Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One day it was so sunny and warm that everyone decided to have a picnic. They went to a big clearing with lots of shady trees for the mothers to sit and chat, and lots of space for everyone else to dig and play. Benson’s friend Mick and his friend Zali were there, and Zali’s baby sister, Zip, and their mother, Teresa. They had mint and carrot paste sandwiches, and potato chips and corn fritters for lunch, then the mothers sat in the shade and talked with Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss, while Benson and Mick played races.
They raced up and down to see who was the fastest. Mick won every time. After a while Benson didn’t want to play any more. It was no fun losing every time. He went off to be by himself for a while.
A bit further on from the trees there was a giant rock, up against a big hill. Benson thought it would be great to be on top of the giant rock, higher than everybody else, but it was way too big to climb. Even the hill was too steep to climb. He started to dig a bit in the bushes at the bottom of the rock, and he found something very interesting.
Behind a clump of bushes, there was a hole. Benson dug a bit, and he found that the hole was the beginning of a tunnel. He dug a bit more, and he found that the tunnel was actually an old wombat hole. Some of the dirt inside had fallen down, but he soon dug that out. The tunnel led down into the dark and then around and along and up and before you know it, it came out at a hole at the other end, at the top of the giant rock!
Benson clambered out onto the rock. He could see for miles around. He could see down into the clearing where Zali was eating watermelon with Mick in the sunshine. He could see Aunt Moss snoozing against a tree. He could see his mother talking to Aunt Lillibet and Zali’s mum, Teresa, and Zali’s baby sister Zip nosing about in the grass nearby. He shouted, “Hey, everyone, I’m up here!” but no-one paid him any attention.
He picked up a stone and threw it down towards them. It hit Mick on the head, and he said, “Ow!” loudly. Benson threw another stone. Mick didn’t know where the stones were coming from, but Benson’s mother looked up and saw him.
“How did you get up there?” she called.
“It’s a secret,” Benson said.
Aunt Lillibet looked up at Benson and she looked at the hill. She said, “I know how he got up there. There’s a secret tunnel.” She got up, and Benson’s mother and Mick went over to the bottom of the rock with her.
“Now, just around here somewhere,” she said, “there’s an opening.” She looked behind the bushes until she found it. “Here it is,” she said.
“How did you know there was a tunnel here?” Benson’s mother said.
Aunt Lillibet said, “I remember we used to play here when we were young. My brother Lionel dug this tunnel so he could climb up onto the rock. He used to throw stones down at us, too.”
Lillibet went first and they all climbed up the tunnel and came out on the rock.
“Cool!” said Mick.
“This is amazing!” Benson’s mother said.
“What’s that?” Aunt Lillibet said.
“What? Where?” Benson’s mother said.
“Up there,” said Aunt Lillibet. “I think it’s an eagle.” She pointed to a black dot in the sky, which was getting bigger and bigger as it came towards them.
“Oh no!” Benson’s mother said. They could all see Zali and her mother and Aunt Moss sitting in the shade, and baby Zip toddling around in the middle of the clearing, investigating a butterfly. Benson’s mother shouted as loudly as she could but Aunt Moss and Zali’s mum Teresa were too busy talking to hear them.
“Quickly, everyone, get back into the tunnel and stay there!” Benson’s mother said. “I’ll go down and warn them.” She sped down the secret tunnel. When she got to the bottom she ran over to Teresa and Aunt Moss, shouting.
“It’s an eagle!” she shouted.
“An eagle!” said Teresa, jumping up. “You and Moss take care of Zali. I’ve got to get Zip.” She set off running into the middle of the clearing to get Zip.
Aunt Moss and Benson’s mother got Zali over to the tunnel and safely inside. Aunt Lillibet and Benson were at the top of the tunnel, peeping out to see what was happening. They could see Teresa speeding across the grass, calling to little Zip, but Zip was staring at the butterfly, half-asleep.
The eagle came lower and lower, flying in circles, closer and closer.
Aunt Lillibet said, “Teresa’s fast, but she’s not going to make it.”
Zali’s mother ran faster than Benson had ever seen a wombat run. She grabbed baby Zip and pushed her into her pouch, just as the eagle started to dive.
Aunt Lillibet said, “Now, Benson!”
Benson ran out onto the top of the rock and waved his arms and shouted. He did a little dance, and jumped up and down.
The eagle saw Benson on the top of the rock, a nice plump little wombat. He changed direction and started to dive towards Benson. Benson waited until the very last minute, then he jumped back into the safe darkness of the tunnel. The eagle came zooming down, but when Benson disappeared, it suddenly stopped, wondering where he had got to. It flew in circles around the rock, hunting for him.
Benson and Aunt Lillibet kept perfectly still, and perfectly quiet.
After a while the eagle gave up and flew over the clearing, searching for Zali’s mother and Zip, but they were hidden safely inside the tunnel. After a long time of hunting, it flew off into the sky.
Everyone stayed in the tunnel for a long time, making sure that the eagle was gone. Then they all came out into the sunshine.
“Well done, everybody!” Benson’s mother said. “Benson, that was a very brave thing to do.”
Benson said, “It was Aunt Lillibet’s idea. She told me what to do and I did it.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “My brother Lionel used to do exactly the same thing when he was a young wombat. I think it’s probably the same eagle.”
Everyone was very pleased that no-one had been eaten by the eagle. They walked home together, talking and laughing. Benson said to his mother, “I’m going to practise running. I want to be as fast as Zali’s mum one day.”
“I think that’s a very good idea,” said his mother.