True Stories: Road Worriers
Wallaby vs Truck
There seem to be certain moments in life to which you are inevitably drawn, where the universe conspires to teach you a lesson.
This was one of them. I was in Australia, driving along a dirt road towards the town of Chillagoe and the start of the Great Red Nowhere. Meanwhile, fate, in the shape of a large mammal, is thrashing through the undergrowth on course to make its appointment with the start of my story and the end of its, or rather more importantly, her own.
I saw something run into the road; I swerved; my foot hit the floor; Skippy hit the door; I swore; let's say no more.
Now, normally I feel guilty wiping the remains of insects from the windscreen, so you can imagine my horror as I knelt down next to a wallaby performing the last throes of death.
It was a simple but star performance. It shuddered. And died. I nearly reviewed my last meal. The sun started to set. The red dirt became darker. And then, of all things to happen... its pouch moved.
So, as the last rays of the sun hit the hills behind, his boy sat and considered. (Looking at the bush on the left.) I could leave it, wipe the memory of the moving pouch from my mind and consider myself lucky that the van wasn't too damaged.
(Looking at the cactus on the right.) A vision: a moving pouch, imprisoned in its own dead mother, sits for days before finally starving under an arid and unforgivable heat. (Looking at the poisonous spider moving ever closer to my leg.) Kharma: could it be my own fate I would be leaving on the side of the road?
Moving swiftly away from the spider, I made a decision: this was going to be one
be one orphan wallaby that was going to live! A crusade had pushed itself firmly into the situation and who was I to ignore it?
After much searching I found the number for an animal carer – a Mr Harold Kuntz (no, honest, that was his name). He was three hours away and informed me that I had to bring him both blood-soaked mother and wriggling joey, as there "might be separation issues".
So ten minutes later there was a stiff in the back of my truck, wrapped in tarp with
a telltale stain, and I was on a mission to save my soul.
A manic three-hour drive later, I arrive at my destination, the town of Ravenshoe. At the main
crossroads I take a defiant sharp right turn without looking left and for the second time that day hear a bang – this one louder and more bone-shaking than the first. I had hit a car.
To the sweet sound of crushing metal, the horizon re-ordered itself to the vertical. Momentum pushed in for a slice of the action and sparks flew for dramatic effect as I scraped gallantly along the high street, coming to a stop in front of the local pub – oh Fate, you card!
To a soundtrack of eerie
post-crash silence, the entire town population of 870 appeared from nowhere (or, more likely, the pub).
Ambulances, fire engines and police arrived, and after being checked for missing limbs, I suddenly remembered my passenger in the tarp, who was no doubt wondering why I was trying so hard to kill it.
I alerted a nearby ambulance lady who, with the help of the fire crew, recovered it from the wreck. Serendipitously, she turned out to be a wallaby carer and adopted it immediately.
A couple of days later I checked on 'Car Crash' (as affectionately named by the ambulance staff), to find it living in the lap of luxury (well, a sock).
I, meanwhile, had a screwed van, no money to pay the tow-truck and some sticky questions over my insurance, or lack thereof.
As for Harold Kuntz? Well, he was just pleased the wallaby lived.
The sun slowly began to set, the red dirt road became darker. And then, its pouch moved.
32 What's the worst that could happen?