We’re enjoying a billy, Sherly and me
By the side of the dam under a kurrajong tree.
Cockatoos screeching and dropping down bits
As they flap and they feed in the eucalypts.
Sherly points at a movement nearby
A train of echidnas trundle merrily by.
Then a shriek jolts us both to our feet
Over the noise of the cockatoos’ feast.
As we race to Matt’s house on the edge of town,
Sherly pulls his stockman’s hat down.
‘Ah! Sherly! Watto! There you are!
I was making some jam, but ran out of jars.
Ducked out to get some, came back to this mess-
Jam on the floor and the house full of pests.
What’ll I do?’ he cried in despair
“The missus home soon and ants everywhere!”
We follow him in to check out the digs
It looks like it’s been lived in by pigs.
Saucepans, utensils all over the floor
Ants on the table and benches and more.
I reach up to a cupboard over the hob
But as I shut it my hand sticks to the knob.
I take a cloth and wipe it all clear
“Didn’t think you had sheep; why are these bottle teats here?”
Before he responds, Sherly gives up a shout
“That’s it, Watto! I’ve figured it out!”
He’s standing in the hallway towards the back
With a draught blowing through that near knocks off his hat.
“Tell me, Matt, you ever bottle-fed a roo?
Yes? Then, you know what happened, don’t you?”
Matt and I exchange a bewildered gaze.
Sherly sighs and elucidates.
“Looks like you’ve been doing some washing in here;
Opened the door to let it all air?
Your joey- now grown up a little bit,
Saw the laundry door open and thought
Jumped up on the bench where his old bottles were,
But on the way he bumped your preserve.
Must’ve given him a fright, he jumped all around-
Eh Watto? that’s the sticky prints you found-
Crashed into some things along the way,
Leaving your kitchen in this disarray.
Then out the back the way he came.
It’s simple, he shrugs as he explains.
“Well, Sherl, that’s great, but- one more thing!
I need the ants gone ‘fore the missus gets in!”
‘Ah, now you just leave it to us.’
And with a tip of his stockman’s, he dashed out the house.
I followed him down to where we’d began
“Sherly, what are we doing back here by the dam?”
But he doesn’t answer, just searches around
Past the cockies throwing gumnuts onto the ground.
‘Til, finally, he reaches a spot in the grass
“Ah, here they are, Watto! Found ‘em at last.”
The echidna train is still lumbering on
With careful steps, we guide them along.
‘Til they reach the teeming ant-filled house
Wind round the legs of the anxious spouse.
We watch for a while, as they snuffle inside
“There you go, mate.” Sherly puffs up with pride.
I turn to face him, and punch his arm
“Look at that teamwork. Worked like a charm.
Maybe we could make something of this sleuthing thing
“Consultant detectives- give us a ring.”
A silver car starts to come up the road
We suddenly decide it’s time to go.
We race to the dam as it turns in the gate.
“’Nother cuppa, Sherly?” “Love one, mate.”
By Jay and Wendy Richards