kookaburras were a mean lot. Every day they found someone to laugh at... but not in
a nice way you understand. It was always at someone they considered to be
'uncool'. One day it would be at an animal whose feet were very large... ;
another day, one whose hair was stiff and spiky and stuck out....
ozEkoala was new to the area, and she had never met anyone quite so mean in her life, as these cruel kookaburras. It saddened her to see them in action and she often visited the home of the latest target to offer some encouragement. Finally she decided to confront the kookaburras 'in person' so to speak... face to face, in other words.. and try to help them see how bad it was for the community to have them continually tormenting the animals with their taunts.
Do you think they were happy to see ozEkoala? Yes and no. They didn't like to be told off, that's for sure, but they did enjoy the opportunity to set up another round of laughing and joking, this time at the expense of ozEkoala. ozEkoala had no obvious features to laugh at, but she walked right into the middle of a practical joke they were setting up for someone else. Koalas are renowned for their ability to go without water, so when the kookaburras offered ozE a drink, her first response was to politely refuse. They pretended to be hurt so she quickly accepted the gumnut full of water in the hope of helping keep them agreeable to sensible discussion. As she took her first sip, she noticed the kookaburras staring at her strangely. She soon discovered the reason.
Her mouth began to burn painfully after several seconds and she turned and ran for home as fast as her short little legs would carry her. At home she had some powerful eucalyptus medicine and she poured it into her mouth desperately - her mouth felt like it was about to burst into flames!
Several hours later, with her mouth feeling a little better, ozEkoala related the story of her unsuccessful visit to the kookaburras, to a group of friends around the campfire. Wombat knew what the substance was that had been used to trick ozE - his grandfather had told him about it when he was young. It was made by the mysterious platypuses, and could be very dangerous. It was a poison they produced in a special gland on their legs, and injected using spurs on their feet... the kookaburras had been very foolish to risk accidentally killing ozEkoala with such a potent substance.
The animals were incensed! The kookaburras had gone too far this time! Something had to be done... but what? In their tree, high above the ground, the kookaburras were safe from being crept up on and captured, and at first no-one had any ideas about what could be done. They were an innocent lot. Nothing like this had ever happened in their happy little community and they were quite distressed, and at a loss how to respond to the problem. ozEkoala, on the other hand, was experienced at handling problems, having come from a community full of troublesome types. She had hoped to leave all that behind her now, but it was not to be it seemed. If she could just think of a way to win over the kookaburras she was hopeful that they could be convinced to become friendly again. The other animals told her how they hadn't always been mean. Once, they were kind and helpful creatures. Something had happened to make them turn mean but no-one was sure just what it was. Some thought it was that their tree had been burned in a bushfire, when everyone else's homes remained untouched. Others believed it was because a visiting human had given gifts to all the other animals, and forgotten the kookaburras when they remained silent in the branches during the visit. They were shy creatures usually, and hadn't been given to drawing attention to themselves.. but that had all changed now.
Listening to the other animals speak, ozEkoala was developing a pretty good idea of what must have caused the kookaburras to change their behaviour... and with that she had an idea of what might work to help them change back into friendly birds again. She didn't share her ideas with her friends just then... she wanted to think it through first, so she asked to be excused and went home for a good night's sleep.
Next morning she was up with the birds - the kookaburras included. When the kookaburras saw ozEkoala walking toward their tree, they were a bit subdued. They all knew that they had gone too far with their latest practical joke and were quite embarrassed... and not a little frightened of what ozEkoala might want to do to them if she caught them! So it was a huge surprise to them when ozE waved and smiled at them as she passed their tree, and called out, "G'day fellas! How's it goin'?" They were momentarily suspicious, but ozEkoala's mood was so happy that their apprehension soon turned to curiosity. How could ozEkoala be so happy after they had virtually tried to poison her?? It didn't make sense.
They watched ozE walk away, down the track leading past their tree, whistling and singing and occasionally turning and waving gaily in their direction. Predictably the kookaburras couldn't contain their curiosity and agreed amongst themselves that some of them should follow her and find out where she was going and what she was up to. "Be careful", warned the others, as a small group flew off after ozE.
After five minutes walking at a good pace (for ozEkoala), she came up to the river's edge and dived into the water. The kookaburras were amazed - they hadn't known that koalas could swim! When she reached the other side, ozEkoala climbed up onto the bank and dried herself using some reeds she'd pulled from the riverbank. She immediately proceeded to curl up in a little ball, and appeared to settle into a deep sleep.
Well!? What was this all about? The kookaburras were dumbfounded. What could be the reason for this strange behaviour? They waited for an hour, but when ozEkoala didn't budge, they decided to return to the others and report their news.
