M. Skeel

The Story of Mullet, The One-Eyed Wallaby
Chapter 1

     Spring comes early to the forests of Northern New South Wales where it is subtropical and winters are so mild as to not count as real winter at all. Real winter is when the snow falls and doesnít go away for months, but that never happens on M'Gees land.

     The animals are adapted to the mild climate, so birds and marsupials scarcely wait for the last frosts before they start building nests and growing babies. By late spring the babies are out of the nests and the pouches and going through the hardest months of their lives. The easy part is over. They have to learn to fend for themselves or die.

     This is the season that people bring orphans and hurt animals to M'Gee. She sees more at this time of the year than any other. Young animals are especially vulnerable on the roads and both Pew and Mullet were found by the road.

     Pew came to M'Gee first. He was out of the nest but could not fly. He still had baby down on his chest when he was found sitting in the middle of a dusty back road and he couldnít fly. Perhaps he had fallen out of his nest. Perhaps the wind blew him out or a snake came and he had been forced to jump. Or perhaps his nest had been parasitized by a Cuckoo and the young Cuckoo had thrown him out.

     The person who found him didnít know and didnít know what do to with him so he brought the little bird to M'Gee. She could see he was healthy and strong so she was happy to look after him until he was old enough to go off on his own. She kept him in the house with her for the first two weeks. She fed him steak and hamburger rolled in the special insectivorum food she bought for insectivorous birds. After the third day, she gave him his first name. She had had several butcher birds before so she was inclined to call him Butch as usual. M'Gee's husband, FatherFigure added the name Cassidy to it to make him special so Butch Cassidy it was.

     Butch Cassidy thrived with this diet. He spent hours sitting on M'Gee's shoulder as all her baby birds did. M'Gee adapted to him by wearing her oldest shirts because he was not house-broken and was regularly pooing on her. She kept rags on her shoulders to catch the droppings and made him an artificial tree in her bathroom for him to sit on. She fed him several times a day and took him for walks outside so he could practice flying. At first he was fairly tame but he never really bonded to M'Gee. He wanted to be a wild bird.

     Butch Cassidy was too long a name so M'Gee went on calling him just plain Butch until a friend suggested the name Pew. M'Gee liked it because it was the name of the Magpie in one of her favourite cartoons, Footrot Flats. Pew was a nice short name too and it stuck. Butch Cassidy was thereafter nicknamed Pew.

     As Pew matured, M'Gee started expanding his world. She took him outside for walks so he would get used to the bush and not her house.

     When she was working on the computer, she began putting him on the Silky Oak tree outside her office window. He sat in the tree for hours watching and listening to the sights and sounds of the Bush, while M'Gee worked.

     One day it began to rain, so M'Gee moved Pew to the front porch and sat him on a piece of firewood. Then she went back to the computer. A few minutes later she heard Pew screaming. She ran out, but he was gone. She could hear him screaming down the hill, so she ran down to the old apple gum tree.

     She looked up to where the screaming was coming from. Pew was hanging by one wing from the bill of a Kookaburra. M'Gee yelled and waved her arms and jumped up and down. Another Kookaburra was sitting only a few feet away, eyeing Pew, who was crying hysterically and flapping his other wing. Even though M'Gee was meters below the Kookaburra, it dropped Pew and flew away. The other Kookaburra followed, but M'Gee forgot about them. She struggled through the lantana and weeds to reach the little bird.

     Pew was clinging to a weed, eyes closed and still screaming. M'Gee picked him up and cuddled him. At first he struggled and screamed and then he relaxed and settled in the warm safety of her cupped hands. She took him back to the house and gave him some meat to make him forget his terrible experience.

     She was shaken by the experience too. She had not expected the Kookaburras to attack a butcher bird. Pew wasnít that small after all. She had seen Kookaburras hunt mice and snakes and big insects but she hadn't expected this at all. She knew that Pew had to watch out for snakes and goannas, quolls, hawks and owls. Once he was mature and a good flyer, she knew Kookaburras would leave him alone at least but he obviously needed someplace safe until then.

     M'Gee knew it was time for Pew to live in the big walk-in aviary with the snake proof mesh near the house. He had to have room to learn to fly but it had to be in the safety of the cage to keep all the predators away from him till he was a good flyer.

     M'Gee was working at that time, so she saw very little of Pew after that. In the mornings and evenings, she made him plates of food and took them to him. He was very fond of steak-on-a-plate. But he was also always startled by her arrival. He would fly up to the highest perch and sound alarm calls when she came in. He reacted to her as a potential predator now and not as a parent. She respected this change in their relationship and just left the food for him and then went away. She could tell that he would not be like Sweet the Lorikee: he did not want to bond with her.

     Soon she knew, she would release him. His flying was improving rapidly and the forest was full of insects. Food was plentiful and Pew needed to learn how to hunt for himself.

Chapter 2 Chapter 2

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