KANGAROO RESCUE – PART 2
KANGAROO RESCUE – PART 2
Chapter 2, Part 2 of OLD McLARSEN HAD SOME FARMS podcast by the author, Christine Larsen
The night was not so dark at all. A near full moon bathed the open spaces in soft grey light, striped with long dark shadows from the gum trees. When the lights of the ute were on full beam and the spotlight pointed its invasive finger through the bush, the deepest shadows had felt ominous, threatening unknown dangers. But now, the abrupt absence of artificial light and noise, and the eternity of space and quiet, gave me a wonderful feeling of being alone—and yet not lonely. The silent void enchanted me, stars sharply piercing the velvety blackness above. I fancied the large moon beamed down benevolently on all Earth’s creatures. How total the sounds of silence in that clean fresh air, fragrant with the scent of gum trees. The harsh bush of daylight was different in the shadows of night. Softer now, dressed in its nightwear. Had I ever felt smaller or more insignificant? I couldn’t remember anything quite like—
“There’s one! Quick. Spot to the left. No! Bloody further left! What’s the matter with you? Bloody asleep or something?”
The harsh words, and sudden roar of the engine as Sam started it, jolted me out of my reverie. A sideways lurch of the ute made me slide helplessly and heavily against him. Luckily he was anticipating this and had already braced himself and tightened his grip on the wheel. As my eyes refocused and sharpened from their dreamy state, the cause of the shouting—and the sudden forward thrust of the clamorous motor—was immediately apparent.
“Will you just look at that Boomer? Bloody huge!” Barry grunted, as he swerved around a soft looking patch of sandy soil. He knew this was most likely covering a tangle of rabbit burrows; the resulting collapse could cause serious bogging of the vehicle, at the least.
The ‘old man’ kangaroo was huge alright—magnificent, actually—in full flight ahead of us now, after our abrupt change of direction. He sailed through the air like a gust of wind, sinking back down to the dusty earth for another mighty spring, then gathering and soaring—again and again. Weaving in and out of the scrub and the light, he was gracefully fluid in his flight from danger. Out again into an open expanse, his muscles rippling, long legs rhythmically stretching then bunching, stretching, bunching; head constantly turning, seeking escape. Suddenly he found his goal—a narrow, well-flattened path into dense scrub. Shots rang out. Close. Breathtakingly close to hitting the fleet-footed target, but sympathetic trees deflected the whining bullets. He’d found elusive escape and shelter from these crass intruders into his world. There were curses from the men, and quiet inward joy from me, as he escaped. As the ute slewed around, the hunters were left with frustration as their only reward.
Following the chase and brutal affront to that ‘old man’ kangaroo’s dignity, my certainty about the adventure I had somewhat romantically pictured, was crumbling fast. I understood why the men were so upset. The increasing numbers of kangaroos were creating fierce competition for precious fodder. The damage and subsequent expense ‘roos caused to fencing had reached alarming levels. I could even, reluctantly, accept shooting by good marksmen as being a humane choice, compared to the unimaginably slow and painful death by poisoning. And yet, none of these perfectly reasonable arguments could diminish the growing knot of guilt and unhappiness in the pit of my stomach.
I tried to keep up a good front. After all, we were guests, and the men were doing what farmers have had to do since the first dirt was turned, and the first paddock fenced. They were protecting what was theirs. I gradually became a whole lot quieter, as I wished desperately no more hungry intruders would be found on this hunt. I wished in vain. The worst was still to come.
They shot ten kangaroos that night. Some were dropped in full flight; others as they began to turn away from the dazzling brightness of the pitiless spotlight. Most were dispatched with a single shot, and none were left to suffer. This questionable kindness offered little comfort to me or the ‘roos—and the destruction continued. The last victim was a gentle-faced grey doe, mesmerised by the alien spotlight, her soft stricken eyes stretched wide in confusion and terror. She offered a perfect target. After she had fallen, we could all see movement still continuing within her pouch. Overwhelming sickness engulfed me, rapidly transforming into red-hot rage, as one of the men pulled a joey from her lifeless body.
Guest or not, I couldn’t control myself any longer. My fury boiled over and I exploded out of the cab, physically and verbally. I don’t remember my words, but the feeling of outrage is with me still. I snatched the baby from him and bundled the confusion of legs and tail into my jumper, clutching this newly orphaned joey close to my heaving chest. It was a confronting moment.
It was unimaginable this shivering, woebegone, skeletal creature—wearing only the lightest covering of fur—would survive the stack of odds against him. But nothing was going to stop my Snoopy from steadily growing into a big Red Kangaroo, taller than most humans, but always and ever, a gentle giant. In his early growth, he would melt at the sound of my voice, and the touch of my hands. In Snoopy’s eyes, we were mother and son. Out of tragedy grew the triumph of his survival.
My horror and the hunters’ acute embarrassment combined to produce a grudging promise any future joeys would be given to me. Quite bizarre actually—to commit to saving the tiny babies they had orphaned themselves in the first place! Maybe this compromise salved their consciences but I couldn’t help thinking it was more likely the most expedient way to appease me at that moment.
“At least they kept their word,” Kanute says. “You have to give them that much.”
Reluctantly, I agree. “Hmm… I wouldn’t have been able to raise all the rest otherwise, would I? But the ‘getting’ of them never did sit comfortably with me.”
“That’s for sure. I most certainly remember that.” Kanute nods his head slowly. He reaches out and pats my hand to show he understands. “Every time you saw Sam coming with that old rug bundled up in his arms, and peeked in and saw another terrified face, you just melted—every single time.”
© Christine Larsen, “Old McLarsen had some Farms”
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