The kookaburras all agreed that this was very odd. ozEkoala had never done this to their knowledge, and all they could think was that perhaps the platypus' poison had addled her brain. Their consciences were sorely pricked, and they were very sorry for their stupidity. ozEkoala had never hurt them, in fact had never hurt anyone. She was always kind and helpful... and now she was a crazy loon who probably couldn't look after herself anymore and would starve to death. Everyone knew that koalas never slept anywhere but safely, high up in a gumtree. She must have forgotten all her instincts and before she starved to death, one of the marauding wild dingoes from the desert might even kill her. "What have we done!?", wailed the kookaburras, and the other animals braced themselves for another onslaught, thinking the kookaburras were warming up, ready to pick out another animal to taunt for the day. No-one was singled out and the kookaburras went strangely quiet.
For the rest of the day the kookaburras remained silent. The animals were confused. What was happening? And where was ozEkoala. None of them had been up early enough to see ozEkoala head off to the river, and the birds who had seen her didn't say anything for fear that the kookaburras would attack them. They had seen the kookaburras follow ozEkoala and thought they had lured her away somehow. The birds were particularly frightened of the kookaburras because they were much smaller, and couldn't defend themselves if they were attacked.
That evening the birds gathered together secretly and discussed what they should do. Most agreed that they really should help ozEkoala if they could, because she had always been a good friend to them. They were not sure what they could do without risking the kookaburras wrath, but they were willing to try if someone could come up with an idea.
Magpie was one of the bigger birds, and she offered to fly over to the river and see if she could find out what had happened to ozEkoala. She would leave early in the morning, trying to be back before the kookaburras were even awake.
Overnight, ozEkoala found a gumtree with her favourite leaves, and had an all-night feast, before climbing back down and curling up in the spot she was in the day before. This was where Magpie found her, and thinking she was dead (because no-one had ever heard of a koala curled up asleep on the ground before) she flew back to the others with the dreadful news.
Meanwhile the kookaburras had been up early, too, but they went gathering gumleaves from ozEkoala's tree to take to her, hoping to keep her alive until they came up with a solution to the problem of how to care for ozEkoala now she was incapable of looking after herself. When they had enough leaves gathered, they flew to where they had last seen her, and dropped the leaves next to her. Then they set up a loud noise, laughing and chattering, to wake ozE up for her breakfast. She had already fallen asleep after being up all night, but woke slowly, rubbing her eyes and yawning. When she saw the leaves her stomach turned. She couldn't possibly eat another thing! The kookaburras watched anxiously - she wasn't eating.... things weren't looking good.
Back at the community, the animals were being woken with the news that ozEkoala was dead. There was great sorrow and crying. Everyone had grown fond of ozEkoala and their grief was heartfelt. Some of the animals were angry, and wanted to form a fighting group to revenge ozEkoala by attacking the kookaburras, but Wombat spoke up and reminded them that ozEkoala was a peace-loving koala, and wouldn't have wanted them to use violence for her sake. Emu spoke up, too, and reminded everyone that the best thing they could do now for ozEkoala was to give her a decent burial, and an honourable send-off to the next life. It was agreed that the kangaroos should go and get ozEkoala's body, while the rest of the animals made necessary preparations for the funeral.
By the time the kangaroos arrived, ozEkoala was up in a tree explaining to the kookaburras why she had been acting so strangely. Not finding her body where they expected to, the kangaroos were distressed. ozEkoala called to them from the cover of the gumleaves and hearing her voice from above, the kangaroos thought she was calling from another spiritual realm! They bounded off in fright, and headed for the community to tell them the amazing story. ozEkoala, not realising that she was thought to be dead, looked puzzled, but resumed her conversation with the kookaburras. They were very relieved to discover that they hadn't caused ozEkoala to lose her sanity, and were consequently willing to listen to everything she had to say on the subject of good behaviour, kindness and friendship.
ozEkoala had convinced the kookaburras that they had been acting foolishly and it was time for a complete change of heart, by the time the other animals arrived at the scene in sombre procession. They stopped where her body had last been seen. As they gathered around, ready to listen to Wombat's speech, ozEkoala called out in a loud voice, "What ya doin' fellas?" The gathered group were stunned! They stared at each other in wonder. ozEkoala sounded just like she had while she was alive! Some of the animals were crying, some were inwardly marvelling. Wasn't it just like ozEkoala to be thinking of them while she was supposed to be heading off for her new life. Here she was, coming to console them in their grief. Emu called out, "What have you got to say to us ozEkoala?"
Completely unaware of the purpose of the animals' procession, ozEkoala called out, "The kookaburras won't be terrorising you anymore - you can all relax!" The animals gasped. The kookaburras! No-one had heard them for a while... where were they? Perhaps ozEkoala had killed them all, and sacrificed her own life in the battle? No! Impossible - she'd never resort to violence... What did she mean? The animals remained silent but their collective thoughts were racing.
