Magpies of Wollemi Downs

A Tale of Return to the Australian Outback


Peter Pickering

3/3/20243 min read

Deep in the heart of Western Australia, amidst the sprawling plains and rugged beauty of the outback, sat Wollemi Downs, a vast sheep station that had been nurtured by the McCallum family for generations. Here, under the vast expanse of the Australian sky, Ian and Maggie McCallum raised their sons, Lucas and Riley, amidst the bleating of sheep and the ever-present, watchful eyes of the magpies.

Lucas and Riley grew up with the magpies always in sight, these distinctive birds standing out among all others. The magpies, with their striking black and white plumage and their peculiar fascination for shiny objects, were a common sight at Wollemi Downs. They were collectors, gathering anything that glittered or glistened, from bits of foil to lost trinkets. The boys often watched them, intrigued by their hoarding nature, so different from the other birds that shared their home.

As the boys came of age, the appeal of city life began to pull them away from the sheep station. They ventured into the city, lured by its bright lights and fast pace, much like the magpies were drawn to their shiny treasures. In the bustling city, the brothers made friends, but these relationships were superficial, based more on convenience and surface-level connections than genuine understanding or shared values.

Ian and Maggie, left behind at Wollemi Downs, felt the ache of their sons' absence. They knew the invaluable lessons that life on the land had taught them: the importance of hard work, the unspoken bond within a community, and the simple yet profound joy of living in harmony with nature. They wondered if Lucas and Riley would ever come to appreciate the true wealth of the outback—a wealth not measured in material possessions, but in a sense of belonging, purpose, and deep-rooted connection to the land and its creatures, including the ever-present magpies.

Eventually, the sheen of city life lost its allure for Lucas and Riley. They began to realise the emptiness of their pursuits, much like the magpies' fascination with valueless trinkets. They understood that their city friends, like themselves, had become collectors of the superficial, mistaking accumulation for fulfillment.

In time, the call of Wollemi Downs brought the brothers back home. They returned to the unchanged landscape, where the magpies still gathered their shiny objects, a stark reminder of their own past follies. At the sheep station, Lucas and Riley rediscovered the true richness of life. They found joy in the rhythm of the land, the warmth of family, and the satisfaction of a day's hard work. They realised that life's most precious treasures were not the shiny trinkets collected by magpies, but the intangible gifts of love, purpose, and a deep connection to their roots.

As Lucas and Riley settled back into the rhythms of life at Wollemi Downs, their perception of the world around them, including the magpies, underwent a profound change. The magpies, once mere background characters in their childhood, now took on a symbolic significance in their eyes.

Each time the brothers saw these distinctive birds, with their sharp black and white plumage, flitting across the vast skies of the outback or perched on the rugged fences of the sheep station, they were reminded of their own journey. The magpies, with their instinct to gather shiny, valueless objects, mirrored the path they had once walked—a path filled with the allure of superficial treasures and hollow relationships.

But now, as they watched these birds in their simple, repetitive pursuit, Lucas and Riley felt a deep sense of understanding and, oddly enough, gratitude. The magpies had unwittingly taught them a valuable lesson about life. They had shown the brothers that the pursuit of the glittering and the superficial, much like the magpies’ collection of trinkets, was ultimately unfulfilling.

In the quiet moments of dawn, as they walked the fields of Wollemi Downs, the call of the magpies became a reminder of what they had left behind and what they had regained. It was a call that spoke of the emptiness of possessions and the fullness of a life rooted in meaning and genuine connections.

The magpies, once just a part of the landscape, had become for Lucas and Riley a symbol of their own transformation. They no longer envied the birds for their shiny collections. Instead, they pitied them for not understanding the true value of the world around them—a world rich in beauty, love, and a sense of belonging.

In their heart, the brothers knew they would never again be lured by the deceptive shine of surface appeal. They had found something far more precious at Wollemi Downs—the treasure of a life lived with authenticity, purpose, and a deep connection to their roots. The magpies continued their eternal quest for the glittering and the transient, but Lucas and Riley, they had come home to something much greater.

© Peter Pickering 2024.