The Petrol Pinching Episode

AuthorEnid Fulton (nee Westcott)
Time3 min read

One night we were sitting at dinner when I saw from my seat at the table the lights of a car coming towards us along the Tangorin Road. I knew that road well and tracked its lights as it came over a ridge and disappeared into a hollow, appeared again, and closed in on the house. When it should have appeared at the top of the last ridge there was suddenly no sign of its lights. I was interested because I hoped (as always) that it might contain some of my friends.

When I knew it was slightly overdue to arrive I walked out into the garden, taking my mandarin with me, to see if I could see anything. There was enough light to see the shape of part of a truck, lights switched off, behind the petrol shed but all was silent. I was immediately suspicious because it appeared to me that someone was trying to hide it there. I came in to tell Dad that I thought someone was trying to steal his petrol. As I came up the veranda stairs my suspicions were confirmed. I gained enough height to see over the hedge and I perceived a man hurrying away from the hedge back to the truck. He was bent double clutching his hat in his hand obviously hoping that the high hedge would hide him from sight. Aha, a cockatoo planted at the hedge to keep watch and he’d seen me!

We had quite a few people in the dining room that night and I didn’t want to cause a hullabaloo by bursting in and blurting out the news, so I stood at the door casually and beckoned Dad out with a smile. Inside were Mum and Dad, Nell and Jean, Doris my cousin paying a visit, and old Dad Tyler the travelling bookkeeper, all conversing happily. Dad saw me and came out and I imparted my suspicions. He could only half believe me at first but when I told him about the cockatoo he looked grim and made out towards the back door of the kitchen. I ran after him. “Dad you can’t go out there, there might be a lot of them and they’ll beat you up! Let them take the petrol”. There were no other men on the place to back him up. He apparently didn’t agree and just said to me, “You go back inside Nip”. That was unnecessary. I wouldn’t have gone out there for all the tea in China. However I took up a position where I could see what went on without, I hoped, being seen myself. Another picture is fixed in my mind–that of Dad in his white shirt and pants, serviette slung over his shoulder, going out into the dark with his rolling sailors walk, head back, arms slightly akimbo and gradually becoming just a blur in the backyard. Gosh, I thought, he was brave, he really was. As he reached the shed numerous dark figures came out and surrounded the white one. I think my heart stopped. My anxiety was shortly relieved by a loud voice, trying to sound casual, saying “Good day boss, we’ve run out of petrol. Can you spare us enough to get to Muttaburra?”. Hurray, this was a chance for him to say “Yes” and all would be well. I expect he did but I couldn’t hear. I just saw them all disappear into the petrol shed –about six dark figures and one white one. I was thankful to see the white one emerge later with the dark ones and they all moved out to the truck. Presently the truck moved off and the white figure came back. “Well”, I said, “are you going to tell them in there what happened?”. He wiped a little perspiration from his forehead and grinned, “Perhaps tomorrow”. I didn’t ask him whether they had paid for the petrol. I thought he deserved to be spared answering that. He put his arm round my shoulders and we went back in and joined in the conversation.