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Authors: Kenneth Cook

The Killer Koala

BOOK: The Killer Koala
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The
Killer Koala

By
Kenneth Cook

 

Humorous
Australian bush stories

 

 

 

Dedication

For
Stuart Littlemore, barrister-at-law nonpareil

 

THE KILLER KOALA

By
Kenneth Cook

Tortoiseshell
Press

 

First
published in 1986 by

Tortoiseshell
Press

Suite
221, Wingello House

1-12
Angel Place, Sydney, NSW 2000

AUSTRALIA

Telephone
(02) 221 1846

Reprinted
1986

 

©Kenneth
Cook 1986

 

Design/Art
by Ken Gilroy

Photography
by Robbi Newman

Edited
by Jacqueline Kent

Cover
illustrations by Patrick Cook

Additional
illustrations by Ken Gilroy

Typography
by Dova Typesetting and Beagle Pty. Ltd.

 

Printed
in Australia by Globe Press Pty. Ltd.

ISBN
0 947 063 00 5

 

All
rights reserved. This book or parts thereof

cannot
be published without the express

permission
of the publisher.

Distributed
by Gordon and Gotch

(Australia)
Ltd., Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane,

Perth,
Adelaide, Launceston.

 

Sincere
thanks to the Koala Park Sanctuary

at
West Pennant Hills NSW

Contents:

Snakes
and Alcohol

Crocodiles
and Sex

The
Killer Koala

One
Hundred Stubbies

Vic
the Snake Man

Liquid
Assets

A
Couple of Interesting Specimens

Camel
Rides: Five Dollars

Cedric
the Cat

The
Very Angry Pig

Black
Gold

The
Dog who Loved Animals

The
Mad Miner

Reef
Encounter

Six
Taipans

 

 

Snakes and Alcohol

'There's
two things that don't mix,' said Blackie slowly and pompously,
'snakes and alcohol.'

It
would never have occurred to me to mix them but I nodded solemnly.
Nod solemnly is pretty well all you do when you're talking to a snake
man because they never actually converse

they
just tell you things about snakes.

Blackie
was a travelling snake man. He travelled in a huge pantechnicon which
had wooden covers on the sides. Whenever he found a paying audience

a
school or a tourist centre

he
would drop the wooden covers and reveal a glass-walled box the size
of a large room. This was his snake house, inhabited by a hundred or
so snakes ranging from the deadly taipans and browns to the harmless
tree snakes.

Blackie
was like all the snake men I've ever met

cadaverously
thin, very dirty, extremely shabby and he didn't have a second name.
I think he was called Blackie because of his fondness for black
snakes, or perhaps because his eyes were jet black

he
had the only eyes I've seen that were black. He looked as though his
enormous pupils had supplanted his irises, but if you looked closely
you could see the faint outline of the black pupils inside them. I
tended to feel uncomfortable looking into those two round patches of
black and the suffused and bloodshot eyes (all snake men have
suffused and bloodshot eyes

I
think it's because snakes bite them so often).

I
met Blackie just north of Mackay in Queensland where we were both
camping on a little known beach named Macka's Mistake; I don't know
why it's named that.

I
was trying to finish a novel and Blackie was doing something
complicated with the airconditioning of his pantechnicon, so we were
thrown together for about a fortnight and became firm friends.

Blackie
was so good and confident with snakes that he imbued me with much of
his own attitude. I would often go into his snake house, sit on a log
and talk to him while lethal reptiles regarded us torpidly within
striking distance, or slid gracefully and slowly away from the smell
of our tobacco smoke.

Now
and then a black, brown or green snake would slide softly past my
foot and Blackie would say, 'Just sit there and don't move. It won't
bite you if you don't move.' I wouldn't move and the snake wouldn't
bite me. So, after a time, I became more or less relaxed with the
snakes, provided Blackie was there.

Nothing
would have induced me to go into the snake cage without Blackie, but
I was convinced he could actually talk to the things, or at any rate
communicate with them in some way which both he and they understood.
It seemed to me at times fancifully possible that Blackie might have
some drops of snake blood in his veins. Or perhaps the venom he had
absorbed made him somehow
simpatico
with the creatures. Mind you, I did
notice that the snakes had black eyes too, and that made me wonder.

There
was only one other camper at Macka's beach, Alan Roberts, a fat and
friendly little photographer who had set up a tent and was making a
study of seabirds. He, Blackie and I would usually meet in my
campervan for drinks in the evening.

Only
the previous night, Blackie had been expounding to me and Alan the
dangers of mixing alcohol and snakes. Of course, this took place over
a bottle of whisky and I was considerably disconcerted when I called
on him in the morning to find him unconscious in his own snake house,
two empty whisky bottles by his side and his body festooned with
deadly snakes.

The
snakes were lying quite still, apparently enjoying the warmth of
Blackie's motionless body. I assumed he was alive because of the
snores that shook the glass windows of the snake house. But I had no
idea whether he had been bitten and was in a coma, or had simply
drunk himself insensible, or both.

The
snakes resting on Blackie were, as far as I could make out: one
taipan (absolutely deadly) two king browns (almost as deadly) a death
adder (very deadly) three black snakes (deadly) and one diamond snake
(harmless).

My
first impulse was to run screaming for help, but there was nobody in
sight, and if Blackie jerked or turned in his drunken or moribund
torpor, at least seven deadly snakes would probably sink their fangs
into him simultaneously. Then, no doubt, the other eighty or ninety
variably venomous snakes would stop lying peacefully round the snake
house and join the fray. Blackie's chances of survival would be
slight.

I
knew the snake house door did not lock. Normally when not in use it
was covered by a wooden shutter, so I knew I could get in. But did I
want to?

I
didn't consider that in his present state Blackie would be able to
provide his normal protection against snakes. Going in with Blackie
like this would be worse than going in alone. A treacherous voice
within me whispered that it would be better to run away and let
Blackie wake up naturally. The snakes were used to him and he would
probably instinctively act in the proper way with them.

Sadly,
the treacherous voice wasn't convincing. Besides, I didn't know
whether Blackie had already been bitten and needed medical help
urgently.

I
looked around for a weapon. Under the pantechnicon I saw a rake that
Blackie used for clearing his snake house. I picked it up and
cautiously and very slowly opened the door. There were several snakes
between me and Blackie and I wasn't sure of their species. They all
looked lethal. I poked at them gently with the rake and all of them,
except one, resentfully slithered off to the other side of the snake
house with no apparent intention except of going back to sleep. The
one, a big king brown, raised itself on its coils and began hissing,
throwing its head back to strike. I knew enough about snakes now to
know that as long as I stayed the length of the snake's body away
from its fangs, they couldn't touch me. Equally I knew that if I
tried to pass this snake to get at Blackie, it could get to me.

I
poked at it with the rake again and it struck, its fangs making a
tiny ringing sound against the iron prongs. Blackie had told me that
this sort of thing was bad for a snake's fangs. I didn't care. I
poked at it again and it sank to the ground, wriggled over to
Blackie, worked its way onto his back, then coiled again and began
looking at me threateningly. It seemed much more agitated than
before; no doubt its teeth hurt. The snakes already using Blackie as
a mattress stirred fitfully, but didn't go anywhere.

A
black snake detached itself from a group near the wall and came
towards me. I banged it with the rake and it retired, probably
mortally hurt. Again, I didn't care.

BOOK: The Killer Koala
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