[Editor: A light-hearted article about a pet magpie. Published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1931.]
It was a frightened, baby magpie which travelled from Dubbo in a small box, looking as though its hold on life was frail. But “we have changed all that.” Jacko is now “monarch of all,” including our affections. Mimicry and tricks are to him the “joy of life.” His barkings and crowings are such good imitations of the rightful owners of these accomplishments that we, even, are often deceived.
One evening a man and wife were arguing (it sometimes so happens) at our “outer gate,” and Jacko’s barking was so incessant that the man said, “Bother that dog,” and they moved on, to our relief and amusement. He loves dogs, “all sorts,” but his choice is fox terriers, these being pert and cheeky — “like unto like.” In his love for one of the type, which was barking in the lane, he squeezed through the opening of a gate, and, barking himself, pursued and caught up to the little white pup. Another day he was enjoying his usual ride on the back of the house “foxey,” which was going round the back yard like a circus performer, but suddenly decided to go “out of bounds.” So the spectacle of a magpie on a dog’s back, both barking, was afforded suburbia onlookers. The “small boy” was delighted, and, possibly scenting a reward, called out, “Hey, lady! Your bird’s running off with your dog,” When scolded for this and other escapades, he shows his sorrow by spreading his wings sideways, dragging them on the ground, drooping the erstwhile jauntily-held head, and is a very dejected and repentant bird until within cover. Then he breaks out into defiant chatter, interspersed with “Who are you?” — his one stock phrase. His shame is very short-lived.
Jacko has never overcome his fear of the “door-stop” — a cretonne-covered, sinuous article — the hues of which are as those of “Joseph’s coat,” and he has a performance all his own when he sees this on the grass. Keeping at a safe distance, he chatters wildly, “Who are you?” coming in now and then; barks, crows, jumps about excitedly. We surmise that by instinct he sees in the many-hued atrocity a carpet snake — “else why all this bother?” The garden hose is “that to him and nothing more.” He loves to hear the phonograph, will, with head sideways and bright eyes open, listen to any record with evident relish, and joins in sometimes, whistling or warbling.
Jacko is as fond as an Englishman of his daily bath, but this, too, has its ritual. He first sips the water, sits pensively on the edge of his bowl for a while, then splashes in and out, running to the grass and back a dozen times, finally lying in the sun, as surfers do, to “dry-off.” Once he got into a bowl of lettuce which was left unguarded, ate what he wanted, then threw out the rest, and settled down for an afternoon bath. As the lettuce cost sixpence, and no more was available, the day being the “day of rest,” there was more annoyance than amusement this time. But we hope that our “Pierrot,” as the French call the magpie, will continue to gladden us for many more years with his songs of unpremeditated mirth.
The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 23 May 1931, p. 9
cretonne = a strong cotton cloth, often printed on both sides (such as with a colourful pattern print)
phonograph = a machine which reproducing sounds from an audio recording by using a needle or stylus on a revolving cylinder or disc; an early name for a record player, also known as a gramophone