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Guts, Heads, Tails, and Paws Are Not Usable Meat

November 30th, 2004 by Jeff Simmermon

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.

You’ve got to shoot kangaroos right through the head if you want to make any money at it. Nothing ruins perfectly good meat like dragging a bit of lead right through it.

Once you’ve killed a doe (or female), you must reach straight into her pouch, pull out any joeys you find and kill them immediately. Most people grab ‘em by the tail and back legs and smash their skulls against a rock with a dull whapping sound. The really tiny ones can be crushed under a bootheel or quickly beheaded with a sharp knife, the tiny pink head popping away like a meat-covered dandelion in a child’s backyard game. However, if joeys are beyond a certain age, they can hop into the bush and partner up with another doe. These surrogate mothers won’t allow the adopted joeys back in the pouch, “but I reckon if their heads’ll fit in there, the mum’ll let ‘em have a crack at the tit again,” Kevin said once in a shared didactic moment as we both urinated in the dust, staring up at the Milky Way.

The kangaroo you see me feeding on the right belonged to a ‘roo shooter’s assistant that I met while camping. He couldn’t bring himself to kill it, so he was raising it as a pet…she slept in a pillowcase hanging from the back of his car’s passenger seat.

You get paid per ton of usable meat. Guts, heads, tails, and paws do not count toward that weight total. It’s a lot easier to gut, decapitate, de-tail and de-paw in the bush than in the meat processor’s parking lot a week later. That might be the only thing nastier than doing it in the first place.

I knew these facts before I ever met Kevin. Like any good writer, I’d learned all about ‘roo shooting from the internet, supplemented with telephone interviews. One shooter had me over to his house, and we talked shop over coffee. He pulled out an album he’d compiled over the years packed with photos of himself gutting camels, cleaning his guns in the bush and driving a truck surrounded with a strange brown curtain. That curtain, I would later learn, was actually about 50 dead kangaroos hanging upside down.

And like any young male writer, once I was out in the bush and faced with the reality of the uber-masculine task I set out to portray, I wanted to run screaming home to my mother. Everybody thinks Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson are such badasses, and maybe they are. But they didn’t start that way. All good writers are compulsive readers. This means spending every available moment of your entire life indoors with your nose stuck in a book, which completely precludes any sort of badassery.

Guys with a particular blend of academic inclination and self-loathing seem to think the key to being real cool is to do something really, unimaginably fucked up and then write about it, and that’s gonna like, prove them to the world and make them really cool. At least that’s what I thought. All the bullies that ever picked on me were suddenly going to become literate and read that masterwork I hadn’t actually written yet, and ATMs would just spit hundred dollar bills into my pocket.

It didn’t turn out that way. Instead of just like, interviewing a bunch of dangerous weirdos and witnessing some “xXx-treme” behavior from a safe distance, I actually had to step up and do what I’d been flapping my gums about. Those of you that know me know I can flap my chops so beautifully, too…but putting your actions where your mouth has been for a month usually hurts.

I had to suppress so many parts of my personality to do this, and on several occasions I vomited into my mouth and discreetly spit it into the bush when Kevin wasn’t looking. I slipped on a severed, bleeding kangaroo head and fell into a pile of intestines so many times that I was actually looking forward to coming home and stepping in some good old-fashioned dog shit.

Working with Kevin was no temp job I could quit on a whim. We were on one million acres of desolate bush, eight hours’ drive past cell phone coverage. Kevin had all the food and all the water, and the only way out of there was in that ute. I preferred leaving in the cab to riding out in a heap of ‘roos in the trailer, so I got really good at keeping my mouth shut.

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