Rated: E · Short Story · Satire · #1599746
A tale of a contemporary Don Quixote in an age of wind generated electricity.
Slanted into the atmosphere at the centre of the Tararua Triangle is a limestone escarpment known as the Puketoi range. These giant slabs of oh-so-long ago sea-floor rise 600 metres out of the crinkled carpet that is the east coast hill country and cut perpendicularly across the prevailing winds. Winds born at latitudes in the forties which roar westward sniffing out passage to pass east through the many dividing ranges of these lands. Stones fly horizontally from alpine clefts; ferries are turned back, their noses dripping, into Wellington harbour or Tory Channel; and through the hour-glass neck of a gorge which divides the Tararua from the Ruahine Ranges, these airs swoop upon the Pukitois. Perfect conditions for farming wind.
Perfect that is, unless, like Donna Quickly, you happen to be environmentally, philosophically, artistically, stubbornly, and some would say, unreasonably opposed to the erection of the one hundred and sixty odd “Phallic Obsceneries” (her term for windmills) the 'In Touch' corporation proposes for that part of the Pukitoi range she was born beside, has lived with all her life.
Donna, Don to her peers, is one of those gals given over to obstinate objection, jealous at not being of agriculture's dominant sex.
Or more kindly, believing that rural women are not the guardians over the land they should be by now, she dissents from the mostly male bleating of the flock. Nothing men do is agreeable to her kind. So she is Green both in envy and in activation. An avid reader of alternative literature she condemns her brothers conservative practices on the large family farm he inherited (she got the bach at Herbertville) as capricious onanism doomed to reduce even further the mother land Papatuanuku to sterility. So strongly, urged on by the fantastic amount written about the wrongs of historic farming practices in various volumes of dubious scientific grounding, does Don Quickly feel the onus upon her to oppugn all her brothers doings on the farm that she refuses to let him alone and lives in one of the three houses on the property. She hectors his stoic nature with salient wrongs in his husbandry: You must know, Maurice, that running stock through water ways is illegal now. Why don't you at least build a bridge and fence off a riparian strip down the gullies. And stop telling the workers to dump lambs tails in the creek!
And: You are carrying twice the animals this land is capable of supporting sustainably! For god’s sake man do you even think about the true cost of that fertiliser you topdress eroded hillsides with. Rounding out with: I charge you to change your ways or pay the proper price the impoverished third of the world is paying for you!!!
Erection of the windmills of the Karearea wind farm by the In Touch Corporation was given the green light after the environment court overturned an initial declination by local council commissioners on the grounds that the commissioners did not take enough account of the allowance given in local body legislation for the sustainable development of natural resources.
In Touch had a good lawyer and the lawyer had for his prime argument the words of the good and honest farmer, Maurice Quickly, owner of the land needed to farm the wind. Maurice spoke to the environment court at length of the tradition in this country of farming (read; development of the land) with sustainability being the very backbone of all our prosperity. With just one slip of the tongue:
“At the end of the day, good farming is all about harnessing and modifying resources to generate an economic return and doing so in a way that preserves those resources for future generators…ar... generations.”
The farming of wind continued this tradition and should not be excluded on the grounds that it may be more visually disagreeable to some, being as it may that most farm land has already been altered from its primitive state far more than the building of groups of wind turbines would, added the Lawyer.
“In fact,” quipped the farmer Quickly “the majestic form of these mills will resemble more the ancient trees once seen upon these hills than the detracting eye-saws some radical opponents paint them as.”
His sisters’ vocal response to what she heard as a coached and risible lay catalysed her removal from the floor of the court. Her cursing as she was escorted down the steps that night caught in the ear of the discharged misfit San Pan and when this recalcitrant hoyden limped up to Donna Quickly in the street outside suggesting blowing things up, “...like the Taliban.” they went round the corner and entered a dark and quiet bar.
“See this, woman?” as San Pans brown hand spreads smooth the twenty dollar note on the shiny bar-top. “Te karearea. She will buy us kinship. She will show us how to undo these pirates who take her name for profit, her sky for milling. Two margaritas, heavy on the Tequila, thank- you -Ce-cil.”
“That bastard! Did you hear him. Shit, how could he be so smug? My dad, his Dad, would never sell out to those gouging beasts!” Donna Quickly's deep blue eyes shimmer in her earthy rivered face through strands of silver-grey hair. One speckled hand that tells of decades on the land curls around the proffered glass while the other whips away untidy hair as clinks sound and eyes click. “Slangevar”.
