TIME IN A BOTTLE by Tony Dewberry
TONY DEWBERRY·MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2017
I bought my first motor bike, in 1970, when I was 20. I bought it on a Saturday morning and rode it around the block Saturday afternoon and Sunday. On Monday I set off from Sydney for Melbourne, via Tumburuma. My companion was my girlfriend Susan, she was 18 and already knew how to ride a bike. Susan rode a Honda 175 and I had a Honda 125, not bikes most people would do an interstate trip on, and I was riding on a learners permit, not a licence, which was probably illegal once we got into Victoria.
The weather was foul and we should have held off, but you don’t when you’re young. We rode through strong wind, rain and eventually, sleet. We pushed on while we could, but somewhere west of Goulburn the sleet started packing into thin sheets of ice on my jacket and we pulled into a pub, intending to have a drink and meal and book a room.
But, due to the inclement weather, the pub was full of drunken farm labourers. The hostile looks started when I took my helmet off to reveal I had long hair, it was 1970 remember. Verbal abuse started next, along the witty lines of “Well look what the cat dragged in.” and “Fuck, the things you see when you haven’t got a gun.” It was like a pub full of rustic Oscar Wildes.
Things got worse when Susan took off her helmet, and her long brown hair fell down. She was revealed to be not a tubby little bikie, but a beautifull girl, rugged up like an Eskimo. Then the abuse got worse, and more threatening, along the lines of what they’d like to do to her and what they’d do to me if I got in the way. It was so vile I don’t even want to try to remember. By then I had bought two drinks, but the bloke sitting next to me at the bar said,” I don’t know what’s wrong with them, but I can’t do much for you if they start something. “ We left with our drinks untouched, got to our bikes and rode, all the time looking in our rear vision mirrors. (We’d only recently seen Easy Rider and knew how that ended. )
I don’t know how much further we rode, but it was as far as we could stand. Then we pulled into another pub, wet, exhausted, and shaken up. We booked a room and came down for a drink and a meal. There was a guy in the room wearing a black cowboy hat, and he introduced himself to us. For the life of me I can’t remember his name, nor that of his wife, a striking but very shy Aboriginal woman, for their kindness I really regret not remembering their names. He told us he was Mexican and a sheet metal worker, but that he didn’t read so well, so it was hard to find work in the city, but he did just fine working in the country. He kept buying us drinks, we drank rum at that time, and giving me money to play the juke box, and wanted all the Dean Martin songs played, “Play some Dino Tony!”
The next day we would ride into Tumburumba, to see Susan’s sister Lynne. We’d ride into Tumba behind a bull dozer, clearing snow from our path. But that was before us. Right then we tumbled into bed warmed by rum, and kindness and Dino’s music, with not a thought of threatening farm labourers.