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Contemporary Haibun Online: January 2015, vol 10 no 4

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Jonathan McKeown

Jim Brown

"The Nephilim were on the earth in those days" (Genesis 6: 4)

He was a man I didn't really know, being only a kid at the time. People said he was an old coal miner. I remember some things: his stature, and his voice, but his face has faded. He lived on a large property out the back of Lithgow that he let youth and community groups use for weekend camps and retreats. We just called it Brown's Farm. I stayed there maybe half a dozen times while I was growing up. There was this old shearing shed that he'd converted into a bunk house. It had a large dining room and kitchen, and a big fireplace in the middle that 40 or more people could sit around and often did, due to the prevalence of bad weather. I can almost feel the sting of sleet on my face and knuckles now as I remember riding around on the back of that old flat-bed truck, and smell the coal smoke that lingered in the air. There was an old boiler we had to light a fire under early every morning if we wanted hot showers, and there were horses we would ride sometimes, and a black dog that came around, and a lot of other things. But I can only remember meeting him once.

My brother had managed to get his new second-hand four-wheel-drive bogged right up to the axles hooning about in a sodden paddock. We tried for hours to get it out before someone gestured in the direction of an old D9 bulldozer parked a little way off on the rise of a hill.

Beside Jim Brown my brother looked like a child. He lumbered toward us down the gentle slope to the edge of the large bog where we'd been waiting. Walking toward the dozer with them I couldn't help feeling the suspense Jim Brown's silence seemed to generate while my brother rabbited on: "It's in pretty deep," he said. "We've been trying for ages," he said. "We've tried towing it out with another four-wheel-drive. Everything," he said. "Do you think that'll be able to pull it out?" he said, coming up to the mud-caked bulldozer, at which point he finally gave way to Jim Brown's overbearing calm and waited for the big man to say something. There was only a brief pause before Jim Brown responded. He spoke slow and calm, and deliberate, but his voice was impressive: deep and clear, resonant, like the voice of a giant: "Well," he said, hoisting himself up as if to straddle the mighty beast, "it'll either pull it out, or pull it in halves."

early flight
a jumbo rumbles
the fledgling sky