Way south on the wall of a schist cottage outside the tiny central Otago town of St Bathans, blood red caricatures of giant wind turbines have been painted over a classic photo-poster of stark hills known as the Lammermoor Ranges. The turbines bleed trails into the painterly plains, road works that will scar the homelands of both pro- and o- ponants of another wind generated electricity making site. Thor opens one eye as dust leaps sideways from the mortar between the pancaked stones and sinks glittering like gold in a sunbeam bed; as though some spirit taps its giants hammer soft against the stone to test the strength within. Two flat crumps sound across the heather. The poster flaps like a flag. The denizen, a seated poet, looks up with a lazy glaze and out the window, smiling a wry and bristly smile he passes a driftwood hand through sandy curls and lifts his lanky, heads stooping through an un- doored way to make the tea, check the scones. San Pan stumps in holding a rag to her ear.
“Got a bandage brother?”
“Didn't get down eh”
“Washouse behind the mirror”
A tall tanned balding man comes next followed by what could be a rugby hooker by the looks.
“Plenty of firewood in those beauts … eh Woody.''
“Went well then Syd?”
“Mostly, Ants got a fence to fix, and...”
“The squiress'as coped a splinter” nods the poet.
“Sorry 'bout the fence, big one went the wrong way eh, rotten” the hooker bobs in.
“Those old Lombardies get that way, she must'ave been eighty at least. ‘Nuff cordite left?”
“Enough” ends the soldier. They all nod as the poet pours the tea, sit around the old table sipping in silence as men with doubt about some important issue are want to do. Not that their reserve to carry out the action that has been agreed is in any way altered. An issue of trust had tacitly circulated in the minds of these staunch southerners with the arrival of two women from the north island.
Two days ago the tall tanned ex SAS sergeant and semi retired environmental consultant opened his Dunedin door to an old colleague, Sandra Panmure, his onetime Lieutenant and lover.
“Sandra? My god. What…?”
“Cut- it -Syd-ney, Hell was kind to you. This is Don Quickly. We've come for some action OK”
“Come inside” as he looks automatically up and down the street. “Hell” was, is Helmand province, Afghanistan.
So that was that. Now they were all at the Lammermoor about to blow things up, or down as the case may be.
Donna Quickly comes in having sat outside awhile on the felled trees watching the ranges slide up the moons sickle. The tall crane on the horizon like a black skeleton against the crystal indigo night.
“D'you mind?” she takes a shotgun from behind the door and loads it from a box on the shelf. “Rabbits”
“Go right ahead” says the poet as she goes back out. Thor the collie slipping with her.
“She gonna be OK?” Ant the hooker asks for them all.
“Sandra?” as Syd eyes his former officer.
“She wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think so.” states San Pan obviously as she gets up and takes a torch outside. A few metres from the shack she flicks it on and plays its shaft over the rock strewn meadow of sweat smelling heather. Straight away bound two or more rabbits, one tumbling dead in the leaden hail from shotguns throat.
San Pan swings the beam toward the old windmill once used to water stock and garden, finding Donna leaning there.
“Had them both, your bloody torch scared'm.”
The mill creaks. They go inside. Thor feasts out.
Sydney James Arther Grahame will spend three months of a two year sentence on a minimum security prison farm for his part in the “Symbolic destruction of the first turbine erected on the Lammermoor ranges”. No one else was proven linked to the explosion which brought the structure down although the poet has been charge with the un-permitted felling of a tree. The hooker writes a ballad titled “Tilting”. Don Quickly and San Pan leave Central Otago without detection for the Chatham Islands to lie low for awhile.
Wandering the wild shores of those remote islands during her imposed exile Donna Quickly comes to that place of quiet determination revolutionaries enter prior to embarking on acts of retaliation against an enemy. The littoral script tides cast at her feet tell of the un-naturalness of large scale wind generated electricity far from its point of usage. In her submission to the environment court those months ago when she still had a sense of humour, she had referred to “The Devils Dictionary” in which the author of that satirical lexicon, Ambrose Bierce, scourge of political corruption, included under O: Out-doors, n. That part of one's environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes. Chiefly used to inspire poets.
Even a fool could see, she addressed the court back then, that the government of this country was hell bent on gaining revenue from the over-generation of electricity rather than ensuring more economical use of what was already generated. A recent report by the commerce commission concluded that major government owned electricity companies had over charged their customers by four billion dollars in a decade which proved that dividends paid to government coffers by these Crown Owned Companies (Crocs of shit she had called them) is behind approvals to build more generation capacity.
