The Creatures of Home
When Andrew first arrived in the land where creatures dwell, his home was in Melbourne. His parents lived in Preston in a very old house, where he always found there was some creature sharing his home with him.
This doesn’t include the flies that insist on providing spots before his eyes. They always appeared to be urgently hovering around his face, as if they had something important to tell him. They never did, just buzzed close to him and refused to leave him alone.
The garden had a very long brick-paved path from the backdoor to the boundary fence of the yard. The most exciting aspect being a large pile of leftover bricks that were not required after they had completed the landscaping of the yard.
When Andrew was five, he loved to explore what was lurking in the brick rubble.
One day, his mother was hanging out the washing on the clothes line when she noticed that Andrew had found something that was holding his full attention.
“What have you there sweetie?” she asked. She cautiously walked towards him lest she might scare what he was finding so interesting. It was probably a butterfly with beautiful colored wings or maybe a small skink enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. “Can mummy have a look too?”
Andrew smiled at his mother, “Mummy look, it is so pretty! It tickles too when it runs along my fingers.”
|With horror, she saw her small son was playing with a red-back spider. And they were incredibly dangerous. Like a surgeon, she gently took his hand and laid it on the grass. The spider scuttled away into the safety of a dark corner of the garden.|
With a sigh of relief that all had ended well, she lovingly looked at her son, “Now Andrew, there are some creatures, even beautiful ones that can sting, and bite. The beautiful red spot on that spider is how nature tells everybody it is dangerous. If it bites you, may have to go to hospital. I suggest you check from now on with mummy before you play with any small creature.”
Andrew flashed his cupid’s eyes and replied, “Okay, Mummy. It was very beautiful, though. Wasn’t it?”
With a sigh of relief, she then walked back to the clothes line to finish hanging out the washing.
A few moments later, she had felt a tug on her skirt. Andrew was demanding her attention once again. In his free hand, he held a jar with a lid. Inside the jar was assorted crawling creatures were struggling to escape.
“Mummy, are these beautiful creatures okay for me to watch and play with?
The next twenty minutes was spent identifying the contents in the jar. After she emptied the contents onto the grass, she tried to identify the collection of creatures before they scuttled and wiggled away, explaining to Andrew what treasures he had found. Eventually the last bug crawled away out of sight.
“Yes these are all okay with you to play and to touch. There were no crawling creatures with eight legs in this lot. If you find them, they are called spiders and should be left alone. I however do not mind you watching them from a safe distance.”
|Andrew was content he was now able to play with slaters and earwigs. He loved the way the slaters rolled up into a very small ball when scared. He then blew a stream of air through a straw to watch them roll away. The earwigs had large pincers at the rear of their body. It was easy to grab the pincers to have a good look at the moving head and nervous eyes of the trapped, helpless earwig.|
His father enjoyed growing vegetables. However, he would only grow vegetables he was good at. He was an expert at growing tomatoes. Therefore, there were one hundred tomatoes growing profusely in the yard. When the crop was ready to fruit, his mother had no choice but to produce many bottles of tomato sauce.
One day, when his father was inspecting his tomato patch, he called his son over for some assistance.
|“Andrew, please come here and help me squash these snails. There are so many of them. The snail pellets do not seem to be working.”|
Andrew pouted. “Dad, I love snails. They amuse me when I have snail races. I do not want to kill them. Could I just throw them over into the next-door neighbor’s yard?”
His father looked to the heavens for an answer. In deep concentration, he tried to fathom out a suitable response.
A few moments later, with a sparkle in his eyes he replied, “Andrew, I could buy you a pair of farmer’s boots. The ones the farmer wears to milk the cows. I believe you would look like a commercial vegetable grower in a pair of shining black gum boots.”
He waited for his son to analyze the offer he’d given him.
Andrew smiled. “Sure, I would enjoy them. My socks will no longer become wet when I play in the yard.”
After the boots had been purchased, Andrew helped his father carry out the special ritual dance they called, ‘snail stomp’ twice a day.
