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All In A Day’s Work

A day in the life of a road train driver

By Colleen Millsteed Published 3 years ago Updated 8 months ago 12 min read
20
All In A Day’s Work
Photo by Craige McGonigle on Unsplash

“Breaker one nine, are you out there,” I query over the CB radio, as my road train barrels along the Stuart Highway, in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Silence. Silence all around. Silence on the CB and silence out on the road. It’s like there’s not another soul within a 100 kilometre radius of me. I can hear the noise of my truck as my tyres burn up the miles. I haven’t seen any car, or truck lights for hours. I wonder at times like this, maybe something has happened in the world and I’m the last one alive, but then I hit civilisation and laugh at my wild imagination.

I try the radio again, “Breaker one nine, do you have your ears on? This is Little Dove and I was hoping for some chit chat to keep me company. Breaker, yell out if you’re on here bud.”

Still more silence. I heavily sigh and give up on the chat as I reach for the radio and turn up the music.

Barrelling along the highway in the middle of this beautiful country, when I glimpse something on the side of the road in the distance. Is that? No it can’t be. But it is!

There standing on the side of the road is a man, holding his thumb out, a universal symbol for asking for a ride. Should I stop? It’s pretty risky, but then if I don’t, he may not see another vehicle within the next day or so.

Mind made up, I can’t leave a fellow human being out in the middle of nowhere. I start to power down my big girl. She’s a long beast, is my girl and she takes some stopping. Changing down, through her twelve gears, until I ease her up beside the man.

The male looks relieved that someone has stopped, relieved and exhausted. He looks to be in his mid 30’s, terribly sunburnt from the harsh Australian sun and it seems he’s about ready to drop right where he is standing. Jeans and button up shirt, but wait, what’s that dark stain down the front of his shirt? Looks like blood.

I lean across so I can see him better out the passenger side window and nod my head, giving him the okay to hop on in.

As he does so, he starts talking, “thank you kind lady for stopping and helping me out. My car broke down about 2 kilometres back on the side street just off the highway. That was approximately 6 hours ago and you are the first sign of civilisation I’ve seen since. My name’s Mick and I sure am happy to see you little lady.”

“Hi Mick, sounds like you’ve had a rough day. I’m happy to be here to assist you. My name’s Sarah and it’s mighty fine to make your acquaintance. Is that blood on your shirt, have you been injured?”

Mick is silent for a minute and I start to think he’s not going to answer me. I begin to get a little nervous but then he speaks up.

“Thanks Sarah, no this on my shirt is an oil stain. I tried fixing my car after it broke down and ended up with oil all over me. I’m not much of a mechanic I’m afraid,” he chuckles to himself.

Something doesn't ring true with Mick, but I will drop him at the next town, just on 5 hours away. I push in the clutch, slot my girl into gear and we’re on our way.

Mick doesn’t say much more and is quietly dozing in the corner. We’ve only been back on the road for an hour, when I spot a car pulled over on the shoulder of the road. Looks like they’ve broken down too. Rarely do I see any traffic on my runs along this highway and now here we are, with a second vehicle broken down out in the middle of nowhere.

I start to slow down and Mick jolts awake.

“Why are we stopping,” he begins to ask, until he sees what’s in front of us.

A blue Mitsubishi Lancer is stationary on the shoulder, just in front of where I’ve pulled up. I safely park her and open the door to hop out, when Mick tells me he doesn’t think this is a good idea and we should just continue on our way.

I respond, “would you have been happy if I’d just continued on my way with you, instead of stopping?”

Mick just shook his head and opened the passenger side door.

We both hop out and cautiously approach the Lancer. Can’t see any sign of life, but the vehicle is idling, so it obviously hasn’t been there long. I start to notice dirty hand marks on the drivers side front window. No, not dirt marks but blood. Oh lord, what will I see? As I get close enough, I can see a human body and blood, blood everywhere. There’s no way someone survived that much blood loss. I start to edge backwards. Time to get out of here and get somewhere to report this.

I am shaking terribly when I climb back into the truck. I can’t un-see the horror I just gazed upon. I’ll carry that image with me for ever and a day. I look over at Mick and I’m shocked to find this isn’t affecting him at all.

I put my girl into gear and once again pull out onto the highway. Four hours to the nearest police station.

I look again at Mick and utter, “who could have attacked the owner of the Lancer and in such a way that I couldn’t even tell if that was a male or female?”

Mick just shrugs his shoulders.

I couldn’t clear that image from my mind and yet Mick has gone back to sleep. Really? Did he not see what I saw? I was beginning to feel a little uneasy about my passenger.

After another hour, we begin to see some changes to the landscape. Slowly the hot red dusty desert was turning into a lush area of rainforest. Ten more minutes and we pull over, into a truck stop with bathroom amenities.

Mick wakes again and suddenly lashes out at me verbally.

“Why are we stopping now? Just get back on the bloody road and get me to civilisation for damn sakes.”

I am shocked to say the least.

“I’m just going to use the bathroom facilities and we’ll be on our way, so please just calm down.”

At that Mick’s face starts to go bright red, with a vein in his forehead expanding, in anger.

I climb out, ensuring I take my keys, and head to the small ablutions block. Maybe anger was Mick’s way of dealing with what we had both seen.

I exit the stall and as I move to the sink to wash my hands, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. I turn and duck at the same time, luckily, as Mick is swinging a large piece of timber at my head. I try to tackle him but he towers over me and manages to clip my shoulder with the wood. I slip and crash to the floor, rolling suddenly as I pull Mick’s foot out from under him. He crashes to the floor, hitting his head quite hard, knocking himself out cold.