“The mighty winds, breath of the planet, are nothing but grist to the mills of a greedy and corrupt system and must be set free,” she now addresses the heavens as she prepares to return with San Pan to the Puketoi Ranges of the Tararua Triangle.
A fishing boat drops them at Herbertville and they make their way to her bach by moonlight.
They doze to the susurrus pines and rise as the day shoulders off nights amorphous dark, eat paua and drink herb tea by a solar lamp before mounting the old Toyota and heading west on route 52. Through Weber then south on Oporea road to Horoeka they ride, were the sun finds them stopped on the old one way bridge over the Waihi stream. Over the bridge the road tees and Donna walks to that oh-so-familiar signpost;
TOWAI ROAD. WAIHI VLY RD.
RISING SUN. WAIHI FALLS SCENIC RESERVE.
All the land behind should be hers. I’m the elder. Why Dad, why him? She hopes her brother isn't around though she knows he will be; somewhere. Shouldn't have used the old truck, she says to herself aloud.
She walks back to where San Pan is kicking at the rotting railings of the bridge.
“Let's go” and she swings the wheel left up Towai road. Up to Rising Sun.
It's a steep and twisty shingle thing that Towai Road especially from the east where it claws itself into the sharper upper cut of the Puketois. To look across them the Puketoi range resembles a giant suspended wave, the type a surfer likes just about to break. The truck a tiny surf board.
Donna pumps the breaks as they round a bend and the Toyota slews to stop. Arcing out of the scrubby horizon a thousand metres away the silver tip of a blade disappears as another repeats the movement, then another, then it again. As if an alien giant just out of sight brandishes high its great curve tipped swords.
“The chan-ces of any-thing com-ing from mars are a mil-lion to one they said ...And still... THEYYYE CAAA-UMME!” sings out San Pan.
Don Quickly drops the clutch and the old land cruiser charges up the hill spitting stones behind her. San Pan clings to the hand holds grinning madly and yelling: No Prisoners… No Pris-on-ers!
At the top, Towai road passes between two limestone banks, travels a little way along the crest before peeling off and slipping down the western flanks. Donna pulls the truck into a gateway just beyond the banks and switches off the motor. They get out, climb the mossy gate and walk a way along the old totara batten fence line.
“Bloody Maurice, too stingy to fix this boundary, Christ will ya look at the state of that.”
A blade passes before the lifting sun.
“Hey Don hurry up, I can see the bastards, dozens of them.” calls San Pan from ahead.
Then they are standing side by side. Before them along the ridge beginning a couple of hundred metres away and staggered into the distance rise nine huge turbines under various stages of construction. Five have all three blades fitted and two scythe the steady wind. Vehicles crawl on the land and men in orange vests and helmets move about.
The two women advance through the scrub to within fifty metres of the site. All day they photograph and calculate, sketch and make notes before retreating back the way they came and driving of down Towai road. On the side of a steep gully off the road Donna sees an old rusty tractor abandoned by her father the wet winter that he died. Te karearea perches on its vertical exhaust-pipe, watching as they pass. Further down she pulls the truck off the road at a place where a collapsing woolshed, passed on the way up, abides among long grass, overhanging macrocarpa. It’s hanging guttering squeaks in the everpresent wind. Inside the stink of sheep long dead, skins long left to rot, is palatable. San Pan spits.
“Is it here?”
“Here it is”
A sack full of explosive taken by a supporter from the limeworks further west on Towai road is stowed under a tarp on the back of the truck as the sun winks goodbye to the day.
It's a calm dusk, a strawey glow to the land like the good sauvignon blanc which she anticipates having soon as Don Quickly swings the truck under the signpost. She breaks heavily. Maurice is there, standing beside his quad bike in the middle of the bridge.
San Pan tells the police that from where she sat in the Toyota she watched Donna march, yes march up to her brother. He was smiling, had a hand up, maybe both, like a greeting, or surrender. Donna said something. He dropped his arms, lost his smile. She said something else, louder, sounded like, over my dead body. He took a step back, up against the rail, it gave way. He flung his arms out. She did too, towards him. Their fingers touched as he fell from her reach.
Donna Quickly is named in her bachelor brothers will as sole beneficiary. Shattered, she instructs her solicitor to sell the farm and now lives alone in the Herbertville bach.
The In Touch Corporation buys the farm. San Pan sees Syd regularly, they sing in a band with the hooker and the poet. “Tilting” charts at number two.