Wood Hookers of Tasmania

Southern islands, southern soil, southern mantras.

Roley is an Islander. Maybe three generations deep. He often chants Islander mantras, like “Well. I guess you just gotta say, ‘Fuck er ole man,’ and drink twelve beers.” It is a simple Island philosophy that is difficult to deny.

For ten months of the year Roley’s wood heater burns hard. It remains lit with Olympic endurance. Roley’s wife is from Java and, despite the mild climate in the Bass Strait she is often uncomfortably cold. So the fire burns bright in the Roley house and the tropics are simulated.

“Time to go wood hooking, ole man,” says Roley down the line.

We drive along in the Ute and I see the orange Strezlecki Range claw the skyline. The boulders that make the claws are also glistening wet windowpanes. The ocean and sky are blue enough to make your heart hurt. True.

Roley analyses the eucalyptus and she-oak forests. Farmland and natural bush intermingle and there is good wood around. Other hookers are in there working with beers.

“Oh god! Look at that gum!” he says. His heart hurts to see a big, dry-fallen tree.

But he knows we can’t have that. The wood hooker’s code states:

“If you fell it, it’s yours – no matter how long it lies for.”

We find our patch. Chainsaws roar and Roley is wearing thongs and a T-shirt. My clothes look cool, but my face is scared. Chips fill the air and nerve endings rattle. Shit and birds and lizards are going everywhere – they get out in time.

On the way out of the forest, with another dry tonne on the back, we discuss the environmental fate of Easter Island.

Roley muses and with a warm beer swill, concludes, “I suppose they really said, ‘Fuck er ole man.’”


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