by Fleur Lind
Campers were going about their holiday routine, whether it was tidying their canvas, nylon, or steel holiday homes, studying maps of the surrounds to plan their next day trip, or lounging about with a cup of tea, coffee, wine, or desired beverage, at the Golden Sands Camping Ground in Mooloolaba. It was a popular spot, just a short walk from the beach, the best eateries that lined Marine Parade, and clothing stores from budget to high-end, and everything in between. Their frontages featured sunhats, sunglasses, thongs and other beach footwear, and top end designer beach wear. The hypnotic sounds of the beach; the waves crashing thunderously on the sand. The sounds travelled on the warm gentle coastal breeze, luring swimmers to its shimmering white tipped waves, and sun worshippers to its soft golden sands. The surfers were out on their boards, waiting for that perfect wave.
But that joie de vivre wasn’t only for the beachgoers; it was universal. With the sun, surf, and sand beckoning and offering a perfect way to unwind, release the stresses of a hectic working and family life; that same embrace could be felt by the feathered community. Another species was enjoying every opportunity open to them, even if the door was closed and bolted. It was of no importance at all if the welcome mat was not out.
Bruce was the oldest and most unruly in his family. He saw rules as a challenge to break, his mantra was ‘steal it and deal with it if you can’t get away with it.’ He got a buzz and felt empowered from his pilfering, so he was not going to learn from past misdemeanours; he enjoyed the thrill of the chase too much. From a well-respected bush turkey family, his mother had lectured him about his behaviour among humans, explaining it was highly likely his antics would not wash well with even the most laid-back campers,
“Bruce, you’ve got to reform! You can go about pinching stuff from the campers. One day you are going to get a serving of karma, and don’t come crying to us. The other birds are talking, it’s very embarrassing!”
“I’ll be fine, Mum, stop worrying! I’m always careful, and there is so much waste with their food, I’m helping the planet. Less waste going to a sagging eco system, and we get a feed. How can that be a bad thing?” Bruce listened to the multiple TV channels at the different camping sites and was up on the news. He had a convincing comeback to just about everything.
His mother, wings on hips, sighed and pointed a feather at him. “Now you look here! Don’t get ahead of yourself. We have raised you right, how did you get to be so bad? You have a good heart like your brother, but temptation is your failing. Leave well alone, don’t take what isn’t yours.”
Bruce could feel a lecture coming on, so he hastily made up a way to excuse himself, “It’s okay, Mum, I swear I will be careful. I only take my share, no more. I’m not greedy. I’d better be off; Barry wants my help with a bug project. Love you, Mum.”
His parents worried about him, fearing he would end up going too far with his devil-may-care attitude, and be injured or run out of town. But he took no notice of their sound advice. He was also a charmer, and despite his lawless ways, they both loved him dearly. His father rolled his eyes, and in ‘that tone’ said, “Your mother’s right,” then he gave Bruce ‘that look’ and muttered, “Just don’t get bloody caught!”
Bruce was ready for a new adventure, and hoodwinked his easily led, younger brother Barry, into his plan. Barry was far less daring, and at times a little slow on the uptake, but he had a good heart. His mother said so, but Bruce still held hope that Barry would come over to the dark side and plot new schemes with him. From Barry’s perspective, if his older brother had his back, or feathers as it were, then what could possibly go wrong?
The camping ground was full; there were a few events on in the town and region at the time, so accommodation was scant. The Downunder Beach Fest featuring hot rods, classic cars, big fins, and chrome was on in Caloundra, as well as the the Regional Surf Lifesaving Championships, so the town was pumping with visitors, the cafés were fully booked, the scene was a veritable booty of titbits and treats. Back at the camping ground, every site was taken.
