I live in the inner city, however, my house backs onto a gully that leads down to the Brisbane River and that gully is a jungle. My back yard has a large Moreton Bay Fig Tree in it and there’s another enormous one across the road; in fact, that tree is a “Tree of Significance”. So there are plenty of places for wild things to be. The tree in my back yard means every evening, just on dark, possums gallop across the roof and launch themselves into the tree. And if the possums aren’t in it, the flying foxes are, or, during the day, when the tree is fruiting, Fig birds. In the Spring, Channel-Billed and Koel cuckoos fly in from Indonesia and lay their eggs in the nests of unsuspecting magpies and crows who have built them in the fig trees. These invaders out-compete the resident chicks for food and the poor parents are left trying to raise a chick that quickly grows to twice their size.
A blue-tongue lizard has been living under the concrete at the front of the house since I’ve lived here and I occasionally see it basking in the morning sun. Sometimes I throw it a bit of fruit. And then there are, of course, the bush turkeys, that wreak absolute havoc everywhere. When we arrived home after two weeks in Bali, our back deck was trashed! Pots were broken, a tub of fertiliser lay empty on its side, contents strewn everywhere. In short, anything that could be destroyed by a turkey was.
So I am surrounded at all times and on all sides by creatures. Which is fine if they stay in their place. However, over the past year I have risen from my desk, been quietly sitting on my couch or, in the latest episode, just arrived home with the shopping, when I let out a ridiculous girlie scream, like something out of a ’60s TV show when housewives stood on chairs to get away from mice, at the sight of an animal in my house.
In order of appearance were:
A possum: entered the kitchen one evening while we were watching telly, climbed up onto the bench then the window sill and we all stood around staring at it until it made another leap and left.
Bush turkey: Came moseying in the back door, quickly skedaddled when it saw me (on more than one occasion).
Blue-tongue lizard: was lying in the doorway of my office on its way to eat the dog’s food (dog has now gone to heaven), carried on, ate some dog food then left.
Cane toad: again, sitting in the doorway of my office. (Nothing more vile than the feeling of that leathery skin on a bare foot.) Sprang away and disappeared behind the TV cabinet. Presumably it eventually made its way outside.
Baby bush turkey: (freshly hatched, these things are orphans from birth so what can you expect). Wandered up the hall and when it saw me did an about-face, then hung a right into my bedroom where it promptly hopped up onto my pillow. I cornered it, grabbed it, and as it fought and squeaked I carried it outside and let it go.
And last but by no means least, and at the absolute limit of my tolerance for these incursions: A GIANT BEARDED WATER DRAGON.
Perhaps the most alarming thing was that I think it was already in my bedroom when went out. When I sat down to put my shoes on before going out, there was a great clattering that seemed to come from behind me. I looked but, seeing nothing, assumed it was a cursed turkey on the front verandah come to dig out a few more pot plants. I crept out to scare it off but there was nothing there. I walked back into my room and carefully peered around the side of my bed but saw nothing. And so I went on my merry way, locking the door behind me.
On arriving home, I carried the shopping up the hall, (failed to spot the strange poo on the floor) put it on the kitchen bench, took the meat out and turned to take it to the fridge when I was saw the thing perched atop my couch.
Now, when I lived on acreage, literally surrounded by bush, I removed snakes (harmless carpet pythons) from mine and neighbours verandahs and, on one occasion, from our office, after a tiny brown tree snake crept into the printer hoping to live there for the winter. No problem. But this thing, that was now propped on my lounge room window- sill like someone waiting to be served at a bar, was my limit. Reptiles are pure muscle and this one was too big and spikey and had too many moving parts for me to be stupid enough to go near it. Snakes don’t have limbs or claws, they just squirm and try to wrap themselves around your arm provided you have a hold of their head.
What to do? I called a reptile remover who said he couldn’t get to me for an hour and a half so suggested I give it a nudge with a broom, assuring me it would likely keep to the wall and could therefore be encouraged out. I considered this, but reasoned it may launch itself in my direction or, worse, end up somewhere else in the house where I couldn’t see it. I ran outside to see if there were any neighbours around who could help and almost trod on the blue-tongue! AHHHHHH!!
I texted my neighbour Gary, and asked if he’d be home any time soon. He called me to say no, but offered me his schnauzer Archie, conceding that Archie would probably kill it. “No thanks Gary,” I replied, picturing the lizard jumping from surface to surface smashing everything in its path, and the dog barking and snapping at it and possibly catching it, at which point I would then have a dead or injured dragon to deal with.
Then I heard the family from next door arrive home. “Do you think you could help me?” I asked like some damsel in distress. “I have a giant water dragon on my couch.”
“Blue-tongue?” he asked.
“No. The blue-tongue is there,” I replied, pointing to where it was lying just inside my gate. “This thing is big and spikey.”
Jimmy, the man of the house, put down what he was carrying and assumed a business-like demeanour. He followed me as I opened the gate, waited for the blue-tongue to slither off behind the bins, then crept up the hall.
“There,” I pointed.
“Oh, no problem,” he said. “I’ll need gloves.”
I fetched my leather gardening gloves and gave them to him. I stood well back as he crept up behind the creature and suddenly grabbed it. It squirmed and thrashed, showing a red underbelly and making an angry squeak.
“Where do you want it?” asked Jimmy, as he wrestled the beast.
“The back yard,” I replied and led him out onto the back deck and down the stairs. But before he could reach the bottom, the fiend turned and bit him (on his gloved hand) so he dropped it, it jumped off the landing, and disappeared into the bush. The kookaburras then started up in a cacophony of warning so I figured they had spotted it.
“You keep leaving your front door open,” was Jimmy’s parting observation.
I am getting a screen door installed.