Turn left at the saleyards. The saleyards are set to be axed. No more cows mooing in the night on Tuesday nights. You know you live in the country, with that sound. We’ll be more urban once the cattle have gone. The saleyards are either a friendly rural scene or an animal concentration camp – depending on your mood, how you’re thinking on any given day. Cattle in paddocks on the way out to the river. At the river and the surrounds, big bits of council machinery. At our usual throwing-stick-in spot, it has all been churned up, the vegetation piled in huge scraggy piles, the river sand furrowed, ploughed, denuded. Bertie and I crunch over it, over the little hills and valleys made by the bulldozers. I’m imagining a New Year Message from Bertie Bruiser I’d like to make on video. I’m in my fantasy of a dog, thinking about the images and text, thinking about how it could be played on community television in Sydney on New Year’s Eve, and forgetting about the real dog, the actual dog standing near me, quivering in antipation, the First Stick. I throw the First Stick in the river and he leaps in, as usual, and brings it back, and we do this again and again. All the while, I’m in my own thoughts. For a bit of exercise, I wade through the water at river’s edge, feet sinking into the gravelly river sand. How wonderful. It’s summer, there’s a drought, there’s bushfires, there’s not enough water, but here’s some water.