GOLDEN TOM – a linked story

(title suggested by Ted Morley)
Still work in progress
A linked story by:
Adrian Cloonan, Malcolm Dale, Dan Kelly and Ted Morley

Wyndham Vale, May 2014

How a linked story works:-

1. Let us assume that there are 6 participants that we’ll call number 1. number 2…..number 6 and the coordinator – which doesn’t write – is the only one who knows which number belongs to each participant.
2. The coordinator throws the dice and what ever number comes decides who is the first person who has to write at least one page (~250 words) and no more than two pages (~500 words) of the story. As a way of example suppose that person is writer number 4.
3. The coordinator emails to writer number 4 the result of the draft and in around a week receives the first page(s) of the story.
4. Then the coordinator sends the page(s) to writer number 5 who without letting him know who was the author.
5. Writer number 5 sends the coordinator another piece of writing (1 page minimum 2 pages maximum) in approximate one week after receiving the coordinator’s email.
6. After receiving what writer number 5 sent, the coordinator sends only that piece to writer number 6 without letting him know who was the author.
7. In another week the coordinator receives another piece of the story and sends it to writer number 1.
8. The sequence follows up until every participant has written one piece. The story can stop there or go for another round – this will be decided at that point by the coordinator. If the story has some sort of interesting development and consistency it can stop after the first round, otherwise it will have to go for a second and last round.
9. When the every participant has written (one or two pieces) only knowing what the previous writer has written, the whole story will be made available to everyone to write a final.That way the story will have as many finals as writers participating. Every writer will also be able to propose a title for the story and the coordinator will negotiate with the writers a one and only title.
10. Summary: Every writer writes his piece with the only knowledge of the previous piece, without knowing who wrote that previous piece and how many writers there are in total. It can run for at least one round and no more than two rounds. At the end everyone will receive the full version and has to write and ending to the story. Also can propose a title for the whole story and give a title for his final of the story
Co-ordinator: Ricardo Pereyra

Part 1 – Golden Tom

Tom grabbed an exercise book and started his “stock-take on me”. He reckoned it was time to re-think where he was going in life – and what he wanted out of life.

• Tom – 38 yo; single; gammy left knee; 5’9” tall, average build, fair hair, non-smoker
• Older sister married with 2 children
• Mum – local librarian; Dad – cleared out years ago
• Series of short-term girlfriends over the years
• There was this one girl though who he was really keen on – but then ?
• Completed a 3rd year air-conditioning apprenticeship but chucked it in for a better paying mining labouring job
• Then worked for his uncle in Victorian Mallee driving headers and trucks (job lasted 3 years – rings his uncle occasionally)
• Now sick of short-term jobs and shit bosses
• Worked with sheep; concreting; on building sites; fencing; caretaker at a closed mining camp
• Originated central Vic but moved to WA for warmer climate
• Last visited home 2 years ago from job in SA before moved to WA
• Likes open spaces; swag camping, his kelpie dog
• Bit of a thinker, definitely a loner
• Wonders if a wife and kids is for him
• Moderate drinker – steers clear of heavy drinkers
• Reads a lot; likes biographies; words on a page can make him cry
• Has 2 sets of good clothes and 2 sets of work clothes – all jeans
• Drives an old Ute – “Old Yella”
• Not a shooter
• Occasionally goes to church when he is passing through towns – not sure why he goes though!
• Thought about joining the Army when he was at Tom Price but he had to go east for training – not for him – east has too many people!
• Can usually read people – but not always so when it comes to women
• Likes campfire cooking especially his legendary tent-peg stew (legendary in his mind anyway!)
• Bought a box of maps at a garage sale once – likes the look and feel of maps – maps are friends in lonely places – likes the Govt. maps with creeks and peaks and contour lines
• Sometimes likes to open a map and think about the land on the map – where would you camp?

“Sold”, yelled the auctioneer.

Jeez, thought Tom, now I own a road grader

Not just any grader either. A bloody, great big, yellow air-conditioned grader – his golden grader.

He rubbed the neck of his kelpie dog, Blue. “Mate, there’s a seat for you too” – he said.

He hadn’t really been looking for a grader to buy – but he had money in his pocket from his last job as a fencer on a Pilbara cattle station. And some savings. Plus the auction was the only thing happening in Port Hedland on that day. So – more for amusement than anything else – he wandered onto the sale lot.

The usually array of items were laid out –a couple of farm utes, three water trucks, gates, tanks, welders, a boom crane, lots of small items like chains and star picket drivers and pullers, refrigerated cool rooms, household items – and outside near the water trucks was a grader.

