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TJALAMINU MIA AND JESSICA LISTER
I've got a secret and I'm so excited!
Actually, I've got two secrets and that makes me feel really happy inside.
'What are you grinning at, Debbie?' my brother Billy asks.
'Nothing.' I don't want him guessing my secrets.
'You've got a secret, haven't you?'
'No I haven't.'
'Yes you have! I can tell! What is it, Debbie?'
'I'm not telling you, Billy!'
He throws a honky nut at me. 'Tell me!'
He throws another nut. 'Well, I've got a secret too!'
'What is it then?'
'My special tree is bigger than yours!' Billy looks sly. 'I told you my secret Debbie, now you have to tell me yours!'
I laugh. 'That's not a secret, that's a fib. My special tree is much bigger than yours!'
Billy picks up a big honky nut and flings it at me. It hits my arm and really stings. Boy, am I mad! I yell, 'Actually I have two secrets and I'm not going to tell you about them now!'
'Keep your silly secrets then!' he says, storming off.
I know where he's going, back to the house to tell Mum I've been mean to him. Then I'll get into trouble. Why are little brothers so annoying?
I slump down under my favourite tree, the one that's taller than Billy's, and look out over the bush. I'm a Nyungar girl and I live in green country. At least, that's what some people call it. In green country there are lots of birds and animals and creeks and rivers, but most of all there are trees. Tall trees, short trees, skinny trees and fat ones too. They're all different from each other, with different leaves, trunks and bark. Knobbly nuts grow on their branches and these nuts turn into pretty coloured flowers, which smell really nice. When the bees buzz around the flowers, Billy and I have to be careful we don't get stung. Birds and possums make their homes in the trees. I love climbing to the very top of my tree like a possum and looking out over the land to the blue coloured hills in the distance. High in the sky, no one can see me. It is my own personal hide out.
I've invented a secret name for my favourite tree. It's made up of three words – gorgeous, gem and Christmas. I put them all together and made Gorgemas. Mum agrees that my tree is the best tree in the world. She says it's like a beautiful gem. At Christmas time Mum helps me decorate Gorgemas. We make paper cut outs of animals and stick bits of coloured wool on them. They are lovely, but the shiny string of bells and stars Mum makes out of silver chocolate paper looks the best. I'm the only one who knows my tree's name. That's my first secret. But my second secret is even bigger. Gorgemas has a bird's nest with three eggs hidden in a hollow in the trunk near the very top. The eggs are white with little brown specks.
I don't want to tell Billy my secrets because I don't think he really understands what a secret is. Besides, Mum told us she is expecting a visitor, and I don't want Billy blabbing my special secrets to just anyone.
'Come on you kids!' Mum calls after lunch. 'It's time to go to the train station.'
We're expecting a parcel from our grandparents, Nana and Dada Keen, who live in the city with all our uncles and aunties. Billy is getting new boots and I'm getting a new dress. We don't see our grandparents very often, so we're excited about the parcel arriving. There might be a letter in it too, with all the family news from Perth.
As we pull into the station we can hear the train whistle blowing and see smoke rising above the tree tops in the distance. We wait on the platform. It's always exciting when the train arrives, especially when you're expecting a present.
'Stop jumping about!' Mum growls at us. 'You might fall onto the tracks and get squashed, then neither of you will be wearing those new clothes!'
When the train pulls in we move down the platform towards the guard's van, where they store all the parcels. The guard loads everything onto a trolley and rolls it onto the platform. Mum picks out the parcel that belongs to us then signs the goods form to say it's been delivered safely.
'I can't wait to get home and see my new dress!' I tell Mum.
'I hope my boots are the right size,' says Billy.
The platform is crowded with people now. All the passengers from Perth have left the train.
Mum smiles at us and says, 'I wonder who that is walking towards us?'
We look in the direction she's pointing and can't believe our eyes. Coming towards us is a short man carrying a small suitcase. His hat is tilted to one side of his head and there's a big grin on his face. It's Dada Keen!
