We Djidi Djidi have a bad reputation with the locals. It’s a shame really because most of us are just happy, carefree birds who enjoy a bit of human interaction from time to time. Some of us can be a little flamboyant with our preening and dancing, but what’s wrong with being just a little ‘out there’ if you’ve got the talent and the looks?
But some of the local mums tell their kids to steer clear of us, not because we’re bad, but because we might lead them into trouble. It’s like telling little folk not to talk to strangers. For the Djidi Djidi though, it’s a case of the little folk - namely us - leading the kids off to where the little hairy men live, and according to those Mums, you don’t want to mix with those little hairy men because they’re REALLY scary - not that any bird that I know of has ever met one.
But some Djidi Djidi can be real trouble makers. One of them nearly killed Kip.
It happened this way.
Kip’s dad was really good at what he did best, making and repairing boots. One day he was really busy with an order from the local garrison fixing tackle for the horses harnesses, and he needed someone to deliver a pair of boots back to its owner.
“Kip old chap, being as how I’m half drownd-ed with all this work, it would be a great relief to me if you were to take these here boots back to the Captain down at Point Taylor.” He held up the aforementioned articles for Kips general inspection.
“Wow Dad, they look like new. The Cap’n will be so happy with them. Shall I go now?”
Kip’s dad looked around the small shop and listened. “As to mentioning the presence of your dear mother, her being absent it would appear to be a wonderful opportunity as for you to deliver the Cap’n’s boots, lest she return and have other ideas such as you undertaking to cleaning out the fowl house or some such business.” Joe Wright's expression was a mixture of innocence and conspiracy, the former soon dispelling the latter.
“I’ll go straight away Dad. Point Taylors on the other side of the bush over there isn’t it” he said pointing to the limestone cliff across the bay which was crowded with trees and bushes. “The path to Fremantle goes that way and I can cut down to the Captain's place from there.”
“Make sure to be back afore dark otherwise there’ll be rumbunctions in this ‘ere little ‘ome of ours.”
Kip jumps into his Dad’s arms and felt his father’s strong arms hug him to his heart.
Taking the boots and laying them across his shoulder he said “I’ll be fine dad. I’ll tell you all about my adventures when I get back.” With which he dashed out the door and up the street towards the bridle track to the port city of Fremantle which was located some twelve mile distant. Kips errand would take him a few miles along this route until he reached the turn off to the Captain's residence. Begin a sea captain, he rarely used the path himself as he had his own skiff moored at the jetty at the end of his property, but his servants used it so Kip was certain that the path would be obvious once he reached it. But there were so many distractions for a young lad along the way, and Kip was a very unusual young lad!
Before he’d reached the top of the hill he’d picked up a stick and his imagination had taken over his mind. This was going to be a real adventure for a real knight who was going to achieve great deeds for his lord and king - which to his expansive mind was his Dad.
Heading off into the bush, the path ran along the higher ground where the sunlight played with the gossamer of a million spiders webs that decked just about every bush and plant along the way. Slashing away at them as if they were fairy shields Kip had fought several battles before he spied a Djidi Djidi further into the bush. It was Wudjadi, one of the blackest hearted birds ever to be blessed with feathers. If Kip thought he was going to have fun with him, then Wudjadi had other plans.
He hopped and skipped around, flew into a bush near kip and fixed him with his beady black eye and then fluttered onto another bush deeper into the wooded area. A large spiders web loomed menacingly nearby with its owner tensing the strings of its sticky net. Kip had walked into many of such similar webs in his short time in the colony and knew how strong they were.
The young knight grinned. “I’m coming to rescue you young damsel” he shouted and headed off into the scrub, slashing his magic stick this way and that, making several spidery dragons homeless as he went.
Wudjadi flew further and further into the dense scrub until Kip lost all sense of where he was.
As the sun reached high into the sky everywhere became hotter and hotter and Kip was overcome with an unnatural tiredness. “This dragon slaying is hard work” he smiled to himself. Looking around for shelter he spied a giant log, hollowed out by the ages and so big that it could accommodate the frame of a young lad in need of shelter from the midday heat. “Wow, a magical cave. I bet there’s some treasure in there” and he climbed inside.
