March 2024, 2nd: Rocky Road

Monday morning, I was driving the tractor, churning along the furrows, hilling up soil to support baby cane sprouts… The chirruping of the phone disturbed my reverie.

I fumbled for connection.

It was Sharie, my daughter-in-law. What could she want?

‘Dad, I need help.’ Her voice conveyed her distress.

‘What’s wrong, love?’

‘The school’s just phoned. Ben’s had an accident. Has to be picked up.’

‘Oh, no. I hope he’s OK.’

‘He’s split his head. Oh, Dad, he’ll be so upset.’

‘What can I do?’

‘Go and collect him for me? I’m feeding Sarah, Connor’s sleeping. I saw you out in the paddock and hoped you’d help. Could mean taking him to the doctor… Can’t ask Dan–he’s in town at the meeting with the mill officials.’

‘Of course I will, love. Don’t bundle up the two littlies.  I’ll go and get him. I’ll just park this crate and get the Volvo charged up. It’s by the pump—won’t take me too long… Try not to worry…’

Thus I found myself bumping along the dirt road leading to the highway. At one stage, there was an almighty thwack as the base of the vehicle hit something, but I forged on, regardless. Speed was my goal. Ben was my focus. The little bloke needed to see a face he recognized, pronto. I imagined how distraught he’d be. Split head? Had they called the ambulance?

Ben, my first grandchild, six years old, going on middle-aged at times, judging by the conversations we’d had.

I buttoned-down my panic, but a split head seemed serious. I was praying to any gods listening that he wasn’t badly injured.


At the counter, I stated that I was there to collect Ben, then ushered into a small room. There appeared to be scant concern–no look of alarm on any faces. Some whispering though… Strange–but I had no time to consider that fact.

And there he sat. No sign of blood. He’d been crying, and would have hated that. There were tissues at hand. A towel was draped over his lower body.



‘Are you OK mate? Do you want a hug?’

He sniffed. ‘Yes, please.’

The secretary retreated.

We did our thing—our man thing…

‘What happened, mate?’

‘I had an accident, Grandpop. It was my fault. We were playing tag before the bell went. I caught the ball, then tried to dodge. Stevie and Jack tackled me and my legs stretched out. I heard a ripping sound. My pants split.’

‘Not your head?’

‘No? What do you mean?’

‘Mum was told your head had split.’

‘No, Grandpop, silly, it was my pants, the back seam. I felt so bad. All the girls were laughing.’

‘Oh, my lad, worse things will happen. Just laugh along with them.’

‘But grandpop, I didn’t wear underdacks today.’

That changed things. Serious action was called for.

I ensured the towel covered all of Ben’s strategic bits, and informed the office of smiling faces that I would be back asap, with Ben dressed appropriately. We made a dignified exit.

As we headed along the highway south to Ben’s home and another pair of pants, we shared our favourite knock-knock jokes and tears were forgotten. I’d phoned Sharie and assured her all was well.

But I spoke too soon. Fate decreed differently.

Our dependable warhorse, the Volvo, began to make erratic noises, to chugg

‘Grandpop, why is the car coughing?’

‘As long as it doesn’t start sneezing, mate.’

My wry humour died a sudden death. The accelerator lost power. Vehicles behind us took turns at overtaking, and the Volvo shuddered and shook. I managed to pull over to the verge of the bitumen…Then kaput. It stopped. Out-of-order sign called for…

Ben and I exchanged shrugs. He tried in his childish way to give me support. ‘The engine needs a rest, OK, Grandpop?’ I nodded.

The ignition flunked too. Pressing start numerous times achieved nothing. I was out of ideas, mechanical trouble-shooting not being my forte. We were stuck.

When in doubt, call Dan, I decided. Good move. We waited till he came to the rescue.


The incident of the split pants was resolved—the solitary reminder now a family heirloom, unique, yet with no intrinsic value… Hardly in pride of place, on a corner shelf in our living room is a piece of polished timber. Glued to it is a rock, a rock with a sheared edge, and the inscription, ‘Volvo Wrecker’.

Dan, with his superlative investigative powers, traced the oil trail along the highway and dirt road.  He retrieved and show-cased the rock which had stopped us in our tracks that memorable day, the day that Ben split his pants. The day that augured the start of our long wait for a new motor imported from Sweden.


© Tropical Writers Inc 2024

Website created by RJ New Designs