He sauntered over – it looked in reasonable nick. Blade was ok. Probably about 10 yo he thought. He climbed into the cabin – motor hours were ok for 10 years but air conditioning was stuffed (an easy fix he thought). And you really need air conditioning when working in northern Australia.

He remembered a casual comment overheard a few weeks ago when he came into town. Cattle station owners were complaining they couldn’t get maintenance workers because the mines were recruiting all the best workers – and they had roads to maintain to get their cattle mustered and on to trucks and then to market.

Perhaps running your own grader as a contractor might be easier than working outside in the hot dry landscape of outback Australia. Well it was worth a try anyway. He registered as a bidder and waited.

When the grader came up there was only moderate interest. Two young blokes pulled out early on in the bidding; then the older bloke with the “Pilbara Earthmoving” jacket bailed. That left only the older bloke – station man, thought Tom – look at his boots and his shirt (both branded R M W). But he too bailed. That left the big bloke in the corner who kept upping his bid until Tom was near his limit – finally he bailed and Tom was the auction winning bidder.

Scenes flashed though his head. No more heat and sweat; no more calloused and cut hands from barbed wire; no more constant reaching for the water bottle.

An air-conditioned cabin – with a view.

The ability to negotiate with station managers.

To be able to clear fence lines; clear tracks; maintain water run-offs; to subcontract to road makers.

Then he realized the grader colour was the same as his Ute. Funny that.

Part 2 – GOLDEN TOM (continuation)

The morning after the auction Tom woke in his room at the motel in Port Hedland and realised that Blue had spent the night on the bed with him. His next thought was how to get the dog out without the motel staff finding out! This was followed immediately by the realisation that he had bought himself a bloody great Grader the previous afternoon.

Having successfully spirited Blue out to his ute and settled the motel bill Tom decided to go down to the nearest café for breakfast and then inspect his future. It had better be good because it had cost $152k of his $158k bank savings.

As he sipped his post breakfast coffee he began to review the handbook for his new second hand grader …a 2003 model CAT140H with just over 9500 hours on the clock. Eight forward and six reverse gears, CAT3176ETA diesel engine of 185hp, gross weight 21 tonnes, 28’6” long and over 8’ wide, top speed 44kph, a big rig!

Tom was smiling, proud of his acquisition, which he was sure was the start of a much easier, more prosperous life when he became aware of three men at a nearby table. He overheard one congratulating another on “racketing the grader price up so high on the mug stranger at the auction yesterday” and recognised the other as being the bidder who pulled out just before his own winning bid.

Starting to feel a little uneasy Tom left his coffee and drove to the auction yard to have a good look at his grader. He firstly did a walk-around confirming the blade was in good order & the tyres sound. Just then Blue sniffed at what appeared to be a dark liquid in the dirt. He next checked the fluid levels closely and all seemed fine.

Climbing up into the cab followed by Blue, Tom looked out from his lofty perch feeling quite proud. He started the engine (great, it started without hesitation ) and switched on the air conditioning to cool down the hot cabin- Port Hedland in November – of course it was hot, very hot even at 10 in the morning, over 35 degrees and humid. Tom quickly realised the cabin temperature was not dropping and just as quickly remembered that the air conditioning did not work.

Oh dear, well at least the engine sounded good. Tom checked the gauges and all the readings seemed ok, although the fuel level showed almost empty. Let’s go for a run he said to Blue putting the grader into gear and slowly easing it out of the yard, making sure the blade was well clear of the ground.. Down the back street, up through the gears, speed up to 20 kph – things were looking good but, boy, the cabin temperature was sky rocketing.

After fifteen minutes or so Tom checked the dashboard instruments and, apart from the fuel situation, all was good till he reached the transmission temperature gauge – not quite in the red but pretty close ( maybe this is normal ). Five minutes later the needle was definitely in the RED zone and Tom as he looked up Tom realised he was approaching the Port Hedland Caterpillar dealer’s workshop.
Instinctively he dropped down through the gears and drove into the forecourt to be met by a mechanic. G’day, I’m the foreman said the mechanic, how can I help you?

The transmission seems to be running hot, said Tom. I thought I recognised the rig said the foreman – I told your mate last week that it was stuffed and would need a complete rebuild.

Oh sh”t! said Tom , how much, how long? $15-20k minimum said the foreman, and one to two months by the time I can get the parts.

Tom went white (despite the heat) then yellow, the same colour as his ute and grader.


