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A Good Samaritan

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Author Topic: A Good Samaritan  (Read 270 times)
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« on: October 28, 2008, 10:41:20 am »

My truck ‘the bus ‘ as  we called her was a long tray  truck on an A.E.C. long wheel base bus chassis. It was painted a dark green with yellow sign writing.

 It was used mainly for quick deliveries to the various capital cities.

Back in the 1950’s the Sunday news papers were not printed in Melbourne.

It became a standard practice for the Sydney Sunday papers to be loaded early Saturday night and dispatched by fast truck to reach Melbourne by midday Sunday. This was the only commercial truck allowed on the road in Victoria on a Sunday.

 The red ‘Paper Truck’ as it was called was also an A.E.C. bus chassis a sister truck to mine but only had half a cabin for the driver with low wooden sides just high enough to hold the bundles of papers. It had a slightly higher speed than mine but because it had to stop briefly at the highway towns through Victoria and throw bundles of papers off.

 I was able to beat its time from Sydney to Melbourne, point to point.

My time from Liverpool in Sydney to Coburg in Melbourne was usually about 12 and a half hours. This included a quick fuel stop in Yass and Albury.

The paper truck only went once a week. On the other hand I was in and out at all different times of the week night and day. Sometimes twice a week.

 Mine also was referred to as the ‘Green Ghost’ by the authorities as she used to slip in and out of Victoria at speed.

 On one trip I had to take an urgent load to Adelaide. Now one way was over the Hay Plains in N.S.W. to Mildura and then down into Gawler to Adelaide. The only problem with this road, the Hay Plain, it was all black soil and with a few spots of rain the truck was bogged till it dried out. Not the road to take for an urgent delivery.

The sure fire way was down to Benalla in Victoria and then a zigzag across Victoria via Bendigo Donald, Warracknabeal and hit the Melbourne Adelaide highway at Dimboola.

 This way was all sealed and then the only gravel road was through the ‘little desert’ around Tintinara, Coonalpyn, in South Australia, a hard white gravel surface, passable even in the wet.

My last refuel stop was at Keith just past Bordertown in South Australia. Keith was a tiny hamlet of a few houses a small garage and butchers shop etc .off on a side road from the highway.

My boss had arranged with the garage to fuel me at any time through the night so that I could be in Adelaide the next day. The garage welcomed the business out in the middle of no where as a cash sale was welcome in that farming community.

 I usually arrived there between midnight and dawn and rang the night bell. The owner would come out in his pajamas and dressing gown, pump the fuel, take the money and I’d be off, all done in about 10 minutes.

On this trip I pulled up at about 2 am rang the bell and out he came and started to pump the fuel into the tank.

On the opposite of the road was the little butchers shop and outside parked on the road was an early model 1930’s  canvas top open sides Ford or Dodge car with an ex army jeep type trailer hooked on behind with mesh wire sides and four sheep shuffling  in it and  ‘baarring’ away quietly.

 As I leant against the cabin stretching my legs I looked across and even in the darkness could see there were people sitting in it. Looked like Mum and Dad in the front and a couple of kids maybe in the back.

Holding onto the hose and noticing me looking across the street at the sheep the garage man said to me nodding at the car.

“That’s the butchers brother-in-law, came down to sell him some sheep but he went away for a couple of days, and no one knows when he’s back.”

 I looked again and sure enough, saw two adults in the front and  a couple of kids in the back.

The garage man added

“The poor bastards broken down as well, cracked a distributor cap, just managed to limp in here an hour ago. Can’t even get back home, lives a couple of hundred mile up north in the bush.

 We cant help him here. The nearest bet for him is Adelaide.”

 At that moment fuel gurgled up the spout and she was full. I handed him some money and while he went inside I walked around the truck checking tires and ropes, everything ok ,came back to the cabin to climb in and there was the car driver waiting for me.

I sized him up as I reached for the door handle.

 He was in his late thirties early forties, tall, thin, typical farmer type, had that weather beaten look about him’ he looked directly at me and  asked  quietly  ,

“You wouldn’t be going Murray Bridge way would you?” he asked hesitantly.

“Yep.. have to be in Adelaide in the morning.” I replied.

I nodded toward the car over the road,

“Having trouble?”

“Yeah.. brought some sheep down to sell to my Brother-in-law, he’s the butcher but he’s away somewhere no one knows where and on top of that I’ve cracked my distributor cap and cant get home.I told him last week I was coming, got the missus and kids as well. Hasn’t been a good year for us Trust the bastard  not to be here when he’s needed.”.

