomous stingers from their tail. I fashioned them into bush spears or jewellery like a regular Robinson Crusoe. But the spears never really worked and necklaces of fishbone irritated my skin like a curse.
I became skilled with each technique, but like a teenage mutant ninja turtle it seems everyone needs to specialise when it comes to killing shit – and the gidgee proved to be my speciality.
As I grew older and sensibilities against animal cruelty galvanised I drew even more satisfaction from honing my skills and patience to deliver the perfect strike – deftly spearing cobbler through their skull while spotlight along the shores of Geographe Bay, assured it died instantly, painlessly because of the absence of movement which was then verified by lifting a limp, pristine leg of flesh out of the water.
On our annual fishing trips up to Ningaloo Marine Park my ardent appetite to wield the gidgee again broadened on the fifteen hour drive north.
We drove non-stop through the night. By morning we would be stuttering along the corrugated coastal track between Coral Bay and Exmouth.
We pitched camp in the dunes and to make the most out of the day unhitched our thirteen foot dingy from the roof rack.
We launched it into the bay by heaving the aluminium hull down to the shoreline like Egyptian slaves. My brother grabbed the gidgee and I went to get the fishing gear. My dad told me to leave it.
My dad was man full of caution, planning and suggestions. He explained we would fish later but first it was a good idea to motor out in the bay to outline our position and identify any prominent fishing spots that we could fish from the shore.
We spotted a wandering sea turtle. Dad chased it through the surf. My brother sat legs over the bow, with the gidgee calling out to my dad each time the turtle yawed left and right. It was the first time I saw a sea turtle in the wild. Against childhood cartoons and fables I marvelled at its aquatic speed and grace. Our 5 HP Mercury Mariner outboard could barely keep pace and we quickly lost sight of it.
See, my brother and I could have fun with my dad not killing shit!
My dad idled the engine to give it some respite and my brother used to the quiet to talk.
‘Has anyone seen the gidgee?’
‘What do you mean – you have it.’
‘I tried to spear the turtle.’
‘Where?’ my dad asked.
My brother pointed again in his vague habitual manner to the horizon. Only this time it was an endless, undulating ocean.
‘Back there somewhere,’ my brother added as if it helped.
‘You tried to spear a moving target underwater while we were chasing it?’
‘And kill an endangered animal?’
My brother shrugged.
‘What were you going to do if by miracle you actually hit it?’
I think my brother was shrugged out. He may have responded with some unintelligible,
There wasn’t even an expression of attempting a search, or hope of finding the gidgee from anyone in the boat.
Not that it really mattered given where we were.
Follow or Subscribe so you don’t miss My Brother Killing Shit: Part IV where I further explore the history of my bro killing shit ergo me killing shit.