Monday, July 26, 2010

Making a Soft Purse out of a 'Roo's Rear

Jack was the very first friend I made in Australia. He honored me deeply by giving me a wonderful and touching review of my first published novel, Grumble Bluff. I emailed him a ‘thank you’, we chatted back and forth for a bit, and before I knew it, I had a best friend who lived 10,000 miles away. Sometimes, we click with a person in a way that can’t be explained. Sometimes, it seems as if we’ve always known a person.

I’ve always known Jack.

Not only was he my first friend in Oz, but he was the catalyst for all the other mates I’ve made Down Under. I won’t go into the convoluted strings of events that led me to each of my Aussie friends, or the amazing coincidences which brought us together. But even though Jack has never met my wonderful friend Larry (and they only live an hour or two apart), I never would have found my Quasi Aussie if it wasn’t for my pal Jack. That, in and of itself, is enough to make me grateful for all time.

I was sad on the drive home today. I’d just spent two hours with my ninety-four year old grandmother, who is getting very, very tired. The moon is also full, and those of you who know me well, know I’m a woman whose moods are affected by the lunar cycles. Add to the mix the fact that I only slept for two hours this morning, and you’ll understand, perhaps, why I was feeling a bit melancholy.

My son Eli has been waiting for a package to arrive, so I thought while I was going through town, I would take a quick detour to the Post Office to see if it had arrived. To my delight, there was a parcel for me, instead.

I knew what it was—in part, anyway. I placed it in the passenger’s seat and grinned all the way home. Jack knows me well. Too well, it sometimes seems. And the box contained a gift that he knew would make me smile.

Once home, I didn’t even take care of the groceries before I was tearing into the package. There, to my delight and amusement, was a ‘roo scrote pouch’. That’s right! I am now the owner of a genuine Kangaroo bag!

Oh, don’t go all sour on me! It’s a wonderful gift to get from Australia. Hey, if nothing else, it shows great thrift, and my pal Jack is nothing if not tight. He is, like me, a cheap son of a gun. The man carries a shoe horn in his pocket just so he can get into his wallet. Naturally, he would be in favor of using every last bit of an animal, leaving nothing to go to waste. (Forgive me for being curious, but I’ve a yearning to know how the contents were used…)

Yep… I have a soft and seamless pouch which once contained the family jewels of a marsupial from Oz. That is—in my opinion—just too cool for words! But since I’m a writer, I’ll make every effort to express them, anyway.

There was a surprise in the parcel. Not only was Jack my first friend from the southern hemisphere, but one of my very first GAG postings was about Australia’s cane toads. Contained in my box was the tanned hide of a Bufo Marinus, a creature which was introduced to Australia to kill the crop-damaging cane beetle, but which rapidly became one of the leading non-native, invasive and destructive pests on the continent.

How exciting! The little bugger looked just like the photos I’d seen! And he smelled very toady, too! I opened the letter that accompanied my gifts, and absorbed the words scrawled in Jack’s distinctive (and fairly wretched) handwriting.

“What!?” I looked up at Josie, who was hovering over my shoulder as she and Eli watched me behave like a tot on Christmas morning. “Jack sent the cane toad for YOU!”

She pulled back in mild revulsion.


“Yes, you. Dang it!”

Relief flooded her expression and she patted my shoulder.

“It’s okay, Mama. You can keep it.”

“No… no! It’s gift for you. And that’s nice! Jack says every teenager should have a cane toad purse.”

She fidgeted. She could see the potential for an active social life going down the tubes.

“Tell you what. How about… we share it?”

“Deal!” I grinned and snatched the cane toad and the kangaroo scrotum off the table before she changed her mind. The first ‘turn’ was mine. Josie can have the next twenty years. By then she, too, will think it’s ‘cool’ to own the processed hide of a lethal amphibian.

To some of you, the value of these gifts might not be apparent. But the Aussie friends I’ve made have become a vital and valued part of my life. Any little bit of their homeland that is shared with me makes me feel closer to them, and that’s important, for there aren’t many places on this earth that are much further away than that vast continent.

I shall treasure my scrotum, and ‘our’ Bufo Marinus, as ugly as the bugger is to look at. And I will keep them safe, so that they last a long, long time. The trick will be to keep them out of reach of Stevie, Eli’s tom cat, who took an immediate liking to the ‘roo pouch, particularly. He really, really wanted to gnaw on that kangaroo skin. Idiot cat. He simply doesn’t know how to treat fine leather.

I do.

Thanks, Jack. For the gifts and the grins.


Top photo of a kookaburra copyright by Jack Ramsay


  1. heh :-)

    I'm glad they arrived. Had my doubts - well, you of all people know what Customs can be like.

    By the way, that's one discerning tomcat you've got there. A short spray of deodorant should get rid of that SB pong and keep him a bit happier.

    Cane toad slippers, cane toad bath robes, cane toad sandwich bags, cane toad baseball caps, cane toad condoms, cane toad jerry cans, cane toad lederhosen... If it wasn't for our cane toad exports, Australia's economy would be down the gurgler, make no mistake mate!