Paul was rostered for patrol this weekend and as all patrols started on Friday evenings with a chook raffle straight after work Paul headed into the city to the hotel that was assigned to him. The eight chooks were quickly raffled.
This being completed Paul caught the tram to Chermside from where he could hitch hike to the Sunshine Coast. To his delight he sat next to a friend from primary school that he hadn’t seen in years, Tom told him that he had been working in Port Headland & had had a bit of bad luck when he purchased a grader that wasn’t in the condition that he thought it was. Paul & Tom promised to keep in touch.

Paul liked to reach the coast in the daylight, but this was impossible owing to the chook raffle. It was pitch black by the time he arrived. It had been a rough ride in the old farm truck that had picked him up but Paul was grateful for any transport as he didn’t own a car at this stage. He was pleased to be dropped off at the Alex turn off; he walked to the beach & turned north. A mile along the beach was the Maroochydore surf club.

By now the full moon was rising and Paul could see that the ocean was as
flat as a tack and he thought WHAT COULD GO WRONG. A flat surf NO WORRIES.

Arriving at the surf club Paul signed in and put his 30 bob in an envelope(this being to cover the cost of meals for the week end) and dropped it into the strong box.
Paul now headed off to Cotton Tree to find some mates and buy something to eat.

Next day was full on , first up was the club swim, this was at 6 am, all have to swim around a buoy and as our club captain was the current Australian surf champion and also an Olympian having competed at Rome representing Australia at the relays , our buoy was always set further out than any other club.

Breakfast was straight after the club swim, Paul had the first patrol of the day so he helped set up the beach area along with three other members of his patrol, belt, wheel ,surf ski & wind break tower.
By this time perhaps thirty people were swimming off a sand bank, there was a gutter about waist deep between them and the beach, the surf was as flat as a tack WHAT COULD GO WRONG.

Just as Paul was about to climb the shark tower he saw two sharks swimming between the people on the sand bank and the beach, both sharks were in the gutter cutting off the people from the beach WHAT COULD GO WRONG ?

Part 4 – WHAT COULD GO WRONG (continuation)

Paul had climbed about four steps up to the tower when he realized ringing the shark alarm would panic all the swimmers, he called the vice captain of the club, who was an ex sergeant of police, and explained the situation. He told Paul to get as many lifesavers as he could muster and cordon off that section of the beach. If anyone asked why “the nippers were going to race”. He then used the surf club tannoy to call in all other lifesavers who are trained in this procedure to guard as much as possible of that section. He then used his binoculars to scan the sand bar across the gutter. He recognized a friend of his, a police officer, he called him on his mobile and explained the situation, ask him to gather the swimmers of the gutter side and tell them to stay in one group, not to panic as help was at hand. Keep the parents and children together, WHAT COULD GO WRONG.

The vice captain then set to work. He arranged for a fisherman friend to bring a long strong net, a rope and steaks to anchor the net to both sides of the gutter – and don’t forget we need then quickly as the tide is coming in. Next he rang the water police, the officer in charge was well known to him, he explained the situation, asked if he could send two men on jet skies and organize a helicopter to be on stand by.

There was a small opening on one end of the gutter where with some help the jet skies could get through, he asked them not to make to much commotion as he wanted the sharks to stay together. This way should be much easier to rescue the people on the sand bar. Next he organized two marks men from the Police Tactical Response Group with two rifles each, one with live ammo and one with stun bullets. He hoped that they would never have to use them, but no chance should be taken. Next he rang the RSPCA; he knew he would be in trouble Australia wide if he had to kill the sharks. This too was organized with precision, but his main worry was the raising tide. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Next the vice captain called his captain, who went off his head ranting and raving that he should have been called first, telling the old police sergeant he would not have his job for long. The Olympian rang the TV station, still the tide was rising.

Paul in the mean time had organized the lifesavers cordon off a section of the beach where the rescue would be organized from. No one was swimming in the gutter only the two sharks. Everyone was doing their job.
The fisherman and his nets arrived at the same time as the jet skies. They had a conference with the vice captain. Some young lifesavers gave the fisherman a hand to anchor the net on the beach side. About then the helicopter flew overhead, studied the situation, and landed in a playing field not far away. Then the response group, the TV news and the Olympian arrived. He started barking orders at them to get one of them over the gutter to protect the people, telling everyone he was taking over.
The response group and the water police told him “we only take orders form the ex police sergeant”. This sent him into a frenzy ranting that he would have them all disciplined and demoted. A high ranking officer walked over to him, had a few words in his ear and the Olympian went back into the surf club for the day.