Maybe it was a combination of his recent dragon slaying plus the oppressive heat of noon and the buzzing of busy insects that made Kip fall immediately into a deep sleep. Or maybe it was the malign magic of the little hairy men, but whatever it was, Kip didn’t noticed two yellow eyes at the far end of the log which belonged to old man brown snake.
Old man snake was cold. It was still early spring, and the nights in the bush remained really cold despite the daytime sunshine. The sound of Kip climbing into the log had disturbed his slumber so his head was still foggy and slow. Instead of something to attack, all he saw was a warmer, softer spot to carry on his hibernation so he slithered under Kips back and rested his sleepy head on the boys lap before heading back to dream land.
That’s how Magpie found them and hour later.
“Odd” he thought to himself. He was on the verge of letting forth a melodious carol when he thought better of it. “Very odd” he thought again, and flew off.
I was down at the Whadjuk encampment with my friend Maali. She’s a really kind girl who rescued me when one of those settlers cats almost ate me alive. Whenever I see cats now I dart as far away as I can. Too many of my friends have disappeared since those fierce felines arrived for it to be a just a coincidence.
Magpie swooped down and was hopping towards us when he stopped and eyed the ground. He looked up at me and then down at the ground. He was about to speak when he hopped forward once more and stared at the ground again. I knew he was listening for grubs, but I thought he might want to tell me something too. A ready made meal was too much for him and he speared that beak of his into the ground and proudly produced a wriggling white grub which he polished off in a flash.
“Lunch” I suggested?
“Snake” he replied.
“Looked like a grub to me” I replied cheekily.
“Log” he said eyeing the ground once more.
“Even for a big Maggie like you I suspect that a log would be a tad indigestible.”
“Are you being cheeky or just stupid.”
The tone which he’d adopted caused me to stop and think.
Maali interjected. “Hi Magpie. How are you? Have you seen a snake in a log” she asked her wide brown eyes widening in her brown face and foreshadowing a beautiful smile that would melt the heart of the most dark hearted of feathery friends.
Magpie gave me a withering look before replying, “Boy asleep in hollow log. Old man snake asleep on boy in hollow log. I thought I should tell someone.”
“Oh you’re a clever bird” she said. I gotta give it to the girl, she could wind Magpie around her little finger. “Where are they?”
“Follow me bird brain” he said to me and who was I to deny him?
“Come back straight away to get me Djidi” she said.
“Will do Maali. Thank you.”
Magpie took off and I followed. The log was only half a mile off but it was at the top of the cliff so by the time I’d been back for Maali and she’d climbed up and found him a good hour had passed. Luckily they were both still fast asleep.
“What do we do now” I asked in terror - snakes do that to me.
Maali laughed. Squatting down on her haunches she paused to look at Kips face and every so gently traced her fingers over his brow. Then she reached in and firmly grasped old man snake by the neck and slowly lifted him out of the log. Even though his mind was thick with sleep, he was still grumpy that he’d been disturbed for the second time on one day.
“Sshh old man” she soothed him, “I know a really good place for you to spend the rest of your winter.” She carried him off deep into the bush talking to him softly all the way. I had no intention of following them just in case old brown snake decided it was time for a midnight snack of something with feathers on!
Maali reappeared and went over to the log. She plucked a frond from a grass tree and lightly traced it along his arm. In his slumber Kip reached across with his other arm and scratched the area. Next she tickled his leg ever so gently and he repeated his gesture. Just as she was about to do the same with the tip of his nose, she paused and withdrew. “He’s going to wake up in a minute, I’d better go Djidi” she said, and she slipped off into the bush as quietly as a shadow.
I stood there watching, occasionally being distracted by midges which had already noted that the air was cooling. They’re quite tasty really.
Kip stirred and stretched. Tumbling out of the log, he sat up, gathered the boots which he’d slept on, and without a second thought retraced his steps to the path and continued his journey.
I followed him at a distance and within minutes he had found another magical sword and continued his battle with the fabled dragons lurking on wither side of his path. If I’d seen one shadow of Wudya, I’d have given him a piece of my mind - but there was no sign of that bad bird.
When he reached the turn off, he paused, looked all around him and then headed off down the path. I waited until he got to Captain Taylor’s place in the safe hands of his maid servant Mary. She and I were old friends, and if I’d visited her too often, I doubt my wings would have enough power to give me flight. She was a very generous young soul. She was from Ireland and missed her family terribly.
Little did I know that Mary was going to play a key role in the adventure.