He may exist on nuts and berries, Or then again on missionaries

Max stared at the hole in the fence. He was a bit too fat to dive through, as most mildly spoilt Labradors are, but he knew as well as I did…Wombat!

We live in south-eastern Australia, well south of Melbourne, just across Bass Strait from Tasmania. This is the best time of the year, cold, wind blowing off the Antarctica, log fire, you get the idea. But work still needs to be done around the few acres. Max comes along too. He’s there not so much to protect or help but to while away the time between meals. Did I say he was a Labrador?

Anyhow, we were down in the bottom paddock and there it was. Right through the fence. The size and distinctive droppings gave it away. Wombats do that. They dig and burrow and are pretty big, about a meter long. And like other marsupials around here, beautiful animals that you don’t touch, should you ever meet one. Long sharp claws, monster teeth, and a strong body will guarantee an injury. They are usually very slow, hence when an Aussie refers to someone as a wombat it’s generally taken as less than a compliment. But over a short distance, if needed, they can belt along at a great rate. And like their closest relative here, the koala, not cuddly at all. We get a few koalas too, they are mostly stoned on the eucalypt, but their distinctive grunts are heard on occasional nights. And the kangaroo, last of this marsupial trio, well, we are semi-rural, so only see one a year. Max tried to chase one last year but we managed to grab the dog and the roo hopped away. Kangaroos will belt the proverbial out of a dog or man, and in the bush they will lure a dingo into water, then grab him and hold him under water till he drowns. Yep, they are all georgous creatures, we love them. We get a lot of echidnas, monotremes that lay eggs and suckle young, like the platypus. Max knows about them, once he stuck his nose too close and got spiked with one of those quills, he steers clear now.

So, Maxie lay down and watched while I fixed the hole in the fence. I knew Ogden Nash had something to say about wombats, couldn’t remember what it was, all I recalled from his poetry was “A bit of talcum is always walcum’ probably because I was sweating after an hour or so. Back in the warm house I

Australian Wombat, public access, Wikipedia Commons

found my old copy of “Candy is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash” and there it was on page 46: “The wombat lives across the seas, Among the far Antipodes. He may exist on nuts and berries, or then again, on missionaries; His distant habitat precludes Conclusive knowledge of his moods. But I would not engage the wombat In any form of mortal combat”.

I read it aloud as Max fell asleep on the floor. It had been a hard day.

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