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Hydraulic Jack an Australian Story

Updated on October 5, 2010

hydraulic Jack would lift anything left laying around.

One place where I lived deep in the Australian bush there was a bloke everyone called Hydraulic Jack. I was told as a kid that Jack was a Gypsy. He and his family lived in the bush at the end of a road on their own.

Even as a lad, I thought his wife was very beautiful and exotic looking with long black hair, gorgeous big dark eyes and fine features.

Jack was a very small fierce looking man with a lot of kids to feed. He kept them all warm and safe in their tiny little rusty tin house with just two rooms.His wife had the place looking wonderful with flowers everywhere outside. Like most bush huts it had an enormous open fireplace.

The inside of their house was decorated with many trinkets and bright coloured bedding and wall hangings.The kids only made it to school once in a blue moon.

What I did not understand was why people seemed to tolerate his tendency to "lift" or steal anything he could find.

You can tell what people are like in the bush pretty quickly, because every one needs a hand one day, and for my Dad and me one of those days was a rainy winter evening in the middle of the bush.

Dads ex-army 4 wheel drive truck blew a front right hand tire halfway home on a steep and dangerous piece of wet road. Dad wrestled with the old girl so we did not get pulled over the side of a huge cliff as the blow-out was on the outside tire. We got the old truck back on the correct side of the road and considered the long cold and wet walk home

Apart from a rare evening outing by a local logger or a worker from the mill coming by, our chance of seeing another vehicle at that time of day were slim, but we decided to rug ourselves and the dog up and wait till dark in case another vehicle came along anyway.

We never carried a spare wheel on the blitz because it was only driven on the road to move it from one logging area to another, the tires were half full of water and nearly flat so that the poor old thing could get a better grip to pull logs out of the bush that were too far to drag with the bulldozer

The old Blitz had a cabin with a hatch in the roof, but no other body at all, just a big pole sticking up from the bare chassis like a tow truck. A bulldozer winch had been firmly welded to the chassis and a big wire rope hung over the pole to snig the logs up with.

Anyway after an hour of so we hear a quiet engine approaching. In that part of the bush at that time of evening after the birds settled for the day you could hear for miles, and even as a kid I knew the sound of many different motors. Eventually one yellow headlight appears around the bend below us and an old green 1934 Chevrolet van comes in to view.

It is Hydraulic Jack sans his mass of kids and dark mysterious missus.

Normally in the Australian bush you would carry a bloody huge Australian loggers jack called a Trawella named after the guy who designed it when he got totally pissed off with the rubbish hydraulic jacks we could buy which were all too small for dozers and picking up the front of Blitzs with 20 gallons of water in the tyres etc.


It took a lot of high quality hardwood to build this causeway in Southern Queensland.
It took a lot of high quality hardwood to build this causeway in Southern Queensland.

So anyway Hydraulic Jack gets out of his van, bows to us, then goes around the back and opens the door of the van. He pulls out a huge trawella jack and proceeds to slide it across the slippery road and falls on his backside, the jack on top of him, still clean. I had heard that Jack "took" stuff off logging landings after dark, but I couldn't believe it when he said. " I just borrowed it mate, I wez gonna bring it back in the morning" and sure enough the trawella he "lent" us was ours! He had swiped it off our number 2 landing, which we had just come from 2 hours before.

Any how, with Jacks help Dad jacked the Blitz up with the trawella and "doctored" the tyre well enough to get us home by stuffing it with grass.

Dad thanked Jack, tied the trawella on the back of the blitz and gave him some money and we left. I was furious with dad. "He stole our trawella and you never said a bloody word"

Dad's reply has stayed with me my whole life.He said,

"Son, you're sitting here warming your hands over a nice warm motor getting dry and you'll soon be home thanks to Jack coming along and picking up that trawella, Jacks got a lot of kids to feed and nobody will give him a job. Most of us know we lose a bit of stuff to Jack, but we always know where it is if we need it.

We just go and ask him if he's seen it, he drags it out of the van and tells us he "found it in the bush" and we give him "a few bob for his trouble" or If we don't need it too much, or we've got a few spare quid we just don't go and ask him if he's "seen" it!

My dad, like a lot of bushmen in those days was pretty philosophical about life.

I reckon that's fair enough.


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