Paying Forward - an Easter tale
An Easter picnic in the bush
Every so often as we continue our journey through this vale of tears, there occurs an event that marks a milestone; something pulls you up short and makes you think: I have crossed a watershed, it's all downhill from here.
I had such an experience recently. We had arrived back home in Palmyra after a peaceful and happy few days at our little slice of paradise in the Avon Valley.
It had been a good Easter.
I had talked to my trees, and even stroked one or two nice ones. The ever-loving and I had been for a picnic in the bush, boiling a billy and grilling some chops. I cut a trailer-load of firewood from a dead gimlet. Then, as night fell and the autumn chill set in, we admired the Easter moon as it rose over the trees along the river … before pulling up the heavy-duty doona and snuggling close.
There had been porridge for breakfast; freshly baked damper with Golden Syrup for morning tea; and baked beans jaffles for lunch. I finished reading a wonderful book on the history of cherry tree cultivation in Japan, sank a noggin or two of Single Malt in the evening before dinner, and photographed a superb salmon gum glimpsed from a country road to the east that we were exploring for the first time.
A superb salmon gum, spotted on an Easter drive
Yes, indeed. A good Easter.
Then, just as we pulled in on our arrival home back in Perth, I felt the car lurch and heard the dreaded flap-flap-flap of a flat tyre. Sure enough, the LHS rear was down and out (although, as Neddie Seagoon would have said “luckily it was only flat at the bottom”).
I was unhappily contemplating the business of unhitching the trailer, unloading our stuff, getting out the gear, jacking up the car, undoing the wheel nuts, lifting off the crap wheel, getting the good wheel from its secret compartment in the back, heaving it up and getting it onto the lugs, doing up the nuts, un-jacking the car, giving the nuts a last tightening, heaving the crap wheel into the back and restowing the jack and levers.... all that stuff we have all done so many times .... but suddenly I couldn’t face it. Why spoil a good Easter? And (I asked myself), why have I been a member of the Royal Automobile Club since 1959, anyway?
I rang the number for “curb-side assistance”. They told me their man would be there in 20 minutes. I considered wearing my arm in a sling (those of you who know Thurber’s story about Walter Mitty will recognise the reference). The RAC man, a friendly young chap with a strange haircut, a goatee and earrings, turned up exactly 20 minutes later. He did not scorn me as a useless old fart. He just changed the wheel (and pumped it up), all with insolent skill, and was utterly cheerful, and it was done in a matter of minutes. I didn’t even have to wash my hands.
A memory from my youth: RAC patrolman’s BSA with sidecar
But I did feel guilty. Fancy getting having to get someone to change a wheel on my car.
Until I remembered another occasion, another flat tyre. It was nearly fifty years ago, in the winter of 1963 and I was living in a single men’s forestry camp in the jarrah forest down south. Being a Friday, I had decided to head off after work to the bright lights of Perth for a weekend of fun and games.
It was a bitter night, pouring with rain. About an hour from the city, I came across a young man whose car was broken down at the side of the road. He was waving disconsolately, so I stopped to see if I could help. He had a flat tyre, he said, and a spare wheel, but had no jack or wheel spanner, and could not get the hub cap off. I did the honours, using my gear to get his car jacked up, and helping him change the wheel and set everything to rights. All the while the rain sheeted down.
When it was finished, he turned to me and said “Thanks, mate, I would like you to have this, it’s all I have”. He handed me a shilling. Which I did not accept. Muttering the usual words about helping someone in distress and thinking about the value a shilling must have to him, I shook off my rain-soaked Bluey jacket, climbed in and drove off.
Remembering this, I felt better about the RAC man changing my wheel. Yes, I am on the downhill slide, and I admit it, but there are credits still to be cashed, and bread, cast upon the waters, still to wash ashore ...