Photo by the author
When I sold everything I owned to move to Australia, I thought that I’d find jobs that would be equal parts hilarious and character-building. Maybe I wouldn’t get the most lucrative or glamorous work, but I’d be in a strange land where every day was an adventure, I would brag to my friends back in the States about all my wild and exciting jobs under Down Under’s table. And I was right about it all, except I forgot the part about it being an absolute living fucking nightmare.
I have a job that makes washing dishes and scrubbing toilets for South Africans on holiday look like getting paid to get blowjobs in a Jacuzzi while high on Xanax. I am an assistant to a professional kangaroo killer. Here’s how it works:
Australia’s Conservation and Land Management organization (CALM for short) classifies kangaroo as vermin. Ask any farmer, rancher, or the countless Australians with a massive dent in the hood of their car, and they’ll agree?kangaroos are a problem. Their populations increase annually, regardless of how many the roo shooters manage to send to hell. They can trample thousands of dollars worth of crops in a single night, so no matter what you eat, if you eat it in Australia, you’re part of the necessary slaughter of thousands of kangaroos. Even more so if you drink beer?it takes a lot of fermented grain to fill that stubby, mate. WHO:
Dennis has lived in the bush for 60 years and is covered in scars from constant mishaps with meat hooks, machetes, and various other sharp objects. He’s down to his most essential teeth, and hasn’t been to a dentist in 35 years. Dennis also has 90 first cousins. If Dennis were an action figure, he would utter the following sentences when you pressed the scar where his kidney got removed: “Those slants, there’s MILLIONS of the cunts!” “Not all boongs are bad, just mosta the ones you see around nowadays.” “You stupid fuckin’ cunt, I fucking told ya already how to do that!” Dennis kept our food in the same petrol-powered fridge that held at least a hundred kangaroo carcasses at any given time. He also put water in there with no lid on it, so we could have a cold refresher when we needed it, except it tasted like licking the inside of a cold, gutted kangaroo. I mentioned this to Dennis, and he called me a poofter cunt. WHAT:
I had to do exactly what the fuck I got told, fast. Dennis does not play. My primary responsibility was to stand on the tray of Dennis’s Ute and comb the bush for kangaroos with a spotlight. Whenever anything with yellow eyes moved, I tapped the roof and Dennis shot it. When a kangaroo gets shot in the head, it jumps straight up and flips over backwards like some kind of weird 3-D Atari game. I’d have to run up to the corpse, which was usually still kicking, and grab it by the tail while Dennis beheaded it with a wet cracking sound. He’d just chuck the heads off into the dust. Sometimes the head would land facing us, and I’d imagine it watching me chop its hands off as the body kept kicking me in the shins. When we returned to the camp, we’d tag the kangaroos and hang them from meat hooks in a huge freezer. It’s easiest to pick the big males (the boomers) up by their testicles and an arm, sort of like a heavy machine gun. One night we got pissed on VB and loaded up the freezer in a drunken stupor. I slipped on a pile of severed kangaroo tails and fell face-down into a pile of at least a hundred dead roos, narrowly avoiding a meat hook to the eye. I was so glad to have my face intact that I smiled for the first and only time that week. WHEN:
We went shooting from dusk until Dennis felt like quitting. Whenever roos were scarce for a few nights, we had to head out in the early afternoon to hunt up some feral goats. In the normal world, getting off work means the chance to relax, maybe have some fun. Not in the bush. We slept by day in mangy camp beds in a corrugated tin shed. The temperature was 35-40 degrees Celsius (roughly 100-115 Fahrenheit), no shade. It’s really difficult to sleep in the daytime, particularly when a gas generator is blasting away next to your head. My sleep was really a series of three to four hour naps, spent marinating in sweat and dreaming about working in an air-conditioned cubicle. SKILLS I LEARNED:
1. Clairvoyance. Sometimes Dennis wanted the spotlight on the kangaroo, sometimes he wanted it off. Sometimes Dennis wanted to chop the heads off later; sometimes he wanted to do it now. Only stupid, hopeless cunts misread Dennis’s mind. He reminded me of this frequently. 2. Silent subservience. We were the only human beings on 1,000,000 acres of sun-blasted desert. You had to drive five hours just to get mobile phone coverage. I was entirely dependent on a furious, knife-wielding man for my survival. After a while, biting my tongue wasn’t even hard. 3. The ability to tell myself that it’s going to be okay, that the pyramid of life depends on building blocks made out of cruelty and that Australia needs this kind of thing. Really it does. And no matter how cute a kangaroo looks or how sweet and trusting the babies are, they’ve got to be killed. And in fact this is really much more humane than cattle pens or hog production and above all else I’m twenty-seven years old and my mom and dad and dog are on the other side of the planet and besides there’s no way anyone would hear me screaming while I ran through the bush hoping that anyone but Dennis would pick me up and take me home.