'Surprise!' he calls out to us.
We hug him so hard we nearly knock him over.
'So you're the visitor Mum was expecting!' I giggle.
'She kept it a big secret!'
Dada Keen and Mum look at each other and laugh.
I'm really happy. It's the best surprise Billy and I have had in a long time.
Dada Keen hasn't always lived in the city. He grew up in the bush. We love it when he visits because he has lots of interesting stories to tell us about the birds and plants and animals.
The next morning after breakfast I tell him, 'I've got a secret to show you.'
'Secrets are special things, Debbie,' he replies. 'Are you sure you want to share your secret with me?'
I grin. 'Actually, I've got two secrets. And yes, I'm sure.'
I wait until Billy is doing his jobs for Mum, then I take Dada Keen out to meet Gorgemas.
'What a good name for such a beautiful tree,' he says.
When I tell him about the bird's nest with the speckled eggs tucked away at the top he nods. 'The birds must like your tree too, because they've built their nest in it. You're very lucky to have two special secrets.'
'Thank you, Dada Keen.'
Dada Keen bends down and whispers. 'I've got a secret too Debbie – a very important one. If I share it with you, will you keep it safe and not tell anyone?'
'Of course I will! What is it?'
Just then a voice calls loudly, 'Hey Debbie, what are you doing?' Billy comes running up the hill to join us.
Dada Keen waves to him, then winks at me, 'Don't worry Debbie, I won't tell anyone your secrets. And tomorrow I'll show you something very special. It will be a long walk though, so you'll need to have a good sleep tonight.'
Billy rushes up and shows Dada Keen some of the honky nuts lying near his tree. I notice he doesn't say he sometimes throws them at me!
Will Dada Keen bring Billy with us when we go bushwalking tomorrow? I hope not. I've never had a special outing on my own with Dada Keen. It would be lovely if, for once, it could just be the two of us.
I cross my fingers and make a wish. Please let me go bushwalking with Dada Keen alone tomorrow.
Will my wish come true?
The next day Mum bakes Dada Keen scones with jam and cream for morning tea.
'Delicious!' he says. 'They don't make scones like these in the city.'
Mum smiles. She likes it when people enjoy her cooking. Then she winks at me. Something is going on – but what?
'Billy,' Mum says, 'I have to go into town to buy a few things. Do you want to come along?'
Billy looks at me and Dada Keen. I can see he's trying to decide which will be the most fun, staying on the farm or going with Mum.
Dada Keen yawns. 'My train journey tired me out, I think I might need a little nap today.'
'I'll come, Mum!' Billy says.
After they leave, Dada Keen fills a billycan with clean water and his canvas bag with the sandwiches Mum made for our lunch. She didn't want Billy to see them, so she hid them at the very back of the fridge behind a bowl of potato salad. We head off across one of the big sheep paddocks, then duck under the wire fence at the end of it and disappear into the bush. It'd be easy to get lost because there's more than one bush track to follow, but Dada Keen knows which path to take.
'Here Debbie,' he says. 'Tie four little knots at the end of each of these handkerchiefs, then pour some water over them from the billycan. They'll keep our heads cool when we're walking through the bush.'
I feel a bit silly with a wet handkerchief on my head, but it's a hot day and it does make me cooler.
We walk for a long time, so long that I'm wondering if we'll ever get there, when Dada Keen stops and says, 'You stay here for a moment Debbie, I just want to check around a bit and make sure we're in exactly the right spot.'
All of a sudden I'm alone. It's scary. I hope a snake doesn't slither by. I stand there for ages, then I hear a voice calling, 'Coo-ee! Coo-ee!'
I stand very still and listen again.
It's Dada Keen!
I call back 'Coo-ee! Coo-ee!' just like he taught me when I was small.
