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Floods

This is a good time to discuss flooding because the rain is falling once again. For many a year we have missed out of rain pelting down day after day. May people of today will not have experienced the whiles of a finicky weather system.

I can remember days when the sun shone brightly and hot where I lived but we were flooded in with no exit. The only chance we usually had was to travel by rail motor to town where you replenished your food. Over the years I traveled through many a flooded water way.

In those days cars didn't have all the electrical works under the bonnet.  Mum panicked each time we came to flooded areas because she knew dad would suss out the depth of the water, check for rock, logs, or washouts, before attempting to drive through. Now people charge into flood water not bothering to check out what they will be entering then expect rescue people to came to save them.

My father carried a supply of oily rags, tarps and a box of tools. He removed the fan belt, covered all the electrical parts with the oily rags, then wrap the tarp around the front of the car to block out as much water as possible. Some creeks were impassable due to the depths of the water. Other time, the car was stowed on high ground to leave it there until the road cleared to retrieve it. Some time we had to walk through drenched paddocks to reach the railway line to find a lift home.

That was way back when the rail line was in sections where navvy gangs looked after that section. A member of the gang rode a trike from one end of to the other each day to make sure the line was save. The navvy gang was there to do the repairs. They were sometimes called out to help stranded people to reach a safe place to stay.

One flood I will never forget when I was about three years of age. Hot weather. Lack of foresight. Kerosene running low for the fridges. One of the railway workers opened a tin of bully beef. Rushed back to works to move tools to higher ground when the water broke over the bank leaving the meat in the tin on the table. Later he had eaten the meat and became very sick. There were no rescue helicopter to fly in to take him to hospital. The ambulance could not go past the first large stretch of water.

There was only one way to reach there if possible. The patient was placed on a flat top to be taken across the our car parked on the other side of the flooded creek. Fifty miles of dirt corrugated roads with many flooded causeways and rivers before reaching the hospital. It was a very wild experience.

We slipped from on side of the road to the other to reach the top of the first rise. Most of the top dressing on the road was washed away to bare the clay hide beneath. The men of the gang followed on a pumper on the train line to make sure we safely made to the end of their section. The first little bit of trouble came when we reached a causeway at the bottom of a slippery hill. Dad checked the crossing for logs, rocks and washouts. That was easy to cross.

But the trouble came when we came out the other side. Mum and I, climbed out of the car to walk through the water and up the hill to wait for the car to make it up the hill. Men with chocks of wood and large stones to hold the car from slipping back down the hill.  While dad drove upward until the wheels spun, men walked behind with the chocks. The give a push until the car found some solid ground.  It was push chock all the way to the top. The men doing the pushing were covered in red, clay mud.

With safe, slow driving which was broken from time to time by tree branches over the road. We had to stop to remove them. Luckily another man had offered to travel with us to help out. At each flooded area we stopped for dad to check for danger. We finally reached the last barrier where we thought that was as far as we were going. That there would be a boat at the river to ship the patient across. But best laid plans usually fall apart due to a lack of communication.

We were on one side of the river and the ambulance on the other with no boat to ferry the man across. No way were the ambulance guys going to cross the wide stretch of water twice. Trying for the town near the railway line was not an option. Dad walked across to talk to the ambulance men Mum watched in horror to see where dad had asked the men to stand. Dad walked back dodging the missiles washing past in the water. I'll not bore you will the choice words that went flying between both parents.


The boot was opened and dad took off the fan belt, covered the wires, wrapped the tarp over the bonnet and mudguards to anchor the corners to the front doors. The guy with us sat on the driver's side mudguard as guide and to keep the headlight out for the ambulance men to see the headlight. Slowly the car entered the water. Mum watched for logs. Dad watched where he had to head. Water began to seep into the interior of the car. The stronger wash on the other end began to float the car to the left. Dad tried to move the car a bit faster. We were just coming out the other end when the engine stalled. Dad forced open his door. Mum opened hers to let the water flow through. The both hopped out to push. The guy on the mudguard jumped into the water to go behind the car to push at the same time the ambulance men followed. We reached the dry rise on the other side. The patient was swapped to the ambulance. We had to stay put until the wires were dried out and the fan belt replaced. Finally, wet through we made it to our destination.


The man survived his bout of food poisoning. We returned home by rail motor.

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