3rd Bad Timing

‘Somethings are just outside our control Missy. Bad timing.’

Grandad lay back in the old cane chair, his one leg propped up on a stool and his battered old Akubra pulled down low to shade his eyes.

‘My old dad summed it up well’, he continued.  ‘When the rabbit runs out of the hole the dog wants to shit, he would say. Bad timing.’ 

‘That’s how I lost my leg’ Grandad said. Bad luck and bad timing. Did I tell you the story?’ 

Grandad lay back, hands behind his head in his best story telling pose. I sat down and leaned back against the veranda post in the sun. I knew from experience that this tale would take more than a minute or two.

I had heard so many stories of how Grandad lost his leg but I was always ready for another version. Each time the story became less credible but much more entertaining.

I liked the crocodile bite. Out on the reef and the anchor of the trawler jammed firm in a bommie.

‘The weather was building up’ Grandpa would say. ‘Even though the crew were worried about the threatening storm they were more scared of sharks. We were only stuck in five metres of water but not one of them was going to dive down. Just the previous year a young deckhand had been mauled to death a couple of miles North, you see.’ Grandad explained.

‘I reckoned if I didn’t get that anchor free we would be smashed by the storm. The whole boat was in danger.’

Grandad would pause for dramatic effect.

‘Lucky I got that anchor unhooked before the croc came onto me. 

The old skipper clamped my artery with a pair of long nosed pliers. Kept me alive till we got back to Cook town. Saved my life but most of my leg was gone’ Grandad would conclude. 

‘First time ever a croc was seen that far off shore. Just bad luck and bad timing.’

Grandma was happy to listen to the stories but would later debunk each scenario. 

‘Grandad took me on a trip to Green Island on the ferry on our honeymoon. He was so seasick he wouldn’t even get in a dinghy after that. Imagine him on a trawler.’

We grandkids also loved what we called the Kokoda incident. Trapped in a fox hole on the Kokoda trail, Grandad fought off the Japs despite his wounds. 

‘Only the fuzzy wuzzy angels saved me.  Carried me out for two days to get help’. Grandad would add. ‘You wouldn’t believe the smell.  Rotting flesh. Gangrene’ he would say mournfully. ‘Had to cut it off.’

‘I reckon I was the last man shot,’ Grandad would conclude. ‘Everyone was pulled back but me. Just bad luck and bad timing.’

Grandma scotched that one as well. ‘I’ve heard of boy soldiers but that’s ridiculous. The old bugger was only born in 1940. Don’t you kids believe anything he tells you.’ 

Over the years the stories became more improbable. 

The circus act where the net failed was followed by the robbery Grandad foiled. Taking a bullet in the leg as he stood between the robbers and the getaway car.

‘Serious now Missy.  I’ll tell you how it really happened’ 

Grandma set a tray down, handed us mugs of tea and thick slices of fruit cake. She sat in her favourite spot on the edge of the verandah.

 ‘Well! The real version now’. Grandma said sceptically. ‘I can’t wait.’

‘It’s not very exciting’ Grandad said ‘but anyway this is the truth of it.’

‘Three mates and I were on our way back from the pub and trying to impress the girls.’

‘I for one wasn’t impressed’ Grandma said. ‘I thought you were just being lairs’.

‘Well we climbed up on the church yard wall,’ Grandad continued. I went first and the top of the wall just crumbled away and down I went’.

‘Landed on a metal spike. Went straight through his leg’, Grandma said. ‘Took them hours to cut him free. The docs tried for months to save the leg but gave up in the end.’ 

‘So there you have it Missy. Not a very exciting story’ Grandad finished.

‘No’ Grandma said. ‘Not bad luck or bad timing. Just a few beers and a false step. When I was nursing, we said P.F.O. Pissed and fell over. In this case it was pissed and fell off.’ Grandma chuckled at her joke but Grandad looked sad and embarrassed.

‘We all loved your stories Grandad’ I said. ‘Why don’t you keep them going for the younger kids.’

‘I recon I have a few more I can use,’ Grandad said, with the old glint in his eye. ‘Did I ever tell you about the dingo hunt?’

ever tell you about the dingo hunt?’


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