Dada Keen comes out of the bush behind me and smiles. 'That's good, you did the right thing Debbie. You called back twice and you didn't wander off. Now I'm going to show you something special, so close your eyes and take my hand.'
Dada Keen leads me deeper and deeper into the bush. Soon I can hear the bubbling sound of running water.
Where are we?
'We've arrived!' Dada Keen says. 'You can open your eyes now.'
'Oh!' I gasp.
Spread out before us is a carpet of wildflowers. Even my favourite ones are there, the donkey and spider orchids. The water from the creek has made them lush and thick. The perfume of the many different flowers blends with the smell of the eucalyptus trees and fills the air.
Dada Keen breathes deeply. 'It's a wonderful smell, isn't it?'
I breathe deeply too. 'It's bush perfume.'
'I knew you'd like it Debbie, you have a heart for the bush.'
We stand there together, not saying anything, just thinking about how lovely it is.
Then on the ground I notice creepers with blue and pink and yellow flowers. Some of them are wound together, one over the other.
'Dada Keen,' I say in surprise, 'look at the colours of those flowers and the way the plants are woven together! They're just like a double rainbow. Whenever Billy and I see a double rainbow in the sky we always make a wish.'
Dada Keen smiles. 'I wondered when you'd notice them. They're very special, Debbie. But they're so delicate that if you handle them roughly they will shrivel up and die.'
'Earth rainbow,' I say in awe. It's amazing!
'When the sun comes out after it's rained, the plants sparkle like diamonds. When the water drips off them it looks like small droplets of rainbow are sinking back into the earth.'
'That's good, isn't it?'
'Yes, it's very good for the land. You see, these little rainbow plants that lie over the earth are just like the big rainbows in the sky. When I see them, they make me feel happy.'
'Me too,' I sigh. 'Is this a secret place Dada Keen?'
He nods. 'It sure is! This place and these plants are two of my special secrets, just like Gorgemas and the nest with the speckled eggs are yours. I don't tell many people because I want to keep this spot safe. But now that I've shared them with you Debbie, will you keep my secrets?'
I give Dada Keen a big hug. 'Of course I will. I'll help you to protect this place, too. Thank you for showing it to me.'
'Come on Debbie, let's sit under this shady gum and have our lunch. We can look at the wildflowers while we're eating.'
It's nice watching the bees buzzing around the flowers and the tiny birds hovering over them and sticking their little beaks into the petals.
'Do they want to eat the flowers?' I ask.
He laughs. 'The birds are like us. They enjoy sweet things too and the flower nectar is very sweet.'
'Bush lollies for the birds?'
'That's right! It's a wonderful treat that nature provides for them.'
After we finish our sandwiches it's time to leave. I don't want to go. This is such a beautiful place I could stay here forever.
'Does Mum know about the earth rainbows, Dada Keen?' I ask, as we make our way back through the bush.
'Yes, I showed them to her when she was a little girl too. It's a secret she's kept all her life.'
'What about Billy? Will you bring him here one day?'
'Billy is very young, Debbie. Something tells me he doesn't know how to keep a secret yet. Perhaps when he's a bit older, we can all come out here together. But that's only when Billy learns there are some secrets which are important to keep.'
As we head towards home, I feel very proud Dada Keen has shared his secrets with me. I never imagined a secret could be so important, but this one is. When something really special needs protecting, like my bird's nest or Dada Keen's rainbow plants, then the only way to keep it safe is to keep that secret close to your heart.
Yippee! Summer Holidays
TJALAMINU MIA AND JESSICA LISTER
'Wake up, wake up, Debbie!' Billy yells with delight as he runs into my bedroom. 'Yippee, yippee, we don't have school today, it's the holidays!'
Yippee is Billy's favourite word and I'm getting sick of hearing it.
'Go away, Billy, it's still dark outside. I want to sleep some more.' Billy gets up so early on the holidays!
When I wake up next the sun is warm on my face and this makes me smile. I quickly jump out of bed to look outside.
