Monday, 9 June 2008

Chance Encounter

 A few weekends ago, my wife and I traveled to a provincial centre some 80km away to participate in a “show and shine” with our car club.

It was a glorious day – or at least it started out that way – with an autumn sun providing gentle warmth, and no wind to speak of. The road was lightly trafficked; the countryside a picture, and once we left the main road, the drive engaging.

There was a wide variety of vehicles on display ranging from street rods to classic British sports cars. There were also lots of bikes, and of course, bikers.

Standing beside a cluster of Harleys was a leathery looking character wearing a Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle club jacket. He displayed some interesting tats, and wore the signature head scarf. He looked about my age, but wasn’t as grey as me, and looked as fit as a whippet.

Despite my wife’s “are you sure this is a good idea” look, I walked up to him, extended my hand and introduced myself as a fellow veteran.

“Nice bike”, was my observation. He shook my hand. It emerged that he’d been in Vietnam at the same time I was, but had served in 4 RAR. During all this time, he kept his left hand hidden behind his back.

As he relaxed and became more animated, his left hand, or what was left of it, emerged. There was no hand as such, but a well-worn leather gauntlet covering a stump.

“Got shot up in a bunker system”, was his explanation. “Copped it in the arse as well”.

We shared warries about bunkers. My story had a happier ending. I mentioned that I’d gone back to Vietnam a couple of times. He looked at me as if I had rocks in my head.

“I wouldn’t ever do that mate – it would bring back too much shit” was his dismissal. Fair enough.

“The whole bloody thing was completely stupid”, was his closing observation as we wished each other well and went our separate ways.

It rained on the way home, so we had to put the top up. I thought of him. You can’t put a roof on a Harley, but his leathers probably kept him warm and dry.

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