Tango Tales - 'I’m no hero, boy!'
Jack was walking back to his 4wd after picking up some supplies from the local general store when he heard a commotion from a group of boys in the parking lot. There were 5 of them who had surrounded a young boy taunting him for being of Asian descent, shouting “Go back where you came from!” and “we don’t want your kind here”. The young boy looked terrified, knowing he was out numbered. He stayed quiet and didn’t retaliate hoping they would get bored and wander off. The tallest boy started to shove the frightened boy to incite a reaction to justify his impending punishment. Jack hollered “Oi, get away from him you bunch of cowards!”. Although Jack was only short, and in the bullies eyes an old man in his forties, Jack had a commanding voice and a threatening stance that made the bullies think twice about messing with him. They ran off shouting “we’ll get you next time, watch your back”
The young boy looked at Jack and said “Thank you for saving me”. Jack replied “I’m no hero boy, what’s your name?”, and the boy replied “Jason Sir” Jack asked if he could give Jason a lift home to ensure he got home safely. As they drove down the main street of the country town, Jack asked the boy when his family came to Australia. Jason advised that his Dad was Australian, in the army and was posted to Vietnam where he met his mother. A local Vietnamese nurse who cared for him when he had been shot and lost a leg resulting in him being medically discharged from the army. His father and mother had fallen in love and got married before returning to Australia 14 years ago and had Jason soon after. The talk of Vietnam gave Jack a flashback to his time there when he was travelling in the back of the jeep after being picked up from a battle with some viet cong firing on his squadron whilst securing a village. Jack felt a memory pain from the scar on his right calf where he had been shot when he dived in front of a child to shield him from the automatic fire ringing around their ears. Both came crashing to the ground as Jack tackled him covering him with his body but taking a hit to the back of his leg. The medic was cleaning his wound and wrapping a bandage around his leg to suffice until they got back to base camp. The medic asked “Are you OK Sir? and again Jack could hear “Are you OK Sir?”, then realised it was Jason asking him “Are you OK Sir?”, Jack jolted back to reality and said “Yeah I’m fine kid”. Jason continued to give Jack directions to his house and they soon pulled up out the front. Jason said “Thank you Sir, hope you haven’t driven out of your way” and Jack replied “No problem kid, it’s on my way, I live out at Eagle Ridge”. Jason watched Jack accelerate off with dust kicking up behind the 4wd wondering who would live out in the bush at Eagle Ridge, there’s nothing out there.
When the weekend arrived, Jason grabbed the dog and headed off on a bush walk which he loved submersing himself amongst nature. Hearing the peaceful whisper of the wind rustling the leaves amongst the trees and the clinking of rocks as he strode over the dirt path. Billy the dog stayed close behind him on alert darting his head left and right each time he heard something scurry in the grass. Up ahead Jason could hear the rush of water so he ran towards the clearing which opened up to lush grassland and the flowing torrent of water that was tumbling over the rocks washing away the dust making them glisten in the sun. Jason took his shoes and socks off and decided to paddle in the water to cool off, enticing Billy by splashing him, receiving playful barks as he ran up and down the river bank. Suddenly a shadowy figure came out from the tree line and Jason recognised it was Jack walking towards the river bank. Jason called out to Jack and waved to him. Jack stood on the side of the river bank, hands on his hips and said “Hey kid, what ya doing out here?” Jason replied “I love coming out here with Billy and started splashing him to make him bark again” Jason ran up the bank and dried his feet with his socks before putting them and his shoes on.
They started to walk along the dirt track together and Jason asked “Why do you live out here in the bush all alone? Jack contemplated his answer and said “Well kid, I’m a bit like you, I don’t fit in so I keep to myself.” They continued along the track pointing out the different wildlife and Jack telling Jason which plants are safe to eat. He even showed Jason which plants store water to survive if you get lost in the bush.
Suddenly there was a rustling in the grass on the right-hand side of the track and Jack grabbed Jason and threw him to the left pushing him with all his body weight covering Jason. He felt an almighty pain in his right calf as he was falling over Jason and shouted “they got me”. They landed hard on the ground with a thud and Jack was holding his leg rocking in pain and looked across the track to see a King Brown snake slithering away. Jack knew he was a gonna and started to rip his shirt off as fast as he could. He ripped it into strips to make a tourniquet below the knee pulling it extremely tight cutting off the blood supply. Jason was frozen in shock, bewildered with what had just happened, but knew if Jack hadn’t had pushed him out of the way, it would have been him that got hit. Jack shouted “Kid, go get help as fast as you can. Tell 'em I have been bitten by a King Brown and haven’t got much time left”. Jason couldn’t believe his ears, no surely this isn’t the end for Jack. “Thank you, Jack, you saved my life again”. Jack snapped back “I’m no hero boy, just hurry and get help, go, go”. Jason jumped up, told Billy to come and they ran as fast as they could along the track back home. It seemed like it took forever but it was about half an hour and Jason didn’t know how long Jack had so raced into the house and grabbed the phone dialling 000. Jason blurted down the phone “Come quick Jack has been bitten by a King Brown and he hasn’t got much time.” The operator asked a few more questions before Jason told them to meet him at the perimeter of the bush where the telecommunications tower was to gain access to the track. As soon as Jason got off the phone his Dad said “Jason, what’s happened?” Jason replied “no time Dad, I will tell you later” then ran off back to the bush to meet the ambulance.
The ambulance was already there when Jason arrived and huffing and puffing told the ambulance officers to follow him. They grabbed their medical bag and headed along the track after Jason. They soon reached Jack who was slumped over, sweating profusely and barely breathing. The ambulance team quickly went to work to help Jack, injecting him with anti-venom and putting an oxygen mask on him to help his breathing. They left Jason to comfort Jack and keep him awake by talking to him whilst they went to get the stretcher. Jack was carried out down the track and put in the back of the ambulance and rushed to the local hospital.
Jason hurried home to tell his Dad what had happened and they all jumped into the car to drive to the hospital to see if Jack was going to make it. On arrival they asked to see Jack, and the nurse said Jack who? Jason said “Jack, the man bitten by the King Brown”. The nurse said “Ah you mean Jack Thompson, come this way” Jason’s Dad froze, he said “Surely it can’t be him”
They entered the ward and saw Jack laying in the bed still on oxygen and unconscious. Jason’s Dad exclaimed “Well I’ll be damned”. Jason didn’t understand and said “what Dad?”. The Dad said, “Jack Thompson carried me out of the battlefield on his back as I couldn’t walk after having my leg shot to pieces. I told him to run, save himself but he said he wasn’t going to leave me”. Jason said “So he is your hero too?” and Jason’s Dad said “Sure is son”
Every day Jason went to see Jack at the hospital, telling him he was going to make it because he is so brave and strong. Jack took a few days to recover before awakening and seeing Jason sitting by his bedside muttered “Hi kid” and Jason jumped up with a huge grin on his face, grateful he was alive. “Oh, Jack I was so worried you weren’t going to make it, you saved my life”. Jack replied “Well you saved mine kid by getting help, else I would have been a gonna, so we are even”. Jack smiled and said “So we are both heros”.Jack chuckled “That’s right kid, we are both heros”
Author - Cheryl Duffy