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Kangaroos - The 100 Days Project: Day 18 [83]

The Gauntlet

Photo: David Brooks

A friend to whom I was describing this project a few days ago told me of a time he and another had been working out in the forest in the south-west of Western Australia. My friend, the poet Andrew Burke, had injured himself somehow and his friend had driven him up the long drive-way of the property to the main road and into town, where he could get treatment. It was dusk, he said, and all the way up the long, rough drive were kangaroos, lining the edges of the track, watching the car go by. The image – a gauntlet of kangaroos – reminded me of a similar scene described to me by another friend, the poet/writer Michael Crane, in an email recently. I’m sure he won’t mind if I quote him verbatim:

Ten years ago I went to a music gig with my friend Chris Wilson at Hepburn Springs. At 12.30 pm we were driving from Hepburn to Geelong and there wasn’t much lighting and the speed limit was 80 km. Along the side of the road the lights from the car shone on kangaroos waiting to jump into the lights. I counted 6 pairs of eyes over a distance of 400 metres. We slowed the car down to 20 kms and up ahead about two hundred meters there was a large lump on the road. When we were fifty yards away, Chris told me to get out to see what it was. When I walked up to it, it turned out to be a big granddaddy koala the size of a large wombat. I called out to it and made large stomping sounds and he slowly and nonchalantly walked off the road onto the side. I could hear my friend Chris laughing out loud. The koala made a loud snorting sound and walked off into the bushes.

There will be many of my readers who have seen something similar – a line of kangaroos along the road, watching the cars go by. It’s not a gauntlet, of course, and, although one must slow right down and move past very carefully, and be prepared for them to be suddenly frighted – although they may be there with the intent of crossing the road (the makers of roads don’t pay much attention to the highways of the ’roos) – they are not there with the intent of jumping in front of the car.

Kangaroos are crepuscular animals – crepuscular and nocturnal: most active at dawn and dusk, and in the hours between. And the sides of roads, where the earth has been disturbed (in the road’s construction) and there are very likely ditches to receive run-off (the road’s surface is often constructed so that rain runs off towards the sides), are very often the location of some of the tenderest grass: particularly in dry areas, where there has been recent rain. It’s not the cars the ’roos are there for, but the grass. Only we can make sure it doesn’t come at an awful price.

Drive carefully in the country this holiday season. Try to avoid driving at all at dawn or dusk. If you have to travel then, reduce your speed, keep an eye out for ’roos and wallabies on the road-sides, give yourself plenty of time to stop. Don’t arrive for you Christmas dinner with a death on your hands.

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