As I look at this square, the magpie looks out at me. It is made from material from my wedding dress and my husband’s suit. The stories I could tell from this. There is the magpie story told to me by my mother or the one about our unusual honeymoon where everything seemed to go wrong.
In Canberra, where I live you wouldn’t believe how many magpies there are and all of them the swooping kind. There is a tall tree in our street with a nest of magpies and come spring watch out…the road is not safe for walkers. It is like watching a TV show as the people pass by the tree. The magpies’ swoop once, twice, then back again for the kill.
People wear hats of all description, as well as carrying umbrellas, sticks and branches. They wave them desperately at the swooping birds and just when the people think they are safe they are struck again from behind.
Our street is a busy street and at the end of it, an underpass to the busy shopping mall. People complain, signs are put up; Beware the swooping bird! and yes whether it has read the sign or not, the birds swoop all the more. People are told to put eyes on their hats and the magpie won’t swoop.
This leads me to the story from my childhood about a magpie who came to stay.
My grandmother lived in a little house in the country. She raised chickens for eggs, grew fruit and vegetables and had a few cows for milk. My grandfather drove the local bus and took the produce into the market to sell. They had five children, 4 boys and a girl.
One day when my grandmother was cooking in the kitchen a magpie walked into the house. The Magpie saw grandmother and headed straight towards her, rubbed up against her leg. looked up and warbled sweetly. Grandmother was so touched by this display that she called her Maggie and they were friends for life.
No one could say a thing against Maggie. She started to rule the roost and woe betide anyone who got in her way. Maggie was like a little shadow, making cute little sounds as she walked behind Martha….something like ; Kek! Kek! Kek!
From the beginning, Maggie the Magpie didn’t want anything to do with mum and her four brothers. She wanted to have Grandmother all to herself. To this end she was always thinking up ways to make trouble for the children.
My mum and her brothers had their special jobs to do when they came home from school. The boys had to milk the cows, chop the wood and bring up the water from the creek and Mum had to collect the eggs from the chook yard. After they finished their tasks the children played in the creek if there was time before supper.
Ivy was my mother and the youngest member of the family. She had been sick quite a bit of her young life and Grandmother used to often nurse her and spoil her a little. That of course, was before Maggie came. Maggie was jealous of my mother. When no one was looking she would peck at mum’s toes. Peck, peck, peck like this and peck, peck, peck like that. Mum would call out. “ Mum, mum, Maggie won’t stop pecking my toes, come and take her away, mum…mum…”“Stop all that noise,” Grandmother would say and then she would scold my mother for being a baby and crying..
If Maggie couldn’t find Grandmother when she came into the house, the search would begin. When she found her on the bed, Maggie would jump up on the bed, cuddle up to her. When grandmother took no notice, she would gently stroke grandmother’s eyelids with her beak and then pull out all her hairpins, one by one.
Maggie the Magpie could do no wrong as far as Grandmother was concerned. Grandmother was forever losing things, her needle and thimble, cotton reels, bits of cotton and lace. “Did you take them she asked her daughter?”“No mum, but I bet Maggie did, She is always taking our marbles and bits of coloured paper and treasures. Grandmother would become quite cross and say, ” Maggie wouldn’t do that.”
So one day, my mother and her brothers decided to keep watch on Maggie. They watched and watched all day and quietly followed her wherever she went. Late in the afternoon Maggie walked under the house. After waiting for a while, the children crept after her. To their surprise, Maggie sat in the middle of her territory, surrounded by all the missing items. They couldn’t wait to show their mother, but when she saw her beloved pet sitting in the middle of all the things that had gone missing, she said, ” Oh what a lovely little house.” Maggie walked across to her with a triumphant look on her face and her beak in the air.
Maggie liked to play tricks on the boys. She would lie in wait for the boys to come home from school and she would imitate Martha’s voice…she was extremely good at this.
She would call out from the top of the fence.“Boys, go and fetch the cows.” and then she would say, “All right mum, “ and she whistled for the dogs. I don’t think Maggie was very popular with the boys, because she reminded Grandmother that they were home and had a job to do. So you could see why the children didn’t like Maggie very much, it was a much easier life for them before she came to live at the farm. They were free to sneak down to the creek to collect yabbies and skim stones across the water as soon as they arrived home from school without their grandmother being warned. They also wouldn’t get the blame for the lost items from grandmother’s work basket.
Now it happened. one day that one of the boys was digging the garden and he dug up a centipede, Maggie pounced and swallowed the centipede straight away, she took several fits and fell over dead. Grandmother was so upset, but all the children were rather pleased. They gave Maggie a beautiful funeral, flowers and all, the boys dug a grave, lay her very gently in it, and just as they were going to shovel in the dirt, something looked like it was moving in the grave. They all looked down at Maggie. They couldn’t believe it, she moved a little and then some more, and then up jumped Maggie. She coughed and spluttered and up came the centipede. Maggie walked away with her beak in the air. The boys were hysterical with laughter, but my mum was very disappointed.
Maggie went on to live a ripe old age and continued to peck my mum’s toes day in day out.
Please email me [email protected] your short story or reminiscence from the image.