You Must Learn to Shoot Your Own Dog

This was one of my father’s favourite sayings, by which he meant you must stand on your own two feet and ‘shift’ for yourself. Never delegate such responsibility to someone else.  So, for 40 years I have been fixing my own cars. For example I have been rebuilding a sequence of Subarus since circa 1978 – there are over twenty of them in the family or in the paddocks here! Collectively we have 8 of them registered and probably a similar number registerable including many vintage vehicles.

The average capital cost per kilometre of vehicles we have owned as a family over the last 40 years has been less than 1 cent per kilometre. If you compare that to your own vehicular wastrelness, you will see that we have saved a lot of money whilst at the same time building a lot of self-confidence and independence.

This is our 1996 Land Rover Defender (tray model) – a better car than which has never been built, nor will it ever wear out, as its body is rust-proof, and all the spare parts for every Land Rover are readily available (cheaply) from the 1948 model on. Also this 2500cc 300 TDI engine is a wonderful, economical simple diesel engine.

Everything about the vehicle is simple mechanics. It can all be taken apart with a spanner and reassembled on the other side of an impassable ravine if necessary – this has actually been done! We also own the matching 1995 Discovery which is the comfort model of the same car. Models with this engine run from approximately 1995-99. They should be sought after and cherished – especially if you have worked out that the cars they make today are no good – and are unfixable.

We have two of each – the last I bought cost me A$500 last year for a car that is pretty much roadworthy and has driven less than 300,000 kilometres on an engine which should last for a million! It is dark blue which is a colour I don’t specially like, but a gallon of green paint will easily change all that – if it bothers me, or I ever need to register it! It is seeing service around the farm as a fencing car at the moment – and as a playhouse for Milo!

I was (above) ‘cherishing’ the old wagon by installing a new alternator. The original one ‘s output had fallen to 11.8 volts, so I had battery (and wiper) problems. It is probably possible to fix it, but a lot of unsoldering and soldering would be needed to get at the internal voltage regulator. Besides the replacement was only A$205 from eg Alan at Hobart and will probably last us another twenty years! Mind you I haven’t thrown the old one out – a fault I have. Need to build some more sheds for all this stuff. I am actually in the middle of one right now.

On Alan’s website you can even see the price you will pay for practically every part you will ever need, and he gives great service. I doubt there is any question about Land Rovers he doesn’t know the answer to! While I was at it I replaced the (two) radiator filler plugs. One has  a sensor on it which runs the Enginesaver device which prevents you ever ‘killing’ your engine. You really should fit one to your car.

So it is not just that we have been self-sufficient in food (as I wrote about here: and that we also built our own house (with our own hands – even the bricks!), but we also do our own car maintenance, make our own clothes, preserves…all sorts of things. We long since learned to ‘shoot our own dog’. So should you!

PS: My dad was not so good at literally shooting his own dog, nor am I. I can remember (as a child) when his old harrier hound, Felix was becoming decrepit, messy about the house, very stiff and sore – as old dogs get – he used to head off betimes with his shotgun and the dog meaning to put him down. Instead he would come back with a hare he had shot off him for our supper. Time and again. Until that fateful day when the old dog could hunt no more. And did not return. It was a very cold sombre meal around the kitchen table that night, let me tell you. None of we children dared breathe a word before we all quietly scuttled off to bed.

Here he is on the old Chev truck circa 1955 shortly before his death. He used normally to ride on the running board.

When i was a n infant my parents were itinerant bee-keepers following the honey flow around north-western NSW. This was the ‘family car’  a ten ton truck. It also towed a caravan with essential honey extraction (& etc) equipment. We used to cam put in a canvas tent on army stretchers wherever the bees were. Te old hound was always with us.

It was a  long, slow climb over the Dividing Range at the top of the Hunter Valley from Murwillumbah through to Willow Tree (on the other side). Dad would coast down the mountain in ‘angel gear’ (ie free wheeling in neutral) to save petrol in that era of gasoline shortages/rationing. It was so slow a trip the old dog would take himself off for a hunt and rejoin us on the other side.

Lots of rivers those days didn’t have bridges and had vehicle punts or ferries instead. Felix was known to all the ferrymen and could ‘cadge’ a lift on them by himself when he was left behind (once four rivers behind!) from which position he would eventually catch up, sometimes a couple of days later.

There wasn’t the traffic then that there is now and everyone was also pretty much known to everyone else. This was before the era of mass migration which has changed the ace of Australia beyond recognition – and beyond recovery and re4demption too I suspect fora  the (supposed) benefits it may have brought.

I think mostly we have just had to ‘share the cake’ around amongst more people so that per capita real GDP is actually less now than it was in the 1950s when wool sold for a pound a pound and we had the highest living standards in the world (by far).

Certainly then a man could afford to support a wife and children, pay off a house and vehicle, send his children to school (even to university) on his own working wage in a way which is impossible today – in this era of fatherlessness and homelessness. Progress is always less than it seems.

Still back then people knew how to do without and how to ‘fetch’ for themselves. DIY was the norm. This was before the era of consumerism. My father made and fixed everything around the home/farm and my mother made/fixed all the domestic things (as well as hand-milking a few dozen cows morning and night).

She made/repaired all our clothes, cooked and prepared all our meals (there were no take-aways then), cut our hair, was doctor, nurse, gardener, jill of all trades. It seems to me that there was nothing my parents did not know or dd not know how to do. As I said, You have to know how to shoot you own dog – and when t is time to do so.

One of my own dogs (Honey) has recently injured her back. We have been nursing her back to health now for over a month. At last she is up and walking again and looks this morning as if she will recover – but every day for nearly six weeks now I have thought, ‘Is today the day I have to shoot my own dog?’

I have had to do so before. It is one of the most difficult decisions and tasks. But only cowards ‘delegate’ or shrug off what is properly their own responsibility. It will some day be time to take the same view towards myself when my time is spent. I trust I do not shirk then either.

First Published on: Jun 23, 2018

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