The Bulldozer People

In a distant and interesting corner of the world there’s a high plateau.

Scattered along the top of the plateau are a number of little towns. They’re very old, and the people who live in them have been there a long, long time.

Not many people climb up the plateau, and those who do usually wind up deciding that they really like one or other of the little towns they find up there. So they stay, and the plateau towns remain largely unknown to the outside world.

But this is one of their stories.

At one end of the plateau was a town named Block. The people who lived in Block were big, heavy people with loud voices. They had big square heads and big square bodies and they shouted a lot. They were like walking bulldozers.

The bulldozer people of Block always seemed to be busy. They were impatient, and would push each other around and shove each other out of the way in their hurry to get to places and do things.

They would shout over the top of each other because each one of them knew that whatever they had to say was absolutely the most important thing that could be said right at that moment.

All of the pushing and shoving and crowding meant that Block itself got very dirty and rundown. Walls started to crack, the footpaths started to sag, things broke down and didn’t get repaired because everyone was too busy demanding that someone else should do something about it.

Eventually there came a time when Block started to become too worn out, crowded and noisy even for the people who’d lived there a long time.

“Block isn’t good enough for us now! We should visit somewhere else and see what’s there!” cried some of the big square people.

A few of them travelled along the plateau to the next town – a quiet place named Sekund. There was more space there, and the people weren’t very good at standing up to the big square bodies of the bulldozer people when they started behave the way they did at home.

The news got back to Block quickly, and more and more of the big square people moved along the plateau away from their old homes and into Sekund.

They pushed their way in. They pushed the Sekunders out of their way, or pushed them around and shouted at them.

“We are visitors you know! You’re supposed to treat us well – bring us food and something to drink!” they would shout.

Some of the Sekunders thought that this was a way to behave that really got results, so they started to do the same things. They pushed people around and shouted and demanded that things be done for them.

They never even noticed that the more they behaved like this, the more their bodies and heads started to change shape. They were starting to look just like the people from Block as well as act like them.

The poor little town of Sekund hadn’t been built for rough treatment. The streets were narrower than those in Block. Shouting voices echoed and sounded even louder, and the walls and footpaths quickly started to crack and crumble.

Soon many of the big square bodied people had started to move along the plateau again, pushing their way into another town, and another after that.

Everywhere they went, they pushed and shoved and bullied.

“We are visitors! We demand to be served properly!” they would shout at the local people.

Some people did their best to keep out of the way, some started to behave the same way, and others just got trampled on.

All too soon, the big loud bulldozer people from Block, and others who behaved just like them, had moved all the way along the plateau.

Some of the folks in those towns tried to stand up to the Block people. They got run over, shouted at and pushed aside.

The big loud square bodied people really were just like bulldozers, shoving and squashing anyone and anything in their way.

The Mayor of the town of Quailville tried to talk to the people from Block when they first arrived.

“You can have some of our town all to yourselves, and we will live peacefully in the other part,” he offered.

The Block people agreed that was a good idea. But it didn’t take long before their part of Quailville got noisy and crowded and unpleasant.

“The other part of Quailville looks much nicer,” they said.

So they pushed their way into the rest of the town. The poor Mayor was just another person to be pushed aside.

`“This is no way to treat visitors! Why didn’t you let us have this bit of the town? It’s much nicer!” shouted one of the bulldozer people.

“It used to be,” said the Mayor in a sad, quiet voice as he looked around at the noisy, shoving crowd. But the people from Block didn’t hear him.

So they kept moving along the plateau, finding nice unspoiled places and spoiling them. Not deliberately, of course, but it never occurred to the Block people that their noise, and their pushing, and their rudeness, was really the cause of the problems they kept trying to leave behind.

Eventually they got to the very last town on the plateau. It was a very old town called Terminus.

The very polite people of Terminus welcomed them.

“You’re welcome to come in, but please be gentle. All of our town is very old and fragile,” they said.

“Yes, yes, sure. Now get out of the way!” replied the people from Block.

With a sigh the polite people of Terminus stood back and let the bulldozer people pass before they could be pushed aside or crushed.

Block people all across the plateau soon heard how easy it was to get into Terminus. They rushed there, pushing themselves along, pushing each other out of the way, and shouting as if being louder would help get them there sooner.

They pushed down the gates and pushed over the old fragile walls to get in.

Again the polite people tried to give a warning. “Please be careful – all of Terminus is old and fragile,” they said.

Most of the bulldozer people didn’t even bother to say, “Yes, sure.”

They either ignored the polite people, or pushed them out of the way, or shouted at them to get something because they were visitors and expected to be treated well.

Without the people from Block even noticing, the polite people quietly got right out of their way – right out of Terminus, in fact.

The people who used to be the Terminites stood some way away from where their gates had been, shaking their heads sadly. Inside the town, the Block people were rumbling around, pushing and shoving each other and shouting for somebody to come and serve them.

Then suddenly above the terrible noise of the pushing and shoving and shouting came an even louder, more terrible noise.

