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What'll It Be, Wallaby?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 • Posted July 22, 2009

Now it seems silly, but there was a time when people were seriously concerned with some strange designs that showed up in fields in Great Britain and other places, such as England. These designs may have appeared in other places, too, although I don’t recall the particulars. Crops were mashed down in specific and extremely symmetrical patterns, and no one could figure out what exactly had made them.

Rumors were rampant that the ‘crop circles’ were made by aliens from outer space. This always seemed unlikely to me because a) I have never believed in aliens, b) if aliens actually existed, why would they come here and waste their time making crop circles when they could be eating chalupas and listening to Bob Seger?, and c) none of the aliens I knew were smart enough to make a perfect circle with a Tupperware bowl, much less stomp one in a cornfield.

As it turns out, the crop circles were the work of a couple of guys with way too much time on their hands. It was a practical joke which caused scientists and world leaders to waste more time than any other hoax, except for the possible exception of the Rubik’s Cube. And maybe Al Gore.

That was a long time ago, and crop circles were pretty much forgotten until recently, when they started showing up again, this time in Tasmania. These new crop circles are exactly like the other ones, except for being totally different. For one thing, these new circles are nowhere near symmetrical, and no one thinks aliens made them, and they aren’t a practical joke. Plus, the only crop growing in the fields where these new circles are showing up is opium.

Tasmania, according to an Associated Press story sent to me by a reader that shall remain anonymous, because it was my wife, is the world’s largest producer of legally grown opium for the pharmaceutical market. There are about 50,000 acres of opium grown in Tasmania, and some of it is getting ruined with this crop circle thing. But the main difference between the old crop circles and these new ones is that these are being made by wallabies.

Wallabies are creatures found mostly in Australia, and there are more different kinds of them than you can shake a boomerang at. I had always thought, when I thought of wallabies at all, that there was just one kind, but it turns out there are at least thirty species of them. Officially, a ‘wallaby’ is “an informal designation generally used for any macropod that is smaller than a kangaroo or wallaroo that has not been given some other name.”

The really small forest-dwelling wallabies are called pademelons and dorcopsises, which I’m sure they aren’t happy about. But then, just about all the different kinds of wallabies have insulting names. There are toolache wallabies, swamp wallabies, red-necked wallabies, monjons, and several kinds of rock wallabies, including, but not limited to Mt. Claro rock wallabies, allied rock wallabies, black-flanked rock wallabies, brush-tailed rock wallabies, Cape York rock wallabies, and unadorned rock wallabies. It’s no wonder wallabies are shy and stand-offish.

Anyway, wallabies are getting into the opium fields in Tasmania and eating the opium poppies, and getting, according to Tasmania’s Attorney-General Lara Giddings, ‘high as a kite.’ Once wasted, the wallabies totter around like a bunch of drunk wallabies and damage the opium plants extensively. Giddings said, “Then they crash. We see crop circles in the poppy industry from wallabies that are high.” Bear in mind that, according to Dave Barry, ‘The High Rock Wallabies’ would be a great name for a rock band.

Now, to be fair, wallabies aren’t the only critters that imbibe. Deer, sheep, and sometimes other livestock get into the poppy fields and eat socially, and then “act weird.” So wallabies aren’t totally to blame, but they tend to stagger around in circles when high, which is evidently more newsworthy than just falling down in one spot.

But, again in the interest of fairness, wallabies can often be handy marsupials to have around. There is a growing trend in rural areas of Britain to get hold of some wallabies and keep them as pets. They are, after all, cute and fuzzy, and pretty much non-threatening, as long as you can keep them from hitting the sauce.

Plus, they make great lawn mowers. A lot of Brits are fencing their yards to keep the wallabies from running off to the nearest pub, and letting them loose on the lawn. They eat grass, and have a tendency to bite the blades off pretty much evenly, which makes the average wallaby-inhabited yard look freshly mown.

With fewer lawn care duties, the Brits then have extra time to spend in the nearest pub. Of course, they usually come home and stagger around in their fields making circles in their crops, but that seems a small price to pay to keep from having to push a mower.

So the whole wallaby thing has turned out pretty well. Now if we can just prove that Al Gore, as I suspect, is a hoax, we’ll have it made . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who has never owned more than ten red-necked wallabies at once. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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