The sun is shining and the sky is blue. There is just one white fluffy cloud floating towards the purple hills in the distance. It is a perfect day to start the summer holidays.
These holidays are going to be the best ever because my grandfather Dada Keen is coming to visit us. I love it when Dada Keen visits us because he knows lots of special places in the bush, and sometimes he takes me to see them.
As I run to join my mum and Billy for breakfast, I think — I love living in the bush and I love the summer holidays.
DADA KEEN'S LETTER
'Debbie, can you and Billy go and see if the mail has arrived?' Mum asks.
We are hoping to get a letter from our grandfather letting us know when he will arrive. Please, I silently pray — let there be a letter from Dada Keen.
'Yippee, yippee,' yells Billy. 'We've got the letter!' Billy runs all the way back to the house to give it to Mum.
'I can come to visit you for two weeks. I arrive on next Friday morning's train from Perth,' Dada Keen writes in his letter. 'Tell Debbie and Billy I have won some money in Lotto, so the prize for the next tyre race will be five dollars.'
Billy and I are so excited. We both yell as we run outside to get our tyres to practise.
'I'm going to win, I'm going to win.'
'No you're not, I am!'
Billy and I play lots of games, like hopscotch and marbles, but the game we like best of all is racing tyres. Our grandfather showed us how to play the last time he stayed.
We race our old car tyres down the hill to the fence at the bottom of the sheep paddock. The first one there is the winner, but you have to keep your tyre with you.
When Billy and I race our tyres, we stand them up and lean them against the side of our legs so they don't fall down. We walk slowly and push the tyres gently with our hands.
Dada Keen says it's all about rhythm. He says we have to make our tyres move at the same time we do.
It gets hard though when we start running. As we pick up speed so do our tyres! Running in a straight line down the hill isn't easy. If we don't keep up with our tyres, they roll away by themselves.
I love this game because when you run fast the wind blows in your face and makes your eyes water and your cheeks tingle. My long hair blows up into the air. Billy always laughs at me. He says I look funny.
Racing tyres is so much fun!
Our racing tyres are black, but Billy has a yellow line down the middle of his and I have a red line on mine. I painted yellow flames around my red line and Billy got angry. He said the flames made my tyre go faster than his.
'Why has Debbie got flames on her tyre and I haven't?' Billy whined to our grandfather, so Dada Keen painted flames on his tyre too. Billy is such a cry-baby sometimes.
I can't wait for Dada Keen to arrive. Only one more sleep, and he'll be here!
After we pick up Dada Keen from the train station, the first thing he does is check our tyres to see if they need fixing.
Then Dada Keen puts two big bolt screws on each side of the hole in our tyres and ties bunches of long crepe paper streamers to the bolts. He puts red streamers on Billy's tyre and yellow streamers on mine.
Dada Keen doesn't say anything while he's doing this. He just looks at us and smiles, so we smile too.
'Dada Keen, why are you doing that to our tyres?' Billy asks eventually. Billy always asks questions when he's not supposed to!
'Just be patient Billy, you'll soon see,' our grandfather replies.
Billy and I look at each other — we are very curious now. I wonder what my grandfather is up to?
Then Dada Keen asks Billy to go to the shed and bring him the old wooden wheelbarrow. He puts our tyres in the wheelbarrow and pushes them to the starting line for our race.
RUSTY OLD WINDMILL
There is an old rusty windmill in the paddock near our house. It pumps water from the dam to the sheep troughs so they have water to drink.
'I'll check for rocks on the racetrack. You kids keep an eye on the windmill,' says our grandfather.
'Why Dada Keen?' I ask.
'When the wind starts to blow, the windmill will change course and that's when we start the race,' he replies.
Excerpted from "Bush and Beyond"
Copyright © 2018 Tjalaminu Mia, Jessica Lister, Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Jaylon Tucker.
Excerpted by permission of Fremantle Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Yippee! Summer Holidays,