Delightful Dave has been begging me to write this tale as it is his favourite story of my childhood. I ask you read and wonder. Is DD really as sweet as he appears?
I have always loved animals. What is not to love? They are always pleased to see you, shower you with affection and are never judgemental. Thelma Louise can be an exception. Swotting mosquitos leads to accusing looks of total disgust. While driving one must not curse or raise an eyebrow, this can lead to an eye roll second only to Julie Bishop facing Joe Hockey's rear end. Thelma may well be the first Pomeranian with Buddhist leanings.
I digress. Back to the tale. Picture little preppie Pete sitting on the swing at Mother of God primary school ( affectionately known as MOG ). Suddenly I spot a baby magpie sitting ruffled amongst the leaves of a fallen branch. My animal rescue senses tingled with anticipation. Too late, playtime was over and Miss Reiner deaf to my pleas of immediate rescue directed us back to class. It did not pay to mess with Miss R, she once put Andrew Rudenicky into a matchbox (please request the story of my first day of school to hear the graphic details of this event).
I dallied through the rest of the afternoon waiting desperately for the afternoon bell (a habit that was to continue for the next twelve years). Finally I escape the clutches of higher learning i.e. finger painting and dash out to resume operation baby magpie rescue. I searched high and low, not a beady eye or a feather to be seen. Saddened. I head for home. Our faithful border collie cross Nicky was patiently waiting for me at the gate and escorted me the fifty metres to our door.
That night tucked up in my bed a brilliant plan was hatched, that baby magpie would be mine. Soon it would be sitting on my shoulder creating hilarious family memories as it imitated mother Patty's most famous disciplinary squawks "Get to the bathroom and wait for your father to get home", "I'll call the Burwood Boys Home", " Sargent Walrus is that you?" "Yes, you can come and collect them now" Listening to my imitation of a magpie doing a Patty, so called Delightful Dave informs me that he used to play this same cruel trick on his darling little twin brothers. Have I found my mother in my partner? (Goodness that does sound a tad inappropriate!)
Back to the plan, the magpie baby and I would be friends forever (the collection of odd friends would become a habit that I would embrace for a lifetime) but first I must rescue him. I planned a predawn raid. Getting up early was easy for me then. If it timed it right there was always the chance the milkman would let me ride on his cart behind his trusty steed ( I really am that old) and there was always the pleasure of "helping" Dad light the morning fire. I am sure my little bliss Trishy and I were a great assistance in this ritual of lighting the briquette heater.
But this morning I must leave the house before even Dad was up. I set my internal alarm and in the dim predawn light I sprung from my bed fully clad in my flannel pajamas, slippers and woolen checkered dressing gown with matching belt. I had gone to bed prepared and even then I was quite a style icon (ha ha). Odd as it may seem this was to be the first time that I left our house to wander down the street alone in the dark and I briefly questioned the soundness of my plan, but a life must be saved!
The poplar trees across the road, at the state school had never looked so immense and forbidding. Clinging bravely to my side of the street, I shuffled ( a slipper related gait) past Dan and Betty's house, past their weird neighbours to stand by the rosemary hedge of the church to gaze at my final destination and marshall my courage.
MOG was bathed in an eerie predawn light. The massive gums towered over the cluster of buildings and whispered menacingly as I approached, mounting the bluestones steps I manfully negotiated the main path to the playground. A desperate search ensues but there is no baby magpie to be found, my little heart breaks.
A frightening screech shatters the silence. I have been spotted by an extremely angry and vengeful mother magpie. Too late, I turn and run. Thwack I cop a wing to head, I scream and continue to run as if my life depends on it. Thwack once again her aim is perfect. I am about to die! Run little Preppie Pete run. More scared than I have even been in my short life I wonder in my terror, why me? Surely she could sense I was trying to rescue her baby!
I clear the gate, scramble down the steps and run. With slippers slipping and dressing gown flapping I fly like the wind. The screeching intensifies, by this point I am probably outdoing the mother magpie by ten decibels to one.. I will never make it. The distance is too great. Who will break the news to my family?
At last, with one final slap with her beak the mother magpie abandons her attack. I am home. 13 Robinhood Road East Ivanhoe, a sanctuary for many a child and even more animals. The count at this stage was nine children, one dog, one cat "mummy" and her numerous kittens, thirty two chooks, twenty pidgeons, numerous budgies, two guinea pigs and a rabbit. In my family the love of animals was a bit of a trait, and pets do make a family.
Afterword : To this day I have no memory of my homecoming on this fateful day. I put this down to my dad, a man who understood why a small boy would leave the house in the dark to rescue a magpie. I later discovered that Father Fen, our parish priest had dispatched the baby magpie so that's it's parents would not harm my fellow precious students. I have no idea why he did not consider that his actions may have subjected me to extreme peril! He was a nice enough old chap, but in light of all that went on I was never again amused by his "watch me pull the end off my thumb" trick again.
After the Afterword: I now reiterate, that is so called Delightful Dave's favourite story of my childhood, and tears of laughter run down his face as I retell of my terror. Sweet? I do wonder.