I wrote a point of view piece last month on Australians eating feral cats. It was an unusual choice of topic and something I felt I could really get my teeth into. After researching the subject and much deliberation and pondering in my “ready room”, the place of all my inspiration and philosophizing, the shower (I ran out of hot water grrr), I began writing about the pros and cons of eating feral cats. No pros many cons, I carried on to the subject of Australians eating our national emblem, the Kangaroo and Emu and the benefits of eating ‘roo. I effused the good healthy qualities and wonderful taste and cheap price of the meat and gushed at just how lip smacking good it was. I sort of ignored the eating of the Emu as I have not partaken of the flesh, as yet.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the article and duly submitted and had it published. I sat back basking in my efforts and accomplishments without a backward thought to the wonderful gentle unique Australian creature we call the Kangaroo.
In 1995 I was living on a farm in Candelo, a peaceful serene tranquil rural village in the Bega Valley of New South Wales. Perched high on a hill on the edge of the valley, surrounded by views that stretched for eternity of lush green mountains, crystal clear pure rivers and patchwork farmlands. The cottage I lived in was built in 1850 and was called Candelo Cottage and the garden, which was bigger than the cottage was bursting with every type of vegetable and medicinal herb known to man. My ducks, bantams, chicken, roosters, rabbits, guinea fowl and turkeys all pecked around the lawn and gardens.
I helped out on the farm with the pregnant cows and the ones who were paralyzed after giving birth to their calves and I loved it so much that I became a native wildlife carer and began to take in sick and injured animals who had been hit by vehicles or attacked by domestic and feral animals. Mostly I was known as the “bird lady” and I had a permanent menagerie of native magpies wandering around the wide wooden verandahs and perched on the window sills and wood heap. One of my magpies, Woody became quite a star, if you tossed a screwed up piece of paper to her she would play soccer with it for hours, chasing it around the house and rolling with it, just like a dog or a cat with a ball of string.
Life was perfect.
One evening I heard the farmers truck pull up with a huge handbrake skid outside the cottage and Kerry, the farmer came strolling in with a bundle in his arms. He looked at me sheepishly and I was curious to see what looked like a tail waving about in the bundle. He quickly explained that he was out shooting the ‘Roos that had been menacing his top paddock, when he accidentally shot a female with a Joey. Most farmers tried not to kill the females, to get rid of them the males were the first target. Kerry was rueful saying this to me as he knew I was a wildlife rescuer but he explained that he went and picked up the Joey and bought it back with him, hoping that I could help it live.
Just as he said all that the Joey jumped out of the bundle and jumped over to me, then proceeded in the most painful messy way to struggle down the front of my long sleeved T-Shirt. He nearly knocked me out but he managed to succeed while I stayed frozen in amazement. When he had finished, there was this huge malformed wiggling ten month pregnant lump in my front and I had a tail and two legs sticking out of the top of my T-shirt, waving around in front of my face. He snuggled and then was still. I was still standing there stock shock still staring at Kerry who by this time was rolling around laughing at the spectacle and the look of stunned wonder on my face. The Joey seemed to immediately adopt me as “MUM” and had seemingly found his “home”.
From that moment on, I became two as the Joey became a permanent addition down my shirt.
He would bound up to me and I learned very fast that when I saw him move I had to open my shirt quickly or suffer the scratches on my face and chin as he would paw his way into his “pouch”.
I named him Jessie and he was my baby, he would lie back in my arms greedily sucking at his bottle of Wombaroo Kangaroo mix as I fed him, then he would go outside with me for wee wees and then back into his “Pouch” under my shirt. At night he would sleep in a old cloth beach bag which I had lined with babies blankets and hung from my bedside drawers.
As he grew I became more attached to him yet I knew there was a day when he would have to leave. He stopped using me as his pouch and only used the beach bag at night and was weaned off his bottle onto grass and other native flora. He loved to be scratched and rubbed and would lie in my lap at night watching TV with me. He especially love the music video shows and he would lie next to my feet as I cooked dinner at night. He roamed further and further of a day, sometimes I could see him bounding along in a distant paddock only to walk outside and find him dozing in the sunshine on the verandah not long after.
Then the most amazing thing happened to me. I had been infertile for nine years, ever since the birth of my first daughter and told I wouldn’t ever have more children (I think with six children now something went wrong there in that diagnosis). I stunningly became pregnant.
As my stomach expanded Jessie grew into a male adolescent and that came with natural changes to his hormones and behavior. His onset of puberty began with a typical male Kangaroo behave developing, boxing.
Male Kangaroos Box each other for alpha male status, territory and mating rights to the females. So Jessie began boxing the closest family to him– me. This became quite dangerous as my stomach grew to mammoth proportions and I had to make the heart breaking choice to send him to the farm next door, Cowsnest, a wonderful magical caring commune like community farm which had a paddock sized enclosure of male Kangaroos being adapted for release into the environment. The day I took him for the drive for the last time lying in his little beach bag with his bunny rugs and tinkle cuddle toy, seeing just his huge ears and big brown eyes stare out over the top at me was one of the saddest in my life. I sat and watched him for over an hour in the new enclosure as he chewed on the grass, sneaking glances and curious wary looks at his fellow peer residents from a safe distance.
Over the next weeks I visited him often, he would bound excitedly up to me when he saw my car and then scratch at my front, halfheartedly and clumsily trying to climb down my shirt again, as if it he knew somehow that this change was a loss of childhood and security and all he had found safe. He would lie by my side as I talked to him, seemingly understanding “roofully” that it was goodbye and he was off into the vast and wild future as a free kangaroo.
The day came when I visited no more and the dull ache of separation did not subside for many months to come. I knew Jessie would have been totally released within about 8 weeks of his arrival at the farm which coincided with the birth of my second daughter, an event which was a touch bittersweet, say goodbye to one baby and gain another treasure from the gods. In my heart I always thought that my maternal instinct that had kicked in with Jessie was the reason I fell pregnant. Mind you I never had trouble conceiving after this, the term “breed like a rabbit” comes to my thoughts
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