The camping community always came well stocked. They bought everything except the kitchen sink with them; they did every year. The ever popular large opaque 20-40-60 litre capacity plastic containers full of edible items to make the holiday their best yet. The days of roughing it seemed to have gone, much to Bruce’s delight. A tin of beans, a loaf of bread and a slab of butter just didn’t cut it anymore. They bought the wine, beer, champagne, starters, entrees, mains and dessert. The chillers in the community kitchen were loaded to bursting with named bags of meat, and other perishables, while the more elite campers with the double axle mobile homes had their own refrigerator. Those castle -like motor homes with the pop out lounges, ensuites, full bar, and reception area were like Fort Knox to get into with their screen doors to keep out the bugs, and inquiring bush turkeys.
Like any mission, he set about developing a plan. If the camping ground hadn’t been so crowded and so many people about who could easily spot him, despite how elusively he darted about between the camp sites, he would have ‘winged it’ and made a grab and dash. Very similar to the shopping centre in town. ‘Click and collect’, bush turkey style.
But no, that was far too risky. He would do a casual wander about the camping ground, check out the lay of the land and calibre of the campers. It was a far better thing to keep it simple. Simplicity was the key. If too many risk factors presented themselves, Barry wouldn’t have a bar of it. And he could not complete this mission without Barry. And if anything happened to Barry, Bruce would not hear the end of it from his parents. They would place a load of curfews and restrictions on him for a consequence if Barry became injured or worse. And there came a time when even the best rules were best not broken, because his mother’s wrath was not for the faint hearted.
After circumnavigating the great expanse of the camping ground and darting in and out between the big rubber tyres of campers that were safely secured, Bruce had chosen his victim. It was a pop-top caravan, one of those older styles, probably about 30 years old; judging by the faded canvas and a few small holes in the mesh windows. Bruce also prided himself on his acquired knowledge of campers, he was a bit of a specialist. It was what he did, a pilferer can’t perform if he doesn’t know makes and models. He called it his tools of trade. The pop-top had an annex; a 4-sided canvas room that was clipped on to the main body of the steel frame. It would be a cinch to get into the annex to where the containers of food were stored. And the occupants had been out and about, buying delicacies which would be most pleasing to Bruce’s palate. And Barry’s. He’d best not forget Barry. So, all in all, with his risk assessment considered and complete, to Bruce’s way of thinking, which was sometimes unhinged, the pickings should be easy.
The time of day was early afternoon, when holiday makers were at the beach, out for a walk, at an event or shopping, and away from their campsite. While Barry was on watch outside the unzipped canvas entry to the annex of the pop-top camper, Bruce made his move. He entered quietly, poking his beak for easy-to-open containers or packaging.
The plan was going swimmingly, but unfortunately, Bruce didn’t realise one of the occupants was still inside the camper. He had seen the other occupant go out but was unaware of one still ‘at home’. Such was his highly practiced, deathly quiet manoeuvre under the canvas, she was oblivious to his uninvited entry.
Bruce continued to forage and there on the table, he saw his prize. A plastic container of fresh strawberries. He carefully caught it with his beak and pulled it to the sandy/grassy floor. Its landing was surprisingly quiet as Bruce froze in motion for a moment, senses on alert in case he needed to exit suddenly and quickly. But with no reaction coming from the occupant within, Bruce continued to devour the contents. He was enjoying the strawberries too much and completely forgot about Barry’s share.
His meal was rudely interrupted when the occupant poked her head around the door frame to see him head down, feathers up, and strawberry faced.
What followed, wasn’t at all pretty. She screeched like nails on a blackboard, he got in a flap, his mind racing for his survival and a quick exit. He did a lap in the air around the annex, while the occupant waved her arms about and continued screeching, then Bruce ducked out under the floor, whizzing between the wheels.
The occupant examined the damage, cursing Bruce loudly, “That mongrel bird! He’s eaten all the strawberries!”
Her verbal assault fell on deaf ears though, as he and Barry were long gone. Barry was disgruntled, wondering where his clip of the ticket has vanished to for his good service of guarding the tent, Bruce meekly apologised, but felt little or no remorse. He promised a better share next time, otherwise Barry was sure to dob him into their mother and that was a place he certainly didn’t want to go to.
A bit later, when the dust had settled and feathers were smoothed, Bruce was quietly feeling smug He smiled as he enjoyed the sweet after taste of his strawberry fare.
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