A story from Kakadu July 2010 by John Sinclair for his grandchildren and others
When Connor lost his football in the tall dry grass while on holidays with his family in Kakadu he thought that was the end of the matter. He and his sister and cousins had searched and searched in the long grass near their camp at Gunlom but they couldn’t find the ball that Connor had had for more than half his life and which he dearly loved.
Still Connor was having a marvellous holiday and Connor went on to explore other parts of Kakadu and discover some amazing Aboriginal rock art in the caves.
BUT the ball was lying in very dry tall grass and long after Connor and his family had returned to his home in Brisbane, an amazing series of events took place because of Connor’s football. Perhaps it would be better to blame Connor’s lost ball AND a spark from a camper’s fire that set the long grass near Connor’s long lost ball.
In Kakadu there are two very distinct periods — the Wet and the Dry. In the Wet the grass grows. It is green and it grows very fast and very tall. However when the dry period arrive in Kakadu, and that is usually the cooler months, the grass becomes very brown and crisp. That was how it was when Connor kicked the ball into the long grass. However in the weeks after Connor left the grass got even drier so it caught fire very easily.
The dead grass was piled up around Connor’s football. That was the reason he and his family couldn’t find it. That was the reason why the fire burnt extra fiercely when it got near the ball. The air inside the football just got so hot that it caused the whole football to explode like a bomb. The blast shook the ground around.
The explosion was so big that Roger Rodent, a native rat who was hiding away from the fire in a big crack in the ground, thought that it might be an earthquake. If it was an earthquake, Roger thought that it wouldn’t be a good place to be hiding underground. He might be safe from the fire underground but he could get crushed as the earth moved so he rushed out of his crack.
Roger had picked a bad time to show his face to the daylight. Just then Peter Python was wriggling past. He was afraid of the fire and was also frightened by the big explosion so he was looking to get as far away from the fire and as fast as he could. However when Roger bounced up in front of him Peter couldn’t believe his luck. Rodents are favourite food for pythons. Peter couldn’t help himself. He forgot the fire and began chasing Peter. Both were also moving away from the fire.
The explosion of Connor’s football had alerted a National Park Ranger who was working nearby. He came racing down in his Ranger fire truck to see that the fire wasn’t endangering camps. While he didn’t see Roger Rodent he did see Peter Python just in time to avoid running over him.
While many people are frightened of any snakes, most Rangers love them and because Peter was an uncommon python, the ranger thought he had better pick him up and put him out of harm’s way before he went on to ensure that the fire wouldn’t harm any campsites. So he gently grabbed Peter and put him in a little bag and placed him in the back of his fire truck.
Roger Rodent couldn’t believe his luck. One minute he thought that he might have been a python’s dinner and now he thought he was safe. So he stopped running and stopped puffing and looking about and congratulated himself. In doing so he forgot to look out for other dangers. He should have known that while many animals rush away from fires there are other critters start moving towards fires as soon as any smoke starts to rise anywhere in Kakadu.
That is why Billy Black Kite was rushing to the fire. Billy was flying high looking for grasshoppers or anything small trying to get away from the fire. Then suddenly from his eye in the sky he saw a relaxed and smiling Rodney Rodent casually sauntering along. He thought to himself that Rodney looked like a three course Christmas dinner. Normally the best catches that Billy got from any fires were grasshoppers but a fat rodent looked like being a rare feast.
Billy folded back his wings and dived. He grabbed Roger in his talons and took him away for dinner. So Roger Rodent who thought he was very lucky had his luck run out. But Peter Python who thought he was going to be unlucky in missing out on Roger was lucky not to be run over by the Ranger so he was safe. And Billy Black Kite was very lucky indeed because he had the biggest catch he had ever caught from any fire.
And all of this only happened because Connor couldn’t find his football in the long grass at Gunlom.