In discussing possible answers to the recent quiz, Jane (the only person who bothered to send me answers) suggested that when apparently fierce animals chase one they may not want to eat one but are simply asking for help in e.g. unwrapping a chocolate biscuit. This reminded me of the true story of the helpful kangaroo. This happened in Australia (duh) where a farmer had gone some distance from his homestead to cut down a tree. (Odd thing to do; I thought Australia was rather short of trees.) The tree fell on him and he couldn’t get out from under it. A passing kangaroo saw what had happened and boinged its way to the farmhouse where it thumped on the door until the farmer’s wife came out, and the kangaroo somehow conveyed to her that she should round up a couple of farmhands and follow him. Boing, boing back to the trapped farmer, whom they were then able to release.
‘Aw, shucks,’ the kangaroo told reporters, ‘any decent roo woulda done the same.’(O.K. I made that last bit up, but the rest is true.)
My own favourite clever beast story concerns the time I went to a little town on the borders of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire to look after a friend’s oriental rug shop while he went to Turkey in search of more stock. It was summer and one day after closing time I went for a long walk in the surrounding countryside. I was crossing a field near a farmhouse when two dogs came rushing at me, barking furiously, fangs bared. Now I have never been afraid of dogs (and have the scars to prove it; sometimes I should have been) and stood my ground. One dog, realizing that its hope of terrifying me was vain, slunk off home with its tail between its legs, but the other stood looking at me expectantly. Now I happened to have a tennis ball in my pocket, (my pocket contents resemble those of William in Richmal Crompton’s books), so I threw it and the dog and I played fetch for a while, until I said ‘I really must be off; the pubs will be open’, and the beast watched forlornly as I made my way back to town.
It must have been at least five years later — and in the interval I had not been in that part of the country at all — that I was again asked to look after the rug shop, and again I went for a stroll, and again the two dogs rushed out barking furiously. Again, the first dog sloped off. The second started sniffing in the undergrowth around us as if looking for something. Finally it came up to me and dropped at my feet a vaguely roundish rock it had found, and with this, faute de mieux, we played fetch for a while.
Oh, yes: as I said, Jane was the only person who responded to my quiz, so regardless of her answers (some right, some wrong, some surreally ingenious) she ‘wins’. I hadn’t really thought of a prize, but Jane’s thing is gardening, which interests me about as much as football does. However I feel no animosity to gardeners (unlike footballers and their fans) so her prize is honourable mention here of her website: Those who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like. It is: