…reminded me of a fella I met on a flight home from Meekatharra. I was leaving – flustered and annoyed – because once again, I felt I hadn’t finished half the work left to me! Work at Meeka was like that. You’d be away for a short while and stuff would happen. No sooner then it took for the door to open on that bloody flying pencil we called a plane and I could immediately feel the press of jobs needing to be done – it was hard to be useful in only five days spurts – but this mob deserved my best!
Meekatharra presented me with some of the most challenging moments I’ve ever experienced – right up to my working life today. More so because we people – unlike mechanical or electrical problems – almost always get caught up in our own emotions and in doing so we twist ourselves (and each other) up into so many knots, it’s a wonder we aren’t purely made of hemp – such is the perfect match it’d make!
As challenging as Meeka was at times, it also presented me with some of my most satisfying moments too! I worked with some amazing local people up that way and I remember most people fondly. I also met the many different types of people who were ‘blow-ins’ much like me. In town for work or simply passing through and more often than not – these moments came to me completely by accident, having nothing to do with the actual business at hand. This was how I came to meet ‘Mark’ and, more importantly, how he’d come to be sitting in the seat next to me on the flying bloody pencil!
After we did the bog standard introductions you’d often find on planes, I found out Mark was travelling from Newman to Perth for his son’s wedding the very next day. We were on the late Friday aftenoon flight and to me it seemed that Mark had simply driven down from Newman, to catch himself a connecting flight to Perth. Not so Mark, he’d originally intended to drive straight through to Perth – all the way from Newman. I raised my eyebrows at this. It was late Friday afternoon and here he was on a plane to Perth instead. The only thing I could come up with was his car must have played up and was being repaired in Meeka. This bloke must have been running seriously behind schedule!
To get a feeling for this, you need to understand the distances involved here. Newman is some 550kms north of Meeka. Meeka is some 850kms north of Perth. 1400kms plus – one way – on a road largely travelled by Bullbar reinforced road-trains, and frequented by critters big enough to crush your car should you run into them! Not altogether an unusual event in this country – especially upon dusk and dawn.
It’s dangerous driving outback roads, tired and trying to do long bloody distances. You need all the wits about you that you can muster. Hit a medium to large animal – native or otherwise – doing 110kms on one of these roads at night and it’s hard not ending up a tangled mess that’s spun or thrown, completely off the road! You can become so completely lost to view in the low scrub around most arid parts of Oz and the country’s so dangerously remote, you could easily bleed out before help even has a remote chance of arriving!
This was how Mark came to be sitting next to me. It was then that I noticed the new scratch on the left side of his forehead: Mark it would seem, had been incredibly lucky!
Some 20 minutes out of Meeka on that late Thursday afternoon – Mark had taken part in his own version of what I described above and somehow he’d survived to tell me (and his son) about it. It was coming on to dusk, and he knew he’d be in Meeka soon. He was originally planning on driving through the night (not that unusual here in WA – although most experienced people SHOULD know better), because he wanted to get into Perth before Friday evening, so he could go out with his son on Friday night. Fate on the other hand, had other plans for Mark and it didn’t involve getting his car to Perth the following day!
When Mark came too, he was aware of a huge presence right next to him in the passenger seat. That and a putrid smell that now flowed through the car and filled his nostrils to bursting! The crumpled mess filling all of the passenger seat next to him, was also spilling out onto the smashed-up car bonnet in front of him. It had once been a living and breathing bullock – a large one – and somehow, it’d completely missed Mark when it had gone over the front of his car and punched though the windscreen! He jokingly said to me then, that he wasn’t sure if the smell he’d smelt first was himself – or the bloody cow (he checked as soon as he’d gotten out)!
Long story short – if that’s possible in my neck of the blogosphere – Mark stepped away from that car with nothing but a small nick on his forehead! Can you believe that? Buckets of shattered safety glass all around him; a bloody, crumpled and smelly beef package next to him and a dead car that looked like it’d been stoved in at the front, with a giant bloody hammer – and he got to walk away from that accident with barely an injury to his name!
I wanted to reach out and touch the lucky bugger. What do you say to a bloke who tells you a fresh yarn like that? I – for a change – couldn’t say much at all. In fact it’d be pretty fair to say I often caught myself staring at him during the flight – wondering what he’d done to be ‘touched’ in such a way?
All I managed was a handshake and a mumbled farewell at the airport, somewhat still in awe of him. I watched his son gather him up in his arms when we arrived at the airport – obviously emotional – clearly glad to see his Dad. Somewhat embarrassed, Mark shrugged his ‘boy’ off and patted him on the back – just happy to be there. It seemed as if his brush with death hadn’t touched him at all – and all I could think was: wow – what a lucky bastard!
Belongum – Out!