As a kid, a sure fire sign that summer was here was the arrival of a box of mangoes. They came courtesy of Wal, from Far North Queensland. My dad met Wal on a fishing trip in the late 70s and they hit it off. Dad even took us to visit Wal.
Prior to departure, dad affixed a “bug shield” to the front of the family station wagon. For you younger readers, a bug shield was essentially a wire mesh shield affixed to the front bumper and positioned at bonnet level. It’s function was to prevent the bulk of the bug guts ending up on your windscreen. The jury’s still out on whether this actually worked.
Once this was sorted and the boat trailer hitched, there was the ridiculously long car trip. I get car sick but that’s not a problem because mum would always hand me an empty four litre ice cream bucket. Thanks mum. She also gave very helpful advice like “wind down the window, the fresh air will sort you out” or “stare at the horizon”. Needless to say, the ice cream bucket rarely stayed empty for very long. Speaking of bizarre, inexplicable things my mum did, she also used to forcefully press her hands against the windscreen every time we hit a dirt road. I still don’t know why. Anyone?
Whoa, hang on; I forgot the dogs. Like all our family holidays, our luggage was stowed in the boat and our two mongrels reigned supreme in back of the station wagon. They had a penchant for farting and dribbling. The farts were manageable courtesy of the wound down windows to “ease” my car sickness. But the dribbling was another matter. Being the caring, sharing dogs they were, they loved to stick their heads over the back seats and dribble.
Do you remember back in the day how you would stick to the hot, vinyl car seats and when you lifted your backside, the pain would have you convinced you’d left several layers of thigh skin behind? Well, never fear because the dribble from our panting dogs took care of that. Courtesy of the seams in the stitched seats, the dribble would conveniently channel and accumulate to give us a less painful exit from the car…
It wasn’t all bad – we had a cassette player. Yes! We were one step up from the eight-track. Boney M’s Night flight to Venus was a personal favourite. I always sat up straight and alert when the intro drums started. My brother and I were also blessed to be indoctrinated with The Beatles, Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys and Slim Dusty. I feel lucky, especially in respect to Slim. My dad took us on many more road trips that traversed the towns Slim sang about (dogs in situ). When Slim died, I watched his state funeral on TV and bawled my eyes out.
Back to Wal. When I met him, I was enthralled. To put it mildly, he was rough. He also had four kids, equally as rough. His (then) 14yo son had just caught a shark. I’m talking the type you see on a Ron and Valerie Taylor documentary. It was huge. After we witnessed it being winched from the water, Wal decided on oysters for lunch. We watched in awe as he walked, with bare feet no less, over the oyster beds to get what he wanted. Oyster lease be damned.
I’m still not sure how Wal was connected to the mangoes he sent us. Perhaps it’s best not to ask.