I left a Hobart looking its best; Autumnal sun irradiating the trees, a harbour reflecting clear blue skies, and Mt Wellington the eternal safeguard of it all.
And so the mad dash for the ferry began.
I had eight hours to cover the length of Tasmania, from the capital in the south to Devonport along the northern coast, there to catch the overnight ferry back to the Australian mainland.
I took a bus to the outskirts of the city, found a good spot beside the road and stuck out my thumb.
As luck would have it, the first ride I got was from a man going all the way to Devonport.
He was Roger, a retired Traffic Policeman who’d worked every state of Australia, a burly old fella with bow legs and hands like dinner plates.
“To get y’ Interceptor Licence, it was called in them days, y’had to drive from Melbourne to the border of New South Wales and back in under three hours… No speed restrictions!” He laughed.
The way Roger talked was of a bygone age in Australia, romantic and brutal.
“One of me first days, me an’ me partner turned up to a car crash where two young fellas had been out for a drive with their girls, clipped a wall an’ rolled the car,” he retold.
In a grim example of real life parodying Hollywood pyrotechnics, the car had erupted into flame with the inhabitants trapped inside.
“After the fire blokes had finished we had to get the bodies out of course, an’ that was real tough ‘cus they were burnt rigid, y’know…”
With his hands on the wheel, Roger locked his elbows, miming the fixed position of the driver.
“…An’ we ended up havin’ to break ’em up to get ’em out.”
It is one of the many phenomena of hitch hiking that your hosts often show a remarkable willingness to open up to a complete stranger.
I asked Roger how such experiences effected him.
“Well,” he sighed. “After Vietnam, I could handle that sorta thing. I saw lots of things there, and did a lot of things a person wouldn’t normally think of doing.”
He was opening up, but I did not push him, aware as I was that people are not oysters requiring a stab and a twist to relinquish their juicy innards. Stories must be shared, not extracted, and through the art of conversation one shows one’s worthiness to Know.
“War is hell, whilst having fun!” He assured me with a chuckle.
“They were good times. I remember me first jump – Boy, what a thing that was! Y’ have one dummy rip, where the ripcord is attached to the plane and pulls automatic’ly… Course, second time it’s all you. Ya jump out an’ ya droppin’ a hundred an’ eighty feet per second an’ ya thinkin’: Shit! Whadoo-ah do next?! An’ then y’ remember an’ y’ grab that cord…
He raised his right hand from the wheel and clenched it around an imaginary ripcord at his breastbone.
“One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, an’ y’ pull it an’ only then y’ realise ya been screamin’ the whole blardy time an’ every bugger around y’s been screamin’, and the skies are fulla screamin’ fellas!” He laughed wistfully and ended, as he did most of his anecdotes, with:
“Yeah… They were blardy good times.”
In response to Daily Prompt: Wrinkle