Saturday, February 18, 2012
A STORY FROM THE OUTBACK:THE DRIVING LESSON
It didn't take long to put mi sheets and a blanket on the bed and I opened up one port to use for a cupboard. I lived that way for years 'cause it was easy to close the case and move when necessary.
That evening Jim lit up the hurricane lamps so we could see to eat. After, we listened to the radio for a while, then went to bed early so as to get a good start in the morning. I never had a lamp in my room, just a candle which Jim gave me after I promised not to sleep with it burning 'cause the old house was so dry, a spark or stray flame would have sent it up in smoke within seconds.
The following morning we were up at 4:30 so we loaded the old Bedford up with steel Waratah posts (10 to a bundle), the chain saw, shovels, crowbars and picks, half-mile coils of high-tensile wire, barbwire, strainers, fencing pliers and various other tools to do the job with.
Before we took off Jim said, "Grab a couple of empty plonk flagons and fill 'em up with tank water. You're gonna need 'em."
"I'll only need one."
"I'd say you'll need about six mate, but you'll have to make do with 2. We'll take 2 each 'cause there's no water where were going."
"Alright mate.", I said. "If you say so. No problem."
After breakfast Jim grabbed the large esky box and we went outside to the truck. I went to get in the passengers seat and he said to me. "Hoy, git out of there. You must be joking mate. You can chauffeur me up the paddock!"
"But I can't drive Jim!", I said with a look of astonishment on mi face.
"No such word as 'can't', Yorky and ya certainly won't learn anything sat in the passengers seat watching me. Hop in the drivers seat mate."
This was amazing! I'd wanted to learn to drive for nearly six months and now here's this bloke telling me to chauffer him up the paddock, out to the scrub.
"What if I have a crash Jim?"
"What if ya do mate? I'll just kick ya arse and we'll start again."
I knew he was only kidding because he had a big, warm smile on his face which I could just make out from behind the cloud of cigar smoke.
"First of all, put ya foot on the clutch and pull her out of gear into neutral, then jiggle the stick to make sure she's still not in gear. Turn the key on, give her 5 or 6 pumps on the excelerator 'cause she's cold. Then ya press the button and she should start."
I nervously followed the instructions to the letter and the old Bedford roared into life.
"She sounds a bit noisy Jim."
"Don't worry about that mate. The back end of the exhaust pipe is missing. Now, you've got to double the clutch on this old lady so every time you want to shift gears pull the stick into neutral, let out the clutch and push it in again. Then pull it the rest of the way down into gear. Away we go mate! We're off! That's what the monkey said when he sat on the circular saw watching the races. They're off! Let 's go Yorky!"
I pushed in the clutch and shoved the long stick up towards first gear.
"Let the clutch out slowly and give her a few revs!"
The old Bedford shot forwards and started to kangaroo hop out of the yard.
"Push the clutch back in Mate and try her again. This time give her more revs and let the clutch out slower until she grabs."
I repeated the instructions and this time the old Bedford eased into motion without a single jerk.
"Ya got her mate! Now, once ya git a few revs up, double the clutch as ya change gear. The gears are marked on the letter H on top of the knob."
I changed into second with a few grinds. Then I heard Jim shout, "Look out mate! We're heading for a big Box Tree!"
"Oh shit!", I said as I look back up from the gear stick knob and out the windscreen. We were off the track and heading towards a big tree! I pulled the big steering wheel around to the left and back on to the track.
"Jeesus mate! Ya had mi worried there for a minute!"
"I'm sorry mate. I was trying to read the gear numbers."
"I nearly swallowed mi Monopole, Yorky! I don't mind ya rooting the truck up but I'll be pissed if ya make me smash one of mi cigars up mate!"
Nothing seemed to worry Jim as we bumped up the track. Sometimes on it, sometimes off it.
"Ya see that gate way up there, ahead of us mate?"
"Well, we've got to go through it but preferably I'd like to open it first!"
"What d'ya mean Jim?"
"I mean, this old lady hasn't got any brakes! So make sure ya give her plenty of room to slow down."
"What? No brakes?"
"No brakes.", said Jim with a smile. "But ya can push the brake peddle if ya don't believe me. They went out a couple of weeks ago but ya never know, maybe they came back on their own!"
I pushed the brake peddle to the floor but nothing happened. The old Bedford never missed a beat.
"Oh shit Jim! What now?"
"Ya see that Gum tree overhanging the track up ahead? As soon as ya get level with it push her into neutral and we'll cruise the rest of the way up to the gate."
"What if she won't slow down in time?", I said, very nervously.
"Well it'll save me opening the gate, won't it!"
He gave me a reassuring wink and lit up his cigar and surveyed the scenery out of the passengers' side window, which had no glass in it.
When we got level with the Gum Tree I pushed her out of gear into neutral. As we headed for the big iron gate a couple of large potholes slowed us down and the old truck stopped about 15 feet in front of the gate.
"PHEW! That was close Jim."
"Close mi arse mate. Ya mean to tell me ya gonna make me walk all that way to open the gate?"
"We're only 15 feet away."
"Yeh, but the gate opens the other way mate, so I've gotta git out and walk 15 feet before I git to the gate! Never mind Yorky, ya can stop closer to it on the way back home.", he said with a grin.
By the time we got out to the paddocks where we were to start fencing, I was not sure whether I wanted to learn driving or not but Jimmy reassured me by saying, "You're gonna make a beaut driver Yorky. Ya did as well as I could have done it miself!"
"How do you know which Gum trees to use as markers for slowing down?"
"Easy mate, I've hit those gates miself before today.", said with a wink.