A true love-hate relationship
The very first time I became acquainted with the Victoria Park Lake pelican was about three years ago as I ate hot chips with my friend on a park bench.
It was a balmy evening in November and we had just sat down when my friend stiffened, eyeing the pelican about 20 m away.
She had always been afraid of birds — and giant species with deep snapping beaks to match were definitely no exception — so she suggested we move to another spot.
‘‘Don’t be ridiculous,’’ I exclaimed. ‘‘It’s just a bird, look how cute it is.’’
I’d barely brought another chip to my mouth when the thing leaped off the pier and into the air, making a graceful nosedive for us.
My friend and I both screamed, dropped multiple chips and ran for the safety of my car, where we remained.
The pelican eyed us from our spot as it finished our chips, and I still thought it was beautiful.
But in the way you would say a nymph is beautiful.
The pelican now reminds me of a wild emu named Charlotte that resided in the rural Queensland town of Wondai, and makes me wonder if a lot of small towns or suburbs have a resident animal that amazes and terrorises residents.
The people of Wondai equally loved and hated Charlotte, who wandered the town’s streets looking for locals to be fed by or to chase.
The primary school even had a Charlotte drill, where a siren would sound and the children were rounded up and locked in a safe area until the emu left the grounds.
It was a shock to the entire region when she was struck and killed by a mystery car in 2014, which made the front page of the newspaper.
The town even went so far as to bury her, and then saved money to immortalise her with a statue.
When I moved back to Shepparton six months ago, the pelican at the lake was nowhere to be seen, and I continue to feel sad that I’ll never truly know what became of it, or that a statue was never erected in its honour.
Perhaps it found another town to terrorise or hopefully a fish and chip shop owner took it in and now all it does is sit on a cushion all day being fed bite-sized pieces of grilled f lake and burnt chips.
Wherever it is, I hope it’s happy.
Relationship: Shepparton’s resident pelican was feared as much as it was loved.