‘Impossible task’ to track down Vietnam vet from Lismore
Can you help with this near impossible task?
In 1973 I was hitchhiking across the Northern Territory and was almost broke. At The Threeways Motel just north of Tennant Creek I met this chap:
Leaning over the pool table, taking sight along a cue was a bespectacled man with thick, fair, slightly, gingerish, curly hair and a red, freckled face.
Pop, he made the shot and stood up.
A 6ft 3ins tall, Michael Caine-lookalike, he was wearing thongs, sawn-off jean shorts and a khaki-coloured military shirt with bulging breast pockets.
I sat on a side bench opposite the pool table and watched the game.
After the next shot, this fellow, Mark, said: ''What's up, mate you seem pretty pissed off?"
"Been here two days and can't get a lift," I said pathetically.
"I've been here four days, mate, I'm waiting for a lift, too," he said laughing.
"No point in waiting outdoors, mate, all the drivers come in here."
He pulled a pack of Marlboro out of one of his breast pockets, offered me one then tapped out one for himself and lit up.
His fingers were bronze. He liked Marlboro.
It wasn't long before Mark realised my lack of taking beer was because of my shortness of funds.
He stuffed a huge paw into the other of his breast pockets and pulled out a fat wad of dollars, peeling off 100 he gave them to me.
Insisted I took them.
We had already established we were both heading for Townsville and, once I'd landed a job, I could pay him back.
It was an astonishing act of generosity, one which marked out these larger-than-life Australians.
They take people at face value.
If you have an agenda, if you are judgmental, if your front doesn't go all the way through to your back, like Southend rock, then you are not part of their humanity.
That is an excerpt from my travel book, Turnip Road, Beyond the Hippie Trail, from Southend to Sydney, which is about to be published.
I never knew Mark's surname.
I never took a photograph as my camera had broken by the time I got to Australia.
All I know is that he was a Vietnam vet who suffered PTSD following a firefight in which many colleagues of his, including one called John, were killed.
He was a seasonal worker and he came from Lismore.
I doubt he is still alive, but if I could trace him or his family, it would make a great story, both for you and here in the UK.
I appreciate this is an impossibly tall order, but thought it worth a go!
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