The Rescue

Three of Ten Chapters

Caw!  Caw!  Caw!  The warning cry of the crows shook Kaz from his peaceful slumber.  The sun was barely over the horizon, and its welcoming heat had not yet penetrated his thick downy feathers.  Like a jack-in-the-box his head popped up from his feathery crop. 

“What, what, what, what’s going on?” he called in panicked confusion.  His head and beak twisted left and right, almost doing a complete circle in each direction to find out what all the noise was about, but still he could see nothing, only hear the raucous noise of the crows.  Fearfully he looked down at the dingo and her pups, but all seemed well.  Still unable to see, the pups were too busy blindly searching around for a milky teat and breakfast to be bothered by their noisy neighbours, but their mother’s ears were alert, and Kaz could see the concern in her sallow dark eyes.  Reluctantly exposing himself, Kaz left the leafy seclusion of his eucalyptus tree and took to the sky to find out what all the ruckus was about. 

“Oh dear me no,” he said to himself, and there in the distance was the family of wild pigs he had seen only a couple of days before, and they were heading straight towards the station.  He knew the crusty old boar would not hesitate to chase off the mother dingo.  Even her sharp teeth would be no mach for his yellow thrashing tusks, and once defenceless with no mother to protect them, the pups would be no more than a tasty morsel for the boar and his marauding brood.

Kaz dove in low and with his talons outstretched beneath him he clapped his beak together and called out kookaburra- kookaburra- kookaburra, go-away go-away go-away, but the wild pigs paid him scant attention.  The grubby old boar lifted his menacing tusks skyward in a show of defiance, and stamped his sharp hooves in the dust.  By now they were only about five minutes away from the station. 

“I just have time to warn them,” he told himself, and took to the sky again, headed back to his helpless family.  Just before diving in low again over the station he spotted yet another dust cloud, a much bigger one way out towards the red parched shimmering horizon, but he had no time now to worry what it might be.  Whatever it was it could be no more threat than the scavenging pigs that were about to descend on the station.

“Hide-hide-hide,” he called as he swooped down and landed as close to the Queen of Sheeba as he could. 

“You must hide,” he said in panic.  His wings were flapping almost uncontrollably and he marched back and forward trying to make his mind up what to do next. 

    “The p-p-p-pigs, the pigs are coming,” he stuttered.  Up in their rookery the crows were just as noisy, leaping from branch to branch.  But theirs was a different kind of excitement, for they knew what the pigs would do to the pups, and they could scavenge what was left after the pigs had gone.

Kaz’s panic was infectious and justified; her ears went back and flattened against her head.  She was well aware of just how mean the wild pigs could be.  She had encountered them many times before, but always with the protection of the pack around her. Now she was all alone, and would have to protect her family as best she could.  She looked in the direction from which Kaz had come, and sniffed the air.  She stepped over the pups taking up position in front of her brood.  Yes she could smell them now, their scent carried on the gentle morning breeze.  The hair all along her back stood on end, and her body stiffened, almost arched in a threatening defensive posture.  She started to growl and her upper lips curled up bearing her sharp fanged teeth.  Momentarily it was enough to scare Kaz, but he quickly pulled himself together.  Brave and fierce as she was, he knew she would be no match for the boar’s evil tusks, especially when he dropped his head and charged her, as he would.

No!  No! You can’t fight,” said Kaz.  “You will be injured or worse killed, and then what will happen to your pups?”  The question did not need an answer; they both knew the pups would be completely helpless.  Kaz looked around for a better place to hide the Queen and her pups.

“The old water tank at the side of the main house,” he said, it’s low to the ground, too low for the boar to get at you and the pups, and picked up the nearest pup in his beak.  Half running, half flying, his wingtips flicking up little clouds of dust, he made a beeline for the disused tank.  The Queen of Sheeba picked up another pup and followed Kaz.  It was a tight squeeze even for Kaz, but he made it and dropped the first pup in the cramped cool darkness beneath the rusty old water tank.  The queen was right behind him scraping along on her belly.  By the time she had dragged herself out from beneath the tank Kaz was back with another pup in his beak.  The scent of pig now was strong on the air, and they could hear the screeching piglets as they scurried through the deserted cattle pens.

With all ten pups and the Queen of Sheeba safely hidden beneath the water tank, and only seconds to spare before the noisy gang reached the water trough, Kaz took up position on his perch high in the eucalyptus tree.  From here he could make as much noise as he liked to distract the pigs, and they could do no more than grunt and stamp their feet at him.  The more distraction he caused from up here the less likely they were to stumble across the family of dingoes.

The boar and the sow were more interested in the refreshing water in the trough than Kaz’s torrent of abuse shouted down from the safety of his high perch, but the piglets, well nourished from their mother’s bloated udders, were scratching frantically at the base of the tree in a forlorn attempt to try and dislodge Kaz from his branch. He tried to keep their attention by prancing from branch to branch, even pretending to loose balance from time to time to raise their hope of success, but they soon became bored with this game and scattered in search of yet more mischief.  They disappeared under the house where the dingoes had so recently been, and Kaz could hear them rooting around in the dirt with their ugly flat pink snouts.  He knew they would pick up the scent of the pups, but hoped they were still too young and full of devilment to follow its path.

The relentless sun climbed higher in the sky and the morning heat made it unbearable for any creatures to remain out in the open.  The slight breeze of earlier had picked up and was causing small dust swirls to dance across the dry red earth of the station yard.  The crows had settled down to witness the unfolding drama and await their inevitable reward. 