Watching from the tree, the kookaburras were trying to work out what was happening. The animals were just staring at each other. No-one was cheering or laughing - in fact some of them seemed to be crying. Why were they so upset?
Emu finally spoke again, "ozEkoala, can you tell us where the kookaburras are? Are they with you?" ozEkoala wondered why the animals weren't cheering, too. Why were they all acting so strangely. Perhaps their fear of the kookaburras wouldn't allow them to believe that things could change. She would have to send the kookaburras down to them so the animals could see that they were sorry for the trouble they had caused. "Down you go, boys!" whispered ozEkoala, and the kookaburras, who were willing to do anything ozEkoala asked by this stage, flew down as one into the midst of the gathered animals.
The animals drew back in awe. The kookaburras must have returned from the dead to apologise to them! With one voice the kookaburras began to laugh - the same raucous laugh they'd always produced, but this time there were no cruel, taunting words accompanying the laughter, only the words 'we're sorry!'
The animals didn't quite know what to do. They remained in stunned silence, staring. Gradually the kookaburras stopped their chorus, and stared back at the animals. They had expected some response... they weren't sure what, but this silence was unnerving. Suddenly ozEkoala called out again. "Come on fellas! Give 'em a chance. They've said they're sorry and they mean it!"
These words produced an instant response in the animals! If ozEkoala said they should accept the kookaburras apologies, they would! Emu cleared his throat, and on behalf of all the eager animals, he made a moving speech, formally accepting the apology of the kookaburras. Then Wombat spoke, asking the kookaburras if they were alive or dead. He had been watching them and they looked strangely alive for kookaburras back from the dead. The kookaburras were understandably puzzled at this question. They hesitated. What was Wombat getting at?
At that moment ozEkoala appeared in their midst, jumping down from a low branch into the middle of the crowd. The animals gasped and moved back to give ozEkoala room. As ozEkoala spoke her every word was treated as perfect wisdom, because the animals thought she had returned from the dead and if that was the case whatever she had to say must be very important. Still having no idea what impression the animals were under, ozEkoala continued to encourage the animals to forgive the kookaburras freely for all the harm they had done to the community, and to treat them with love and kindness, setting an example for the kookaburras to follow. At this, Wombat said, "So they are alive then?" and ozEkoala stopped her speech and frowned, scratching her head. "What did you think they were - dead??" Wombat felt a little foolish, as did the other animals and they all smiled, trying to pretend they were only joking.
"It was just that we thought you had sent them to us from the other side, ozEkoala", said Emu, who was always very straight forward and said what was on his mind. ozEkoala frowned, and concluded that Emu was talking about the other side of the river. "No", she said, "they were up in the tree with me. We've had a great time talking about things and everything is going to be just fine, now."
Still under the delusion that ozEkoala was returning from the dead to speak with them about profoundly important things, the animals were hard-pressed to make anything meaningful of these words. What could up in the tree symbolise, they wondered. Perhaps tree-dwelling animals went to the big tree in the sky, after all, like the legends said. But as ozEkoala continued to talk, the suspicion that perhaps they had made a big mistake began to slowly dawn on them.
"The kookaburras have seen the error of their ways. When they thought that they had almost killed me, and had left me a helpless invalid needing to be looked after for the rest of my life, they were ready to listen to reason. I listened to them, too. They have felt that no-one really cares about them - after the bushfire the whole community had a party to celebrate because so little damage was done... but the kookaburras lost their home and no-one remembered to mention them. They were left to rebuild on their own. Then when they were overlooked by the human visitor, that was the last straw. They decided that it wasn't worth being quiet and well behaved if all you got was ignored.. and since then, they have been getting a lot of attention! But they haven't really been happy, and know something has to change. I've promised them, on behalf of everyone, that we will forgive and forget... but that we won't forget to include them and look out for them, just like we do for the ground dwelling animals. Is that ok? I thought I could speak for us all on this..."
There was a huge roar of approval from the assembled crowd. Everyone was overwhelmed with happiness that ozEkoala wasn't dead after all, and to learn that the kookaburras reign of terror was over. Several of the animlas lifted the kookaburras onto their shoulders, and ozEkoala climbed onto the back of a huge dog, then they marched in procession back to the community, to the music of the kookaburras laughter!
Time would tell if the animals had learned their lesson about caring for everyone equally, but ozEkoala was sure the kookaburras would never forget the lesson they learned that day. Given a second chance, they became the community's most popular members. Never a day went by when they weren't encouraging others with their fun and laughter and with sincere compliments. They had become experts at noticing small details. What was once used for hurting was turned to healing, and the kookaburras now became famous for their gift of encouragement. If an animal was having a difficult time, they were always the first to notice, and their words alerted the rest of the community to the need. In that way, those animals who were able to help went into action with practical help, while the one in need was strengthened by the kookaburras inspiring words.
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