Firstly, apologies to E.H. Shepard for bludgeoning his art. In A.A. Milne’s story, Pooh and Piglet go tracking a Woozle. A couple of cool things about Pooh tracking is, he knows he is tracking something, but he has no idea what it is until he finds it, and as he and Piglet are tracking, the discoveries lead to a grand story of hostile animals and grandfathers.
For a while I felt that tracking should be taken seriously. It’s been in our DNA for 100,000 years. When I found a track, I wanted to be able to identify the species, what foot it favoured (and why), where it was going, and what venues it spent the last fourteen days at. Our society lost that ability to track a long time ago. I knew I was no expert, so how could I possibly teach children about tracking.
Well I didn’t worry about teaching tracking. Instead, every time I went out bush, I started following tracks. A hardened emu track in some clay, a snake trail in course river sand, Kangaroo tracks along their kangaroo roads, and my friend as he stumbles through the sand dunes at night.
I once left a beer somewhere in the bush, so I followed my distinctive, ripple soul prints all the way back to it. Rarely does my tracking expeditions ever turn up a living animal. I have pushed the need for identification, reason, and shoe size out of my mind and taken on a more of a ‘bear with little brain’ Pooh approach. I know I’m tracking something, and I know it will lead to a great story.
The other day, I saw some large bird tracks. The bird was running. It could have been one of those large brown Gulls. Next to it was a thousand tiny footprints, and a tail print. A mouse or a small lizard. The track ran parallel to the running bird. Tiny scurry trail vanishes, bird track takes a couple of more steps before you see the take off track. Fresh tracks, maybe hours old. Sometime last night, a mouse lost a race in the sand dunes. My condolences go out to your grieving family little mouse (But hey… That’s nature).
I still don’t teach children tracking, however if I am working with a bunch of kids, and I notice some tracks in the sandpit, then you can forget muddy play, or cubby climbing, I’m going tracking, and if you want to tag along and join me, that’s fine. We may not find a Woozle but we will make a discovery.