‘Caw-caw.’  They called in occasional encouragement to each other.  The old boar looked up at the rookery, aware the crows were up to something, but the sun was too hot on his wrinkled back to pay them more than a passing thought.  Ticks and other tiny insects were gnawing away at his dry mangy wrinkled skin, and he knew just how to rid himself of the parasites.  He climbed into the water trough and sank down to wallow in its refreshing cooling waters.

The sow trotted off in search of her marauding brood, and headed straight for the cool shadow of beneath the house.  Kaz took off from his tree and attacked the sow, practically landing on her scrawny hairy back, but it was too late, she quickly ducked in under the house and swung round to flash her sapping jaws at him.  He circled back, but this time landed on the ground behind his tree from where he could keep an eye on his tormentors.  She would pick up the scent of the Queen and her pups and follow the betraying trail straight to their refuge.

Possibly because the piglets had already been rooting around under the house and disturbed the soil, she did not pick up the scent straight away.  Instead she lay down and allowed her offspring to nosily suckle at her bloated hanging udders.  Kaz watched as she allowed her head to fall back to the ground, and within minutes her eyes were closed and she drifted into a raucous snoring sleep.  Her flat wet snout twitched in and out in time with her heavy breathing and she snored loudly, and little puffs of dust erupted in front of her snout every time she exhaled.

With the old boar still happily wallowing in the trough, and his sow and offspring snoring under the station house, Kaz hopped back up onto his perch and with one eye open allowed himself to snatch a well-earned rest.

The sun was now at its pinnacle in the sky and its rays caused even the ground in the station yard to shimmer with its intense heat, and the crows, normally patient scavengers were becoming impatient and restless.  One by one they flew down from the high rookery and alighted on the rusty corrugated top of the water tank.  The boar, already suspicious of their behaviour pulled himself from the cooling waters and decided to go and investigate.  Kaz watched helplessly as his worst fears started to unfold.  There was nothing he could do, but hope his family of dingoes would go unnoticed.  

The boar’s snout started twitching and sniffing the air all around the water tank.  Then it was obvious he had picked up a scent.  He stuck his flat snout under the tank and began to grunt in angry anticipation.  The Queen of Sheeba began to growl and snarl.  At first she backed away from the intruding snout and then fearful for the safety of her still blind helpless pups, she rushed forward and sank her formidable teeth into the boars intruding snout. 

“That’s done it,” thought Kaz almost afraid to watch what was about to happen next. 

The boar let out an almighty high pitched screech and leapt back from beneath the tank, wildly shaking his bloodied snout in the air.  The crows took off in noisy mass panic and the safety of the rookery.  The sow and her piglets all squealing came rushing out from under the house and made directly for the source of the alarming noise.  Two of the piglets ran straight under the water tank, but came out even faster screeching even louder than their father and with their normally curly tails, now straight and tucked up in behind their back legs.  The boar still incensed with anger and hurt pride, clawed wildly at the ground, and then dropped his huge ugly bulbous head and charged directly at the base of the water tank.  He couldn’t know it but the water in the tank had long since dried out and been replaced by sand from the many storms that swept through this area.  When he struck the side of the tank it was like hitting a brick wall.  The tank buckled and shook, but held firm, and the boar staggered around in semi conscious bewilderment.  It was all too much for the piglets, which quickly disappeared back under the house.  They had never seen their father so angry before, and feared they may get trampled in his blind rage.  They need not have worried, for the moment all he could see were stars.

Their mother, the sow, always the brighter of the two when it came to technical problems started to dig with her cloven feet and snout at the base of the water tank.  The boar, partially recovered, readied himself for another charge, but the sow shook her head in wonder at yet another fruitless attack on the tank.  Heeding her advice they both started to dig.

The Queen of Sheeba kept harassing the industrious swine, she even managed to inflict a few more nips on their grubby snouts, but the pigs were too intent on getting at the helpless pups to let her more than delay their progress.  Soon her marauding foes were under the tank and noisily grunting and grubbing their way towards her.  Her plight was hopeless, and she knew it.  All she could think to do was take up a couple of her pups in her mouth and run as fast as her legs would carry her. 

‘But which two?’ She thought, ‘maybe three, but which ones? How can I make the choice, which ones to take and which ones to leave behind?’

Kaz was hopping up and down on his branch, calling out in a hopeless mellay at the determined pigs.  It was then he heard it, far off in the distance, a loud bang, and the unmistakable sound of gunfire.  The pigs were far too busy with their quest to hear it, but the crows heard it and simultaneously took to the sky in a squawking show of alarm. 

“Gunfire!”  He said aloud. “Man?”  His mind started to race, where there is gunfire there is always man.  He looked back at the desperate scene below.  Just when he thought things could not get any worse, here comes man and his infernal guns.  Then an idea started to take shape in his mind. 

“Kaz the wise one,” he told himself, “it just might work, whatever happens things can’t get any worse than they are now.”  He leapt into the sky and circled the water tank all the time calling out to the defenceless mother below. 

“I’ll be back, I’ll be back,” he called, “hang-on, I’ll be back.”  There was a chirpy note of confidence in his call as it faded off into the distance.  The Queen of Sheeba heard her friend’s call, but doubted he could be of any help, yet still his encouragement gave her renewed hope, and again she leapt at the grubby snouts.  This time the sow felt the sharp points of her fangs, but both aggressors pulled back momentarily. 

“Now you know what it feels like,” said the boar, looking cross-eyed down his own long throbbing snout. 

Kaz followed the red dusty trail away from the abandoned station in the direction of the gunshot.  He gained height to improve his field of vision, and there in the hazy distance was what he was looking for.  Man! 

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