The Parrot of Curtin Springs
[Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.]
[TheT-Team with Mr B — In 1977 Dad’s friend Mr Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope?]
Rick and I scrambled off the Rover’s roof-rack.
‘Race ya to the birds,’ I yelled and then ran down the side of the Curtin Springs store to the aviary.
Rick and Matt raced past me. ‘Beat ya!’ Rick called back.
The parrot squawked. ‘G’day mate!’
Matt laughed and said, ‘Hey, you got the bird to talk, Rick.’
‘Aren’t I clever,’ my brother said.
‘How did you do that?’ I approached the cage. ‘G’day mate.’
The parrot cocked its head.
In a falsetto voice, I said, ‘Hello cocky.’
The bird bobbed its head.
The boys laughed.
I persisted in a high-pitched tone. ‘Polly wants a cracker?’
The bird ambled over to me and then bit the wire of the cage, its blue tongue thrusting out its beak.
*[Photo 1: White cockatoos abound all over Australia. Here’s some in Sturt Gorge near my home. © L.M. Kling 2018]
‘Hello cocky,’ I sang.
The bird stopped nibbling the wire and then clawed its way along the cage away from me.
‘You just don’t have the touch,’ Rick said.
Dad, his thumbs hooked in the belt loops of his trousers, strode up to us. ‘How about a soft drink? My shout.’
Rick shouted, ‘Soft drink!’
‘Ha! Ha!’ Mr. B who stood behind Dad, clapped. ‘Very funny!’
The parrot screeched. ‘G’day mate!’
*[Photo 2: White cockatoo close-up © L.M. Kling 2018]
I glared at Rick. ‘How did you do that?’
‘I have the touch,’ Rick said.
Dad marched into the store. A few minutes later, he emerged cradling five cans of lemon flavoured soft drink. ‘The petrol’s cheaper here than at Ayres Rock. And so is the steak. It’s from the cattle they have on the station.’
*[Photo 3: Cattle like these but near Gosses Range © L.M. Kling 2013]
The parrot cocked its head and watched us guzzle our drinks.
Rick wiped the sticky drops from his chin and sighed. ‘Ah, a real man’s drink!’
Dad licked his lips and then held up his finger. ‘You wait here. I won’t be long.’
We watched Dad disappear through the store door.
Mr. B raised his hand to his mouth, then after a discreet burp, he muttered. ‘No chance of egg soup tonight, I hope.’
I turned to the parrot. ‘G’day mate.’
The parrot squawked.
‘You just don’t have the touch,’ Rick said.
*[Photo 4: The Parrot of Curtin Springs (somewhere in the cage) and me © R.M Trudinger 1977]
Dad returned, this time carrying a baby-sized packet wrapped in white butcher’s paper. ‘The Rover’s been fed, and we’ll have a feed tonight.’
‘That better not be eggs and soup,’ Mr. B snapped.
Dad pursed his lips as if some bird he’d swallowed was about to burst out. ‘Rabbit. I bought rabbit for stew. There’s lots of rabbits around these parts.’
‘What?’ Mr. B’s face flushed crimson. ‘I thought you were going to buy steak.’
Dad did that kissing motion with his lips and then in a level voice said, ‘Rabbit steak. It’s cheap.’
Rick turned away from Mr. B’s line of sight and wheezed with suppressed giggles.
The parrot flared its crest and screeched. ‘G’day mate.’
‘You did it again!’ I cried.
Rick snorted and laughed.
‘What’s so funny?’ Mr. B asked.
Dad patted Mr. B’s back. ‘It’s steak, mate. Beef steak. The best you’ll get around these parts. Curtin Springs runs a cattle station, you know.’
*[Photo 5 & 6: Rounding up Cattle in Hermannsburg Cattle Yard © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]
‘You had me going there, for a while,’ Mr. B said.
‘Huh?’ I looked from Dad, to Mr. B, and then to Rick. ‘But you said, we’re having rabbit stew.’
‘Dad was joking, but we could shoot some rabbits or birds at Palmer River, if you don’t want steak,’ my brother said.
The parrot glared at Rick. ‘What?’
‘You did it again!’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2018
*Feature Painting: Mustering Cattle © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2014
[Curtin Springs,100 km east of Uluru, still operates as a cattle station. Its owners, the Severin family, have been running the station since 1956.]
Read more of the adventures of the T-Team in my memoir,
Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981
available on Amazon and Kindle. Check it out, click on the link below: