© Sammy Ringer 2018
The chainsaws came and their homes were destroyed. Suburbia crept and their food was wiped out. Cars ran them over dusk and dawn.Hunters came hunting and shot their mothers. Roads were littered with sisters and brothers. Then came Ryan, the ringtail possum. He was strong, he was fearless - and he had a plan.
Outline: Ep 1
Ryan learned early to look after himself. The tall gum that was his family home was chain-sawed when he was just a backpacker (that’s a baby possum out of the pouch and riding on his mum’s back.) He and mum fell to earth and fled. But she was injured and, over the days and weeks after losing their home, mum became weaker and weaker, unable to climb or run. When she died, Ryan wept and pounded the earth. Then he learned to fend for himself.
He was still a teenager when he met Rita, a young ringtail who had also lost her mum. Unlike Ryan, Rita had no idea how to forage for pick or build a shelter high in the trees. She was thin and wrapped in misery.
Ryan brought her blossoms and the pink tips of lilly pillies and renovated his drey to accommodate two. She grew stronger.
They were more like sister and brother than husband and wife and they shared their stories. Rita thought Ryan was the bravest, strongest, best ever possum in the world. Ryan thought Rita was pretty cute.
When the chainsaws returned, she didn’t hesitate to follow his lead – running to the scene of devastation and picking through the debris for the injured and the young. Ryan found two young ones and hoisted them onto his back. Rita found a ‘furry’ (a possum just out of the pouch) and curled herself around it to keep it warm. All around them, possums wailed and scurried for cover. Ryan’s nose twitched and he stood on his hind legs, motioning the panicking ringtails to follow.
Deep into the still-untouched bush they went, jumping from branch to branch, calling out to each other. High in a massive old gum tree they stopped to catch their breath and look around. “Higher, higher!” Ryan called and they climbed to the cover of the dense canopy.
That night, they didn’t go out foraging for pick as was their habit but sat in a rough circle.
“We will never be safe.” Ryan stated and they nodded in unhappy agreement.
“We have to stop them.” he continued but this simply brought looks of confusion.
Ryan stretched out a paw and pointed to the lights far from their shelter. “Who will come with me?” he asked and three of the old males held up their paws. Ryan looked at a young male who seemed uncertain, “You will stay and guard. If there is danger take them deeper into the bush.”
Ryan and his three comrades scurried back towards the lights. This was dangerous work, leaving the covering shelter of the bush for the cleared earth of the new subdivision. They tried to stay from the bright street lights, rushing from shadow to shadow. Ryan brought them to a halt and pointed to a large excavator – “Follow me.”
He ran under the machine and climbed up into the engine, the others following in uncertain excitement.
“Here look.” Ryan said and started to chew through a red cable, then a black one, then a yellow. That done, he motioned them out. “Do the same to each.” He ordered, pointing to a bob cat, a dozer, a tip truck and an even larger excavator.
Their work done, the foursome darted through the shadows once again and headed back to the dense bush. There were excited greetings from the other possums who listened in awe as they told of what they had done, picking bits of red, black and yellow plastic from between their teeth.
Rita approached Ryan shyly, holding out a grevillea flower for her hero.
The next morning, the workman arrived to find their earth moving machinery well and truly buggered. ‘Young kids, vandals.” one of them grumbled.
But shortly after, the terrifying sound of chainsaws began again. The possums, roused from their sleep, looked towards Ryan as though he might have an answer. He shook his head angrily, “We need a plan…” he started but was cut short when a loud rustling is heard in the bush. All eyes turned to the sound – and then the possums, as one, reared onto their hind legs, ruff-barking in anger and warning.
Not more than a few metres away, a family of Bobucks pulled up and returned their aggressive sounds and gestures. Though outnumbered, the Bobuck family kept approaching, woofing in a frightening way. It looked as though a mighty fight was about to begin but Ryan raised a paw and placed himself in front of the Bobucks.
“Did you lose your home?” he asked. The male bobuck seemed more surprised than anything, pushed his mate and young son behind him, “Yes.” he replied.
Ryan nodded and moved even closer. The Bobuck hissed and seemed about to pounce but Ryan held up his paw “We have to stop fighting each other, we must work together.”
As though to reinforce this, the young bobuck walked up to a ringtail and sniffed him gingerly. After a moment’s hesitation, the ringtail sniffed him back.
“All right.” the father bobuck said and stretched out his paw. He and Ryan tapped paws solemnly.
“There are others like us.” The father Bobuck said nodding back towards the construction site, “Shall I bring them too?”
Ryan nodded then frowned “We need a plan, we need support, we need…” as he spoke a Currawong flew overhead, “Eyes in the sky?” the Bobuck asked. Ryan shook his head, “We’ve been enemies since time began, how can we work with Currawongs?”
The Bobuck shrugged and as he did so, the sound of chainsaws roared again, then the sound of a massive tree cracking and falling. Rita cred out, “A nest! A nest! It came down with the tree!!”
All of the possums turned to where she pointed. The Currawong wheeled and squawked overhead, heading back to what had been its nest.
Ryan and the Bobuck nodded to each other and leapt away together, towards the downed nest and the men with chainsaws.
They scurried and scrambled to the downed tree and the shattered nest where two baby currawongs cheeped unhappily, looking up towards their mother who could do nothing.
Ryan used his supple tail to embrace one, the Bobuck gathered the other under his strong arm and the two of them raced back to the bush and safety.
All the possums cheered and joined together to make a twiggy nest for the little ones. The Currawong looked on in amazement and then joy as her two babies were deposited in the nest.
The possums moved back a distance and waited. The Currawong swooped down and landed gracefully on the nest and covered her two protectively before looking over at the gathered possums.
Ryan faces her, “Are you with us?” he asked.
The Currawong checked her nestlings again and then looked up and nodded firmly.
Ryan and his posse of possums join up with a host of other wildlife critters to form a 'safe space' in the bush - then they form a council to decide what to do.
Bandicoots dig holes under freshly laid concrete; Currawongs drop rubbish on same; echidnas spike the tyres of earthmoving equipment and the possums pull electrical cables out of walls and drag it outside.
But – despite their efforts - the houses are completed and people move in.
They are ready to give up. Then, a young ringtail, overly curious, falls down the chimney of a new house and lands in the fireplace. The young son, Kieran, rescues it and immediately gives him a name – ‘Jumbles’. He gets on-line and finds out what to feed it and how to care for it. His parents look on with some trepidation. However, little do they know that their son has learned to communicate with ‘Jumbles’. The little ringtail tells Kieran of the problems facing his family – and all wildlife – because of development. “How can I help? Kieran asks but Jumbles has no answer.
When the possums discover that the young ringtail has been ‘kidnapped’ by the humans they decide on direct action to get it back.
Bobucks, Ringtails and Brushtail possums gather and march on the new neighbourhood, stopping outside the house in question, chanting in their possum way. Above them , Currawongs, Magpies, Butcher birds and (of course) noisy minors – set up a chorus.
Kieran and his family – and the whole neighbourhood – come out to see what the fuss is.:
The possums are joined by other creatures of the forest and the battle reaches new fronts.
Kieran begins his own campaign – and finds some unlikely allies.
Spoiler – the development is stopped and revegetation begins.
But - not so far away - a new development is underway – and Ryan has his eyes on it.