Every school morning Kate would ride bare back to school on her pony, Goldie. Goldie would graze with Ned’s horse in the paddock next to Molyullah Primary School until the children ran out at the end of the day, free again for a few hours until it was time to do their chores.The children always rode home chatting about the day until they reached a valley with a long straight stretch of pasture. Kate would give Goldie a nudge with her heels and Goldie would pick up speed, galloping happily alongside Ned’s pony until they reached the bend just before Dr Henry’s Gully.
Dr Henry’s Gully is a sheltered grassy corner bordering on a creek bed and rocky, gum treed hills. The children would sometimes surprise a group of grey kangaroos; an echidna, or a sleepy old wombat there.
One afternoon they were very excited to catch sight of a little black faced wallaby hopping away from them through the rocks up the hill.Over the next few days, when they reached Dr Henry’s Gully the wallaby would hop quickly away as soon as she saw them. After a few months the wallaby didn’t run away quite as quickly and often seemed to be waiting for them to arrive. They loved seeing her there.
Some months later when they turned the corner into the gully they saw some rabbits, but the wallaby was nowhere to be seen. They were quite disappointed. The next day when they rode around the corner, they saw the sleepy old wombat, but they couldn’t see the little black faced wallaby anywhere. This went on for over a week – they saw three kangaroos, a huge lizard in a tree, they even saw two young deer; and of course the very sleepy old wombat who lived in a cave he’d burrowed in the side of the creek. Two weeks went by and there was still no sign of the wallaby. They were very, very worried about her.
A large 4WD ute outside the house with two large rifles in the back was parked outside the house when they set Goldie free in the paddock after getting home from school a day or two later. A visitor was sitting at the kitchen table. Who was this man, and why did he have guns in his ute?
Their mother introduced him, “Ned and Kate, this is Bill Fox, who everyone calls “the wild dog man”. He’s been in the bush hunting wild dogs which have been attacking baby calves and lambs near Dr Henry’s Gully."
The children looked at one another, wide eyed. Kate turned to the wild dog man. “Mr Fox, did you see a black faced wallaby in the rocks near Dr Henry’s Gully?” They looked thoughtfully at Mr Fox, scared that he would give them bad news.
“No Kate, but wallabies are very shy. She probably became frightened at the sound of the guns and hopped away to find somewhere safer to live”.
Months later, during the spring school holidays, Kate and Ned asked their mother if they could walk to Lex's Falls a few kilometres away. It had been raining and they’d heard there was water rushing over the falls into Sam’s Creek.
“Yes, you can go”, said their mother, adding, “I think I’ll come too. It’s such a beautiful spring day”.
They walked through gum tree lined Sam’s Creek valley along a path animals used to get to the water hole at the bottom of the waterfall. They scrambled across rocks, sometimes stumbling, until they came to the bend just before the falls. They could hear the sound of water tumbling down the rocks. Just as they turned the corner, Ned turned around and said to them quietly, ‘Shhh…. Shhh….there’s a wallaby in the rocks!’
They tip-toed towards the rocky waterfall where a little black faced wallaby was quietly standing, watching them, just as the wallaby had come to do at Dr Henry’s Gully before hopping away. She waited, looking at them for a few seconds, before hopping up the rocky bank beside the waterfall, out of sight. Kate looked at Ned, “Ned, I think that’s the wallaby from Dr Henry’s Gully, don’t you?”Ned said “I think it is! I think it is!” They both looked very relieved!
Suddenly their mother exclaimed, ‘’Did you notice something different about the little wallaby?” “No”, they said in unison. Their mother looked at them with a big smile on her face and said ‘She had a joey in her pouch!”
Kate laughed. “Next time I see him I’ll tell the sleepy old wombat at Dr Henry’s Gully we found the black faced wallaby near the waterfall, and that she has a joey to keep her company!
Bev Lee, October 2015
Photo Attribution: "Swamp-Wallaby-Feeding-3,-Vic,-Jan.2008" by jjron - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Swamp-Wallaby-Feeding-3,-Vic,-Jan.2008.jpg#/media/File:Swamp-Wallaby-Feeding-3,-Vic,-Jan.2008.jpg
Photo of Waterfall: Collection of the writer.
*The wallaby was probably a Swamp wallaby, with the dark to black back and face of Swamp Wallabies in the southern parts of Australia. Although named the Swamp wallaby, they are also found in rocky, hilled areas. In northern parts of Australia the Swamp Wallaby is redder in colour than in the south. A starting Reference: Fact Sheet #67 – The Swamp Wallaby (http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet67.htm . accessed 3/10/2015)
**Rock wallabies are now apparently very rare in North East Victoria.
*This is the edited, post sharing version of the original story - it doesn't have 24 'little''s in it any more; as described in an earlier blog. It's still much more than 500 words - but I didn't have the heart to cut it down.