■ Feeling good for helping
In the north of the state where I live there is a gorge called Yardie Creek Gorge. It is the only gorge along that part of the coast with permanent water, and so it's home to a variety of birds and animals, including the black-foot wallaby. The wallaby is like a small kangaroo that lives on the steep, red cliff faces where it bounds from ledge to ledge on vertical walls that many rock climbers would find challenging.
My grandson and I had joined the boat trip through Yardie Creek Gorge hoping to see this unique wallaby—and were in for a pleasant surprise. Macca was the captain of the boat. He dressed the part in white shorts, white socks, white sneakers, and white shirt, with dark patches on his shoulder bearing the three stripes of a captain. Macca obviously loved his job and was interested to discover all there was to learn about this unique area and its wildlife. He knew it intimately and his knowledge had us curious to learn what he knew.
What had set out to be an ordinary tourist trip, however, turned out to be something different. One of the other passengers pointed to the cliffs and said, "There's a rock wallaby in that cleft."
"Where?" asked Macca, spinning his head around quickly to look.
The passenger was pointing to a spot where Macca wasn't used to seeing wallabies. He put the boat in reverse, and there, wedged in a tiny cleft, was a baby wallaby (called a "joey").
"This," he said, "is the baby of a female who lives in a cave farther down the gorge. It looks like he has slipped on the rock face and fallen into the water, clambered up, and got wedged in this cleft— unable to climb up the steep cliff and unable to swim in the water if he falls back."
Macca nosed the boat into the cliff wall, grabbed a towel, and gently lifted the joey out, drying its wet fur as he did. His wife, who was also on the trip, took over the care of the joey. She let us look at this gray-and-black bundle of fur with its cute face, wide eyes, and alert ears. It tried to bury itself in the towel like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. We were allowed to look but not touch, she told us. "If you handled it too much it will get your smell on it and then the mother could reject it."
All the kids on the boat, including my grandson, were wide eyed and fascinated at this lovely young creature. They and their parents would love to have given this cute, fluffy critter a pat.
Farther up the creek Macca edged his boat onto a pebbly little beach, climbing near to the cave inhabited by the mother wallaby and her babe. As he released the pressure on the towel the young wallaby leapt into the cave and disappeared.
There was relief that the joey was safe but a little disappointment, too. Everyone on board, even the toughest-looking men, would love to have held and cuddled the joey, to have felt the softness of its fur, and to have looked into its wide and uncertain eyes. They would have wanted to give it comfort and reassurance and probably wished that they'd been in Macca's position of letting it go back into the wild. We all hoped that its mother wasn't far away and that soon both mom and babe would be reunited.
It was a special moment of tenderness. I think we all felt touched about doing something nice for something else, by being part of an act of kindness. In the end, it wasn't just the joey that benefited. We felt happy for being part of the rescue.
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