Tom Chapman’s Short Stories
"For Sale — House and Land". The agent's sign stood boldly by the gate. Jack was pleased it was still there, and thought he might be removing it some time soon.
He had been looking around for some time for a quiet five acres, or something near that, for himself and his old stock horse, since they were no longer needed commercially. This place seemed to be just what he wanted: an old farm cottage with a couple of outbuildings, according to the advertisement.
Old Jack had arranged to have a closer look at the place this day, and pulled the gate shut behind him as he walked towards the house. He climbed the four steps to the verandah which ran right around the house, strolled around to the back, and down into the fenced off yard. This had been the original farm house for the property, which had since been broken up and this house and its few acres of house paddock was the smallest lot. But it would suit Old Jack just fine. All the area was overgrown—there had been no-one living here for quite some time now—but Jack was happy to consider just pottering about and gradually tidying up as he felt like it.
Part of the verandah was enclosed and would make a good tack room, and the house was only a mile or so from the local store and pub, just a nice ride to pick up a few supplies, and get to know some of the locals. Jack could already picture himself in the saddle on a leisurely trip to the village.
Out through the back gate the grass was knee high and further down Jack could see a three sided shelter under the trees, ideal for the horse, and there was a creek running through the far end, down from the road, with lush and inviting grass.
But the boundary fence along the north side was badly overgrown with a dense climbing weed which would have to be cleared. Jack went closer to investigate and thought he heard voices coming from the other side. The growth was too dense to see through but as he came within a couple of metres of the fence there was a scuffle as animals on the other side took fright. Jack guessed they were cows belonging to the neighbour.
Further down the hill the voices came again, but this time much louder. Jack recognised the sound of slurred words and highly colourful language as coming from somewhat inebriated folk on the other side. The owners of the voices wondered what had spooked their cattle, and were obviously very annoyed.
As Jack made his way back towards the house he heard a voice again telling a dog, in no uncertain terms, to "get 'im, boy". As Jack looked back he could see the grass moving as the dog came after him, following his scent trail. Then the dog, an ugly yellowish mongrel of a beast, caught sight of him and came straight for him, but Jack was an old experienced hand with dogs. He'd spent his life training and controlling cattle dogs.
He knew that dogs are pack animals and leadership needs to be established.
This was confrontation. Winning the dog's affection was not an option. No leaning down or forward. The dog must not be asked for friendship, but shown who is the leader. Jack faced the animal, stood tall, folded his arms high across his chest and stared at his aggressor eye to eye. The dog, expecting to pursue a fleeing quarry, realized that this was not happening and hesitated ever so slightly. Jack saw the sign and took half a step forward. The dog stopped to assess this turn of events, and gave a throaty growl—perhaps intimidation might work but Jack was having none of that. He took a deep breath to increase his bulk even further and slowly, but very deliberately walked towards the dog. More growling, a baring of teeth, but a backward step told Jack that he had the advantage. With more authority he approached the dog's personal space with no fear or hesitation. The dog was beaten. There was a whimper of doubt, a moment of hesitation, then the dog turned and ran back to its owner.
The voice again, with curses of anger, asked the dog what it was doing, then with more of the colourful language, called into question Jack's immediate ancestry. Jack didn't know these neighbours, and now he did not have any great desire to meet them.
He went through the house yard, mounted the steps to the verandah, walked to the front, then shut the front gate behind him. There was a lot about this place that suited his needs extremely well, but not everything.
"For Sale — House and Land". The agent's sign stood boldly by the gate. Jack was pleased it was still there, and knew he would not be removing it any time soon.