Brian tells the story of an old bloke on a station in New Zealand, used to riding horses over steep Kiwi hills, and of how a new Landcruiser came to the property. This old bloke looked behind him one day to see the new vehicle racing down the hill with no-one inside. He took off after it yelling “Whoa Wagon, Whoa”.
Many are the stories of runaway farm vehicles – usually a result of a malfunctioning handbrake. Handbrakes in farm vehicles have one notorious consistency – they don’t work. When the vehicle is serviced the handbrake is adjusted and tightened but, without fail, within two days it is back to being useless. This can be very annoying as when you come to a gate on a slope: you have to switch off the vehicle, get out, open the gate, get in, start the vehicle, drive through the gate, stop the vehicle, switch it off, get out, close the gate, get in, restart the vehicle and continue on your way. Annoying, as I said, but the consequences of leaving a running farm vehicle unattended with only the handbrake applied can be dire as my farming friends will tell you….
This story from Ruth (last names omitted to protect reputations) in Victoria:
“I had a quick five-minute job to do so I left the ute running. It was in 4WD, the handbrake was on and the right-hand rear door was open. I hadn’t been working for more than a minute when I heard a noise. I turned and saw the ute rolling backwards down the hill gaining speed. It followed the contour bank around with me running after it yelling “stop, stop” – to no avail.
It continued on down, hit a few bumps then started up towards the only tree in the paddock. (Ok really a spindly self-sown wattle). The ute ended up wedging itself between the boundary fence and the tree before it stopped. The open back door was now bent around level with the front driver’s door! I couldn’t get in the left-hand-side doors as they were both locked so I had to climb in the back of the ute and through the very open right back door. The ute was still going.
I assessed the damage: lovely squished left-hand-side of the tray (I did manage to miss the lights though), broken fence post and three snapped wires, and of course the very bent door. I had to drive out, with lots of screeching in low 4WD, but now I was late to pick the kids up off the bus and I couldn’t bend the back door around far enough to shut it. I had to drive the five kilometres to the bus stop and then five kilometres home with the door open.
My husband eventually shut the door with lots of hammering (farmer style panel beating). Now we are not sure whether to go to the professional panel-beaters, fix it ourselves or write it off.”
And another story from Ruth (I may have to change first names to protect reputations if this keeps up):
“The above incident reminded me of a time when I was about eight and we were at the entrance of the yards trying to get the @$&% sheep in. Dad was in the ute and me and the dogs were under instructions. There was lots of “whoo hooing” and tooting and Dad got out of the ute to run around the sheep. Well just as sheep started running in the yards the ute started rolling downhill towards the creek. I’m yelling at Dad “the ute the ute”, so he leaves the sheep and is now running after the vehicle. He gets there just in time to watch it go into the creek and sink beneath the surface.
Dad tried to swim a chain down from the tractor to attach to it but he couldn’t find the ute! This is a VERY deep hole in the creek (it has never, ever been dry, even with all the years of drought). My cousin who is a good swimmer (and was eight months pregnant at the time) duck dived down but still couldn’t find the ute – it was too deep, dark and cold (did I mention it is winter?).
Eventually Dad had to hire a man with a wetsuit and scuba gear to go in the creek and attach the chain to the ute. The tractor pulled it out and after a bit of drying and some mechanical TLC, it was off and running again. Handbrakes – so unreliable.”
Now another “Whoa Wagon” story from Lizzie in NSW but this time sans handbrake:
“We were three days off settlement on a property we were buying. The previous owner was selling off some of his gear to the locals and they were loading up a truck at the shearing shed. The truck was running but he forgot to put the handbrake on so off she went. The men ran after it but I bet they were just staying “Stop, Stop”! The shearing shed is about 300m from the house and about 100m in elevation above it. The old truck gathered speed rapidly on the downwards descent to the house and bounced through three table drains, four fences, and a helicopter before plunging into and right through the house, taking out the chimney, living room and kitchen. The truck only came to a stop because it had so much rubble under it that it couldn’t go any further. That house just needed a new kitchen too! We still ended up buying the property but it was plagued with dramas, that one not even being the first. We have since sold it.”
So Mob, it is now over to you. Tell me your “Whoa Wagon” stories………