Barry, “Bazza” to his mates, was asleep in the passenger’s seat of the Ute, that’s Australian for pickup, while, David, “Davo” was doing the driving. They had set off at around ten that morning because they had to travel about 550 ks, that’s about 350 miles “in the old language”. That’s all the way from the coal mining town of Leigh Creek “up North”, down to Adelaide in South Australia. That was “no worries” though because they would make it to the “big smoke” before night time and be back in time for work after driving back on the holiday Monday.
While Bazza was a typical coal field worker, Davo had started to attend the local church. Davo had been driving for about half an hour and the trip had become monotonous already. The scenery was unrelenting; nothing but ankle high “scrub” for almost as far as the eye could see; reddish peach colored soil that was more like dust than soil. Dust, flies and of course there was the shimmering heat. It was so hot that the heat haze created the illusion of pools of water on the road. Every once in a while the remains of a stone farmhouse stood as a monument to the futility of trying to farm in one of the driest places in the driest state in the driest continent on Earth. At least there was the Flinders Ranges off to the left and the occasional dry creek bed which supported a number of hardy Gum Trees. It was summer but this far north, summer was actually the wet season, yet there had hardly been a drop of rain for several years due to a persistent drought. Just as well though, because rain up here meant flash floods and if they had a flash flood, well, there would be no getting across those “dry” creek beds.
It was just about ten miles out of Parachilna, which is little more than a Hotel, when Davo was rudely awakened from his trance by a Kangaroo that bounced straight out in front of him and he had little choice but to swerve to avoid it. The Ute ended up on the gravel at the side of the road and somehow Davo managed to keep it from rolling. Then just moments later Davo felt that unmistakable change in the handling of the steering that signaled a flat tire. Davo pulled over.
In a half conscious state Bazza muttered “What’s up mate?”
“I think we’ve got a flatty.” Davo slammed the door a little harder than he intended.
Davo tried to ignore the way Bazza expressed his feelings about the situation. Davo strolled to the passenger’s side of the Ute and his heart sank as he saw not one but two flat types. God why? David thought in silent prayer. Why Today? Why here?
They were a mere “stones throw” away from Parachilna for someone with a working car but being stranded in the “outback” where the temperature regularly climbed over a hundred degrees “on the old scale” was a real worry. After much expression of anxiety between Davo and Bazza and about the time when David had become certain that God did not love him anymore, they heard the sound of a heavy vehicle rumbling in the distance. Through the heat haze the image of a truck gradually immerged. The two young blokes were waving and screaming frantically at the truck and when they could see that the truck was starting to slow, they felt so relieved they would have hugged each other, except Aussie blokes don’t do that sort of thing. After a quick explanation of their situation the truck driver offered to give one of them a lift into Parachilna where he knew someone who could fix flat tires.
Within hours they would be on their way again but Mike, the truck driver, said something that Davo would never forget.
“You’ll never guess what I just heard on the two way radio!”
“What’s that mate?”
“There’s just been a prang five k out the other side of Parachilna, it was a head on between a Truck and a red Toyota station wagon. One guy’s dead.”
Chills swept down Davo’s spine as he remembered that he had slowly been catching up to a red Toyota station wagon just before the roo jumped out in front of him.
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