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Highjackers in OZ

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werkhorse
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« on: October 28, 2008, 10:48:40 am »

HiJackers      1957


 My 1953 HD 6 cylinder Albion semi trailer was a good old plodder. A homemade sleeper had been added to the original cabin so that it curved at the rear inwards to allow two 44 gallon drums on their side to be attached to the chassis under the bunk. One was an added fuel tank and the other had a tap fitted and filled with fresh water. With this and the extra tank strapped under the trailer added to  the two large tanks that was standard and one for water allowed me to cross the Nullarbor Plain  between Sydney and Perth a thousand miles of isolated gravel and dirt track with complete confidence having more than enough  to cover the journey and any emergency for fuel or water.
 With a kerosene primus stove, plenty of tinned food, a sleeping bunk, I was completely independent
 I called her the ‘Perth Express,’ (with tongue in cheek of course). Top speed 42 MPH
After a while I changed her name to “The Moonlight Gambler”  Why you ask??
(1) She wasn’t fast, mostly over the plain about 15mph She definitely was not an Express.
(2) I seemed to get into so much trouble back then, with so many officials and police on the lookout for me (and others).
I tried very hard not to attract attention. But we had a long bitter fight with authority for years. With our Aussie humour we called it “The Great Game” they trying to stop us and we defying them with our trucks.
A good trip would be two to four weeks. It depended on the condition of the road, the weather, and any mechanical problems that these conditions seem to bring on out there.
 On one trip with a major breakdown on the “Ninety Mile Straight” in 1956 it took three months to complete the trip. The large water tank earned her keep that time.
 One trip about 1957 I had loaded for Perth with a full load of refrigerators and washing machines. It was a wet cold winter that year, very miserable. I had a bit of a cold and wasn’t feeling very happy with the world at all. I would have preferred to have stayed home in bed. But I was the only truck empty at the time so I was it.
A couple of new tyres were fitted to the trailer, a few extra tyres tied on top of the load,   I had spare tubes and patches, tyre levers etc. .Had to do it all ourself back then.
 When leaving Sydney the road climbs up and along the ‘great dividing range” for nearly 200 miles then drops down onto the inland plain. The mountain section was the area that gave us the most worry with hi-jackers as there were many long slow climbs that gave them opportunities to climb up on the back of a slow moving truck and throw down to their mates, in a vehicle crawling behind what ever we were carrying. No enclosed vans in those days, just metal gate sides and tarpaulins to cover everything.
 This trip I wasn’t too concerned as washing machines and refrigerators were not exactly the type of ‘booty’ that lent itself to throwing off the back of a moving vehicle and still be in a condition to be able to sell on the black market, after being scooped up off the road.
The tyre boys carrying Dunlop, Goodyear, etc were the favourite victims.
 So it was with some surprise that on the second night out, about midnight, with the rain pouring down and not travelling very fast as the wind screen wiper was having trouble keeping the glass clear, feeling miserable and cold, wishing I was home in bed, that suddenly my headlights picked up  a car  sort of at an angle  blocking the whole road.
‘Now what’s an old  Ford doing there’ I wondered.
   I quickly applied the brakes thinking there had been an accident, my eyes were darting every where looking for another vehicle or some reason for the car across the road. It was an early model Ford and appeared to have no damage that I could see so what was going on, I wondered?
 It was then the drama unfolded like a B grade Hollywood movie.
With my headlights lighting up the scene I could see people in the car and  two figures climbed out and started running towards me, one to the drivers side and the other disappeared down the passenger side towards the rear of the trailer My head was swivelling back and forth between the figure coming for my door and trying to see what the other one was doing. No big east west mirrors in those days, just a little 4 inch round thing screwed to the tops of the doors., about the size of a woman’s  cosmetic mirror.
 Now on these Albion trucks the window slid up and down with the channels gripping the
glass, no window winder, wherever it was positioned there it stayed.
  Still wondering what was wrong and leaving the motor ticking over, I slid the window down far enough for me to poke my head out. At the same time shoved it in low gear keeping my foot on the clutch.
“ Has there been an accident?” I called down to the figure on the road below, shading my face from the stinging rain.
“Yeah we need you to help push the car off the road” he replied, reaching for the door handle.
 The handle rattling alarmed me as it was not the thing for aggressive strangers in the middle of the night a long way from civilisation to try and force an entry to a large interstate truck. Out of habit I always kept the doors locked from the inside anyway.
Alarm bells went off in my head and I glanced quickly to my left and could just notice the other figure vaguely in the tiny rear vision mirror on the passenger door trying to look under the tarpaulin half way down the trailer. 
 Even with the rain pelting in the part opened window I could see that the figure below rattling the door handle glaring up at me was a tall rough looking bazztarrd about 30 years old. He was absolutely soaked, the rain running off his head and he was yelling over and over
“Get out, get out, come on get out  now.”
With the windscreen wiper still going I could see there were still figures in the car that hadn’t moved and a quick turn of the head showed the other figure was still trying to undo one of the ropes holding the tarp down.
 I knew there was something very wrong here and yelled at the figure below
“What’s your mate doing down the other side of my truck”.
“Just having a look” he said “Now get out and help us push the car off the road.”
They had to be hijackers I said to myself, but any sane person could see in a minute that I was carrying refrigerators, which was not the type of load easily stolen and resold in good condition. This doesn’t look too good Ray.  What  do they want? ..money?
‘Tell your mate to get back here where I can see him” I yelled.
“Don’t worry about him you just get out now” came the reply in an angry voice still trying to force the door open.
OK I said to myself that’s it   .enough is  enough. I’ll fix you bazztarrds.
 I had a Winchester 25/20 rifle on the bunk which did not suit this situation.
                                                 
