By KATRINA BENNETT
Nothing says Aussie summer more than a beer and a barbie on the deck, surrounded by gum trees and your mates.
If you’re lucky enough to live in our fair suburb bisected by the Yarra, then you can probably add a few snakes, a half-dozen cashed up hippies and a couple of kookaburras.
Yes, let’s discuss dacelo novaeguineae.
Our chortlelicious feathered friend. The laughing kookaburra, known also as the kingfisher.
I’ve lived on the banks of the Yarra for a few years now and not once have I seen these jokers of the bush fish a king out the river.
Although, if recent photos are accurate, our king in all but name, Prince Phillip, looks like he’s just been fished out of somewhere.
But my personal favourite name for these fiendish feathered rapscallions is the laughing jackass.
The name conjures up images of toothless locals from the dirt farm, Idaho or a schoolie returning from the Gold Coast.
Now, don’t go thinking of me as some sort of amateur ornithologist.
Of course, not to be confused with an orthodontist, although, like the damn kookaburras, they also laugh when they see me coming.
Think of me more as an overcooked snag that the local kookaburra population has their beady eyes on. They’ve always had their eyes on me.
Just three years ago, I credited Kev, the tame patriarch of my property’s bird population for saving my life.
Yes, you read correct.
Kev had seen a few summers I reckon.
He was a bit scrawny and missing a few feathers but my little friend faithfully followed me around whenever I cut the grass.
One day, when I was nearing the end of pushing my lawn mower around for six kilometres in 40 degrees, Kev wacked me clean in the ear with his beak and growled as he swooped past.
Startled, I looked down and froze with my foot approximately two centimetres above a coiled tiger snake.
Needless to say Kev didn’t have to follow me anymore, he got to sit on the handle of the lawnmower and casually flutter down to the ground whenever he spied a tasty morsel in the grass.
But like all living legends his time eventually came and he became a legend. Fast forward three years and the son of Kev is now a grown up.
With his cocky strut and punk hairdo, he heads up the local avian chapter now.
Like all younger generations he wants to do things differently.
Mums and dads are soooo lame.
The minutest click from the BBQ starter button sends a ripple through the trees as Son-of-Kev and his mates desert the skate park, leaving their West End fish and chips for the pigeons.
By the time we attempt to sit down and eat, we are surrounded on all sides.
One by one my brave family slink away with their dinner plate to the sanctuary of indoors, heads tucked in their t-shirts.
Until it’s just me, three chicken wings and a Greek salad left to defend the family name.
Before I know, I’m one chicken wing and an olive down.
That’s OK, Son-of-Kev’s reaction to the olive is not dissimilar to mine.
My mirth over watching him trying to spit the wretched thing out is short lived as one of his cronies’ swoops from the pool fence and I’m left nursing some fetta and the final chicken wing.
Time slows down as we eye each other off. My world recedes to just Son-of-Kev, myself, and a water sprayer.
Like an old time gunslinger, I’m onto that trigger and spraying my nemesis fair in the feathers.
Turns out birds aren’t like cats; they don’t recoil from the spray, no, not Son-of-Kev.
Son-of-Kev lifts his wings, pirouettes to get full coverage, angles his head and winks at me.
Stymied, I’m hungry and I’m losing my sense of humour. It’s become woman vs wild. What would Mrs Bear Grylls do?
Option one: Backflip out of a plane.
Pointless, Son-of- Kev flies for a living and would probably show me up by doing a 720 cork.
Option two: Drink your own urine.
Seems extreme, I still have my water sprayer.
Option three: Defend yourself.
My eyes slide across the deck to where we keep our sports equipment.
Nodding my head, I glide out of my chair.
Turns out some Kookaburras are made of willow.
And nothing says Aussie summer more than cricket.
Photo: Thomas Hudec