The town that brought recluse David Hurst out of the wilderness and saved his beloved Tassie tiger artwork

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February 11, 2019 06:34:21

For two years David Hurst rarely spoke to anyone.

The artist had moved into a caravan in the bush behind the small town of Miena, in Tasmania’s central highlands.

But as bushfires raged across the landscape and threatened the isolated community, Mr Hurst was forced to evacuate and ask for help — not for himself, but for his wax artwork of a Tasmanian tiger.

“I was given an evacuation order, more than once, and I decided the only thing I couldn’t live without was my female Tassie tiger head,” he said.

“Because I’d put so much work into her and she was worth more to me than material objects.”

He took the tiger head down to the Great Lake Community Centre, where local volunteer Toni Glowacki was on duty.

“He comes in and tell us that he’s a local and nobody’s ever seen him or heard from him or anything. And then all of a sudden he produces this wax tiger head,” she said.

Mr Hurst had been working on the wax figure for more than six years and said the heat of the fires was making it expand and lose its detail.

“Being wax it was very susceptible to heat, and we also suffered a lot of ash and ember up here,” he said.

“So refrigeration was the only answer and I couldn’t leave her there [at home] because that was running the risk of being burnt down.”

After taking one look, Ms Glowacki cleared the bar fridge to store the artwork.

“It’s beautiful, it’s magnificent, so the tiger lived in the fridge for about four days, until the temperature started going down and the fire brigade got it back up the hill and then she went home,” she said.

“It’s wonderful. I mean, there’s six years work in that. We couldn’t let her melt.”

Out of the wilderness

After not speaking to anyone for two years, Mr Hurst now spends his days at the community centre helping out where he can, or when the conditions are right, working on his wax tiger head.

“It’s been rather a good experience all around. I’ve met a lot more people in the community. I was quite isolated here until that point,” Mr Hurst said.

“They saved the town and saved the tiger and they make the best scones in Australia.”

Ms Glowacki said it was wonderful to have an extra pair of hands helping her out to feed the firefighters and other volunteers.

“Well, he sort of was a recluse and now he’s here, he’s washing up, he’s socialising. It’s just been marvellous,” Ms Glowacki said.

Ice and fire

At over 1,000 metres’ elevation, Miena is more used to snow than fire, but the town came close to being wiped out by the bushfires that have been burning across Tasmania for more than a month.

When the town was evacuated three weeks ago, Ms Glowacki stayed behind.

“You couldn’t see it [the fire] because it was behind the hill, but you could hear it and it was just coming, it was just so scary — I couldn’t watch it so I just came in and cooked,” she said.

“But they [the Tasmanian Fire Service] managed to contain it, otherwise Miena would have gone. We can’t thank them enough for what they did that day.”

The local pub, the Great Lake Hotel, was saved by backburning that reached right up to the back door.

Owner Kaylee Hattinger said until now, fire had never entered the local community’s consciousness.

“We’re more concerned about freezing pipes, snow [on] roads, tourists rolling in slippery conditions and ice, than fire,” she said.

“But we’re resilient, we’ll get over it, it’ll be a story for around the bar on a cold winter’s night.”

Topics:

bushfire,

arts-and-entertainment,

community-and-society,

miena-7030



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