Growing up near a gorge, I spent many hours sitting on large flat rocks in the middle of the flowing stream, watching the waterskinks bask on rocky inclines in the small cracks of sunlight left by the shadows of the trees. I once took a boy I was not sure about down to the gorge to test his love and or resilience to nature. We sat on a big rock together and I was delighted at how the waterskinks came out to play, showing territorial behaviour and running around, too many of them to bask peacefully. I grinned while watching them, trying to suppress a giggle at the home range show downs I was paying witness to, until out the corner of my eye, I notice the boy getting more and more uncomfortable. He slid back as far as he could on the rock and sitting on his haunches, appearing trapped between a hoard of reptiles and a moat of flowing stream.
I couldn’t helped but become even more entertained as the war was now not just confined to the lizards but now also involved a very scared boy. I was aghast at how this “man” could be so terrified at creatures the length of his hand, however each to their own. The terror crept across his face as a skink slithered onto the rock we were sitting on, braving the human presence. The space left on the rock for him to sit, after considering the distance he was comfortable leaving between himself and the skink was just the rim. Instead of doing the polite thing and offering to walk away from the situation, I cautiously waited to see what would unfold, never having had reptiles come so close to me on their own accord before and enjoying their company, I was eager to see who would rein supreme in this epic battle for rock space.
While lost in these thoughts, I hear a scream and see him leap up in the air before running off the rock and back onto the stream bank. I could’t help but let the laughter roll out of me again and again as he just stood there pointing at the lizard and exclaiming:
“HE RAN UP MY SHORTS!”
I guess the best man won.
As the relationship faded a year later, I always thought back to this day. The best judge of a man’s character is his relationship with waterskinks, and what they tell you about a man, is probably always true.
As I watched a new group of waterskinks today from a different state, I remember their wise judgement and snarky behaviour as they bobbed heads to each other as a warning. They warn each other to back off, and if you introduce them to the wrong man, they will warn him to back off out of your life too.