As I lay in semi sleep a sudden and unpleasant vision came before my mind’s eye. I was looking through green foliage, as if peering through a bush, at a huge dark and ominous storm cloud in the distance. Its darkness and outlines were so vivid, as were the green leaves which I was peering through. Great lightning bolts flashed through the cloud and from the cloud to the ground. I was gripped by a sense of impending doom coupled with a realisation that my survival was up to me.
I woke up feeling like I had seen a premonition. I wondered what the cloud represented, whether it was symbolic or actual. I wondered if it represented a nuclear war.
I got up an got ready for work. Myself and two other men were working together laying irrigation lines. It was mid summer and come late afternoon we were hot and needed to cool off, so we took a dip in the dam. We eyed a tall eucalyptus tree beside the dam on the bank with a branch forty feet high and talked about what fun it would be to put a rope on it and swing out over the water and drop off the rope.
Being fond of rope skills I volunteered to solved the problem. I jumped in the car and took off back to my cabin. Flying the old Holden over the paddocks, sliding it sideways around bush tracks and leaving plenty of dust in my wake. Cars were made for fun in those days and mine carried everything a young outdoorsman could need – ground sheets, sleeping bag, billycan, gold pan, rifle, axe, assorted tools and ropes, but on this occasion I needed more rope.
From my shed I grabbed a ball of string and an eighty foot length of hemp rope which I used for exploring the old mine shafts. On the way back to the dam I cut a five foot light staff from a sapling to use as a bow and some arrows from a where I knew were some fruit tree water shoots.
Back at the dam I strung the bow, tied the string to an arrow and the other end of the string to an end of the rope, and shot an arrow through a fork over the branch. Then pulled the rope up and over the branch by the string. With the rope over the branch, we wrapped one end of the rope around the tree’s trunk for a bit of friction and my mates held onto it while I climbed the end that was hanging down.
Of course we could have slip knotted the rope and pulled it tight without anyone climbing the tree, and I would have done that if I was doing the job on my own, but I was a show off and wanted to climb the rope in front of my mates.
The climb itself was fairly easy because I had good foot technique but when I got to the top I had difficulty pulling myself up onto the branch. I looked down at my two mates, both looking up at me with their mouths open. They looked so small down there. I briefly registered to myself that if I fell from here I would land right in front of them and probably die there. I put my left arm over the branch and tried to hoist myself up, but I couldn’t muster the strength or the right technique.
With one arm hooked over the branch and the other holding the rope, I hung there thinking I was going to fall and die on the ground. As I hung, strength waning, I looked through the tree’s leaves and saw a huge dark storm cloud in the distance with lightning flashing from it. It was the very same scene and the same feelings that I had had in the vision, except I was hanging forty feet above the ground.
Using all the strength I had left I managed to hoist myself up and onto the branch. Relieved, I tied the rope to the branch and then sat back in the tree to recover my strength, look around, and contemplate the experience.
Then I climbed back down to join my mates in the serious business of swinging off the rope and flying through the air to land in water. Later when on my own I would ponder the lesson of the premonition more thoroughly.