Now the mongeese are at ease although never really friendly, caution still rules. One family made our three homes their territory, a mother who somehow had her tail shortened by half, her mate and two lively youngsters smart and bright as jewels. We always know when they are in the vicinity because the birds set up a furious chatter of warnings when they approach, starting with the guttural growl of the robin.
Their playing together was endlessly amusing. Its real purpose, however, was not just fun – it was training, teaching them how to survive in the big wide world out there.
Hawk Eye Kath, having watered her garden, turned off her hose and planning to use it again later, stuck the nozzle through one of the 25 mm square holes in the plastic mesh fence supporting an ivy creeper between our homes. It hung there about 20 cm above the ground, nozzle down and dripping water, hose coiled lightly behind it, just like a poised snake.
Or so the junior mongeese decided. The instant they saw it from the lawn, their body attitudes changed visibly. One moment they were two exploring kids, the next hunters with every sense sharply alert.
They came in fast but cautious, eyes fixed on the target’s “head”, and attacked. The “snake” disappointed them by not reacting at all, except to flop a bit.
The youngsters quickly discovered this was no real snake, no threat and unfortunately no food. It did not put them off. For the next ten minutes they practised their various modes of attack on the cooperative hose, one distracting while the other struck. They did no damage to it, they obviously knew this was not the real thing but after all, those weren’t all that easy to come by.
Mother watched from the lawn with adoring pride, or whatever that expression was on her usually impassive face. Kath and Dor were given free entertainment one could never buy.
Father lost most interest in his offspring while they were still small. Thereafter they went everywhere with mother. She brought them right up to Liz’s stoep to show them off. All three stood erect atop a cabinet outside our kitchen looking directly at us until several bonemeal pellets were dispensed.
Then tragedy struck. One morning Liz found the body of one of the youngsters on the main road. It had no visible damage and must have been struck by a passing car.