Petra t he Pos tie Karin Cox with photography by Steve Parish
Far away from humans, high in the uplands, stretched a belt of grasslands studded with boulders that were home to Petra the rock-wallaby. Petra had lived in the Rocky Uplands all her life. She knew every twist and turn of the land, every creek and every crevice, each hollow and every hiding place, every tree and every trail. Untilâ€‰...â€‰things began to change.
A long black snake was seen in the distance. Its black coils shimmered as it slithered across the land. “Surely it can’t be a python,” argued Petra’s husband, Harry. “It’s too big.” “Perhaps it is a river?” suggested Petra.
“I don’t think so,” said Stomp, the mob leader. “It hasn’t rained in months. A river without any rain? But it is on our land, so you and Harry must find out what it is.”
Petra and Harry set off immediately. When they reached Ferny Falls, Harry stopped and sniffed the ground. “What is it?” asked Petra. “The scent of humans,” Harry whispered, and Petra shivered. Soon, their ears twitched with sounds unlike any they had ever heard. They could tell they were getting closer to the long black shimmering thing.
They travelled on and by evening they reached the black thing. Suddenly, two huge, bright eyes appeared. The black thing began to shake. A terrible growl filled the air. The eyes bore down on them and the growl grew to a screech. â€œPetra, look out!â€? cried Harry, as he leapt to push her out of the way.
“It is much worse than I imagined,” said Harry sadly, picking up a black pebble. “It is a road.”
“A road!” cried Petra. “What are we going to do?” “I’d better warn the wallabies in the western camp,” said Harry. “Can you take this pebble in your pouch back to our mob and show Stomp? Tell him the humans are building roads. Do you remember the way?”
“Don’t worry,” said Petra. “I know every twist and turn of the land, every creek and every crevice, each hollow and every hiding place, every tree and every trail.” She set off over the rocks, scattering the coloured parrots as she went.
Before long, Petra came to a clearing. That was strange, because she remembered this spot used to have a stand of silvery trees. “Help, Petra!” It was Zeb the striped possum. “Humans have cut down my tree. I need you to take a message to Flake the feathertail glider at Finnegans Flat. I heard the humans say they’re headed that way.” Zeb handed her a message scratched on a leaf.
â€œI have to take a message to my mob first, but then I will deliver your message,â€? said Petra, putting the leaf in her pouch.
Petra hopped on, even faster. Soon she came to a twist in the creek that she had not seen before. Instead of the flowing creek she remembered, there was now a big muddy puddle. â€œPssst!â€? came a voice. It was Trickle the platypus.
â€œHumans came and said they were building a dam. Now my pool has been ruined and the water is not flowing much anymore.â€? 15
“I need you to take this message to my son down at Crystal Creek.” Trickle used her bill to skim a stone that carried her message across to Petra. “I have a few messages to deliver, but I will take this to your son after I have delivered the others,” said Petra. She popped the message in her pouch and set off again to warn her mob.
It was almost dawn when she arrived home and showed Stomp the black pebble from the road. Stomp was very nervous. All night birds had flown past to the east and a puff of smoke had been seen rising from the west. 18
â€œI must tell the others about this road,â€? said Stomp. Petra was very tired, but she still had to deliver the other messages to Finnegans Flat and Crystal Creek, so she set off again.
When Petra got to Finnegans Flat, she found the feathertail gliders in quite a flap. “Thank you for bringing me Zeb’s message,” said Flake. “You must be tired.” She gave Petra a sweet grevillea blossom to eat. “I better move my babies to higher ground, away from the humans.”
At Crystal Creek, Trickle’s son Eddie was very worried by his mother’s message. “Crystal Creek is about to stop flowing,” he told his friend Slim the water-rat. “We better move higher up, to the mountain streams. Thank you for warning us, Petra.” 22
Finally, with all of her messages delivered, Petra headed home. It took her a long time, however, because her home had changed so much. She no longer knew every twist and turn of the land, every creek and every crevice, each hollow and every hiding place, every tree and every trail. She arrived just after Harry. It had taken him a while to warn the wallabies at the western camp. There had been humans everywhere!
“I am so proud of you, Petra,” Harry said. “On the way back I met Zeb and Trickle. They told me how brave you were in delivering their messages.”
“Yes, Petra,” agreed Stomp. “You have been so good at taking messages that the animals would like to offer you a job. How would you like to be Petra the Postie and deliver warnings about where the humans are, to help the animals avoid them and stay safe?”
“It is a big job, darling,” said Harry, “but I am sure you can do it.”
“That’s just it,” said Petra. “It’s such a big job and I’m so tired. Although I don’t have any more messages to deliver, my pouch feels so heavy. I just feel so very, very tired.”
Harry looked at his wife in surprise. It was unlike Petra to be this exhausted. Then he noticed something — Petra’s pouch was bigger. “Oh Petra,” smiled Harry. “If you look in your pouch I think you’ll find one more parcel to deliver.”
“What do you mean?” cried Petra. “I have taken all of the messages out.” She poked her head into her pouch and then looked up at Harry with a cry of surprise. Inside her pouch was a tiny baby joey. It was the most precious parcel Petra had ever carried!
These days, Petra and Harry are still running the Rocky Uplands Postal Service. But now, they make sure they leave extra room in Petraâ€™s pouch for one very special little package. 31
As a child, Steve Parish was fascinated with animals. As an adult, he has devoted his career to photographing them, and through publishing has promoted an informed awareness of Australia’s unique and varied wildlife. With each photograph, Steve aims to capture a little of the character of the animal, giving us a sense of being immersed in the animal’s environment. Steve has a passion for teaching children about nature. What better way is there to develop this appreciation than through the joy of reading? Karin Cox is an editor, poet and author who grew up on a farm in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland — inspiring her love for nature. Graduating with a degree in English Literature & Communication Studies, she first entered publishing as an editor, going on to edit and ghostwrite books in Australia and the UK before publishing her first book in Australia in 2003. She has now written more than fifteen titles for Steve Parish Publishing.
Published by Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 1058, Archerfield, Queensland 4108 Australia www.steveparish.com.au © copyright Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. ISBN 978174193659 9 First published 2011. Photography: Steve Parish
PUBLISHING PROUDLY AUSTRALIAN OWNED
Additional photography: p. 21 (right), Stanley Breeden Text: Karin Cox, SPP Design: Leanne Nobilio, SPP Editorial: Cathy Vallance & Michele Perry, SPP Colour management: Greg Harm, SPP Production: Yvonne Okseniuk, SPP Printed in China through Phoenix Offset Produced in Australia at the Steve Parish Publishing Studios
Petra the Postie and other Karin Cox Story Books can be purchased online from our webshop: http://www.steveparish.com.au
September 2010 Release february 2011 Release