When I was a kid, I'd sneak through some body's front yard, slink down their side path, dash across their back yard, and disappear into the bush, down a secret little track. It wound down, back and forth, deeper and deeper into the gully, through the tall gum trees and thick green ferns.
When I finally reached the bottom, the ferns were very thick, and you pushed and scratched through them until you burst out onto the hidden, serene creek. I'd gasp with joy at my secret place, and sit down on the bank and watch the water. It was about thigh deep, crystal clear, completely still, and freezing cold.
Around the edges were a series of holes and tunnels, submerged just below the water line. Once, to my complete surprise, I saw a black shape, about the size of a shoe, dart out of one hole, across the pond, and disappear into another hole on the opposite side. It wasn't until after it had gone that I realised it was a platypus.
But I didn't go down there for platypuses. On the bottom of the creek sat yabbies. I would search for them like hidden treasures, and was so excited when I'd find one. I loved these yabbies. I called this pastime yabby-hunting, but really that was a misleading title, for all I wanted was to have them as my pets.
I would creep in very slowly, into the icy water, moving stealthily so as not to scare my prey. Slowly I would reach down to the bottom and grab it, and quickly put it into a bucket of water and take it home.
I had no tank at home, so I set up a little pond in a big red open bucket, in my bedroom. In there I would have several yabbies, ranging from the size of your thumb to the size of a small banana. Occasionally there would be a sad passing, and I would take the corpse outside for a proper, respectful burial.
One night, I was awoken by a scratching sound at my bedroom door. I thought it must be Sandy the cat on the other side wanting to get in. I hopped up in the dark and crouched at the bottom of the door, wiggling my fingers under, to try and touch the cat. But what I touched was no cat. It was hard, and cold, and shiny.
I leaped up with a yelp, and turned on the light, to see two or three large-sized yabbies grubbing around on the carpet, with their claws open, squaring me up.
I loved those yabbies. What I would give to sneak through that yard again now, and disappear down my secret bush track, and just sit beside that same old creek.