Our Small Friends - Part 2
John Stone and I were going to the Loyalty theatre at Ferntree Gully; walking as usual. I had found a huge colony of blue tongue lizards in the bank between the Puffing Billy line and the main road, about halfway to Ferntree Gully. I had always thought that blue tongue lizards were a solitary animal, and this group surprised me a bit. John too, thought as I did, so we walked the puffing billy line to have a look. In an area of about one hundred yards, in the steep cliff between the line and the road were a lot of small caves. Something like a high-rise apartment building. There lived hundreds of blue tongue lizards. We sat on the rocks halfway up the cliff and watched them for a while. John told me of an article he had read in a nature book. It described in detail how to hypnotise any lizard or snake. We talked it over and decided to try it out on some blue tongue lizards.
When we got home after the matinee, we walked around the block and told everybody there would be an exhibition of hypnotism on lizards. The performance would start at 10.30 am next morning at the stone abode. So next morning at 7.30 am, armed with a large hessian bag, off we went. It was no trouble to catch the lizards, particularly early in the morning before they get the turbo warmed up. A quick grab behind the head, then hold the stubby little tail to keep them still and into the bag. Once in the bag, with no light they go quiet. We collected twenty. The hardest part of the whole exercise was carrying them home. They were heavy. We pulled an old weatherboard out from under the house and placed it on the driveway beside the house. With quite a good crowd of moms and children, we started. I opened the top of the bag and quickly grabbed a lizard. Holding it tight, upside down so John could tickle his stomach lightly with his fingers. I could feel the lizard slowly going stiff. After a minute, he was stiff as a steel poker. I held him up by his tail to show the audience. We had the whole twenty laid out on their backs on the weatherboard. About every ten minutes or so they needed about ten seconds tickling to keep them stiff. We passed a couple around for everyone to touch. All the littlies loved it but the moms looked a bit nervous about it all. The whole thing went off OK. After about an hour, we let them all wake up. First, they would move their toes, then legs and then swing over onto their stomachs. A shake of their heads and they slowly wandered off into the scrub.
On Sunday nights, there was a half-hour nature show on the radio. It was hosted by a Mr. Crosbie Morrison. A really interesting show to. John decided to write to Mr. Morrison, describing what we had done with the lizards. Well Mr. Morrison read John's letter on the radio a couple of weeks later. It was a big thrill for both of us and (we thought) it boosted our standing in the town for a couple of days. Though there was no mention of it at school. Perhaps Fitzy was paranoid about lizards.
Alan and I were up a Sherbrook forest about a month later. We had our own lunch and decided to follow the creek down to Micawber Park from the falls. The undergrowth was thick, so we walked the path for a while then cut into the creek. Just before the creek, we came across a beautiful little pool with reeds growing around the edges. We decided to have a look and in the reeds, we found some frogs. Very smart looking animals with light green bodies and yellow on the stomachs and inside of the legs. We just had to do something with these beautiful little animals. The paper bags that brought up our lunches took home fifteen of these beauties. There was no way to box them individually, so they would have to be a special gift for one of the girls that gave us the most trouble. Jane Gray had dobbed both of us in for different things over the past week. Jane won the nomination hands down. How do we organise a box that will fall open as soon as the string is untied? We experimented with a few different models. A cone-shaped box, like a large ice-cream cone worked best. Our cardboard was obtained from the incinerator behind the tuck-shop opposite the school. This was rolled and covered with pretty paper that Jenny, Alan's sister, gave us. Then a blue ribbon, donated by one of Alanís younger sister (she didn't know this). When the frogs were put in the wide end, the paper was wrapped over and tied with the ribbon. The ribbon then was the only thing that held it together. A piece of white paper folded in half would make a card to tie on the ribbon. Now we needed someone to write on the card. We couldn't go past Jenny. She thought this was very funny. 'To Jane with love.'
'Is this from the two of you?' She asked.
'Yes.' We replied. So she wrote on the card and walked off laughing fit to bust.
'She must be a good sort.' She sniggered.
But Jenny didn't know what the present was, did she?
Next morning I went to Alan's place early to make up the present. I had my rain-cape on so it was easy to conceal the box (about a foot long). We walked into our schoolroom and while Alan kept lookout, I slipped it into Janeís desk. It was an anti-climax after the lizards but it still wasn't too bad. Jane couldn't resist opening her present, while Fitzy was waffling on about nothing in particular; she was looking around the room, trying to see who her beau might be while untying the ribbon. All of a sudden, there were these frogs everywhere. A little bit of screaming from the ladies until they saw Fitzy's face. The boys though loved it, chasing frogs around the floor was much better than listening to Fitzy. He did not see the funny side. He stamped up and down every row, glaring at every boy, threatening terrible things to whoever was responsible for this. From then on, no one was allowed into school until ten minutes to nine, when a teacher was on duty to watch for 'sneaky, brainless miscreants' (Fitzy's wording).
John and I were out walking one day. We were passing the house on the corner of Mahoney Street and Glenfern Road. This house has a huge hedge in front and as we walked by something caught our eye. Laying under the hedge we found three large blocks of chocolate and (an odd combination) two bottles of sweet sherry. I could not even guess where they came from. But I knew where the chocolate should go, so we ate all the chocolate at one sitting (very nice too). But the sweet sherry, what should we do with that? One bottle was sealed; the other had about two inches out of it. A smell of the opened bottle convinced us that we shouldnít try it. We decided to go to my place and if we could catch Arnold, our cat, we might feed him a bit. A little sherry might help his disposition a bit. But when we got home, Arnold was not around. The Oliverís little dog 'Sally' was out too, probably with Reg and Tony. They could be anywhere. That was a bit of a blow to our plans so we went to John's house and sat on his front steps not knowing what to do next. We were idly watching Mrs. Stone's birdbath. Mrs. Stone was really keen on her birds and was very particular about keeping the birdbath full at all times. The Stone place was about one mile as the crow flies from the creek so a lot of birds were dependant on Mrs. Stone. We were watching the birds flying in and flying in and out when John said.
'Two bottles of sherry in the bird-bath should make a fairly strong brew.'
We bailed out some water to make room and poured in both bottles. Birds flew in OK but instead of flying out after a drink, quite a few dallied for a while. More and more came. Soon they were squawking and squabbling. Every now and then one would stagger around the edge of the bath and fall off. They would lay flat on their backs on the ground with their legs in the air, screaming their heads off. I am very glad that birds don't have pubs; they put up a terrible exhibition of fighting and squabbling. Not one of them was a happy drunk.
A couple of days later, John and I were in the Stone garage making up little wooden boats to sail in the creek. Mrs. Stone walked in and said.
'Have you boys noticed the strange behaviour of the birds lately?'
'No mom.' Says John and I shook my head.
'They are running around the garden. It looks like they are sick or something.'
So Mrs. Stone walked off with a worried look on her face, shaking her head. Two days of rain diluted the alcohol content a bit, so apart from a few hangovers the birds got back to normal. So did Mrs. Stone.