Spraying Blackberries 1968.
Plants designated as noxious weeds by the federal Government as dangerous to agriculture, are controlled and managed by state legislation !
which means! if they are warned to destroy the noxious plants, they get a months grace or they will call us in.
So here I am Flying at 1500 feet on my way along the foothills with a load of blackberry spray on board, for a field on the side of a hill about 15 acres which if full of of over 20 years of wild growth.
The Farmer hasn't been heard of since the start of the second world war, rumour has it, he like so many other Aussie farmers who heard the call and went and gave their lives for their mother country" never to return. "Men of Honour". "Queen and Country"!
I approach the field from the south facing up the hill ,
it's far to steep to approach with a full load,
so I have to climb up into a valley on the Eastern side of the field and spray down hill,
as low as possible until my weight is reduced and then allows me to fly up and down the hill.
The black berries must be at least 30- 40 feet deep, I wonder what we will find under it after it dies back in a few weeks, who knows?
The important part of this operation is to fly down the hill without gaining a lot of speed as the increase will increase the evaporation rate in the spray reducing the effectiveness of the chemical,
we use a high content of wetting agent similar to (washing-up liquid), which makes wetting the plant more effective.
My first run up the valley in the climb with my hand on the dump lever , (just in case the engine failed and I become an overloaded glider).
On my first run, I was concentrating on my climb looking for my turn to begin my spray run,
but on my second run up the valley, I noticed a red tractor parked on the track, on a bit of a spur a few hundred feet below a farm house, on my eastern side, as I started my descending turn onto my spray run.
There was a person sitting on the tractor, seemed to be just looking out, I waved but he did not respond.
So I entered my turn and started my spray run.
The next run up the valley I noticed the tractor was gone. at first I just thought he had gone to work for the day, so I continued spraying.
On my next run I extended my climb up the valley so I ran over the spur looking down. (So I'm nosey) I saw nothing out of the ordinary
so I continued my spraying,
when I had lost enough weight I began flying up and down the hill making the job go much quicker, at the top of the run my procedure turn took me out and around the house and the spur of the hill.
By now I had forgotten the tractor, as I was rolling out of my turn I just happened to get a small glimpse of red below me, so I continued around the turn again to get a better look, entering a descent at the same time, yes I'm sure it's the tractor,
I had to go around again and go in lower, going round with full power on in a steep limit turn.
I was orbiting no more than 50 feet above the tractor, the bush was very dense, hard to see down through it, but I was sure I could see the wheels ! telling me the tractor was upside down and as I couldn't see the driver I had to assume he was underneath it.
I immediately climbed away entering a optimum climb speed to gain radio height and I turned on my radio,
I tried a "Mayday Relay" call but nobody could hear me at this range and height. (sometimes this country is just too big for VHF radio) line if sight.
At 9000 feet my relay was picked up by a passenger jet who relayed it to Melbourne control,
I passed my details and intentions saying "I will be descending into my base at Leongather and will land line them."
The passenger jet stayed with me (Radio wise) until I was finals to land at base.
My loader driver moved towards me with the intention of refuelling me for the next load.
I stopped him and took him into the office and showed him on the map the position of the tractor,
I told him to find out whose property it was and phone the Morwell Fire and rescue boys and fill them in, then to phone the civil aviation people in Melbourne.
I jumped into my truck, checked that my drinking water bags where on board and the fuel and water and departed.
My loader driver came running to me, saying "the Morwell fire and rescue, are attending a fire and will come asp".
I thought to myself Morwell is 45 miles on the other side of the hills and they are the closest, this could be a bad day, for the tractor driver.
I told my driver to "contact anybody who would listen and send help" as I drove out the yard.
My ole Toyota pick up is not the most comfortable ride, along these bush roads, at 60 MPH she is bloody dangerous.
