Off Season Odyssey – Part 29: Full-Backs

Off Season Odyssey Pt.29.

 Full-Backs.

 It’s late. I’m all over the road like a goddamn zombie. My left wheel keeps hitting the gravel, I’m constantly falling asleep. I can’t even remember where I’m heading. A central Queensland mining town, I think.

   From out of the dark I see an old school roadhouse. The bitumen either side of it is lined with trucks, two deep. When I get out the night is still and silent, the air perfect blood temperature. I can’t feel where my skin ends.

   Most of the truck drivers aren’t in the shop. They mill about their rigs like farmers do ute trays, not saying much, just sharing the quiet, the job. The stupidly long hours, the crappy pay. The hazards. The shit. These men, and occasionally women, the backbone of our country.

   We would be cave-dwellers without them.

   “Blokes,” I put a greeting out there.

  They say nothing back. They have a bond I could never understand. I know that, because I’ve had it. In the mountain valley coops with the tree fern crew. And again, on the rocky tiers with the plantation crew. 100kms from anyone, long stupidly hard days, in the blazing sun, in the snow. Surviving it was what made the two hour sweaty, crushed troupie drives home so sweet, even when they were anything but.

   It was what made us mates, even if we weren’t. What made the job gold, when it had no possible reason to be.

   ‘Anyone want a kick?” I say.

   ‘What?”

   I show them the ball.

   “Fuck off,” they tell me.

   “I saw you 30k back,” one of them says. “He hit the breaks so I could get past without fuss,” he tells the others.

   I’ve played footy with a lot of truckies. Got to know a few of them. When you’re on the road, the little things mean a lot.

   “Do any of you know Moke Williamson?” I ask.

   “From Colac?” a voice says.

   Moke is a truck driver, and was a full-back. From Alvie, then, with me at Otway, then back at Alvie, where he finally hung up his boots and now coaches. Tough as nails. All old school. Great on the arm wrestle, dry jokes and footy trips. A dead-set ripper bloke.

   Next thing I know I’m in their circle for a bit.

   The driver who knows Moke somehow knows Grunter, too. Another truckie full-back I met through footy.

   “He’s given up the rigs for dairy farming,” I say.

   “You’re a long way from home, mate,” the bloke tells me.

 

   I explain what I’m on about, that I’m using footy to explore the country, and that I reckon we’d be nothing without truck drivers.

   One of them has a kick with me, in the silence, on the empty highway, some time near 2am.

   “Weirdest shit ever,” he says.

 

   When I go into the roadhouse, the lady who serves me looks bone-tired. Like a Zombie. She tries to be nice, but there’s just too many long hours in her. She can’t do it. Her eyes are a mess.

   By the time I get out, half of the trucks have moved on again. Some more are about to pull in.

   I get another hour down the road before I concede, pull over, and dodge the fresh-falling rain by sleeping under the ute.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. pamela sherpa says:

    Great stuff Matt

  2. Matt Zurbo says:

    Thanks, Pamela! Found Greg’s 5th CD. IT IS THE BLUE ONE!!!!Look forward to hearing your song!

  3. Hey Matt
    thanks for taking me on the trip with you. I’ve travelled all the way up the east coast from Melbourne to Byron ,camping on Crescent Head beach with a guy years ago chasing waves, whales and good times…this takes me back to country towns, slow talking, slow livin folk and a time in my life when I could just hit the road whenever.

    Look forward to the next instalment.

    Cheers

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