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“Next” then “Michelin Man”

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werkhorse
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« on: October 28, 2008, 11:04:51 am »

Australia   1961

   The place, Nth. Rockhampton, Queensland, summer time, a hot Thursday.
Jim and I were returning south both driving AEC  cab overs with tandem trailers. We had delivered an automatic coal digging machine to a small isolated mining town. The miners were not happy with our visit and I had to do my “Rifle Man” bit with my Winchester 25/20 to get us out of town in one piece and save our trucks from being burnt. But that’s another story.
Jim driving the other truck and his young son John, won the toss to see who stopped and sent a telegram to Brisbane. 400 miles south, requesting loading.
 So it was me that had to stop and send the telegram.
 Jim was to wait for me at the Calliope river down the road away.
    I parked on the side of the road about a block from the Post Office at Nth. Rockhampton as it was easier to park a semi trailer there than at the main P.O. in the centre of town.
 As I walked along, had a few smirks from passer bys at my T/shirt. It had a large rabbit painted on the front, bit like a Bugs Bunny with a cheeky grin and written underneath in large letter. “NEXT.” ( Not important if you don’t get it )
The post Office was on the next corner of the main road and a side street, the entrance being in the side street.
    There were only one or two customers so I was in and out in a couple of minutes. Coming out of the Post Office door just as I stepped onto the veranda I looked out onto the road and a small car had stopped and was about to reverse into an empty space in front of the Post Office steps.
     I noted that the driver was a young woman with a youngster in the back seat.
As I took another step I realised the driver had stalled the car and I could hear the starter motor turning the motor over but nothing was happening. Then all of a sudden there was a whooshing sound and a sort of small explosion and I could see flames leaping out from the motor under the hood. In an instant there was smoke and flame engulfing the whole front of the car.
As I grasped what was going on so did a man on the footpath near me and we both ran over to the car and yelled “get out ..get out.. quickly”  the other man in front of me reefed the back door open and grabbed the youngster as the young women jumped out and ran around the back of the car and quickly snatched the baby from him and ran for the footpath. All the time the front of the car was billowing dense smoke and flames.
 As I moved toward the front of the car a man appeared running from one of the shops across the street  with a fire extinguisher and yelled to me ,
“lift the bonnet and I’ll spray it”   “ok” I said      “you ready?”     “yep”
I had taken my t-shirt off to wrap around my hands as I grasped the front of the bonnet and with a quick movement lifted it high and held it at the same time as
the extinguisher sprayed huge quantities of foam all over the motor and  me.
The foam seemed to quickly fill the motor compartment and bounced off the bonnet completely enveloped me as well as  the whole motor compartment and oozing everywhere onto the road.
 I looked like a snow man but I couldn’t let go of the hood as I was the only thing holding it up. The fire was out, the choking smoke gone and finally the extinguisher was empty. The man with the empty extinguisher promptly turned on his heels and walked back across the road with a “well its out” comment and disappeared into a shop. I lowered the hood with the T/shirt jammed in the opening and looked around.
 All I could hear from the young woman on the footpath while I was being snowed was her high pitched voice wailing,
“He’ll kill me  he’ll kill me  my husband will  kill me,  he told me not to take the car. What am I going to do ,what am I going to tell him/”
All this was directed at a couple of people next to her on the footpath. She hadn’t even glanced at us putting the fire out.
  It was all over in a flash.  (that was a pun)
  Just at that moment a tow truck pulled up the driver knowing the woman or husband and quickly spoke to her and she scrambled up into the tow truck cabin with the youngster. He quickly hooked the car up and away they went. She ,car, baby, and all, without a backward glance and as well the tow truck had kidnapped my T/shirt.
  I looked around and the two people on the footpath near the young woman had entered the post office. The good Samaritan with the fire extinguisher had disappeared into a shop, the woman and baby and the burning car were gone.
 There was just me standing outside the Nth. Rockhampton Post Office on a hot summers day covered in white foam like a huge snow man, I even had to scoop bits away from my eyes to be able to see properly. I was just one huge white blob.
As you can imagine within seconds different cars pulled up outside the Post Office and new pedestrians walked around the corner.
There was I, this strange big white blob, blocking half of the pavement. What a  sight. People stared and hurried past me giving  me a wide berth.
I shrugged my shoulders  looking at the empty street and decided to get out of there and started to walk back to the truck, thinking to myself “she didn’t even say thanks.” As I made my way along the footpath the foam started to evaporate, blowing back off me in the breeze looking as if I was shedding skin. All the way along the footpath people avoided me stopping to look at me and murmur to each other .
 Glancing into a shop window as I walked past I noted I had gradually melted from a snow man to the Michelin Man and that’s how I stayed till I reached my truck and towelled myself down.
  Later driving south  out of Rockhampton I looked at my watch and noted that I had entered Nth, Rockhampton parked, sent a telegram, helped put a fire out in a car, been covered with foam, left standing on the street without a thanks, with nothing to show what I had done, been stared at strangely, had my t/shirt kidnapped and now leaving town all within one hour.
On hearing of my adventure in Nt. Rockhampton, it was Jim that laughed and said “You must have looked like the Michelin Man.”
  Its remarkable the situations I get into without even trying and to top it off,  Brisbane  had no loading.         The telegram was a waste of time .
PS,  Can you imagine the scene back at the house, later that day with an angry hubby holding up a grubby t/shirt with a large rabbit painted on it with the words” NEXT” ,asking..        “So where did this come from?”
That thought always made me smile in later years.

From               “My Way on the Highway”
                                        By
                          Ray Gilleland     copyright   2005 
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