New Dawn New Life

 Two of Ten Chapters

Kaz slept with one eye open all night, before dropping off just before dawn.  His first awareness of the new day was the welcome warmth of the rising sun filtering through the branches.  Still groggy and half asleep the heat felt good on his back, seeping through to his stiff old bones. 

‘It is quiet, far too quiet,’ he thought.  Crows are noisy birds, always noisy, unless they are up to something.  He still had his eyes closed, but could feel himself being watched.  Staying stalk still, first he opened one eye, and then the other.  Yes, they were watching him, but no longer from the corral.  They had moved, and were now all perched on the rusty guttering of the old station house, just above the dingo mother and her brood.  A dozen or more, all lined up along the gutter waiting their chance to drop down and snatch as many pups as they could in the confusion of the moment.  His first thought was to cry out and alert his new friend, but if they attacked at that moment, she still may lose a couple of pups in the mayhem that would surely follow.

‘Stealth, my dear chap,’ he told himself.  ‘If I can’t outwit a few mangy crows then my name is not  Kaz the Wise One’.  He chuckled to himself and flew off towards the water trough. He filled his beak and casually threw hid head back, as if the whole situation was nothing to do with him.  He took off, quickly gaining height, and flying directly into the rising sun.  He knew the crows would be watching him, but would soon lose sight of him in the glare of the sun.  When he was sure they had lost him in the haze he tipped his wings northwards, and began losing height.  He traded altitude for speed and came in low and fast behind the station house.  He just cleared the eaves of the building, and zeroed in on the biggest ugliest crow he could find.  Kaz hit him with such force and surprise that the crow dropped like a stone in a cloud of feathers.  Before the first crow even hit the ground he went for the next in line.  Talons outstretched he dug them into its feathers.  Kaz could feel his claws pierce all the way the scrawny wing.  Feathers were flying everywhere, mostly black ones, and the noise of the remaining flock as it took off in mass panic was enough to wake the dead.  Kaz let go of his stricken opponent who somehow managed to drunkenly follow his cowardly companions.  Kaz burst into the mocking laughing song only a kookaburra can make.  Feeling pleased with himself, he flew back up into his tree to survey what was now undoubtedly his little domain. 

‘And that’s the last we will see of them’. He said looking down at his new wards. 

The two main participants of this mini drama being played out  miles from anywhere in the middle of the Australian outback never spoke to each other.  After all, traditionally they regarded each other as foe (one a hunter, the other potential prey), although it was extremely unlikely that the dingo had ever seen a kookaburra before, let alone heard its comic laughing call.  This was not a natural habitat for Kaz or any of his kind.  Kaz on the other hand, had on many occasions observed dingoes, usually in packs and up to some mischief or another.  Man had even gone to the extraordinary lengths of building the longest fence in the world; over five thousand five hundred kilometres long, clean across the country, just to keep the dingoes out of New South Wales.  They had also placed a bounty on their head

(‘Wanted Dead or Alive’).  All because of the menace they mistakenly perceived them to be.  True dingoes were natural predators, but for the most part the stayed well clear of man and his guns.     

Mother and pups were all wide-awake now, not that mum had much chance to get any rest with nine hungry pups to feed.  They gave her very little peace.  Still blind, little brown balls of fluff, pushing, shoving and even climbing over each other to launch themselves at the first available exposed space.  Noisy too with low grunts and squeaks until they finally latched on to a vacant teat.  Mum moved them around to try and make sure that each got its fair share, an almost impossible task with nine busy, near identical bodies to care for.  Kaz wondered again about her predicament, what had happened to separate her from the pack and cast her here in this isolated spot.  He knew, as she must, that it was not safe here.  The water trough was a magnet for all kinds of creatures for miles around, even man.  He glanced apprehensively again towards the west, and then back towards the new mother and her offspring.  She truly was a beautiful dog.  Golden in colour, sun like, with a fleck of black running down the length of her sleek back to her tail which was slightly bushy, and tipped with white.  Her ears were long and pointed, always upright and focused forward, but could swivel independently in any direction to pick up the slightest sound, no matter which direction it came from.  Her eyes were dark brown with short golden lashes and surrounded with an almost black rim that only served to enhance her stunningly regal appearance, more at home in the royal household of an Egyptian queen. 

‘The Queen of Sheba’, he mused to himself, and her entire underside from the tip of her mouth, down across her strong broad chest to the very end of her tail was pure white.

As he admired the lines and colour of the dog, Kaz noticed that one of the pups was not getting her fair share of milk. Number nine he called her, the last one to be born. Numbering them was the only way he could come close to individually identifying the puppies.  Being the last one to arrive she had been slightly smaller than her brothers, but now with the lack of her mothers nourishing milk the difference was more noticeable.  She looked weaker too, unable to compete so vigorously for her place at a teat.  Almost immediately he could see the problem.  There are nine pups, but only eight teats, and her greedy insatiable siblings were almost permanently latched on to one of them. 

‘This is serious,’ he thought. ‘What to do?’  He ruffled feathers and perched on one leg, while scratching the back of his head with the other, contemplating the problem.  The mother dingo didn’t seem to be aware of the problem. 