The vice captain got one of the surf skies to take a response group office with his rifles over to the sand bar, the other jet ski took a rope who was by then tied to the net together with some anchors over the sand bar. He unloaded and came back. The people on the sand had all pulled the net at tight as they could, when they get satisfied they anchored it down. The jet ski had stayed at the other side of the net in case some of the swimmers needed help, while the response group officer stood guard with his rifle on the other side to keep the sharks covered just in case. Now the operation could begin. The tide was now over their ankles. WHAT COULD GO WRONG.

The rescue went like clockwork, the policeman on the sand bank had organized the trapped swimmers into family groups. Luckily everyone could swim. He swam with each group halfway across the gutter to give them confidence, with the jet ski driver ready to act. When the first group landed on the beach I’m sure you could have heard the cheers in Brisbane. This continued until everyone was safely over the gutter. The jet ski officer collected the rifle from the marks men and they headed for the beach. Everyone on the beach erupted again. What a terrific rescue!
The tide was now nearly up to their knees.
This just goes to show what a few well trained, experienced and dedicated people can do.
Paul will always remember his chook raffle and the kids will have a great adventure to brae about.

Part 5

The next morning Tom woke with a strange feeling – what had he been dreaming about? Reality set in as he realised he had to resolve his problem with the grader. Quickly showering and dressing, he again snuck Blue out of the motel and then went down to the café for breakfast.
As he ate Tom began to think through his situation. The biggest factors were the broken-down grader and his lack of funds. He did not have and could not raise the, at least, $20k it was going to cost to repair the transmission and he had to live in the meantime. He could think of no way out – his options in Pt. Hedland were very limited.

Just then the same three men as yesterday came into the café. Shortly, one of them made his way over and greeted Tom.” G’day. how are you goin”. “Heard you had some trouble with the grader”. “We felt a bit guilty when we realised your predicament and put our heads together to see if we could help in any way. The others have dobbed me in to offer you $125k, cash, for the grader, as is, where is. Think about it but let us know before lunch”, he said, giving Tom a piece of paper napkin with a mobile phone number and the name Jack scribbled on it.

Tom stopped eating, shocked that he was being offered $22k less for the grader than he had paid 2 days earlier. However, as he drank his coffee it dawned on him that he was really being offered an opportunity to walk away from all the problems the grader represented and have a new start with a bankroll of $125k.
But, wait, that was still a lot of money to lose in 2 days. Just then the sun came out and the temperature quickly rose, just as quickly the sun disappeared behind a black cloud and the rain pounded down. Another hot sticky day thought Tom and it’s only November. Cripes it would be great to get away from all this he mused – but where to go and what to do?

As all those thoughts raced backwards and forwards in his mind Tom recalled reading a recent blog in which a friend had enthused over getting a job as skipper on a “super yacht” that was based in Sydney and only used for local and coastal cruising. The friend had mentioned there was also a position vacant for a deckhand – no experience necessary. On reflection this seemed like paradise – decent climate, free air conditioned accommodation together with free meals – how hard could it be.

Out with his smart phone, Tom quickly contacted his friend on the yacht and offered himself for the deckhand job, if it was still available. It was, and paid $800 per week, with accommodation, on board meals and clothing supplied – when could he be available in Sydney – a quick decision was needed. Within a week said Tom, and with that he had the job.
Quickly getting on the phone to the local, Jack, Tom agreed to the $125k offer providing he could have the cash that day. No problem said Jack, meet us at the CBA at 3pm and we will exchange cash for keys. The exchange took place on time and Tom immediately deposited $120k into his own account at the bank. Feeling rather pleased with himself he offered to shout the generous buyers a drink as he did not want to start the long drive to the East Coast till the next morning.

After a few drinks one of the buyers mentioned that fate was a strange animal. How so, asked Tom. Well a couple of months ago the same model grader as yours was towed into my property not too far out of town.
It belonged to a strange old coot, was very dilapidated, the engine had seized, and was going to cost much more than it was worth to get going again. Anyway the old coot was hit by a car the next day and as he was dying told the police inspector to tell me he was sorry for dumping the grader with me but that I could have it!
The real coincidence is the grader had had a new transmission put in not three moths prior. They were simply going to swap this transmission for the stuffed transmission in the grader that they had bought from me.

Part 6 – The beginning

The internet had been an absolute boom for Paul and Tom to be able to keep in touch with each other as promised with Tom on the move and Paul living fourteen kilometres up the Tallangatta arm from New Tallangatta .

It enabled them to keep abreast of what friends and relations were up to. He had just completed reading Tom’s last blog and realized that the last time he had seen Tom face to face was decades ago when Paul was in the Maroochydore surf life saving club and that was the week end of the shark incident. and Tom had told him about his problem with the grader in Port Headland.

