Friday 28 November 2008

The silence of the lizards


How about skinks. In fact, how about Tiliqua rugosa, commonly known as the bobtail or blue-tongued skink. We always called them bobtail goannas or blue-tongued lizards as kids - never knew until now that it was a skink.

My old school was over run with them - the school was surrounded by a fair bit of bush, and the skinks would migrate up from the bush to lie around here and there, where they could be collected by us kids. Sometimes, we'd get some tweezers and a cigarette lighter and spend an afternoon removing ticks from between their scales, along with swatting flies and feeding them to the skinks. We had no shortage of flies nor skinks, and the skinks had no shortage of ticks.

Those were the kind of things that kids did before the introduction of the X-Box.

I mention this because I almost squashed one the other day. We rarely see them here in Five Wog. That's not because the local chinese restaurant has caught them all and served them up as "chicken", but because there is just not enough bush around here to support them.

I had to travel to Homebush to squash one. When I have time and the days are long, I like to ride out to Parramatta, or down the Cooks River to Botany Bay, and both rides take me through Homebush. Once you get away from the stadiums and stuff that were built for the Olympics, there is actually a reasonable amount of bushland out there. It's shitty, scrubby bush, but it's the best we've got for about 100 miles.

I was cruising down one of the pathways on my bike when I spotted a skink lying in the sun on the path. It had crossed almost the entire width of the path, and was lying with its head only inches from the edge of the path. As I approached, it did the normal "pedestrian two-step of panic". Instead of shooting into the bush right in front of it, and allowing me to safely cruise around behind it, it did a rapid U-turn and ran right in front of me. Not wanting to squash a skink, I locked up and almost dropped the bike - the back wheel skidded on the thin layer of sand covering the tarmac path, and I was going sideways for a few seconds.

I'm glad it got away. Whilst I have no qualms about killing chickens and that sort of thing for the pot, I'm not so keen on squashing a poor old skink. Especially that during my stint on a particular wheat bin in the middle of nowhere, the only company that I had for a month was a skink. I fed that little fellow an awful lot of flies.

And polony.

Here's to skinks. Long may they lie around, basking in the sun.

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