CHAPTER 21: Coming Back

Cootamundra is a small country town located on the South West Slopes of New South Wales.  It had a population of about 6500.  It was hot in summer and cold in winter.  My father worked there on the railway, before that we lived at Junee and before that we lived at Tocumwal on the Murray River where I was born.  These places were all railway towns.  I spent most of my schooling at Cootamundra and as happens in most country towns when you finish school you leave town.  I worked in Wagga and Tumut, both only an hour’s drive away so still being a teenager I came home most weekends.

I had a good bunch of mates and in addition to schooling we played football together and did a bit of drinkin’ together as well.  Our entertainment was mostly pubs and attending dances at the town halls of Cootamundra, Temora and Young; that’s where all the chicks hung out.  Later when they dropped the age to enter clubs we used to spend a fair bit of time at the Ex Servicemen’s club and the Country Club in Cootamundra.

So it was inevitable that during the Christmas break I would catch up with these guys.  I liked the Country Club because there were two ways you could go to the toilet:  near the front entrance; or down past the bar and out the back.  This was important to me as I was never a big drinker, it made me piddle a lot, so I would alternate between the two routes to the toilet saying g’day to blokes along the way.

So there we were at the Country Club sitting and chatting and having a great time, just like the old days.  A couple of the blokes had girlfriends with them, so it was not unusual for the boys to get up and dance.  And for those of us that didn’t have girlfriends, after a few beers we got enough courage up to wander over to the girl with the big tits and ask her for a dance.  I was young then and I now realise it is a mistake to stare at a woman’s tits while asking her for a dance.  No wonder I got a lot of knockbacks.  That didn’t deter me though, I’d wait until the Barn Dance and pick on the most desperate girl there and ask her for a dance.  You’d only dance with her for a few seconds anyway as partners changed in the Barn Dance (in case you didn’t know that).

We were having a good time and I was getting plenty of exercise going to the toilet.  Then ‘Chook’ shouted and placed the beers on the table.  “This is yours Cav” he said, and handed me a beer.  The others had to grab their own.  Fatal mistake Chook.  He forgot that I am almost a fully trained killer.  I now notice things.  Why would he hand me a beer, yet not hand the others their beer?

“Aha”, I said.  “You can’t fool me, I’m not drinking that beer, it’s full of slops!”

They all burst into laughter.  “No Cav, the beer you’ve just finished was slops” said Chook.  There was plenty of laughing’,  hollerin’ and leg slappin’; all at my expense.

You see I have form in drinking slops.  Prior to my Army service, when we were out together and the boys would get up and dance; I’d finish off their beers.  They’d come back and ask me where are their beers.  I’d respond that the bloke came around and took them away, but the empty glasses on the table were evidence that I was lying.  To get me back they got the barman to poor a middy of slops from out of the drip tray.  I’d drink it not knowing there was any difference until they couldn’t contain themselves any longer and blurted it out that I was drinking slops!

So they managed to get me again.  How stupid am I?  Ha, ha, bloody ha.

Bastards.  I’ll get them back, one day.

Pretty soon I’m heading back to Townsville.  I get the train to Sydney and then on to Sydney Airport.  I am a seasoned air traveller now. I flew in an aircraft once before – on my trip home.  Prior to that I’d never set foot in an air terminal let alone flew in a jet aircraft.  But travelling with the Army is easy. You just turn up at the MCO (Movement Control Office) at the terminal and they are very helpful.  “Yeah?  What’s up?”

“Ah, mate I’m Army, I’m flying to Townsville.  Where do I go?”

“Are you a Nasho?”

“Is it my good looks that gave me away?”

“Have you got your ticket?”

I show him my ticket.

“Just head down to the TAA terminal.  See that sign over there with the big letters T-A-A?”

“Yeah.  Do the hosties have big tits?”

“Fuck off!”

Soon I am waiting to board the aircraft when I spot Ian C and a few other blokes.   Because of the controversy surrounding the Vietnam War we travel in civilian dress, we are not allowed to travel in uniform but our short hair and lack of mutton chops are a dead giveaway for us Army blokes.  We board the aircraft and start ordering beers so we can check out the hosties’ backsides as they rush up and down the aisle.  Sum Wun said that if you sit in the aisle seat and lean out a little bit they brush up against you as they move past, leaving a trail a perfume in their wake.

The way they were smiling at us I think they thought us Army blokes were hot but they couldn’t say anything as the other passengers would get jealous.

We land at Brisbane one hour after leaving Sydney.  We have to exit the aircraft, go to the seat allocation counter where more good lookin’ chicks want to chat us up; then reboard the same aircraft to Townsville.  More of us Army blokes hop on at Brisbane and the hosties are busy running up and down the aisle delivering beers.

In Townsville we front up to the MCO in a right state. We are ushered onto a bus and head out to Lavarack Barracks.

The NCOs are waiting.  “PT 0600 hours.”

Shit, I haven’t had a run since we left.  All I did was drink piss and eat. The bastards will kill us with PT.

And they did.

A few chunders during PT cleanses the mind, so to speak.

It’s great to be back.

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Reproduced with permission from FUN, FEAR, FRIVOLITY – A tale by an Aussie infantry soldier in the VIETNAM WAR. If you can’t wait, read more of this story now – or wait out while we reproduce it on these pages.

ian_cavanoughHi guys. I am a good-looking, opinionated old fart who relishes a spirited debate on any topic regardless of how much I think I know about it.
Ian Cavanough,
Tumut, NSW

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