Too hard to juggle it around, with the window half down and the rain pouring in..
 What the angry figure down below on the road didn’t know was that secreted under the blankets was a Colt .45 1911, semi automatic pistol that very few people knew I owned. It was the type of information that was best kept secret for just such an emergency.
 Swiftly my left hand burrowed under the blanket and grasped the pistol, quickly passing it to my right hand; reefed the window down with my left hand, extended my right arm out above his head, grasped the slide mechanism and pumped it, loading ready to fire. At the same time yelling loudly
“Get your mate back here where I can see him and get that bloody car off the road now or I’ll shoot your tyres out and I’m a crack shot with this.” I glared down at him .”Then I’ll shove your bloody car off into the ditch… Move.”
The shadowy figure looking up in the rain stared at me with eyes as big as saucers, the rain cascading down his face. That Colt pistol must have looked huge, me leaning on the window sill with it pointing half up in the air.
   “Hey  Hey he’s got a gun .Quick. he’s got a gun lets get out of here”
 With that the other shadowy figure emerged at a run, from down the back, the two of them hightailing it back to the car which had now started to move. The back door flew open, in they jumped as the it took off past me into the night without any lights showing. Watching in my small rear vision mirror, their lights came on and I watched the red tail light get smaller and smaller.
 I smiled to myself as I popped the magazine, cleared the breach and put the pistol away and that was the only time I had a run in with hijackers. If they really were Hi Jackers or were they just up to mischief of some sort.  Well they got more than they bargained for that wet night.
Postscript; When I finally reached the next town I tried banging on the door of the local police station, they lived upstairs but at something like 3 AM on a cold winters morning no one was interested. So I shook my head with a grin thinking of those idiots who ever they were and proceeded on my merry way. Perth was still nearly 3000 miles away.
That was the winter I had a cold, the sneezes and a short temper……1957.
                                                   
 Extract from my book                    “My Way on the Highway”
                                                            The life and Times
                                                                       of the
                                                                  Nullarbor Kid.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2008, 10:50:15 am by werkhorse » Report Spam   Logged

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