A Close Encounter of the Avian Kind

 

Heavy dump truck on low loader
Yep, that’s me with a dump truck. Possibly a Cat 777 but I’m not sure. Notice the Aussie safety footwear!

Starting in late 2010 and up to the end of 2016 I worked as a wide-load pilot driver. This involved escorting oversize loads—mostly mining equipment—in and out of mining and construction sites all over Australia, though mainly in Western Australia.
In those six years I clocked up well over a million kilometres.

I did almost no actual writing during this period. What I did do, however (and mostly without even realising it) was collect, in my own version of a Mind Palace, many of the characters who would later populate both my debut novel GOLD! and the spin-off short story The Ravine.

I worked with loads of interesting characters and witnessed some truly awesome sights during that time. One of the most memorable was the Budgie Incident.

I was driving south along the North-West Coastal Highway somewhere between Carnarvon and Geraldton, returning to Perth after spending a week escorting loads of rail from the Dampier port. I’d stopped in a truck bay to stretch my legs when without warning an enormous flock of budgerigars swooped from the sky. I’d been splashing my face with water and obviously, they’d picked up the scent.

They seemed totally unafraid of me and in minutes my vehicle and its bull bar were covered with these playful little birds. I tipped some water into a bowl and they swarmed over it, drinking their fill. After a few minutes, I even was able to coax one of them to perch on my finger. It was a truly amazing experience and even though I knew better I just couldn’t resist taking hold of it.
The bird (I can’t say I blamed it) screeched and sunk its beak into my finger. At the same time, it seemed the entire flock decided it was time to tear my face apart. Luckily, I was wearing wrap-around sunglasses.

budgie with a tiger's head
No, this is not the actual bird, but rather what it felt like! Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

I immediately released the budgie and the flock took flight. They wheeled in circles for about a half-minute before deciding my water wasn’t worth the risk. They flew off and within a minute had disappeared into the shimmering haze, leaving me with a sore finger and a slight case of chagrin.

I told the story a few days later to a truckie and he said he had seen the same thing (minus the finger biting) on one or two occasions. Budgies, it seems, have few predators in the wild except for hawks, eagles, and the occasional feral cat. They don’t see humans as a threat any more than they do kangaroos or emus.
I hope I didn’t ruin that for my visitors that day.

 

Thanks for reading. Would you like to read more snippets like this? I’ve got a gazillion more tales I could share.

Leave a comment below if you feel the urge.

Cheers for now.

Thomas.

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