The Bomb

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

Stumpy was a very worried man. The log stockpile at the sawmill was going down, soon the mill would be without logs to cut. Stumpy drove into the bush loading skid surprising a group of bushmen standing around a matai log three feet in diameter and about twenty feet long.

It had a hollow butt and Stumpy saw one man shoveling clay into the hollow, packing it tight with the flat of the shovel. The shovel was quickly thrown out of sight behind the log, and the men shuffled feet, looking ever so innocent.

Stumpy, knowing the ways of the bush, glanced along the length of the log, and saw a second patch of yellow clay half way along JEEZ! They are setting up a bomb! That will fix the mill alright! That night Stumpy went home with a grin on his face.

The hollow matai log, its apertures concealed beneath the clay bungs, rolled into the sawmill and on to the flat top breaking down bench at ten am. The two great circular saw blades whined through the length of the log penetrating the hollow centre, slicing neatly in two the huge wild bees nest that had been built in there. As the flitch rolled off to the side exposing the nest, the black swarm of angry bees poured out attacking anything and everything that moved. They cleared the mill hands out of the sawmill in two minutes, leaving the building deserted.

In the afternoon the sawmill manager and his foreman plucked up courage, donned draped cheesecloth masks over straw hats, and gloves, tucked their trousers into their boots, and went into the mill. They lit a fire beside the log in an attempt to smoke the bees out. The smoke drifted through the draughty mill and only succeeded in further antagonising the angry swarm.

The mill remained silent for the rest of the day. There was nothing for it, that log simply had to be cut into manageable sizes and steered through the usual sawmill system. By start time next morning the manager had rounded up seven reluctant mill hands, all wearing gloves and wide-brimmed hats with cheesecloth face masks, to clear the log through the mill.

They already had sore and swollen faces and hands from the stings of the previous day, so were in a foul mood. Tempers were not improved by frequent visits from grinning bush- men who snuck rides down from the bush on the logging trucks to peer into the mill from a safe distance and make jeering comments on what they perceived to be the Ku Klux Klan, or the flying nuns, or the seven veiled virgins, or whatever.

Stumpy kept clear of the mill. He knew that no cutting records would be broken that day. His concern was log supply, and the stockpile of logs on the mill skid was growing at an alarming rate – no problem there.

The lid blew off that night in the bar when a bushman, whose mouth was too big for his brain, asked a mill hand with a bee sting swollen face if he had a ‘dose of the pox’? Then it was all on, and it was only the women pulling their men apart that finally stopped it.

Next morning, Stumpy (who had been in the bar the previous night – to watch the floor show!) noted that the bushmen were all at work, but that they made the gang bus look like a casualty clearing station. Clive had two black eyes, Henry had a torn ear, Shorty had lost all his front teeth, big Tat, as usual, was unmarked, but the knuckles of both hands were heavily bound with black electrical insulation tape stolen from the mechanics. The rest looked a bit battered round the edges too – and they claimed to be the victors! They were all smug and grinning, even Shorty.

They’d put a beaut over those mill monkeys; their mana had never been higher; the mill would not catch up to log supply – and that, after all, is what was important. The bomb had done its job – beautifully!