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September 25, 2002
Yackandandah: march of the lone echidna
Yackandandah is in north eastern Victoria. It has a population of about 700, a figure which, as far as I know, doesn't include wildlife.
Yesterday, for reasons that have remained a mystery, an echidna walked all the way up the main street.
A brief note for those people who don't know what an echidna is. It's a kind of Australian hedgehog. It's a little bigger, and a lot shyer.
The echidna's main survival strategy is to get out of the way. It goes through life hoping to be left alone. To help it achieve this aim it moves quietly and looks incredibly well-armoured. It has long, sharp quills, and a body that will happily curl up until an attacker dies of boredom.
The irony is that nothing in Australia poses a serious threat to it. With one possible exception: traffic. Luckily, Yackandandah is a comparative stranger to traffic. Its main street stretches from a stone bridge to the Post Office, a distance of several hundred yards. And the echidna walked this distance in the middle of the road. It walked past the bakery, the newsagent, and both pubs.
And no one noticed.
Until it got to the Post Office, when Darkling, one of the local residents, spotted it. He decided that it'd lost its mind, and needed help. He also came to the conclusion that having a confused echidna wander around the main street was dangerous. Dangerous to the echidna, that is.
Darkling therefore sprang into action. He tried to convince the echidna that a nearby garden was a more desirable place. The echidna didn't believe him. Yackandandah became the scene of:
Darkling vs. A Confused Echidna
Darkling's first tried using his foot to gently guide the echidna in the direction of the gate. The echidna immediately adopted its main defensive strategy. It curled up into a ball, and looked pointy.
"Right," said Darkling, and tried to think of another approach.
At this point another local arrived. She'd just finished work, and she worked as a gardener. She had every kind of gardening tool with her. "Do you have a sack?" asked Darkling. "Yes I do," said the gardener, "and I'm going to be very interested to see what you do with it."
Armed with a sack, Darkling approached the echidna again. The sack offered considerable protection from the quills, but that's all it did.
"Right," said Darkling, and looked around for more inspiration.
"Do you have a shovel?" he asked of the gardener. "Yes I do," said the gardener, "but I'll stand by with the sack, just in case."
Darkling then tried to get the shovel under the echidna's feet. The echidna responded by planting its feet firmly on the pavement, and refused to be budged.
By this time, Darkling was starting to become a trifle annoyed. So he doubled his effort. He redoubled his already doubled effort, and then he redoubled that. Then he added the first number he thought of, and multiplied it by a factor of pi.
It all added up to a lot of effort. Seconds ticked by. Minutes ticked by. He eventually succeeded in getting the shovel under the echidna's feet. He hoisted the echidna a few inches into the air, and the echidna responded by immediately falling off.
"Nice try," said the gardener. "You nearly had him there."
The battle continued, and eventually Darkling finally got the echidna through the gate. It was no longer in danger from cars, and could now explore a lovely garden.
Which, of course, it didn't do. Instead, it scurried forward and leant against a highly visible spot of wall. It completely ignored the parts of the garden it could hide in, and pretended to be invisible. It sat in the most conspicuous place available until everyone got bored and wandered away.
"Maybe that's how they express gratitude," said the gardener, holding the empty sack.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 07:57 AM in the Animals category | Comments (11)
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