 He pulled out a packet of cigarettes and offered me one, as I leant over for a light he continued,

“Any chance of giving us all a lift to Murray Bridge? The missus has some more relatives there.”

“Sorry mate the cabin’s full of boxes of spare parts, no room. No way I could fit you all in there” nodding to the cabin.

‘Bloody hell I don’t know what to do now, the Missus and kids are freezing to death, the car wont go and I’ve got four sheep I don’t know what to do with in the trailer.”

I stretched my hand out for the door handle to climb in thinking of the next few hours when I knew I would be tired and wishing I was nearer to Adelaide so I could have a couple of hours sleep There was nothing I could do for him so may as well get going.

 On an impulse he burst out,

“Listen mate I’ll give you the sheep if you will tow us into Murray Bridge. How about it?”

 Then added “Their worth good money”

I let out a chuckle,

“What the hell am I going to do with four sheep? If I cant get you in the cabin ,how can I get four sheep in there? Even if I could ..what the hell am I going to do with four sheep?”

 I laughed thinking about it.

 I had seen a few trucks with dogs poking their heads out the windows but sheep!!! I giggled again.

“Yeah … I know its….its just I’m desperate. What am I going to do?”

I looked at him and thought Murray Bridge is one hell of a long way away about 250 Klms. from Keith

and most of it was white gravel and not the best at any time.

I dropped my hand down from the door handle and looked at him and then the restless figures in the car over the road, it was a freezing night with that biting cold wind from the south pole that seems to go right through you.

 The sheep were restless with the occasional thud on the metal floor of the trailer as they shuffled around and a low baaarrrr every now and then.

 One of the kids who must have been very young , murmured something to the mother and I could see her leaning over the back of the seat trying to rearrange a rug or blanket over them.

 All of a sudden I felt sorry for them.

 I let out a deep sigh and looked at the farmer.

‘OK I’ll tell you what, I’ll hook you on the back with as long a rope as I can and see if we can make it to Tintinara at least that’s on the way and go from there …no promises,… what do you say?”

 “Hey that’s great mate” he cried “better than sitting here.”

“Wait there till I turn around “ I said. Then driving down the road a little I turned around, pulled into the front of his car and reversed back close to his car In the meantime he had told his wife and she agreed to give it a go.

I took some spare ropes from the tool box and tied an end to his bumper bar and the other to my rear tie rail. Then told him to wave the torch when I had taken up all the slack in the rope, then everything would be tight and ready to roll.

“Now it wont be any good blowing the horn to attract my attention as with the motor beside me, I wouldn’t hear it”

He sort of looked blank at me and I continued,” If for any reason you wish me to stop then move out a little to the right and blink your lights, don’t use the brakes till you see me answer by blinking my lights….ok?”

 “ When I blink my lights I will very slowly lose speed and you try and keep the rope tight till we have stopped.”

Everything agreed we slowly moved off down the street and turned left onto the highway.

The road from Bordertown to Keith was gravel, just the small  length through Keith was sealed and then gravel again through to Tintinara.

This gravel used was unusual as it was a white type of granite, must have been quarried some where locally. All the gravel roads I had used around the country were a brown color and very heavy, leaving only a low cloud behind and quickly settling to the ground after a vehicle had passed.

Not this bloody stuff, oh no it billowed up like a white fog.

We had gone only a tiny distance and I pulled up at the end of the sealed road just where the gravel began after blinking my lights.

I left the motor running and ran back to the car.

“Well how’s it going, will you be ok?”

“ I think so “

“ Don’t forget blink if you want me to stop”

With that I ran back and slowly took off, bumping down onto the white gravel road and  kept a very slow speed  to see how he was handling it.

After about half an hour I blinked my lights and slowly came to a halt.

Ran back to the car “Well” I asked?

He smiled a little “ It’s a bit hard to keep focused on the back of your truck as it’s the only thing I can see, its like a big green wall in front of me.

The white dust blows every where so we pulled all the curtains down but I’ll leave mine up so I can look out if I have to, but no mate its great keep going were ok the kids are asleep.”

“I’ll stop and check you now and then and stop at Tintinara… ok?”

Up till now everything had been going like clockwork but and this is a big but I had been along time without sleep.