Perhaps she was confused with so many mouths to feed, or maybe now just too exhausted.  Kaz dropped to the ground about ten feet from the feeding pups.  He walked back and forward trying to make up his mind what to do next.  Still no sign of aggression from the mother dingo, she simply twisted her head from side to side, looking more puzzled than annoyed.  Kaz moved in closer, all the time watching for her reaction.  He tried to talk to her, to explain his concern for her last born, but she did not seem to understand.  She did understand, but what Kaz could not know was that a fall as a pup had damaged her throat and left her unable to communicate vocally.  He moved in closer until he was almost touching the pups.  Still not the slightest sign of aggression, on the contrary, she showed complete trust in him.  He could hear a low purr from her open mouth, the only sound she was capable of making, but somehow reassuring to Kaz. 

‘Here goes,’ he thought as he reached forward with his long powerful beak, and gently pulled the plumpest pup from the largest nipple.  The only reaction from mum was that of discomfort as the disgruntled little sucker refused to let go.  She helped by pulling away, leaving the ravenous little fellow suspended and yelping from the end of Kaz’s long beak.  The other pups were all busy nuzzling at their feeding stations.  As a gesture of good faith Kaz placed the suspended pup down by its mothers nose, where she would be reassured that no harm had befallen him.  He then placed number nine on the now vacant nipple, her little jaws latched on instinctively, and she began to suck for all she was worth.  Kaz looked back at mum for her reaction, which left him in no doubt that she was extremely grateful for his assistance. 

Pleased with himself he puffed out his chest, and stood guard to ensure that his tiny ward was not dislodged from her feast.  Kaz stayed at his post until all had had their fill, one by one almost in a heap on top of one another, they drifted into a deep lazy sleep.

By now the sun was high in the sky and about as hot as it could get.  Still at his station Kaz looked on as mum gently eased away from the pups, stood up and stretched her aching joints.  She came over to Kaz, first sniffing to get his scent, and then gently rubbing the side of her face along his beak and face.  Somehow at that moment Kaz knew that this was the only way she could communicate with him, but the feeling that this gesture gave him was much more than any words could have.  As she headed to the trough for a well-deserved drink, Kaz flew back up to his branch, and somewhat overcome settled down once again to watch over the sleeping pups.

By late afternoon just when the sun was beginning its slow descent from the heavens the pesky crows started to return and roost in the highest branches of the coolabah tree.  Kaz puffed his feathers and spread his wings in a gesture of defiance and warning to the raven flock. 

‘I am still here he,’ called out in a cheeky melodious, but defiant warning, then settled back down on his branch to continue his vigil.  The crows answered his warning with noisy squawks, but made no attempt to come any closer than the collective safety of their rookery.  Kaz watched as they posted their lookouts, one on top of the old station house and another high up on the old rickety windmill. 

He looked back at the domestic scene below to satisfy himself that all was well, then flew down from his sentry branch and perched on the rim of the water trough, he filled his beak with the cool clear water, and threw his head back to let it trickle down his parched throat.  He hated to admit it to himself, but he was glad to see the return of the crows.  It had been a long hot eventful day, and even although he revelled in his self appointed position as protector to the dingo mother and her new family, he was tired and desperately in need of a good long well earned nap.  Unwittingly the rookery, and its lookouts would squawk a warning long before any potential danger became an imminent threat.  Refreshed and feeling a lot more secure in his task, the weary old kookaburra spread his wings once more and took to the sky for a last look around his domain.  With one eye still on the crows and the other on the rugged land below, he circled the abandoned cattle station before gliding back to his perch in the eucalyptus tree and settling down for the night. 

With heavy eyes he looked back down at the nursing mother and her litter of pups below.  The nine pups never seemed to give their mother any rest, always jostling and crying, some, the more aggressive dominant pups even managed a low growl for their favourite feeding spot.  Still number nine was not getting her fair share of her mother’s milk, and he watched with mounting concern as time and again she was bullied away by the other pups. 

The Queen of Sheeba, as he liked to think of the mother dingo, kept picking up the hungry pup and placing her at a vacant teat, but every time she would be pushed away by another hungry sibling.  Already number nine was noticeably smaller and weaker than her brothers. 

“She is the runt of the litter,” thought Kaz to himself shaking his head in frustration. 

“She won’t survive,” he told himself sadly, and yet she is the most beautiful of all the pups. With her yellow golden colour, and white chest that ran clear down to the tip of her tail, and her tiny legs were golden, but with four white socks.  Her feet were large, as were all puppies’ at first, and then he noticed one black toenail, whereas all the rest were pink, this one nail on the outside of her left paw was jet black and those big pointy ears, my were her ears big, and stuck straight up just like her mother’s. 

“She is special, Princess Sheeba,” he said aloud and saw the Queen of Sheeba looking up at him, tilting her head in curious response to his sudden outburst.  

“That’s what I will call her, “Sheeba!  Sheeba,” he said again, this time looking directly at the hungry pup.  He spread his wings and glided down from his perch and landing right next to Sheeba, he picked her up in his pointy beak and found her a vacant teat.  This time he would stand guard and make sure she had her fair share.  He puffed up his chest feathers, and snapped his beak a few times in a noisy vocal warning to the other pups.  He looked at the Queen for a sign of her approval, which was plainly evident in her eyes.  He even thought he could see a smile of acceptance. 

“Don’t worry,” he said, “Kaz the wise one is here.”  And there he stayed until Sheeba’s eyes slowly closed in gluttonous fatigue, and weighed down by her bulging belly fell away from her mother’s life giving breast.  Kaz looked around, it was well after dark now and all the pups were sound asleep, even the Queen of Sheeba had succumbed and was snoring gently.  He flew back up to his sentry perch and started to think of eight other names, but the task was too much even for Kaz the wise one, within seconds he was fast asleep.

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