Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a safe, warm wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning when Benson was just finishing his breakfast – chopped carrot and lemongrass and sweet potato – his mother said, “Benson, I wanted to make some bread this morning but there’s no wattle seed left. Would you mind going and collecting some for me, please?”
Benson got a bag for the wattle seed and set off. He took an apple with him for a snack in case he got hungry.
He went along the track where the best wattle trees were, and he collected a whole bag full of seeds. Then he set off for home again. He was just thinking about eating his apple when he heard a voice say, “Stand and deliver!”
The voice came from high up in a big old gum tree.
“What do you mean?” Benson said. “Deliver what?”
“That’s what bushrangers say,” said the voice. “It means give me your apple.”
It was actually a very nice Pink Lady apple, and Benson didn’t see why he should give it to someone who didn’t even say please. “It’s my apple,” he said. “Get your own.”
The voice said, “Throw it up into the tree, or else!”
Benson said, “Or else what?”
All of a sudden a big gumnut flew down out of the tree and hit Benson on the nose. “Ow!” he said. Another gumnut hit him on the ear, and two more hit his back. “Ow! Stop it!” he shouted.
“I’ll stop if you give me your apple,” the voice said.
Benson threw his apple up into the tree. He heard the voice say, “Got it!” and then there was a crunching sound and a “Mmmm, yummy,” and then Benson heard someone scamper off through the branches of the tree.
“You meanie!” he shouted.
He walked all the way home, very upset.
“A bushranger took my apple,” he said to his mother.
“What?” she said.
“A bushranger in a gum tree,” Benson said. “He threw big sharp gumnuts at me and made me give him my apple. See?” He showed his mother the bump on his nose where the gumnut had hit him.
“We’ll see about that,” said his mother, taking off her apron. “Come on!”
They went back to the place on the track where the gum tree with the bushranger was, but there was no sign of anyone.
“Hmm,” said Benson’s mother. “Let’s go home. I’ve got an idea.”
The next morning they set off again. Benson took another apple, and his mother took a big green honeydew melon.
When they got to the tree, a voice said, “Stand and deliver!” just like the day before.
Benson shouted, “You’re not getting my apple this time!”
The voice said, “Give me that apple, or you know what will happen.”
Benson’s mother stepped under the tree and called, “Oh, Mr Bushranger, are you sure you don’t want this lovely big green apple instead? It’s much bigger than that little apple.”
The voice said, “Throw it up into the tree.”
Benson’s mother threw the melon up into the tree. The voice said, “Got it!” and then, “Uh-oh.”
There was a lot of crashing, and a possum clutching a big honeydew melon fell out of the tree and landed on the ground in front of Benson and his mother,.
“You’re a very naughty possum,” Benson’s mother said, “and I’m telling your mother!”
She took him by the fur at the back of his neck and marched him straight off to tell his mother what he’d been doing. His mother was very angry with him, and made him go straight to bed. For the whole next week he had to help his mother take food to other animals that didn’t have enough to eat.
On the way home, Benson said to his mother, “Bushranging is just stealing, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is,” she said, “and hurting people so you can steal from them is even worse.”
Benson felt the end of his nose and nodded.