It is twelve months since I closed the gate.  This year, with the race coming up, there was no need to close it as we have great big signs on the highway telling people they are not to  gather firewood from the side roads in the area and in any case, there are plenty of wood sellers by the side of the road on the way into town so it is freely available to them and legal.  The mount has a population of about 35,000 during the race time and leading up to it, so I’m told, and they all love their fires at night.  A fire is very comforting and yarns are spun and beer drunk by the flickering flames.  The racegoers were lucky this year.  Most years the weather is pretty bad on race weekend but in 2014 the week prior to and weekend of the race the weather was beautiful.  Lovely days and cool nights.  Perfect.

As I said, they were so lucky.  By Tuesday night 27 centimetres of snow had fallen in this area and both main roads were closed between here and Sydney.  We were lucky.  We left on Tuesday morning to go to Maitland and although the clouds along the way were ominous, we didn’t even get a drop of rain let alone snow.  We did travel north though and then east through the Bylong Valley.

In years gone by we used to close the gate about a week before the race as people would be out foraging for fallen timber on our roads and if the front gate was open it was nothing for them to just come in and pick up wood if they could see it lying on the ground and you never know what else might take their fancy.

Last year I closed the gate as usual on the Friday week before the onslaught of the hordes.  I thought nothing of it at the time, just closed it after coming back from my walk down the Dam Road.  Later that evening I decided to go and visit a friend a few ks away but as I pulled the car up at the gate there were seven huge grey kangaroos just sitting there, looking at me, their ears twitching back and forth.  “What the...?”  “What happened?”  “Who closed the gate?”  They were looking from one to the other as well, nonplussed, seeking answers to this impediment to their ingress and egress.  They could easily have jumped the gate even from a standing start but this wasn’t how it should be, entry should have been easy and comfortable, nibbled grass along the way, leisurely.  Now this!!!

As I emerged from the car they scattered and raced away down the Dam Road, their evening disrupted.  They probably wouldn’t have gone far before they would have gathered together and discussed the matter, thought up a new plan for dinner and cursed these people who shut gates.

We have a small walking path on the western side of our block which is only used by locals on their daily walks or cutting across from one road to the other.  At the same time the next night I noticed the crowd on the path nibbling away at the grass growing there before making the leap over the fence and down the hill to where the food is god and sweet and beds of long grass are soft among the trees.  They had worked out an alternative route as I knew they would.  It was just that the other one was easier but as I said, the path was there for the use of all the locals and silly, these lot are not.