Rodney the Woodman loves his birds.
He’s spent a big part of his 64 years in the bush, felling, sawing, carting to his Eastern Shore woodyard, where it is despatched to go up in smoke to keep the surburbs toasty.
His little tin shed office is also toasty, warmed by the roaring old Kent in the corner.
At the end of life, a philosopher once said, lie love and paradox.
Rodney is paradox, for within the minor Sumo dwells the most sensitive of souls.
For Rodney loves his birds.
He tells stories of a lifetime in the bush and the wonder he has seen of birds in flight, at nest, in combat, in exultation at the dawn.
He fondly recalls the Maggies who come to feed at his tin shed office: “Once the old Kent knocked me out with its heat and I woke to find three Maggies sitting on me boots”.
A month or so ago he was enraged.
“The galahs have gone. Some bastard’s knocked ’em off with poison grain, I’ll betcha.”
His galahs had adopted Rokeby paddocks as their domain. They huddled on the wires on the approach to Howrah as he drove at dawn to his woodyard in Mornington. He loved to see them.
One day a few weeks ago they had vanished.
He’s lived long enough to know how arrogant, uncaring brute man can decimate the natural world: “Some bastard’s poisoned ’em.”
But for once, this was not the case.
On my mobile last Wednesday was a message, the gruff tough gravelly voice unable to hide a simple joy:
“The galahs are back …”