This is 100% true.
Early on a grey Sunday morning sometime in the mid 1970’s, I would have been five or six at the time, there was a ‘knock’ at our front door. This in itself was a highly irregular occurrence, as no one used our front door, the back door was the unofficial entry. If memory stands correct it was the first time I had heard it knocked upon. The sheer enormity of the occurrence was hugely novel to me. Secondly, and more importantly, the driveway out to our farm was two miles long, and only went to our place. We had been eating breakfast, my father’s cup of tea flashed dull reflections on the kitchen ceiling. Our kitchen faced east.
“Dad stood up and went to the door, opened it, and found a funny looking man standing there. With my father trying to swat me away from looking around the backs of his legs to see who had come to our place, the dark haired man I saw was poorly shaved, dressed in a mismatched set of clothes that didn’t fit him properly, and, through the eyes of a six year old at least, looked ‘wrong’. He would have been slightly taller than Dad, but not as stocky, and he didn’t say “Hello.” What he did say was “You got any petrol? (he pronounced it ‘peterol’) Me motor car (motee car) is almost empty, an’ won’t make it to town.” No ‘please or thank you’, even I knew to say ‘please and thank you’.
I was surprised when Dad told him to ‘bugger off’, and get the ‘bloody hell’ off our farm. The man left swearing loudly, using words I had never heard before, but they sounded pretty bad regardless.
After the man left and I was finishing off the boiled egg Mum had made for me, I asked Dad why we didn’t give the man some petrol and why he told the man to go away? Dad started to answer, but Mum spoke over him and told me that the man who had come to our house was not a very nice person. I finished my egg.
After half an hour, I was going to go up the paddock with Dad to help him move sheep, when there was another knock at the front door. This made Dad a bit angry, and he went and got a rifle from under his and Mum’s bed before he got to the front door. It was a different rifle to the one Dad and I took to shoot rabbits and foxes, as it had wood nearly right up to the end of the barrel. It looked like the one I saw old pictures of soldiers using, in a war my Grandpa was in. When Dad opened the door, there were seven men standing outside, they were very angry and wanted some fuel. All of the men except for the first one who knocked on our door were dressed in exactly the same clothes, but with different numbers on their shirts. Dad got really mad and told them to ‘go to buggery’, and ‘get the bloody hell off our farm, right bloody now you bastards!’ He said some other stuff too, but Mum had dragged me into the kitchen by then so I missed the rest of the shouting, plus she told me to ‘stay inside boy’ in a tone of voice I had never heard her use before. Still in the kitchen, I heard a lot of yelling outside by the men with the dark hair, but my Dad started to yell louder. Almost as soon as Dad started yelling I heard a really big ‘bang’ that was much louder than the rifle we used to shoot rabbits with, Dad called that one a ‘twenty two’. Then there were a lot more big bang’s very close together, and then Dad ran inside and told Mum to ring the neighbours farm to say there were baddies running toward their house. Dad ran back outside with the rifle that was really loud, and let our sheep dogs off the chain, but took the dogs up to our house and tied them to the front veranda.
Our neighbour’s house was only a mile and a bit from ours, and was built in the corner of their farm like ours was, both houses built roughly fifty years earlier. Grandma once told me it was because when we get the power on to our house it will be easier to do it if the houses were closer together, because of the power lines. I didn’t know what power lines were. We had a generator that Dad would swear at to get our power from.
After a little while, I was standing outside with Dad, I heard some more bangs. They were a lot more quiet though, and were coming from our neighbours place over the hill. The gunshots happened because the baddies tried to get into their house and were being mean to Mrs. P, and Mr P shot at them. It was very exciting. Nothing much happened after that, but my sister and I weren’t allowed to play outside for the remainder of the day. My Grandpa came out to the farm with his guns at about the same time as we heard the shots from the Mr. & Mrs. P’s place.”
Many years later I was to learn that the men that had showed up out at our place demanding fuel, had escaped from prison the night before in Perth, stolen a car, and escaped out into the country. When they got to our wee town, they ditched the car they were in, and pinched another. As it happened, the car they pinched belonged to the local Police Sergeant’s wife. Which in turn, they drove it the 12 miles west of town, down the red brown gravel driveway to our place. As an incidental, the car was genuinely just about out of fuel. The catch was though, that they had crashed the stolen vehicle into our creek on the way in, leaving them well and truly stuck. After Dad had told the first bloke to bugger off, he walked back to the crashed vehicle, got the other six men, and walked back up to the house. What they didn’t anticipate was my father’s complete lack of fear of them, and the fact that threats to his young family were not taken lightly. The somewhat more terrifying thing though was that Dad had spent time in Vietnam only a handful of years earlier as a national serviceman, and had absolutely no issues with shooting someone; an identified threat was an identified threat as far as he was concerned, regardless of the playing field.
Some years after he shot at our unwanted visitors with our old Lee-Enfield .303, he told me that he was aiming at the trees to either side of the prison escapee’s, keeping them all moving together so none managed to veer off in different directions, but not actually at them. When they got to the neighbours, not more than a mile and a half off, they walked into a world of trouble, in the form of the neighbour fearing for his young family.
This is the funny bit. A good three hours after they ran from the neighbours farm, they got to my Uncle’s farm, pinched a super spreading (fertiliser) truck, and headed for a town roughly 80 km south west of his place. Three rode in the cab, leaving the others to ride in the five tonne super bin on the back. They were later caught when a motorist reported a broken down super truck 20km east of the town they were headed to. What gave them away was that firstly you don’t find a heap of blokes riding in a superspreading truck, let alone standing beside one. Secondly, but more importantly, they were all, bar one, still in their prison uniforms. Coincidentally, they had run out of fuel once again.
To round off, and remember that this is 100% true, obviously Mum called the local police immediately, when the first bloke showed up at our door. In the statement that Dad made, there was no mention of him having shot at the crim’s on the run, obviously. After that, not much more happened, until one Sunday night at the pub after the local football, some three months later, the local Sergeant, whose wife’s car had been nicked, walked up to Dad and quietly said, “I didn’t know you had a .303, and I really hope you go on not having one. Get rid of the bloody thing or I will,” which Dad did shortly after.
Here is the true horror of the incident. Via both the local newspaper, and the West Australian, Mum followed up on who it was that showed up at the farm. Subsequently she learned that the blokes that had escaped were seriously bad men. A violent rapist was among of them, and the others had been put away for horrifically violent crimes against a multitude of people from all walks of society. The crim’s were also all related to each other, although their surnames varied. Had Dad not been home, there is a very real chance that myself, my sisters, and mother would have been savaged by these men. Conjure up in your mind the very worst case scenario, and that is what a young mother and her very young children would have lived. It took Mum years to get over her fear of being on the farm alone at the house, yet as a kid I was completely ignorant to it. As a reminder, our farm was 12 miles to the turn off from town, and another two miles down a winding gravel driveway. That makes for a very lonely, lonely, place.
Once more, this tale is not a tale at all. It is a recollection of events as they occurred, and is 100% true. Nay, 100% fact.
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