When I accepted I wasn't leadership material and was more secretary than CEO, a sense of calm settled upon me. I knew who I was and wasn't going to fight it.

The benefits of being 2IC on the farm are many and varied, but few days have offered more entertainment and, oddly, cause for alarm, than when I helped the farmer get water from a new dam to a tank on a far hilltop so it could be gravity fed to cattle.

As we left home, with the farmer decked out in his mankiest clothes, I had a sense that today there could be massive advantages in being an assistant rather than project leader.

And so it came to pass.


The task at hand was to link a water pump to alkathene pipes – one to get water from the dam to the pump, another to a tank.

Key to the process was filling the pipe from the dam with water to prevent an airlock. The farmer first had to attach the alkathene pipe – fat as a boa constrictor - to a float bobbing in the murky water. My role was simple: To watch. I was up to it.

When smooth clay gets wet it's hellishly slippery, thus a few steps into the dam and the farmer was upended, legs and arms whirling. Splash! Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Lucky for me he was laughing. I didn't feel so bad about my hysterical giggles.

"It's like walking on wet soap," he muttered in a moment of calm before more frenetic windmilling.

Pretty soon came the end of sitting around for the 2IC. While he filled a bucket and poured water into the pipe, I held it high. Water's hellishly heavy.

Several false starts later and the pipe gave up on its Loch Ness monster impressions, filled with water and obediently sank. Water surged to the tank.

But the changing water pressure sent the float in the dam lurching all over the show, thus the farmer lunged in to sort it out. Then – big mistake – he returned to shore in a different place.


"Leeches," he shouted thrashing at his legs. "I think I stood on nest."

I was horrified. Leeches are huge. Leeches are black. As they filled with blood they got even bigger.

The advice to remove them with a lit cigarette was hardly useful.

And who'd try the other method recommended later by an Aussie: Wait till the leeches have had their fill, then they'll seal the wound and fall off.

Like hell the farmer would wait. He thrashed like a demented thing and lunged for dry land with bleeding legs.

Back home our first stop was online. Turns out he met a rare New Zealand native. Tiger leeches secure their preferred meal by latching on to human legs.

The farmer has contributed to their long-term survival as it will take an astonishing nine months for his attackers to digest his blood at which time they'll need another snack. Perhaps his 2IC needs to note this in a diary.

The bleeding near his ankle didn't stop for ages and, in the spirit of horror stories, an infection appeared in totally different place – high on his shin. Odd.

A friend advised applying a poultice of glucose and Epsom salts daily for three days. Thus I mixed up a potion and did exactly as that. Remarkably the wound healed and all was well.

When a leader suffers, it can be an assistant's time to shine.