I push myself up off the floor and stagger to my truck. My shoulder is throbbing but at least I can still move my arm. It’s at this stage that I realise I have been right with my gut feelings about Mick. He is bad news and I don’t believe for a minute that he had broken down out there. I was fully confident that he’d done the damage to that poor soul in the Lancer.

Back at the truck I dig around behind my seat looking for the things I’ll need. I can’t leave Mick out here to hurt anyone else. I’d have to haul his rotten arse into the police station, only a couple hours down the road.

I grab some rope and my trusty rifle from behind the seat and head back to where Mick is. As I enter the ablution block, I’m shocked to find Mick is no longer here. He was out cold so how has he disappeared?

I notice some blood on the floor, from where Mick’s head hit and can see Mick has stumbled through it. I follow his bloody footprints to discover he has headed into the rainforest.

Well, well, well, so that’s the game you want to play Mick, old boy? So I’m a going hunting, I thought to myself with a chuckle. Been awhile since I have been hunting for such a dangerous prey. Last time was two years ago, before I was discharged from the army.

I look around to make sure the mad bastard isn’t sneaking up on me and then head back to the truck.

I laugh and shout out loud, “let the games begin.”

At the truck I change into dark clothes so I won’t be easy to see in the rainforest, especially now that the sun is setting. Be fully dark in about fifteen minutes.

After changing, I pull out a back pack, loading it with things I’ll need. This nasty prey of mine is about to find out this is, in fact, the last day of his life.

I have spare ammunition in the back pack, not that I think I’ll need it but better safe than sorry. I also have a night vision scope in the pack, which I now pull out and lock onto my rifle. This scope uses a harsh green night vision light to enable me to see in the dark. An immense advantage over my prey. I no longer associate Mick as a person now, he is fully my prey and his life is about to become forfeit.

Lastly, before I can begin to stalk my prey, I change my shoes for sturdy, comfortable footwear designed for support, noiseless and slip resistant.

I’m ready and here we go. I’m really surprised at how excited I am to be back to my authentic self. I let out a loud belly laugh. Right at this moment, life is good.

Swinging my pack on my back, I pick up my rifle and head into the trees. Immediately I notice that my prey is not forest savvy. He’s practically leaving big signage posts and arrows to let me know where he is going. Footprints, broken and bent plant life. This is going to be a quick and easy game to play out.

I silently follow and my footwear doesn’t let me down. I’m well and truly at home in this environment.

After tracking him for ten minutes I can see he is already flagging. So not a bush walker or experienced hiker, I chuckle. I continue on and within a further ten minutes I’ve caught up. From here I can see my prey stumbling about trying to work out which direction to go in.

This game was too easy, so to draw it out a little, I’ve decided to have some fun and challenge myself. I vow that I will use five bullets to bring my prize down. The challenge is to not to kill him until the fifth bullet, so there is no room for error.

I stop, plant both feet shoulder width apart, bring up the rifle to view my prey through the harsh green light of the night vision scope, breathe in and out, then hold and very gently squeeze the trigger, breathe again.

Yes, I air pump my hand up and down in joy. A perfectly placed bullet through the left shoulder. He is trying to rise after the velocity of the bullet took him to the ground. I allow him to rise and continue to stumble through the forest for about a minute. I then stop and repeat.

The loud percussion noise of the rifle makes it well known that someone is out here hunting, but I seriously doubt there is anyone to hear, except my prey and I. I watch as he flails about and I’m happy to see that I’ve given him a matching shoulder decoration. This time in his right shoulder. Two down, three to go. It’s a long time since I had this much fun.

My prey has managed to get to his feet once more and is bumbling his way through the plant life. I let him go for a little longer this time. Just enough time to allow his hope to raise its’ futile head. Hope that he has lost me. Not likely!

I stand still again, feet in position, breathe held and gently pull the trigger. This time the prey lets out an anguished scream as he is thrown onto his back. Bullet number three has entered and then exited his left thigh. On the way through it totally shattered his thigh bone. That leg is out of action, I giggle gleefully.

Three down, two to go. I watch, amused, as he starts to drag himself along the ground, hope still flickering highly through his heart. Hope that he will survive if he just keeps moving.

Wrong! I’m getting a little bored now so I stop, sight up and put a bullet through his right thigh, just missing the bone this time. As easy as that!

Four down and one to go. I’m going to let him drag himself for about ten minutes. Long enough and silent enough that he’ll believe, fully this time, that he is safe, whereby he will find an enclosed hiding spot. Except I know exactly where he is.

I creep up and peer behind the bush, where he is hiding in a ditch. This last bullet needs to be up close and personal. Close enough I can look him in the eye as I pull the trigger. I lay the rifle tip on his forehead and take great joy in seeing the terror in his eyes. I hear his begging but none of it does him any good as I slowly pull the trigger for the last time.

I leave his bullet ridden corpse where it lay, as I knew no one would ever find it, and make my way back to my big girl. Climb in, put her in gear and pull out onto the highway once more.

“Breaker one nine, are you out there,” I call over the CB radio.

Instant come back, “Breaker one nine here, is that you Little Dove?”

“That it is Breaker one nine, feeling a little lonely. Could do with some chit chat to bring me on home,” I replied.

“Little Dove, Breaker one nine is all yours for as long as you need me. Let’s bring you on home my girl.”

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About the Creator

Colleen Millsteed

My first love is poetry — it’s like a desperate need to write, to free up space in my mind, to escape the constant noise in my head. Most of the time the poems write themselves — I’m just the conduit holding the metaphorical pen.

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