A truckie’s words of wisdom
Kermie looks back at some of his favourite yarns
I WAS flicking through some old stories I’d written, amazed at the things you lot have gotten up to. The quotes following typify not only those who spoke them but the industry as a whole.
Sonya Weir: “I was four or five and had been naughty in the truck.
“Mum had had enough, put me out in the desert and told me she was leaving me there.
“I remember walking beside the truck. It was probably only for a couple of minutes but it felt a lot longer.
“I knew it was a long way home and I didn’t know the way there.
“I don’t remember playing up again!”
■ Jack Long: “He came up to me and said, ‘You got a licence to drive that truck?’ I didn’t know what he was talking about – I didn’t know about licences. He said ‘You got five bob on you?’
“So I gave him five bob and that’s how I got my licence.”
■ Spriggy Heritage: “In my spare time I started spray painting log trucks. Rub ‘em down and wash ‘em on a Friday night.
“Saturday arvo I’d mask them up and spray them.
“On Sunday morning when they were dry I’d strip the masking off, silver paint the wheels and they were ready to go for Monday.
I:’d get 18-20 quid a job. That’s how my money was made.”
■ Paul Witte: “Figuring I was a bit overweight, I decided that it was best that I dodge the Marulan Weighbridge and go up by Wombeyen Caves.
“The road’s so winding that semis (and caravans) were outlawed from using it.
“Cliffs on one side and straight drops on the other.
“I got to a corner but didn’t make it around and over she toppled. It was only the bull bar and the tyre rack that caught on something and stopped me from heading down a two hundred foot drop.
“I contacted Cold Storage owner, Tony Nivens and he said, “Does it look like going over?” I said, well, it does actually; it doesn’t look too good.
“Tony replied, “Well make sure you’re in the bastard if it does!”
■ Andrew (Stropp) Gray: “I got an exemption from attending school at 14, a teacher stood me up in front of the class and told my mates that I would amount to nothing.
“At 18 I bought my first truck, a 1418 Benz.
:I ended up taking that teacher a load of water and charged him $350 for an hour and a half’s work.
“I said, ‘Remember how you stood me up in front of the class all those years ago? Eight trucks – this is the last one to be paid for, everything is owned. This was the easiest $350 I’ve ever earned.’ “
■ Pete Bottoms: “One day I’m coming down Greenmount Hill going to Perth in an F88 Volvo. Something goes BANG and the pedal goes straight to the floor.
“I’m off, I’m gone. No Jake brakes in those days.
“I had a mate in the cab with me and he’s yelling, “We’re done, we’re gone! What we do?”
“I said, ‘Jump!’ So he jumps out and I’m hanging on for dear life.
“About halfway down there’s a left-hander and you’ve got houses there. There was a house with a cutaway drive in it and a tree out front.
“I decided I was going to hit that tree dead centre and take myself out.
So I’ve got the tree lined up dead centre and I’m coming at it.
“I don’t know if it was because I was so tired after a long drive that I imagined there were two kids in front of the tree, but I swerved at the last second. One side of the truck has lifted off the ground. I’ve gone bang, into the side of this cutaway driveway, then up out of that and I’m heading straight towards the side of this house.
“There’s this big thick edge and you wouldn’t believe it, the truck hit it and that’s how it stopped.
“The trailer dug into the cutaway and that slowed me up one hell of a lot. The hedge did the rest. There I am staring at the sky.
“So they bring a tow truck. That’s fine but it’s only a small tow truck and it couldn’t hold the weight. We’re slowly getting it out, backing up the hill. Meanwhile the cops have arrived and are directing traffic.
“The silly buggers are letting cars through. We’re nearly done when the cable breaks and I’m off down the road again.
“There’s a bloke in a brand-new F100 ute and I’m coming straight at him. I’m thinking, ‘This blokes gone!’ I don’t know how I did it but I got around him, then bang, crash, bang – and I’m back in the hedge again. Sky!”
■ Owen Leech: “I remember when a bloke tried to sell us the very first tautliner. They’ll never work we said. Shows how much we know!”
■ Ruffy Doyle: “In those days the Hume was a goat track. The Western Highway to Adelaide wasn’t any better and the road to Perth was dirt. The corrugations would wreck the dash, the truck, every damn thing! Not our spirit though!”
■ Lizard: “I’ve had a life of no regrets – not one. It was in the blood. Always was.”
Take care of You - Kermie.
WISE WORDS: Ruffy Doyle was one of the many to share his story.