Short story by Iris Carden
My tiny hobby farm I was going to live on in semi-retirement had always been my big dream.
So here it was, a cottage with solar power, rainwater tanks, bore water, and septic system, on ten hectares of semi-cleared land. I planned to start small. I bought half a dozen chooks for eggs, and planted vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
Self-sufficiency was the first goal, then I thought I might expand to having one of those roadside stalls – fresh produce on the table, leave your money in the box. It was never planned to be anything big.
Having lived all my life in the subtropics, having a view of mountains with snow was incredible. I’d never seen snow before I came here, and now I owned a house where I could look out the window and see it anytime. The very tops of the mountains were never clear of snow.
As with people who arrived in any small community, I had no hope of ever becoming a local, but that was fine. People were polite and friendly, to the degree that always said I didn’t quite belong.
A farmer warned me the day I bought the chooks, “Make sure they’re well secured at night.”
“Are there dingoes around?” I asked, “Or feral foxes or cats?”
“It’s the Beast,” he answered. “It comes down from the mountains when its hungry. Likes fresh meat.”
I shook my head. Beast? There’s not really a lot of predators in Australia: dingoes and crocodiles are the main ones, then there’s some feral pest species. There couldn’t be any crocodiles up on those snowy mountains. Was there a dingo so big it could be termed “Beast”?
I confess, I made the chook pen out of normal chicken wire. That’s enough to keep out a dog, which is what a dingo is anyway. I honestly didn’t think there were any bigger predators out there.
For the first week, the chooks lived their happy little chook lives, out wandering around the yard through the day, and penned in at night. Like all chickens, they took themselves back to the pen, to the chicken house with the nesting boxes as soon as it was dark. I didn’t have a door on the chook house, just closed the gate of the pen after my feathered friends put themselves to bed.
Then came the night when I heard the distressed clucking of poultry who ought to have been asleep. It was loud and chaotic. I turned on the verandah lights and rushed outside. I heard something crashing through the trees. The chook pen was in chaos. The gate had been pulled from its hinges, there was blood and feathers everywhere. Two hens were missing, and the other four were the most distressed I’ve ever seen a chook. I tied the gate back in place, and sat on the verandah watching the pen the rest of the night.
The next day, I bought high strength galvanised weld mesh fencing. I hired someone to help me rebuild the chook pen with that, and I added a secure door to the chook house.
I carefully secured the door and the new gate at sunset when the chickens had put themselves to bed for the night.
That night I woke up to a roaring sound, and the sound of distressed chickens again.
Again, I turned on the verandah lights and rushed out. This time I saw something run off into the bush. I had trouble making out details, but it was huge and white. My mind went to “polar bear”, but this is the wrong hemisphere for such an animal.
The weld mesh fence was twisted and torn, and the door of the chook house was smashed in. There was more blood and more feathers, and I was down another chook. The remaining three were huddled together, silently in the corner.
I rebuilt, of course, then added something new: an electric fence, the wire run through the weld mesh, so the whole lot would carry the current. I wouldn’t turn it on while the chooks were out, of course, but definitely do so once they were safely tucked up.
I also bought a camera, and installed it on the verandah, aimed towards the chook pen. I left the lights on that night.
I fell asleep quickly that night, even though I was concerned for my poor chooks. I hadn’t had much sleep over the past couple of nights.
I woke up to the massive bellowing sound. The whole valley seemed to echo it.
This time, the chook pen was intact.
Playing back the footage from the camera, I saw a massive white, ape-like creature, stealthily approach the chook pen, and grab the wires, before being flung back two metres and running off.
It was impossible. Yowies were myth, folklore. They absolutely did not exist. Yet there was one, captured in pixels, attempting to raid my chook pen.