The bloke in this yarn was a well known identity round Gladstone. I actually do miss him, even though we had limited contact. He was a genuinely nice bloke.
As an aside, the last chapter of this column had been edited as part of the papers’ drive to trim lengthy articles in the Editorial section (I think!). I’ve included the missing part in italics.
The other day I was mooching about uptown when I spied a bloke on a tricycle, and in a flash I was transported back to the 1980’s, watching old Cliffy Boles pedalling merrily along on his trike, carting a basket full of crushed aluminium cans.
I first met Cliffy late one Thursday night in the early eighties when I was a young bloke. I was sitting next to my car down at the waterfront, along with one hundred and fifty of my closest friends when he turned up on his three-wheeler. Some wag yelled out, “Hey mate! Strap a turbo to it!”
“I wouldn’t need a turbo to beat your heap of junk!” he shot back, which got a laugh from the mob. He wobbled to a halt and, wandering over to a nearby bin, started digging through it. “Struth, he must be hungry,” whispered my mate.
“You looking for something in particular in there?” I asked warily.
He pulled his hand out of the bin, “Yep! These.” He held up an empty soft drink can.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got any cans in your cars?” he asked.
“What do you want them for; can’t you survive on the pension?”
He laughed, “I collect them for the special school,” he said, “someone’s gotta help the kiddies.”
“That’s pretty decent of you.”
“Just doing my bit,” he replied, “so, has anyone got any spare cans?”
We started downing enough soft drink to rot the tusks off an elephant, and eagerly handed over our empty cans. “What’s your name mate?” I asked, stifling a belch and offering my hand.
“Cliffy Boles,” he replied, giving my hand a solid shake. He hung round for a little while, telling us yarns and making us laugh with his quick wit and wry sense of humour, before pedalling off into the night.
From then on, each time I saw Cliffys’ trike, I’d beep and wave. He’d grin and throw a lazy wave back. One afternoon I saw him outside his house, and after giving him a bit of cheek, and getting some back in return, he called me over. His house was like him; modest, had obviously seen better days, but very welcoming. We sat on the veranda yarning as the sun dipped toward the horizon. He told me about the old days in Gladstone, and seemed to have a never ending supply of stories about its’ people and the changes that had taken place during his lifetime. He talked of his travels when the work was seasonal, and, as the sun set, he spoke softly of Grace, his much missed wife, recalling the good times they had shared, and the loneliness of life without her.
After a lengthy period of silence, I said, “You know Cliffy, you ought to write this stuff down.”
“Who’d be interested?” he asked.
He laughed, “Nah, I’ve got more important things to do,” he said, nodding to where his trike sat with its’ small pile of cans in the rear basket.
That was the last time I saw him. The ‘recession we had to have’ was in full swing, and as Cliffy had done before me, I left town chasing work. Some years later I returned, and discovered that Cliffy had pedalled off into the Great Beyond, but just before his last ride, he did a series of interviews for the paper, and some of his yarns were captured for future generations to enjoy.
And at the sight of that trike the other day I couldn’t help but smile as the memories came flooding back. Fond recollections of a friendly old man making the world a slightly better place, one crushed can at a time, while sharing his wisdom, some laughs and advice, because ‘Someone’s gotta help the kiddies’, no matter what their age or how cheeky they may be!