What a difference 20 years (well, almost) can make. The events that I'm about to describe did happen. If it happened now, it would be all over the national media and there would be a statewide manhunt, with the people concerned more than likely undergoing councelling for years to come. And yet, it wasn't all that big a deal at the time, just something else that contributed to making me who and what I am.
The year was 1986 or thereabouts, I doubt very much if it was any earlier than that, because I'm fairly certain that I was 16, so that makes it late '86, early '87. I grew up on a small farm on the far south coast of NSW, and we were forever scratching to make ends meet. Occasionally, this meant trapping and shooting rabbits for food, as well as what we grew ourselves.
Because our farm was so small, Dad would lease land from other people. One of these leased properties was known as "The old racecourse", probably because that's what it used to be back in the goldrush days. Anyway, there was a family of hippies (Mum, Dad & baby) squatting on the property against the wishes of the property owners, and they couldn't get them to move out. So Dad started playing psych games with them, just to make life difficult. Little did he know, that by doing this, life could have become very difficult for us.
Now, of this hippy family, only the father concerns this episode of my life, and we'll call him Crazy Hippy Dude, 'cos I can't for the life of me remember his name. The wife's name was Rita, I remember that, 'cos she got called Rita the Rooter by some people around town. It's only this year that I've worked out that Rita probably wasn't anywhere near the joint when all this went down, but at the time, we just assumed that she and the baby were in the stone humpy that they had been living in.
Anyhoo, on to the story. Mum and Dad needed to go to town one day, yet there was a shitload of work to be done around home, namely ploughing the old racecourse, so I was shanghaid into staying at home from school. This was nothing new for me. So in the morning, after my brother & sisters went off to school, Dad drove the tractor to the racecourse while I followed in the car, as Dad was going to leave straight from there once he had shown me what he wanted done.
Once we got there, I climbed onto the tractor with Dad, adopting the universal pillion position when on a tractor. Arse parked on the rear mudguard. The ride in was a little bumpy, 'cos the day before Dad had ploughed the only access track to the shed/humpy that the hippies were living in as part of his psych war. So, we've driven down an incline towards the creek, crossed said creek and drove up onto the flat where we had just started working. Looking around, I noticed Crazy Hippy Dude walking towards us, carrying something. I've told Dad, and by the time he has stopped the tractor, we have noticed that Crazy Hippy Dude is carrying what appears to be a rifle. As he gets closer, he starts yelling at Dad, abusing him for ploughing up the place so that he can't get in or out. It's also about this time that Dad notices the rifle is a Lee Enfield .303, and warns me to be careful.
Crazy Hippy Dude is starting to get pretty agitated right about now, and he started to shout things like, "I'm gonna fucken shoot ya!", while pointing the rifle in our direction from a distance of about 3-4 metres. All the while, Dad is trying to get through to this guy that no, he's not and he shouldn't even be on the place. suddenly, the barrel of the rifle drops just a smidgeon and the rifle discharged. I tell you, a .303 sounds a hell of a lot louder when you're hearing it from the wrong bloody end! Anyway, as it turns out, Crazy Hippy Dude had planted a round into the tyre above which I was sitting. Needless to say, I was sitting about a foot lower than I had been mere seconds earlier. Dad calmly said to me "Come on, Sammy, we're out of here.", got down off the tractor and proceeded to walk back towards the car. I don't know now how we did it, but as far as I can remember, Crazy Hippy Dude was still standing there with the rifle while we were walking away.
We made it back to the car safely, got in and Dad absolutely raced the five or so kays back home where we called the cops. Half an hour later, (that's how far away the nearest cop shop is) the cops arrived. When Dad took them to the racecourse, there was absolutely no sign of the hippy family. So, either they packed their bongos and fucked off as soon as we were out of sight, or (as I now believe) mother and child left the night before while Crazy Hippy Dude waited for Dad to turn up. Who knows what might have happened if I wasn't there?