25 miles down the road I drove onto the farm track and headed up the hill , at the top I sounded my horn, as I entered the yard passing the house and followed down the track, to where the tractor had been parked,
I continued to the bush edge, where the tracks showed the bush had closed in behind the tractor,
Jumping out I walked into the bush calling out, "hello! where are you? are you all right? hang on I'm coming!" and I continued to call out,
I searched about the wreck, I crawled around it and decided nobody was under it,
who ever they were, they must have been thrown off and got up and walked away, (a not uncommon occurrence for tractor drivers in hilly country) or whatever! so I decided to have a walk around the area.
I found a twisted body laying in the foetal position, he was only a boy and it looked like the tractor had crushed him.
He was a picture of horror! eyes wide open, staring but seeing nothing, his mouth was wide open with his tongue sticking out, no crying, just a hauntingly quite, ugly, jarring, whimpering sound, coming from him, as he lay there helplessly twitching and broken.
I was frightened to try and move him, just in case I broke him more that he was already.
I was even frightened to give him water just in case I drowned him! because of his injuries.
I was at a loss of what to do, it was that awful catch 22 time!
When it's all down to you!
(that moment so many people in the bush have had to face when no help is available) " putting him out of his misery quickly"! Oh shit!
As I came to terms with what I thought needed to be done.
I looked around for a piece wood that I could use, thinking to myself a quick blow to the head and he's free.
Shit! just like that!
This was not the way I saw my day ending as I drove up here,
I just thought I'd pick up the driver, wash the dust off him,
maybe he would have a broken limb or two, okay I was fine with that, have a few beers later in the week and forget it.
But not this, he's just a young lad, he's had no life yet".
"Please lord don't make me do this?"
That awful feeling of malaise and foreboding was starting to set in,
I shook myself and told myself, this is what I would want and I'm sure the boy would want me to do it as well.
I moved away from the lad staying outside side his field of vision, looking for a log or bough that I could use! crazy yes?
Just at that instant a man burst through the bush calling the boys name "Bruce ? Bruce? where are you?" he rushed up and picked the boy up and turned to walk away saying "we will need your truck" he jumped up and sat in the back holding the boys body, who I'm sure was dead by now.
I drove up to the house, he carried him inside and laid him on a table he got water and washed his son's face and wrapped him in a blanket, closely inspecting ever part of his body as he wrapped up his boy in the blanket he said "don't worry son I'm sure you'll be fine, no real damage to worry about" and placed him in a long cot on the stoop, he walked away from the house and I followed.
I introduced myself and told him "I was in the crop spraying aircraft and noticed the tractor crash, so I came to help".
Then I blurted out, "surly you can't believe the boy is unhurt? the tractor crushed him I thought he was dead".
After a small silence he said "No" you don't understand my boy has Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy, he's been trapped in that body for years.
He likes to be sit out on the tractor or the stoop, that is his life,
since his mother left, she couldn't stand the pain,!
But what can I do? he is my son"?
The ambulance arrived and tried to take the boy to hospital and he started screaming and shrieking a frightening experience, in the end the Father asked them to" leave him! with his dad and they did", the young boy stopped screaming and that was that,
the ambulance men departed.
I walked up to the old man and asked him "did he want me to contact somebody for him, or stay a bit longer" he thanked me and said "no thanks we'll be all right" so I walked away towards my vehicle I shouted in the direction of the boy "Stay off that bloody tractor! you dork".
I climbed into my ole Toyota and drove back to base.
On the way back,
I had a real heart to heart with myself over this, like minding my your own business!
You look at yourself in a new light, when you think? that you had decided to kill a young boy and was about to do so!
That you're capable of murder!
I decided to commit this memory, to that place in my mind that hold all those things, I don't want to remember , never to be spoken of again,(Hells Kitchen)
A few weeks later the boy died, story has it, his mum turned up at the funeral and moved back into the home again. Good luck to them. its a hard life.
Sometimes, on those nights, when my memories of that day bubbles to the surface, I wonder, "how the young lad let off the hand brake on the tractor"?
Am I just looking for an excuse? to make me bear the pain a little easier or did I inter-fere with the boys brave plan and by doing so, did I let him down.
When your mind looks back into you mirror of memories, there is only truth looking back at you.
To my child.
If there was a choice between you and me breathing?
there is no choice for me,
I would use my last breath to say,
I would die for you this day.