Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, June 26, 2008


It's been a long time since I was last in Yalleroi, and for a town that's in almost the geographic centre of Queensland, it's hard to imagine somewhere that's closer to the end of the earth.

I hasten to add that I'm not reflecting on the good townsfolk at all when I say that, if indeed there are any townsfolk left, and as far as I can tell from the satellite photos on Google Earth, it may well be the case that there aren't. I suspect that just as it did in 1974 when we passed by, the town still comprises less than a handful of houses and a population that can be counted on the fingers of one thumb.

Travel of any sort in 1974 was expensive. Driving was the only way of covering long distances in a reasonably affordable manner. Interestingly, heavy road transport was still to reach it's peak of efficiency and things we take for granted today, such as car carriers, were just not available. For the hire car companies it could take weeks to deliver new cars to a remote depot by rail, or to relocate them after a one way hire.

Being young, enterprising and broke at the time, I discovered that the companies were very happy to have someone deliver their cars between towns and would even allow a slight detour or two along the way, providing the cars arrived in due course with a full tank of petrol. This was a fortunate discovery at a time when my life was occupied undertaking research into Queensland vernacular architecture, a project that would have proved very difficult indeed without a good deal of waltzing round the countryside.

So it came to be that we drove through Yalleroi with barely a sideways blink en-route to Longreach, in a brand spanking new Holden Premier with air conditioning which was soon to be the pride of Longreach's Avis fleet. The road, as one may imagine, for a track between the not quite monster metropoli of Blackall and Jericho, was not a particularly good one, and there hadn't been much rain for a long while, which meant that like all unsealed roads in blacksoil country, this one lay several feet below a covering of rich bulldust.

It was just before dusk, well past the time when sensible people drive in areas littered with livestock and wildlife, and we were pressing on carefully, dodging kangaroos, and beef cattle, driving with our noses pressed hard against the windscreen to give us just a fraction of a second more warning of whatever might appear next out of the dusty gloom.

I can still see that big black pig as though it happened yesterday. It was a monster of a wild boar and it was travelling at full tilt toward and across us at the same time. It was all I could do slow the car enough to lessen the impact, but even at forty kilometres an hour, a half ton pig leaves a substantial hole in a plastic grille, and if one did not stop quite quickly enough, one could even find the radiator leaking through a pig-snout shaped hole in it as well.

On this occasion we didn’t stop quite quickly enough.

When one is miles from anywhere but Yalleroi, with water pouring out of the radiator of one’s car, prudence suggests that the best course of action would be to turn back and seek assistance, which of course we did.

For reasons which will become apparent on another day, the only commercial enterprise in Yalleroi was the Pub, and the only product it sold which looked as though it might be useful in plugging a leaking radiator, was chewing gum.

If we had known then what we know today, we wouldn’t have spent forty five minutes chewing the entire town’s supply of Mr Wriggley’s best before stuffing it in every leaking cranny of the radiator.

Certainly we wouldn't have struck out in the near-dark of the evening determined to get to Blackwater and some proper repairs.

We certainly wouldn’t have discovered that chewing gum, when heated by, for instance, engine water passing through a radiator on a motor car, liquifies in a very short space of time.

Neither would we have had the slightest inkling that liquified chewing gum, when dragged through a car radiator by an enthusiastic mechanical fan, forms long hair like strands which weave a vast sticky web over the entire innards of an engine bay, and start to flow out of the gaps in the car bodywork, before the temperature of the engine has had time to reach even normal operating temperature.

We know all of those things now, but most importantly, if it hadn’t been for that one gigantic porker, we wouldn’t have had the chance to stay overnight at the Yalleroi Pub.


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