TRIKED, TRICKED, TROLLOPED
There are some lovely beaches down in the south west corner of Western
Australia. Long stretches of pristine sand dividing the Indian Ocean from the
dense forests of tall karri trees. Hundreds of kilometers of unpolluted and
mostly unpopulated coastline stretched like a silver ribbon between rockbound
headlands. Very nice - except when your idiot of an husband has bogged down the
family four wheel drive on one of those deserted beaches. Believe me, there's no
better way of exploring the strengths of a relationship than sharing a shovel on
a scorching hot December day, especially when all your joint efforts to dig
large holes in fine sand are proving futile. Which was one of the reasons why
our marital relationship was sinking even faster than the Suzuki. Not that any
of it was my fault.
I hadn't wanted to drive way out of town and down some bush track to go
rock fishing. As far as I'm concerned fishing is an old man's occupation. Jeff
isn't even thirty yet, nor am I, so I thought we could have found something more
interesting to do on a Saturday morning. Still, fishing was what he wanted to do
and the only alternative if we stayed indoors was having him watch cricket on
the TV - and compared to watching cricket, throwing a fishing line into the sea
is an epic adventure full of drama and excitement.
So here we were, bogged down before we'd even got to the fishing spot and
with no way of getting somebody to come and help us out. The nearest sealed road
was five kilometers away, five kilometers of bare dirt trail bulldozed through
the trees. No other signs of life on the beach, not even a boat in sight
anywhere and Jeff snarling at me all the time just because I happened to be
driving the bloody vehicle when it sank down to the axles. He was the one who
was telling me where he wanted to go! The most annoying thing of all was my job
- I'm a nurse and I was scheduled for the evening shift in the local hospital. A
fine fool I was going to look if I couldn't even phone in and let them know I
wouldn't be able to make it.
Then something entirely unexpected happened. I was walking back from the
tree line with an armful of old branches to push under the Suzi's back wheels
when I heard an engine. At first I thought it was a car and then I saw a small
aircraft skimming along the shoreline so low it was well below the tops of the
karri trees. It was the strangest looking thing I'd ever seen - not like a
normal plane with a wing on each side. Instead there was just one wing that
looked something like the sail of a yacht, with red and white patterns on it.
Hanging underneath the wing was the rest of the plane, what there was of it.
Have you ever been to a fairgound and had a ride in one of those little
plastic pods that hang down from the edge of a big wheel? If you can imagine
something like that, only smaller, with the pilot sitting in it and a windscreen
down around his knees, you've got the idea. The only other difference was a nose
wheel at the front and two more wheels at the back with pointy hoods over them.
Yes, and the engine of course. The plane was flying so low that I could easily
see it mounted behind the pilot, with the propeller right at the back of the
pod, pushing the strange little contraption along. I suppose it was travelling
about as fast as a car would on a normal road and as it came level the pilot
waved to us with one hand. The other one was resting on a bar - like a trapeze
bar, I guess - which was the bottom piece of a triangle which came to a point
underneath the wing. There were two more metal bars that I could also see, from
the front and back of the pod and also joined together underneath the wing. They
obviously carried the weight of the pod and somehow the pilot was steering
himself around with the bar he was holding.
IN THE MEMBERS SECTION