the long drive home

I was just over at  Red Nomad's  blog, reading about the road between Broken Hill and Cobar.
It sparked a memory which I will now tell you about.

I remember that road well.
Years ago when the oldest was tiny, we drove it often on our way from Brisbane to Murray Bridge.

One year we had a hole in our exhaust pipe right behind the muffler.
Back then soft drinks came in steel cans, so we'd drink a coke in Brisbane, cut the ends off the can, open it along the seam, then fix it over the hole with a couple of "U" clamps.
It would last all the way to Murray Bridge and we'd do the same thing to get back home.

Over time, as the hole got bigger, I'd be instructed to make the trip without shoes so that I could feel if the floor was getting hot. Then we'd take a break while it cooled down, replace the burnt out can and continue the trip.

We probably made half a dozen of those long trips like this.
Then one trip the can failed us.
The hole in the exhaust pipe had just gotten too big.
We had left one of the smaller towns and I noticed the floor getting very hot.
Very hot.

We stopped and let the car cool down, then turned back and limped our way back along the road to the town, stopping every few minutes.
 It was night time and most of the town was asleep, only the petrol station was open and about to close.
The mechanic had gone home for the night.

The baby was asleep in the back seat, so we settled down in the front seat and slept off and on while we waited for morning.

As soon as the mechanic arrived, he looked at the pipe and said it couldn't be fixed.
The hole was too big, but also too close to the muffler, so there was just no room to do a good patch job. We'd have to fit a whole new muffler and pipe. At a rather large cost.
And he'd have to get one from the larger nearby town.

Well, I had the money set aside for the cost of petrol and snacks on the return trip so we used that to pay for the replacement.

The day after we arrived at the grandparents home, I went to see the boss at the company I'd worked for before moving to Brisbane and applied for a job. I had a reputation as a good worker and because I wouldn't need training, I got a job starting the next day.

I didn't tell him that I'd only be there a couple of weeks, just long enough to earn the money we needed to get back home. (sorry, boss)

So instead of enjoying a two week Christmas break, I worked in a smelly factory, wrapping 40 pound cheeses and working the milk bottling machine.

Just before we needed to go back to Brisbane, I told the boss I'd have to quit. The baby wasn't doing well in the cooler air and we'd have to go back to Queensland for her health.
He wasn't happy.
Not at all.

Because now he'd have to hire the much younger girl who'd also applied for a job, but would need the instruction and training period to become familiar with the machines.

At the time I didn't feel too bad about what I'd done, we had no savings and had to get home.
Hubby was in the Army and had to get back.
It didn't occur to us to ask family for help with cash. (They didn't have much themselves anyway)

Although now that I think about it, it wasn't a nice thing to do to the boss who'd been so nice to me.


  1. We do what we have to, River. Even if it causes us regret.

  2. And if you had explained why you needed to work for a short period would he have taken you on? Probably not. I agree with Toni, sometimes what we have to do is hard - on ourselves most often but also others.

  3. Love the muffler/can story!! But what a dreadful place to have that happen!!! There's not too many towns between those two spots, so lucky you were able to get back!! And the job?
    Think positive! He got 2 weeks of top-notch work from you that he otherwise wouldn't have ...

    Have a great weekend!!

  4. Needs must when the Devil drives - you do what you have to do.

  5. Your boss wouldn't have a second thought about sacking you to cut costs if his business was looking shaky :-).

  6. Toni; the regret came later, the relief at getting the job was enormous, we really needed the cash by then.

    EC; he definitely wouldn't have. There was a much younger girl looking for work, he would have taken her on instead because of the wage difference.

    Red Nomad; we travelled everywhere for almost two years with spare U clamps and empty coke cans.

    Jayne; now that you mention it, K was a devil of a driver...never did look after his cars.
    You're right, we do what we must.

  7. It all worked out fine, you got the money you needed and she got a job, it was written as they say.

  8. Windsmoke; it was the 70's, the dairy industry was strong.

    JahTeh; All's well that ends well, as they say.

  9. I'm sure he got over it...

  10. Just think of it as getting even with many employers who at the drop of their hat would sack a good worker.

  11. You did what you had to do at the time, Elsie.

    This story actually reminds me of the time my family and I travelled nth of Perth to Monkey Mia on our annual holiday one year. My BIL and sister's car kept breaking down and overheating. We kept stopping, waiting for it to cool down. The drive was taking far longer than it should have. Eventually, we stopped and set up the caravan for the night and my BIL did the return journey to Perth to switch cars then head back to us. It took him hours! But the following day we were on the road again and all was well. :)

  12. Good heavens, I don't understand this; exhaust gas is deadly and it'll get in the car.
    In my ignorant youth I tried manufactured exhaust pipe patches but they were never much good. I guess they're not sold anymore, too dangerous, the whole idea.
    Get it fixed and be done with it.

  13. Andrew; I'm not really a get even type of person.

    Jodie; welcome to drifting; don't see you here much. Did you ever find out what was wrong with the car? I'm planning on visiting Monkey Mia one day....

    R.H. the gas wpuld only get into the car if the floor boards burnt through, that's why I kept my shoes off to feel the temperature. This was way back in '73-'74 and we did get it fixed in that tiny town I can't remember the name of.

  14. You're wrong, there are places all over a car where it can get in, even through closed doors.


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