Dead, Deader and Deadest

Joanne Robertson

I suppose I should warn that this story may not be for the faint of heart, given its subject matter.

But death, as they say, is a fact of life.

I was thinking about a story my husband once told me, while we did the rounds of one paddock, where some sheep hadn’t escaped getting bogged.

When my husband was in the Longreach State School as a lad, he was asked to present an example of a superlative chain, like fine, finer and finest.

He came up with dead, deader and deadest.

His teacher objected, telling him there was no such thing as ‘deader’ or ‘deadest’, but his nine-year-old self knew better and remained firm on the matter.

He still spoke of dead, deader and deadest when I met him.

And when he demonstrated the concept most vividly out in the paddock, I had to concede the point.

If his Year 4 teacher had visited Arundel at the time, she would have also concurred, I am certain.

My husband has since taught the concept to our kids and they fully understand and accept that things can be dead, deader or deadest.

Dead is a pretty straightforward concept.

Sadly, stock goes down for whatever reason—bogged, snake bite, predation—and when you check, it’s game over.

However, when it comes to bogged sheep, it’s not easy to tell because they’re down and immobile.

Until we approach and their instincts tell them to escape since they don’t recognise help is on its way.

The ones that still don’t move are beyond help, unfortunately.

Passing by that way again, after a few months of being laid out as a smorgasbord for those who dine at the carrion cafe, you’ll readily see the distinction between ‘dead’ and ‘deader’.

When there’s little but skin and bones left, that’s ‘deadest’.

After that, there are simply bones scattered across the landscape.

Where the ‘dust to dust’ bit comes from in the Bible, I suppose.

One of the things we tried hard to do after the big rain was to see that our stock didn’t follow this superlative chain.

The cattle and horses managed to avoid getting bogged, but sadly, some sheep did not.

As we went around the paddock, pulling out bogged sheep, there were hawks circling overhead, watching us take their tucker way.

I was quite happy to foil the predators, though we couldn’t always claim victory.

Still, we have a handful of happy sheep inhabiting our stables at the moment, who are still alive and (almost) kicking.

Hopefully, they will soon be lively, livelier and liveliest.