The people of Terminus had warned that all of their town was old and fragile. That included even the ground on which it had been built.

The end of the plateau collapsed under the strain. Terminus and the big square bulldozer people of Block fell hundreds of feet to their ruin.

The polite people made their way back along the plateau to all the places where those from Block had been. Places like Quailtown and Sekund – even the remains of Block itself.

Gradually the damage in all those towns was repaired. The people who were left treated each other with respect – they’d all learned a lesson from Block.

The plateau was shared by everyone, and became just the best and friendliest place in the world to live.

But they kept that quiet. They knew that there were other bulldozer people in the world.

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The ones we notice

I used to drive around Australia a lot. Various routes and journeys connecting Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and Beechworth, there and back again. A short trip might be three or four hours, a longer one twelve or fourteen or more. Much more of the driving was done at night than during daylight hours.

Many of the trips were made on my own, with only the cassette deck for company (provided it was working). Regional radio was a matter of chance, with reception fading in and out and the actual content of the airwaves often being a choice of earnest chat or country music, neither a preferred choice for me.

Melbourne by night
Melbourne by night
Brisbane by night
Brisbane by night

One of my regular strategies for staying awake was to count trucks as they approached or overtook me. I seldom seemed to overtake them. If I was ‘stuck’ on any number for a while because the road was quiet I’d turn my memory to what I connect with that year. So trucks #79, or 179, or 279 might prompt memories of a show I worked on, or a new romance, or a band I sang with.

In the early hours of one dark morning I was a little way outside of Yass approaching Canberra. So far I’d counted 491 trucks on an uneventful drive. I was on my way up a winding hillside road when my rear view mirror went white.

It was the glare of the high beam headlights of an eighteen wheeler semi-trailer, thundering onto my tail at high speed. Have you ever seen the movie Duel? Dennis Weaver is a motorist pursued on a winding mountain road by the unseen homicidal driver of a monster truck.

I was having flashbacks to the movie as I put my foot down and threw my sedan around bends trying to stay ahead of the semi that seemed to be a split second away from driving right over the top of me. To my enormous it didn’t take long to find a space at the side of the road wide enough to pull into and let the truck roar by.

As I sat there waiting for my heartbeat to come back down to normal I cursed and swore at “bloody maniac truck drivers that think they own the bloody road – something should be done about them!”

Remembering to breath I gradually calmed down. As I pulled back out onto the road a thought occurred to me.

“There have been 491 quite unremarkable, well-behaved truckies on the road with me tonight. Number 492 is the dangerous lunatic I’ll remember and complain to people about. That’s not fair on all the others, is it?”

There are thousands of priests and elders of various religions across the globe. I’m sure many of them took their vows out of genuine devotion to their faith. I seriously doubt that one in five hundred of them world-wide is a child molester.

There are millions of Moslems on Earth, some in pretty much every country on the planet. I honestly don’t think that one in five hundred of them truly believe they have a responsibility to kill anyone who disagrees with them, or that such an act means a reward of however many virgins in the afterlife.

It’s the exceptions to the rule that we notice. The outstanding ones, or the ones that are made outstanding by the publicity they get.

When you see footage of a shamed Father Whatsisname being led into a courtroom please think of all the humble and decent parish priests who’ve spent their lives earnestly serving their flock as best they could to little recognition and little earthly reward.

When your TV screen is full of images of men in black balaclavas waving guns and celebrating a successful suicide bombing, please think of the millions of followers of Allah who live in peace with their neighbours and who believe that their scripture preaches tolerance.

The 492nd truckie didn’t mean all the others on the road were dangerous. Whatever dreadful stories make the news, please remember the ones we don’t notice. The safe and the sane ones. The ones like you.

The Weird Warrior

As a young man, White Bear fought with the Dakota Sioux at Pryor Creek.
As a young man, White Bear fought with the Dakota Sioux at Pryor Creek.

This story is based on true events, recounted in Joseph Medicine Crow’s book “From The Heart Of The Crow Country”. Both Crow and Sioux survivors of the 1861 Battle of Pryor Creek agreed on many of the details, including those of the more mysterious incidents. Some could be regarded as significant coincidences, while others defy even that explanation. I’ve embroidered the history with some of my own ideas around ‘magic’.

The Sioux tribes of what would one day be called Dakota had gathered. The wagons and guns of the white men were pressing them westward.

Men seeking gold and a “new life” had poured towards the Rocky Mountains, wiping out the buffalo herds and desecrating the sacred Black Hills in their search for the yellow metal. The tribes had fought but the numbers were overwhelming.

This new vast land they had reached was still rich with game, and still free from the encroaching whites.

It was the country of the Scared Raven people – the Absarokee. You might call them the Crows, and the land Montana. The Absarokee were known to be strong, but also known to be few in number.

A Dakota chief addressed the assembled council of war chiefs and warriors.

“Let us take one whole year to make plans against the Raven People. They are not many, but they are shrewd and tricky in battle. The time has come that we must destroy them, but first we must make time to make our plans.”

Continue reading The Weird Warrior