    Enjoy, if you can :-)


  2. the live ones are also good to practice your golf swings with.
    but make sure you wear your Larry coat to keep the splatter off you.
    seen that roo also with the missing bits..was hopping very funnily and kept looking over his shoulder.

  3. A tanned Toad and a 'Roo Scrote? WOW, that Jack is quite a guy!

    Are you going to use them to carry jelly beans in?

    Could ad a string to that recycled marsupial pouch, and hang it around your neck as a medicine bag...........

    But somehow, I keep thinking back to the days when every kid just had to have a 'lucky rabitt's foot.' All I could ever think was, 'It wasn't so lucky for the bunny!'

    Enjoy your little bits of OZ, Karen. It takes a real friend to send gifts like that. [Especially when he knows that you are on so many government lists!]

  4. Okay... Jack. How many times have you led me astray? How often have you given me a new Aussie word to use, and then later (after I've insulted someone terribly by using it) told me it's REAL meaning? I've learned to be a bit apprehensive when asking you something like this, but here goes.

    What does "SB pong" mean?

    (I'm having heart palpitations, now...)

    Trev... are you talking "cane toad splatter"? That's just gross. And as IF! I wouldn't do such a thing to Larry's (mine, mine, MINE!!!) awesome coat.

    And DC. Hiya, kid. Up past your bedtime, aren't you? It's nine thirty, for crying out loud.

    I don't like jelly beans. What's my next choice? It's gotta be something healthy, because I have to lose 20 pounds by my birthday.

    And what do you mean, government LISTS??? Plural?? Nah... Just the one. And that's only because I'm so damned comical and entertaining...


  5. "Scrote Bag", you dill :) (although, there's an element of redundancy in there, since a scrote is a bag and a bag can be a scrote...Do I feel a song coming on???)

    Anyhoo, yes, you're right - I'm all heart.

    By the way, I remember when my cousin from Sarina (I think she's been here since Cap'n Cook first took a gander) showed me how to "euthanise" (she called it! not sure the poor beastie had much say in the decision) a CT:

    1. Step gently on its head;
    2. Pick it up by its back leg, making sure it doesn't goo you;
    3. Find a nice big rock;
    4. Thwak and chuck (into the neighbour's garden) in one smooth movement;
    5. Pick up your beer and continue where you left off.

    And thank you, Trev - you've just solved a mystery. I now know why so many Aussie golfers wear goggles on the fairways :)

  6. Geez! I never thought to smell THAT! (I smelled the toad. For some reason, it seemed like the right thing to do...)

    I'll use the 'scrote' and the 'bag' business in the new poem I'm writing for Jill and Ian at Aussie Customs, to go along with the "Australian Quarantine Inspection Service" line I have to rhyme. I found it to be in bad form to criticize such a work of genius, btw.


    The cuz would be Cath? She's someone I could get along with, I think. Chucking it in the neighbor's yard is the key to proper disposal, I think...


    So, you're not kidding? SB is scrote bag? I don't want to get into trouble over this. If I ask someone if I can smell their SB pong, I don' want to find out later that I've insulted them.

    Trusting you, Boy...

  7. See?? He's always getting me into trouble. That comment above is something I'd say to HIM, but I can't go having everyone who reads this thinking that I'm gonna ask just ANYONE if I can smell their SB pong. I leave such things up to the cat.

    Really, folks... I was just kidding.


    Oh, never mind. He does this to me every time. I've gotta get back to work...

  8. If you don't like jelly beans, there's always chocolate covered peanuts. [or was it chocolate covered ear plugs?]

    Anyway, don't worry about being on the lists. I assure you, you're in good company! Just don't go around asking strangers if you can smell their SB! ;)

  9. Ha ha ha, DC. So I ate a chocolate covered earplug. Once. As I was talking with a politician. That's not so unusual, is it? (You've gotta get out more. Live a little...)

    And I'd NEVER ask stranger that question! (I'm still not sure Jack was telling me the truth on that one... SB might be something completely innocent!) I save such things for people I know (hoping they'll simply roll their eyes and ignore me, knowing I'll recover my sanity/aplomb/savoir-faire eventually.)

    Once the full moon has waned.


  10. Goodness me...I go to Sydney for a day and a half and when I get back find everyone is going around sniffing scrotums and whacking cane toads.
    Obviously can't be trusted to be left alone for one minute!


  11. dont worry about ali g too much Kazza
    we were down at the golf club last week with our scuba goggles on playing a round of cane toads.
    Good fun but after the second or third whack the bastards get a bit too squishy and are hard to sink in the holes when you get to the greens.
    Have to up-end the club and ram the mongrels in sometimes.
    Lots of splatter then for sure

  12. You're right, Ali g. I need constant supervision. Better get your a$$ up here and get a handle on me.


    Trev... GROSS! (Hard to make purses out of them the way you're going about it. Better listen to Jack's cuz and do things the proper way...)