What Paul thought was strange was that Tom had met an old school friend from Wagga on a Melbourne tram just as they had met that Friday night on the tram to Chermside.
In the blog Tom mentioned that he was on his way to Sydney to work as a deck hand on a yacht but didn’t t know if it would be a permanent job , Paul mentioned to him that he had an idea to make money from his property and he could use the help of a grader driver if Tom was interested. It would be a few months before the grader work would begin.

Paul owned and ran a youth camp for schools and also let back packers stay for free as long as they helped out with farm work and cooking. Over the years the back packers had built dorms’, a mess hut and a large covered area, Paul enjoy meeting new people and showing the city children how a farm was run but he made very little money.

Being ex military Paul had been posted to Wagga twice, once with the air force and during that time had played rugby union with a local club and again with the army playing rugby league in a metropolitan club, in other words Tom and Paul would have many mutual friends.

Paul also thought that if Tom’s job was permanent as a deck hand Tom would be back in port fairly often and Sydney was just over an overnight drive away from Tallangatta.
Paul was toying with the idea of at last making some money hiring out his property for corporate and social functions as he had an area with a little work done would supply a sweeping view of the river and would be a perfect spot to hold a wedding.

Paul had been thinking of doing this as he had just returned from a week end away in Echuca and had been on a tourist boat trip for lunch at Morrisons winery where they had an area set up for this . Paul had heard other tourists saying what a great place it was and he thought he had just the right spot on his land that only needed work done with a grader and a gazebo built.
This would be a great place to have a reunion with both his and Tom’s friends

Part 7

More and more Paul was dreaming about making a section of his land into a recreation and short holiday destination.

He was a member of Rotary, who met once a week in a room facilitated by the local R.S.L. Those members where well known to get things done that would help the local community. Most of the members knew Paul’s plans and thought it was a great idea.

In his Air Force days playing Rugby Union Paul was very well known through out the district, and at one stage had a couple of trials for Australia, where he became very good friend with the Ela brothers who played with Australia and Randwick Rugby Union Club.

He even got to give a motivational talk to the local team and a general questions and answers to business in the district.
Followed by some rest and relaxation at Paul’s farm and after seeing the potential for Paul’s plans the business people said that if they could help with the promotion of the project they would.

Paul, Tom and Wingco – who was Paul’s wing commander at Wagga Air Force base – visited the Hunter Valley in N.S.W that is known worldwide for its facilities for just this type of project. They also spent time in Echuca and Healesville in Victoria who also cater for this, maybe in a smaller scale. These visits made Paul more excited and determined to have a go at his project.

There was also some interest from a couple of local wineries, who thought this would be a terrific way of promoting their wines. Paul, Tom and Winco would be able to speak to local businessmen about the possible ways to expand their business and make more money. In fact the only thing that was now needed was money.

Paul’s wing commander at Wagga Air Force base was now Mayor of Tallangatta Shire, he too was a Rotary member and because of the extra employment this could encourage was all in favour for obvious reasons.. Not only would he be able to advice the project on planning, he could have a good chance to make it happen. He too was well known throughout the district as Wingco to most of the residents of the shire and his input could only help as far as Paul was concerned. With Winco’s planning experience and Tom to do the gardening you could only imagine how quickly roads and provision for buildings could appear.

EPILOGUE – by Ted Morley

The fact finding tour to the Hunter Valley was a revelation to Tom, Paul and Wingco, with the Hunter Gardens being most impressive. all three realized that a very much smaller version could be reproduces at the farm with all that free water. Water is free if used for aesthetic purposes.

The Tallangatta Rotary Club is famous nation wide for it’s fifties rock and roll festival and with Paul being a member and Wingco the Mayor things were moving quickly. with his contacts at the Officers mess at Bandiana had the army engineers organized to assist. Paul though Mark Ella was able to obtain the assistance of a number of indigenous artists who would decorate path ways in the garden.

The reception centre was Toms main project with a cutting being made , roofed over and wine barrels being installed with the local vineyards using this as a cellar.

On learning of the project backpackers from Europe offered to carve the facades to give an Alpine feeling to the area. Many schools that had used the camp facilities offered for their students to spend their holidays helping out.

The money problems were solved by a number of donations from local businesses and grants from the local council . the army helped with setting up the catering facilities for all concerned and the nurseries and council supplying plants and trees.

At last what a triumph ,the project completed it looked a treat . Paul could not believe what had been achieved with simple networking ,good friends and a great community spirit.

Golden Tom had proved to be worth his weight in gold .Wingco an absolute winner and Paul had a dream come true.