Monday, March 28, 2016

Good Oil About Bilbies

I had the good fortune recently to be interviewed on Australian radio about my book Final Chapters. In fact, I was interviewed three times, for ABC Radio National in Melbourne, ABC Overnights in Sydney, and ABC Radio Adelaide. The host on one of these shows mentioned that he had just finished wolfing down an Easter egg and a bilby. The Easter egg was all right, but he had me stymied with “bilby,” which sent me to the dictionary.

A bilby is an endangered native Australian marsupial, also known as a rabbit-bandicoot. It is a loan word from the  Yuwaalaraay aboriginal language of northern New South Wales, and it means “long-nosed rat.”

To call attention to its endangered status, conservationalists in the 1990s began selling chocolate Easter bilbies at the Warrawong Sanctuary as an alternative to Easter bunnies. Feral rabbits, incidentally, are hated creatures in Australia, where they cause much damage to crops. So Easter bilbies are a benign replacement, and they are now widely popular all over Australia.

Note: “Good oil” is an Australia term meaning “useful information.”              

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou has never been to Australia, but he does have kangaroos loose in the top paddock—and that’s fair dinkum!

            There was an old boozer from Sydney,
            Who drank till he ruined one kidney.
                        He drank and he drank,
                        As it shriveled and shrank,
            But he had a good time doin’ it, did’n’ he?

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