A TREE FAST
A young goanna keeps watch.
The old saying discretion is the better part of valour has rung true on a number of occasions in my life. One of the more memorable instances was when I found myself in a very small garden shed with a huge fearless goanna. It is definitely good practice to stay very still at such moments and try to refrain from waving your arms about and calling for help.
I knew this ancient creature quite well at a distance. Obviously life was pretty good for him, and he had grown to an enormous size over many years. He was a couple of metres long and propelled himself confidently like an all terrain vehicle on huge muscle bound arms and legs. I suspect he worked out quite regularly at the local bush gym, specialising in lifting granite boulders.
I'd disturbed him occasionally on the bush track and watched with awe as he raced over to the nearest large tree and without slowing down shot straight to the top. You could never get a really good view of this, as he always climbed the opposite side of the tree, just to be on the safe side I suppose. So youd mainly see the sharp claws as they dug in each side of the trunk. Getting down always seemed a bit more awkward, but obviously birds nests would only be safe from the marauding goanna if they were perched on outer twigs too thin for its considerable weight.
My father, who had lived with aboriginal hunters, said that to catch a goanna, you had to run very fast and leap at the tree, throwing your arms around the trunk to catch the goanna on the other side. But that sounded a bit painful to me, so I was quite happy to simply stand back and watch the rapid climb. I enjoy having a chat with a treed goanna. They look this way and that and seem a bit sheepish and apologetic about the fuss they just created. But they dont come down till youve gone.
The old goanna conducted a daily search through Secret Gully in an attempt to satisfy his voracious appetite. About midmorning youd hear him bulldozing his way through the undergrowth to arrive at the front gate. Hed saunter hopefully past the chook house, knowing that he was beaten there by the concrete floor and totally enclosed mesh.
favourite place was the compost heap which he would pick clean of
bones and most of the recent scraps. It was here I saw him surprise
a large black snake and observed how agile the goanna is for such
a massive creature. The poor snake didnt stand a chance. It
struck bravely many times but failed to make contact with the wily
goanna who ducked and weaved, waiting for his moment, until in a flash
he grabbed the snake and broke its back.
The visit to the garden shed was a bit unusual. I was bent over the tiny workbench trying to clean the carburetor from the overworked lawnmower when suddenly a long neck and bright eyes were thrust in the doorway. Perhaps there was a rats nest or something inviting inside, and the fork tongue of the goanna flicked in and out inquisitively.
The old goanna decided a closer inspection was needed and step by large step it moved into the very small available space in the garden shed. At such close quarters, it seemed to be never ending. Its head and arms passed underneath my legs and stuck out one side of the chair, while its fat body and back legs stood ponderously at the other. The long tail was still trying to get through the door.
I sat very still. The skin on the back of my legs grew large goose bumps and nerve endings tingled all over my body. Id heard lots of stories of course, which didnt help.
One of them had happened to a nearby friend who was lazily staring into the fire in his timber hut one cold evening. Alongside him was his pet wallaby. Suddenly a large goanna rushed inside and grabbed the wallaby. My friend leapt to his feet and snatched the wallaby back from the goanna and held it up in the air. The goanna simply climbed up my friend with its sharp claws tearing his skin and went for the wallaby again.
My friend, with one hand around the goannas throat and the other
around the wallaby managed to wrestle the goanna outside and slam
the door. He reckoned its breath wasnt all that god wasnt
all that interested in the goannas breath quality. I figured
it was probably quite rank as Id recently seen a pair of them
having a feast inside a dead cow. So I just controlled my impulse
to scream and run and ran my eyes over this amazing creature. I could
see why it is known as the Lace Monitor. The
beautiful, intricate patterns of black and cream dots reminded me
of one of my grandmothers fine handstitched tablecloths.
its sharp claws the goanna pulled down a large box of nails and screws,
covering itself and the floor with a shower of metal particles. This
unexpected event caused it to suddenly lose interest in the shed.
It decided there were much tastier places to visit. The huge creature
managed to gracefully turn itself about in the small space, brushing
my leg with its scaly tail which caused me to bite my tongue.
I was quite relieved when it was gone. It had been a great visit, but it didnt bother me at all that I would have to wait for another day to smell the breath of a wild goanna. And I didnt even complain about picking up the nails.
SECRET GULLY - CHILDREN'S ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT
Interactive and educational toys for imaginative play