Friday, 8 June 2007

THE BUSH BABY by Marion de la Croix

Great Divining Range south of Toowoomba Queensland, 1916.

Clancy and I had been friends since we were babies and as we grew we shared the love of horses and riding in the bush. This particular day we had been out since dawn and we had ridden miles up into the Great Dividing Range. We had spotted a clearing from below where we decided to have lunch and boil the Billy.

We came upon the clearing already occupied by a mob of kangaroos on the far side. A few fed, several appeared to doze while others lay in the sun. As we were downwind, they hadn’t yet sensed our presence.

‘Look, look,’ Clancy whispered excitedly.

For a moment, I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary then amidst the furry clan; I saw what looked like a human baby. I looked again. Yes, it was definitely a baby.

‘What’s it doing all the way up here we ought to make sure its all right,’ said Clancy.

As we urged our horses forward the mob spotted us, the baby turned its head in our direction then to our amazement hopped about five feet and jumped into the pouch of a big red. All of a sudden, they fled into the thick scrub on the other side of the clearing.

‘Did we see what we saw Clarrie?’ he asked.

‘Well I know I did,’ I told him breathlessly.

‘No one will believe us.’‘Do we have to tell them?’ I asked.

‘Course, it’s not normal and its mother must be frantic.’

‘I suppose,’ I agreed, ‘but everyone will think we are crazy.’

We stopped and dismounted. Clancy unsaddled the horses and led them to the creek to drink while I lit the fire and put on the Billy.

The tea tasted good, hot and strong and I lay back against an ancient eucalypt. I imagined some poor distraught mother searching hopelessly for her baby she had no hope of finding.

The baby we had seen most definitely hopped so it would have to have been with the kangaroos for a while. It looked about the same size as my baby sister and she was two.

We arrived home in the dark exhausted but happy and went our separate ways.

‘See you Clarrie.’

‘See you Clancy.’

Everyone shouted us down and my father laughed and said we must have fallen asleep under a tree and dreamed the whole thing. What both of us with the same dream?

A few months later, we decided to return and see if we could spot the baby. No one else had reported any sightings but we knew exactly where to look.

We found the same clearing but absent of kangaroos. We lit the fire anyway and saddened we hadn’t found any trace of the baby, a sombre mood descended on us. The horses cropped companionably beside us as we sipped our hot brew and listened to the sound of nature. A Willie wagtail and some fairy wrens kept us company, whistling and dancing round.

Suddenly, we heard them thump, thump, and thump. The mob hopped into the clearing and we held our breath. Our horses, accustomed to kangaroos continued to graze as the mob appeared, paused and stopped. One by one they relaxed and began to nibble the grass. A couple lay down and began to groom their thick fur.

I felt certain I had recognised the big red. She stood proud and tall and I noticed movement in her pouch. Out hopped the baby and sat on his haunches exactly like any other kangaroo would.

It turned and faced us and immediately we could see it was a boy. His hair had grown way past his shoulders but his body was also covered in a thin film of hair. He turned back to the big red and looked up at her face. Some signal must have passed between them as he hopped a few feet away and put his head down, mouth buried in the lush grasses and began to eat. His hands remained tucked into his belly.

‘He’s happy!’ said Clancy in amazement.

‘So he is,’ I agreed.

Hypnotised we watched the family scene and noticed the child looked completely at ease. Every so often, he looked at his mother as any Joey would but suddenly, undetected by us, one of the kangaroos gave the alarm. The baby immediately returned to his foster mother and hopped into her pouch. Within the blink of an eye the mob had gone.

‘I think we can leave them in peace Clancy.’

‘I agree,’ I said quietly, still in awe of what we had witnessed.

We saddled up, rode home and vowed never to mention this story to anyone.

Great Divining Range south of Toowoomba, Queensland, 1995.

When my grandfather died, I had come here from my home in Sydney for the last time to clear out his things. Amongst some papers in an old box, I found the above story.

An unbelievable tale, which I had thought, had been the wanderings of an old man until recently. A newspaper article mentioned a sighting in the mountains not far from here of a wild man, old dirty and naked.

Of course, it had been put down to someone’s imagination. However, I have proof and know otherwise.

Marion de la Croix 2006 ©

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