The Fringes to Highways

I don’t often write non fiction stories, but the one below is, including the start.

Highway fringes

The Fringes to Highways

Hey! Did you know there’s a possibility of unexploded ordinance up on that site? We walked ten, fifteen, twenty metre grids all over it. They reckon they’ll be maybe for the most part, phosphorous mortar shells used in practise fire from the highway during World War Two. There’s a team of UXO specialists coming up from the South East to go over the entire site… But this is not the story being shared today.

Busy coastal highways, like other highways, hold many secrets hidden from view. Their traffic at times can be deafening to the extent thoughts will wander some place else, other than the side of the road, or the dry creek you’re crossing in grass taller than you.

“Okay, got the shot. Don’t forget to get the two inverts at the bottom of each bank and one more shot in the middle.” Came the call from a young man standing at a grey coloured electronic instrument perched on a tripod.

“Got it, will do!”

With the first cross-section complete right next to the highway’s bridge , tall grass impedes progress along the northern bank, but there’s no option other than to push through to keep going.

As a large tree passes still between us at less than thirty metres apart, that’s when it all went wrong, one foot after the other. Finding some how in the unbroken grass a raised concrete edge with the left foot, then as the next foot followed, a sudden rush took hold, while equipment became thrown to one side. Blackness engulfed the sunlight.

“F@*#, it’s over.” It wasn’t a loud thought, closer to a whisper.

The blackness seemed to travel past for such a extended period, as if it didn’t want to stop. Falling down through a dark nightmare, but the end, the sudden stop is still to arrive. I just let go of any struggle and allowed the darkness to swallow me whole.

Thud, an ungrinding sudden halt as two feet impacted with the bottom. By this time with eyes closed, knees crumple on landing with the body plunged into the deepest of squats. Then silence.

Waiting, not wanting to move, eyes still shut as the feeling of movement from beneath rattled other thoughts. What’s just happened? Eyes begin to open slow, as they adjust to what can be seen. A giant weather beaten grey fence post is right in front of my eyes. Not upright, but it’s base in the centre and top leaning up against the side of the cylindrical concrete wall surrounding me as I look up to where I’d start just moments before.

I was in a well. Looking down, one foot was either side of the lumbering fence post. It must have been a corner strainer in another life. Remembering in an instant, the living squirming movement beneath, two feet spring from the squat position up onto the leaning post; a post far taller than I stood at six three. Two toads appear from amongst a mix matted dead grass and the wells sandy bottom.

Stepping back down to the bottom thinking; I’m not sure what I would of done if it had been a snake down here with me in a confined space. Shouting out loud ensued next, in the hope my fellow co-worker might hear me, a mix of words like help, over here, and expletives exploded up the walls of the well. The highway traffic up above was heavy, it seemed like a minute or two had gone by before the sound of a welcome response echoed across the well’s opening, then the sight of a face.

I can not remember entirely how the conversation went at this point, but the boss was call, and we measure what we thought was the depth of the well (4.7 metre we thought on measuring) so a ladder could be organised. But after several phone calls by the co-worker above, work had contacted emergency service and work place health and safety to let them know of the situation.

“We have a man down a well out along the highway, he’s fallen some four plus metres and seems to have no injuries…”

Waiting down in the dark hole, it seemed like thirty, forty-five minutes. I thought, 4.7 metres; I could stand on top of the post and the top would maybe be a metre above, but no, the top of the well was several metres above were I stood on top of the two plus metre post. It wasn’t 4.7 deep, it was a lot more.

Soon help arrived, Queensland fire and Rescue along with Queensland Ambulance Service. They cleared any excess grass away from the well’s opening and asked if I was all okay and able to climb a ladder.

‘Sure, all good down here.”

They lowered a ladder extended to five metres. It was short by a long way, so it was taken up again. Then it came down again, this time at 6.5m, it still come up short, but the rescue guys said come on up, we’ll lift you out at the top. The well was 7.4m, some almost twenty-five feet deep.

I climbed, one rung after the other until a metre short, two solid blokes reached down and as took hold of each their arms, they lifted me out while I folded my legs in order to clear the lip of the well and be lowered to the ground.

I sat there in the now trampled grass while conversations went on around me and two paramedics checked me over before moving to their ambulance. On the fifty or so metre walk back to the highway, one of the rescue blokes had fallen over in a small gulley leading to the creek.

I smiled, “Happens to me all the time.”

Soon a news crew arrived and by this time I was already comfortable and on my back about to head off to the hospital to be clear of any injuries.

“Do you want to talk to them?”

“No, lets go.”

What follows is a little boring, off to the hospital, being rolled off the spinal board, lying around waiting. It was a busy day for the hospital in emergency. It must have been about an hour or two before a doctor flew past did a few checks, some forms to fill in and I was signed out and on my way.

On returning to work, I picked up my gear, while I was told how luck I was and to go by a few tickets in something. I had the rest of that day of and the next (then came the weekend). Need the next day, for every muscle in my body just ached, and took about a week for the soreness to wear off. It was a lucky day, even if my body now has this involuntary reflex to falling.

4 responses to “The Fringes to Highways

  1. What a traumatic expereince, Sean. But I suppose it could have been worse…a snake, deeper, bad injuries, no one around to hear you call for help. Writing nonfiction can be therapeutic for the writer and reader. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Still can not work out how I walked away from it with just a graze under the left elbow. There was another well a quarter of a mile away, much deeper, with a pair of timber cross-members at water level, but it was out in the open and visible along the same creek. Thanks for reading, Julie.

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