14th February 2014
Out of the Ashes
“I was just sitting here looking up the blackened hill when the ashes began to move,” retold the kindly, albeit exhausted resident of Diggings Road, Willowmavin. Diggings Road suffered terribly from the fierce fires that erupted last Sunday and was to do so on several further occasions in the days that followed. Diggings Road is also just a little more than a stone’s throw from Edgar’s Mission. “I looked again, and realised that past the fallen fences and twisted wire gates, it wasn’t the ashes I was seeing but four head of young cattle followed by four older Angus heifers coming over the hill from the blackened scrub.” Ushering the resolute octet into a yard, hay and water was given with the hope that an owner too would soon emerge, for these fences were not designed to contain hungry and robust bovines.
With a shed on a neighbouring property soon igniting and spot fires surrounding them, the cattle were to repeatedly dodge a fire bullet more than once as another young heifer miraculously appeared in the yard in the days that followed. From whence she came or why she had taken the ‘scenic’ route to hook up with her buddies will never be known, but she too was thrown a lifeline. While the owner of the four larger cattle was quickly determined to be an absentee farmer (who readily agreed to surrender to animals to Edgar’s Mission) no one had come forth for the remaining five youngsters. With her nerves stretched to the limit and her fences going the same way fast, Edgar’s Mission was only too happy to assist the animals and a kindly human in need. With our daily patrols bringing forth more tales of terrifying deaths and the grizzly sights of dead stock, we too welcomed a good news story that told of some animals who had somehow managed to survive.
The easy option would have been to simply run the stock the short distance up the road to the secure yards of the sanctuary, however due to the frequent flare ups and spot fires and subsequent attendance by CFA vehicles, it was not safe to do so. And so, one by one the cattle were ushered into a horse float for the ever so brief ride to the sanctuary. However, as we left the property for the last time the owner of the five youngsters arrived to claim them. “But they are pets right?” we enquired. The answer made our hearts sink. Here were these incredibly brave and intrepid creatures who had not only cheated death on several occasions but who had then had the good fortune to reach the sanctuary of Edgar’s Mission, only to have their lifeline snatched from them at the very last moment. To hand them back would, in effect, be signing their death warrants.
These are indeed the hardest of times, the times when you look to the heavens and ask yourself why but then look to your heart to find a way to make it right. And so, after pleading the case of these brave young creatures to no avail, it was our cheque book that eventually sealed the deal. But what I wrote today was far more than merely a cheque, for I had secured a kinder future for the cattle I wasn’t about to let down.
Out of the ashes of Victoria’s worst bushfires since Black Saturday have emerged many tales of tragedy and terrible injustice but so too of miraculous survival and the indomitable determination of many individuals, both human and otherwise, to survive the most inhospitable of conditions. Out of the ashes, nine cows found their way to Edgar’s Mission and we found a way to secure their happy ever after. And out of the ashes, we found that elusive ray of light that we call hope and we were once again reminded that kindness is always the way.