A few years later, the family moved to Canberra, to a new house in a new suburb. Andrew’s Mum was very happy. Andrew was not so happy as the yard had no shrubs, trees or groundcover under which to find creatures to help fill his long, lonely days.
|He was surprised, however, when he was greeted one morning by some insects. Large grasshoppers had flown in for a visit. They made a clicking noise with their hind legs as they flew out of the yard again in the search of food.|
One night, Andrew staggered out of his bed. He was having trouble sleeping. He saw his father crouched at the end of the table staring at the fridge. His father beckoned him over with his finger and then placed his finger over his lips for Andrew to be quiet.
“Come and sit beside me and we can watch a mouse that is hidden under the fridge. I believe it’s the same mouse we use to feed when we were in Melbourne. I have a little cheese to entice him out.”
They both sat still and, after a short time, Andrew saw some whiskers emerge from under the fridge. A small head popped out quickly before disappearing again. After another few minutes had passed, the mouse emerged fully. First, just its whiskers, then its head and, finally, its whole body. The mouse carefully checked the cheese before timidly eating some. All the time, the mouse’s eyes were darting around in case danger should reveal itself.
Andrew yawned and decided he would go back to bed and dream of the mouse family under their fridge.
Andrew’s parents were aware of his loneliness, so bought him a puppy. The puppy was a small fox terrier which he called ‘Lady’. She was full of life. The game Lady loved the most was playing tug a war with an old bicycle inner tube.
His father told him, “Son, during the Black Death which was a plague many years ago in London, they used your breed of dog to hunt out all the rats in the city. The fleas on the rats were transmitting the plague, you see. The dogs grabbed the rat and, with a quick shake of the dog’s head, the rat was dead.”
|His dog was fortunate to acquire an animal friend, a magpie. The magpie and his dog played with a stick. Each had turns to run, or fly off with it before being tackled by the other and losing the stick.|
After a few weeks, the magpie sat on the fence first thing in the morning and called Lady to come outside and play. The whole family found this very amusing. The amusement soon died, however, when his mother tried to imitate the magpie’s beautiful warble.
In time, the garden did become a creatures’ paradise. His mother had planted plum and birch trees. The parrots loved to feed on the birch’s long tassels of seed and the small red fruit of the plum.
Andrew had his vegetable garden, which encouraged numerous creatures to sample what he was growing. He grew everything that was possible to grow that the local climate would allow him.
His attitude while growing up regarding creatures had changed. His top priority now was the welfare of his vegetables.
The Cabbage White butterfly was now a flying menace. When they fluttered to inspect his vegetables he used his tennis racket to knock them from the sky.
The local birds, Magpies and Currawongs, swooped down to land a few feet from him whenever he was working in his vegetable garden. Andrew fed the creatures that were pests in his garden. The birds became very friendly and even left their young for Andrew to babysit if they had another errand to perform.
Later, Andrew’s parents decided to buy a small townhouse, so Andrew bought his parents’ home and inherited all the creatures that visited and resided there.
He was fortunate to find a lady who he married, because she too loved his garden and the varied creatures that lived there.
After the birth of their second son they decided to plant a walnut tree.
The first year, the tree produced six walnuts. The third year there were many walnuts. Andrew rubbed his hands together in glee. Alas, it was short-lived as, one morning, there was a raucous noise outside above his walnut tree. The tree was splattered like nappies flapping in the wind. A flock of cockatoos was devouring his walnut crop. Andrew knew better than to try to stop this white menace. All he could do was to watch and marvel how the cockatoos sharp beaks shattered a walnut.
When there were no walnuts left on the tree, Andrew raked up the mess they’d left behind them.
Andrew still had compassion for his creatures. He would ensure there were always small water containers in the garden for a thirsty creature.
|One night after he and his wife had watered their garden his wife said, “Darling, tonight when I was watering, a possum came out from under the aviary and stared at me for five minutes. Then he went to a water container I had just filled with fresh water.”|
The next night Andrew heard a call from his wife. There, once again, was a large possum. It was three times the size of a domestic cat. Andrew noted there was cuts on the possum’s back which suggested it had been in a fight. After his wife once more replenished the container with fresh water the possum took a long drink.
His wife was concerned but relieved, “I am happy to say the possum appears to be healthier than yesterday. I believe he will soon be well again.”
Andrew felt proud that his garden was a haven for all animals – even those requiring special loving care.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.