 As time went on and I was very tired, the motor noise started to lull me into a dreamlike state. I wasn’t going to sleep, I was aware I was driving, it was a bit like hypnotism, the white road, the motor, the warmth after being out in the cold. I had checked the lights behind me a couple of times in the first hour and everything seemed ok. Time crawled on.

Slowly but surely feeling nothing and without thinking I must have let my foot press down harder on the accelerator.

 You see with a diesel truck a driver presses the pedal to the floor and let the motor find its own way faster. A petrol truck’s accelerator  needs  to be feathered like a car.

So it was natural for me to press the pedal all the way and I did without thinking and completely forgot I had a car with Mum Dad and the kids plus a trailer full of sheep dangling off my arse… completely forgot. Thinking back it seems impossible that this could happen but it did. Time slipped by in this dream like state.

 I wasn’t going at top speed because the road was too rough but I was definitely going too fast for an early model car full of people and a trailer full of sheep hanging  onto my tail.

Suddenly I hit two bumps in quick succession and  it hit me. I’m towing a car full of people and a trailer full of sheep.

Caesar’s Ghost what have I done.. are they there?. The thoughts sped through my head at express train speed, faster than a computer… are they still there?.. are they ok?.. stop quick .. no not quick he might run into the back of the truck if he is still there… have they lost control? ARE THEY STILL THERE DAMN IT?

 I leaned out of the window with my foot hovering over the brake pedal .. the adrenalin was pumping and I was in quite a panic.

 YES… its still there ..pull up gently Ray steady, steady .. ok run back and hope like hell everything is ok.

 As I reached the drivers door of the car I started to shout ,

” Sorry Mate .. are you ok. .I started to go to sleep and forgot you were there. I haven’t had much sleep for the last couple of nights. Are you ok .. are you.. how’s everyone in there? “

 The poor farmer didn’t move he didn’t even turn his head he just stared straight ahead eyes bulging from trying to see through the white gritty dust for the last hour or so. It was caked all over him, his wife, the blankets over the kids who were still asleep and even the sheep.

 The knuckles on his hands were white from gripping the steering wheel in fact as I stood there he still gripped the wheel so tight I thought he was going to crush it.

 Without turning his head still staring at the back of my truck he said everything is ok. He wouldn’t look at me and I’m sure he was in a state of shock.

 I suggested he get out and have a walk around, at first he shook his head.. no.. but his wife piped up and said

“ Hop out Darling you will feel better with a little walk around.”

 He slowly relaxed his  hands and turned his face to-wards me. That poor man’s face was one white mask only the grooves etched around his eyes and nose showed through. His eye lashes were heavy with what appeared to be  white mascara and his brown hair was snow white.

 “Have we stopped have we?”

 His wife turned the door handle, opened it, leaned in and grasped his arm, helping him to alight onto the road.

“Yes dear, come walk around a little.”

I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there looking at this man, this brown headed lean well spoken farmer that I had turned into something out of  an M.G.M horror movie.

 He shuffled across the road, turned and as he came closer asked in a hesitant voice very softly

 “How far to Tallem Bend?”

 Relieved I smiled and jovially said “Not far at all from here.”

The farmer climbed back in behind the wheel “I’m ok lets get there at least that’s back on a sealed road. We have come this far lets finish it.”

I checked the rope and it was still tight, jumped in the cabin and slowly took off. 

We arrived in Tallem Bend after a very careful drive by me and I went back and checked if everything was alright.

“ Murray Bridge is just down the road come on lets get there” he said.

 I’m game if you are” I replied.

The dawn was just breaking as we pulled in to Murray Bridge and with a few directions we parked outside the relatives house. I unhitched the car and rolled the ropes up and put them in the tool box.

The farmer was now back to normal and said “ Well the sheep are yours that was the agreement.”

 “No mate what the hell would I do with them. I don’t want your sheep.”

 He then said to me “ Do you think you could squeeze just me in the cabin into Adelaide. We’ll be there before any ones open I can have the part and on the bus back here and away home by to-night.”

 He had to lay on the boxes with his head out of the window like a puppy but we arrived ok and I dropped him off. He shook my hand with thanks for all I had done for him and that was the only chance I ever had to become a primary producer and I turned it down.

From the book    “My Way on the Highway”
                 The Life and Times of the Nullarbor Kid 
 Author;     R.G.Gilleland
Copyright  2005
« Last Edit: October 28, 2008, 10:43:39 am by werkhorse » Report Spam   Logged

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