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The story of Koockard comes from the Aboriginal Ngiyampaa people of western New South Wales, Australia. This is an adaptation of the story told by "Aunty" Beryl Carmichael. It tells of the traditonal link between Australian Aborigines and the land, warning us to be respectful of nature.
Long ago, there were two young boys, around 8 years old, who started to pester their old uncle. They wanted their uncle to take them camping so they could learn how to hunt and make spears, woomeras and boomerangs. They also wanted to learn how to identify the tracks of the native animals.

"Let's go now, let's go, Uncle, we want to learn now!" they told him. Their old uncle tried to make them wait but they were too impatient. Finally he said to his young nephews, "Okay then, we'll go tonight. When we get there we'll make our camp on the river bend. We'll make our humpy then look for some straight sticks to make our spears". So that night, after they made their humpy up, they went for a walk.

"Don't pick up the crooked sticks. They've got to be straight," the old uncle said. So the boys collected the sticks and gave them to their uncle. He showed them how to strip the saplings, trim the bark and get the notches off. After he made their spears the uncle made the boys a woomera each.

When the uncle had finished making the spears and woomeras he told the boys that it was time to sleep; they would get up early tomorrow and go hunting. But the boys didn't like that idea. "No, let's go now! We want to go and look for a kangaroo." The uncle was reluctant but he finally told the young boys that they could go.

"But when you go," the old uncle warned the boys, "Be very careful around the river bends. You have to be very, very careful and promise not to touch something. You can't hurt it or harm it or touch it at all." The boys looked at each other, thinking old Uncle is crazy- what's he talking about? . Finally the uncle said, "Do not touch old Koockard, the big river goanna. There will be trouble if you do". The boys told their uncle that they would not harm or touch Koockard, as long as they could go hunting that night.

So the boys went walking around the river bend that night, and sooner or later they saw some long grass moving. "Let's see what's moving that grass," they said. "Maybe it's a kangaroo." Then suddenly they came around a corner and almost walked on Koockard the river goanna's big old tail.

At first the boys were respectful, remembering what their old uncle had told them, as Koockard ate some meat on the riverbank. But then one of the boys said "Let's have some fun with Koockard. I'll go and stick my spear under Koockard's arm on one side, then you go and tickle him under the other arm. Wait until he's started eating again after I tickle him and he'll be tricked".

The boys separated and started to tickle Koockard; on one side at first, then the boy on the other side would stick his spear under the old goanna's arm. Koockard kept jumping up and looking around but he couldn't find what was tickling him because the grass was too high.

Eventually one of the boys got the giggles watching the old river goanna twist and turn. He let go of his spear and rolled and it hit a log. When Koockard heard the sound he jumped up and spun around in a big cirle. His giant head and tail hit the boys and flattened them so they died.

There were two kookaburras sitting in a tree above the goanna, and they saw the whole thing. Up until then the kookaburra couldn't laugh, but when they saw the goanna flatten the boys they looked at each other and started to laugh. They laughed and laughed at what they had seen.

And that's how kookaburras got their laugh.

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