Most of the time, Franky spends his days chasing down little lizards that hang around in the stones and rock litter at the top end of his small valley. He also is an absolute terror when it comes to eating barking spiders, cicadas, and field mice. Franky is a frill-necked lizard, and he lives at the top end of a small gulley about 5 hours East of Mataranka and a 10 minute wander down to a water hole near the Roper River.
He also keeps a wary eye out for wedge-tailed eagles, dingoes, and the large goannas that hang out down at the water hole.
He has several favorite large trees that he clings to during the day.
If you are wandering about in that country, watch for these trees, because he will be halfway up the trunk of one of them, watching you with his unblinking yellowish eyes. You may not see him because as you approach his tree, he will shift around the trunk, always keeping the tree trunk between you and him – he knows you are there, but you have no idea that he is, unless you understand that country.
For a frill-necked lizard, Franky is pretty much a good bloke; he does usual lizard stuff, he does not look for trouble, he gets on with other lizards unless they hang around at the breeding time of life, then there can be a bit of biff going on!
But, on the whole, he is a lizard you could have a beer with…
A cloud, nevertheless, darkens Franky’s life.
Over in the next gulley, a stone’s throw from a mob of tea trees, there lives a young female frill neck lizard, known to all her mates, and she has plenty of them, as Frilly!
In the lingua franca of the local aboriginal people, Frilly is known as a “cheeky one! “. She has that particular swing to her hips as she walks upright down the creek bed. She looks straight ahead, but you and I know, and she sure as hell knows, that all the local blokes are checking out her hips and the inviting way she makes ‘em work!
There is a small flash in her eyes as she looks past you, and, you know, you know even then, that this is a female not to be messed with!
Franky, quite frankly, would loooove to mess with Frilly. Oh! But she makes it hard!
Deep in her heart, she actually likes Franky; he is the one for her – she loves the way he pounces on the barking spiders and every now and then, when he throws his frill neck out, in the dramatic way that makes his back muscles ripple, she thinks…” Franky boy, you are the one for me.“
Most of the locals that lived around the two gulleys knew about the chemistry between Franky and Frilly; the butcher birds sang about it in their melodies, the local dingo mob decided that, unless they were really, really hungry, they would watch the Franky and Frilly show for a while: and, in that country, dingos were rarely very hungry. Native tucker was easy.
Life rolled on to the rhythms of the bush for a while, until one special day when the Franky and Frilly show bounced into the spotlight big time.
A large goanna had kept his eye on Frilly for a while; she was an attractive part of his menu; he did not care about her hips; he was thinking about his lips!
She was good tucker, and he meant to have her for lunch!
It was one of those mornings at the end of the Northern Dry Season when there was a soft touch of wet air on your cheeks, a promise of tropical delight that only those who have lived in that country can feel. Frilly was swinging her hips along the side of the gulley – she reckoned it was time for her and Franky to put something together. As always, her head was held high, her eyes seeking out the high ground, and she missed the slithering form of the large goanna crouched by in the shadow of the ti-tree.
But the butcher birds had not! They shrieked their alarm calls out, causing the local dingo mob to prick their ears up because when butcher birds filled the morning with alarm calls, that meant goannas and that meant – tucker!
Franky heard the alarms and flashed like lightning across the gulley onto the joining ridge just in time to see Frilly rear back in horror as she saw the mouth of the goanna coming right at her. He was fast, he was big, and he had her – she was lunch!
Franky will never know, none of us will ever know what it was that drove Franky in that mad moment…you could say it was looove, and it probably was, in another time and place, it was the stuff of a Victoria Cross.
Franky threw out his frill and, dead set, shirt fronted the somewhat surprised goanna. Franky’s strike was so hard and determined that the goanna was sat back on his bum, winded and stunned into immobility, which gave the dingo mob just enough time to jump him.
So, goanna, instead of having Frilly for lunch, became, in an ironic twist, a lunch for the dingo mob.
Franky hit the goanna so hard, fair dinkum it was a full-on shirt front, that he skidded past the stunned goanna and stopped face down in a handful of small rocks. He thought he heard, and some of us, who were close by, also thought we heard, the main theme from Star Wars playing in the background – but we were probably all wrong.
Meanwhile, Frilly, once she had her breathing under control, sucked her stomach in, shoved her shoulders back, looked at Franky, and…melted!
The two of them, frill-necked lovers… lived for a long time in those two gulleys. The Franky and Frilly show was a happy story. They loved as only frilled necked lizards could love.
They loved with breathtaking energy. They sparked the air around them with power and purpose. Butcherbirds sang better songs because of them, the air in the gulleys crackled with delight at the sound of the barking spiders taking a break from Franky’s depredations; there was no way Franky was going to let his Frilly eat spiders, no way. The trees, where the two of them hung around, looked and felt better because of the way Franky and Frilly looked at each other as they skipped around the trunks.
If you are a frilled neck lizard or, better still, if you are anyone at all, you would have to walk a long day with a water bag to find a better love story than the story of Franky and Frilly.
I know because my mate, the bunyip with the soft blue skin and the big pink eyes, told me. Some of you may remember him; he lives out in that Warrego River country by Cunnamulla.
And, because my mother was Irish, Mary Theresa Sheehan, I am lucky to be able to believe in these wonderful stories.
Take note; you could live and love like Franky and Frilly; there is room for this in all our lives.