Episode 7 – “A Wandering Wombat”
“The Stories of Animal Control Officers Joe Tuesday and Bill Cannon”
(With a nod to Jack Web’s ‘Dragnet’ TV series…)
By Keith Kaniut
It was a quiet morning. My partner Bill and I were doing professional reading. Mine was a paper proposing a way to safely capture a moose using only a ball of string and basal leaves. Or kale. It was a largely theoretical piece; a doctoral thesis one occasionally finds in zoology departments. Bill’s reading was more practical – how to mix a daiquiri. Wait a second. That’s not professional reading! But then the phone rang.
“Animal Control, Sergeant Joe Tuesday speaking.” I listened briefly. “Right. We’re on our way.”
“Bill, we have a code 3141!”
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“You’re kidding! A wandering wombat? Don’t get those very often.”
“The caller was quite certain. Mr. Wainscott is a college zoology professor and wouldn’t wrongfully identify a small bear-like marsupial as a wombat if it weren’t.”
We jumped in the truck and Bill reviewed my notes as we drove.
“You wrote: ‘Mr. Wainscot was watching his wife weave a wreath on their patio when something wandered into their backyard. With binoculars he identified the creature: a wombat – a marsupial native to Australia.’”
Bill paused. “I wonder. From where did this wooly Koala bear relative wander, and why? And does anybody know its name? Who cares when it’s not there?”
“Good questions Bill (and nice alliteration) but we won’t have answers until we: (1) Capture it; (2) Find its owner; and (3) Return it. Any ideas?”
“Better Google it.” A minute later Bill read…
“The Animal Corner website says ‘Wombats are herbivores, feed on grass, tree and shrub roots and fungi.’ And in captivity they’ll eat farm vegetables.”
“Good. I have a watermelon in the truck.
“We’ll need to net it.” Bill thought a second. “How about the camouflage shrub suit?”
We arrived at the Wainscot’s and grabbed the shrubbery disguise, watermelon and the net. Bill also grabbed the wombat musk a friend of mine in Australia had sent; as cologne. Yeah – a real comedian.
Mr. Wainscot met us at the truck and after quick introductions, walked us to the side yard. We looked over the fence. The wombat was in back, digging. They do that a lot.
I explained our plan and Mr. Wainscott wondered, “Have you done this before?”
“No.” I admitted. Turning to Bill I said,
“Bill, I’ll watch the wombat and relay by radio its reactions as you approach. The shrubbery disguise is hard to see out of.”
We donned our earpieces, lip microphones and Bill, his shrubbery disguise. I carefully placed the watermelon on top of his feet so Bill could walk like a penguin holding its egg while shuffling across the ice. It would be slow but unlikely to spook the wombat. I liberally applied the wombat musk.
“Phew! That stinks! Now I understand why you wanted me as the mobile shrubbery!”
“Heh, you wanted the Glory part of the job. Radio check.”
“Loud and clear.” I opened the gate and Bill shuffled into the yard.
The wombat seemed unconcerned as Bill edged nearer. When Bill was 6-feet away it sniffed the air.
“It stopped digging. It smells you. Yes – wobbling towards you now…Just whacked the watermelon. Wait one…it’s over your foot. I see a … deposit.…Never mind – it’s eating the watermelon.” I forgot to mention – They mark their territory.
On Bill’s foot was a perfect cube – wombat scat. We counted down and on “zero” he pounced and netted our wanderer. I checked the collar while Bill gently corralled our captive into a cage.
“It says ‘Please notify the Minneapolis Zoo if found. My name is Walter.’”
I checked my phone map.
“There’s a freeway rest stop a couple miles from here. Maybe it escaped when the truck made a pit stop.” I called Minneapolis. They were relieved. The zookeeper was enroute.
Bill looked at his boot. “I’m a ‘marked man’.”
“Goes with the job Bill. Remember – this is what we do.”
“I think you mean ‘It’s what we doo-doo.’” I resisted responding.
Walter was well-behaved and affectionate at the station – perhaps due to the powerful scent of wombat musk that still occasionally wafted through the office.
The Minneapolis zookeeper arrived and after sharing a few animal stories with us, he and Walter were reunited and left.
Just then the phone rang. I listened briefly and hung up.
“Another call Bill. On Eucalyptus Drive – there’s an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.”
“Yeah, they never do.”
We hit the siren. This could get interesting…
Stay Tuned to Blue Water Healthy Living for more episodes of “The Stories of Animal Control Officers Joe Tuesday and Bill Cannon”.