The Dunny Cart (truck)


Old Treg knew it was the dunny cart as he leant against the front window of his hairdressing salon and watched as it made it’s way up Sackville Street. How can you call it anything else but the dunny cart, that’s what it was, the truck that was used by the council to collect the toilet cans from those houses in the town not rich enough to be able to afford a new septic and the grand flush toilets that had sent the water usage for certain areas in the town sky high.
Old Treg had lit his pipe and was enjoying the warm morning sun and the tobacco smoke as it curled into the air blue and rich. For some reason that he couldn’t work out, he always enjoyed the spectacle of men shouldering the dropped burdens of others, hefting them onto the back of the truck, lidded and sealed to prevent the unsavoury aromas from creating too much havoc. Not that they had too much to do in Sackville Street, after all, it was the main shopping street of the town though most of the shops had toilets in the back yard and these were emptied from either Coffin Alley on the one side or up some of the lanes that ran off Barclay Street on the other. For those few shops that didn’t have rear access, they were subjected once a week to having the can from the toilet carried through their premises.

The dunny truck was now parked opposite his hairdressing shop and he watched as the two men hoisted a couple of empty cans from the rear of the truck and headed into Browns Pharmacy and the boot and shoe repair shop next door. The mornings were always quiet in the men’s hairdressing business, after all, those men who wanted a hair cut and didn’t work, never bothered to get up too early and those who worked could only have it done in their lunch hour or after work. The exception was Friday and that was country day. On Friday he employed a retired hairdresser to help him out with the rush that started about eleven and didn’t let up until five thirty. The usual chores he did when he opened, sweeping the shop, emptying the hair from the tin sunk into the floor that had a lid he lifted by pulling a string and into which he could easily sweep all the cut hair. Serving the men or women on their way to work, calling in for their days supply of tobacco, had all been done. As Treg watched, the men came out of the respective shops carrying the now lidded cans filled with the weeks contributions, he noticed that Harry Sawyer was up to his usual stunt and was carrying the can on the top of his bald head on which he had jammed a woollen hat. Harry had been told many times by the works foreman that this was a dangerous practice and one which, some day, could well see him in trouble, John Sands, the worksforeman had explained that the centre of some of the older cans had some rust problems and that the only safe way to carry a can was to take the weight on the side rim which was reinforced with a steel band. Treg smiled to himself as he remembered the many jokes and jibes poked at Harry in Hearns Pub when his mates told him that one day he would indeed be inturd. Just at that very moment, Larry Baulch came around the corner in his truck having been across to WarnambooI and collected the goods from the railway station from the evening train, Harry Sawyer turned his head to take a look at how much freight Larry had collected, as he did, the extra movement of his head against the already week bottom of the can made it give way and Harry’s head vanished into the contents of the can.

Later, when Treg had closed the shop and was having his usual pint or two at Hearns! the talk was that if Jim Smiley had not acted swiftly, dropping his own can and ripped the lid off the can that Harry’s head had vanished into, he would have drowned in the evil vat. As it was, the commotion of having the entire contents of two whole cans dumped into the middle of the main street in mid morning had seen practically every shop keeper slam his door shut as the aroma began to waft down the street. Treg had done the same, closed his front door and put the sausage in place that he used mid winter to stop the drafts and watched through the parted curtains of his front window.
Luckily a quick thinking shop keeper, and no one admitted to this later, called the fire brigade and just said Sackville Street where upon the fire bell began to ring and all the firemen from whatever job they were doing immediately converged on the fire station and the truck, with firemen dressed in all manner of clothing; but each one wearing his brass helmet, with bell ringing loudly, roared up the middle of the street.

As the fire truck driver frantically searched for some tell tale sign of the fire and found none, they arrived at the now solitary dunny truck since anyone with a car had hastily removed it and driven it round the corner into Bank Street or Cox Street, depending on which end of Sackville Street you were in, leaving the main street resembling a war zone. As the fire truck approached the dunny truck, those firemen clinging to the rear of the fire truck, resplendent in shiny brass helmets, began to get the first whiffs of the pungent aroma of the spilled contents, onto which and adding to the already potent smell, Jim Smiley had poured a whole bottle of phenyl which they carried in the truck in the event of a really smelly can.

Harry had upon extricating himself from the can and mess! trotted straight around the corner into Bank Street and was heading for Gipps Street and the little bridge that crossed the Moyne River. As one or two of the fishermen watched in complete amazement! Harry did a sharp turn at the beginning of the bridge and used the track that the kids used to take the shortcut onto the wharf. He trotted onto the wharf ran along about twenty yards, until there was a spare spot where no fishing boat was parked and performed a perfect swallow dive into the river, clothes and all. They were even more amazed as Harry struck out down the middle of the river and headed for the wharf up near to the Harbour masters yard, discarding his clothing as he swam, by the time Harry reached the jetty, he was clad only in his long underpants. He climbed from the water, still holding his nose.
Jim Smiley had climbed into the cabin of the truck with the driver and wound up the windows wondering just what would happen next. Both Jim and the driver were aware that they were supposed to carry a full sack of sand and a small shovel in the event that this could happen and both also knew that this was not on board. Their choices were limited to either sitting and waiting while the news of the accident filtered down to the foreman in Cox Street or driving off to the works yard and collecting the bucket of sand and leaving the unsightly mess, As it happened, the decision was taken front them as the fire truck, driven by Tony Buzzard, the fire chief careered wildly down the street
Guessing that the accident with the cans may have been the reason they were called out and not wanting to miss the opportunity for some training, Toney Buzzard decided to take matters into his own hands and brought the truck to a complete halt fifty or sixty feet on from the site of the mishap. He leapt from the truck and in his usual brisk manner, ordered his men off and began pulling the hose out to connect it to the nearest fire hydrant which turned out to be on the footpath up near the dentist. The men, not sure if this was a serious decision on his, part and not even sure what to do, had all gathered at the back of the truck as the fire hose began to feed off the spinning red spindle.
Tony barked his orders as he connected the end of the hose to the hydrant and with the special tool, turned the water pressure full on. George Dusting, the one nearest the nozzle end of the hose realised that unless he pulled the nozzle out and dragged it away from the truck, the pressure of water would cause the hose to swell on the spindle and burst. Grabbing the shiny brass nozzle he ran, as he had been trained to do in the direction of the dunny cart and just as he reached the point where the hose was fully extended, the water pressure came in full and he was left struggling with the squirming hose.
Toney Buzzard, having completed his part in the job was now running hell for leather down to the nozzle shouting and pointing at the overturned cans and the spilled contents that surrounded them. George realised that Tony’s intention was to clean up the mess using the strong jet of water from the fire hose. Like many towns built in the previous century, Port Fairy was blessed with deep gutters that carried even the run off from the heaviest rain safely away and deposited it into the river through some of the outlets connected to the drainage system. Tony grabbed the fire hose and with a twist of the control, directed a blast of water at the offending mess, as he did so, it caught into the open can into which Harry had plunged and sent it into tile air and clattering along the centre of the street, spilling what contents had not already been spilled.
The librarian, who had closed the library door and was watching the proceeding from one of the windows in the two front rooms, burst from the door waving her arms, Miss Ireland was a nature lover and conservationist when such was not a popular thing to be and immediately had become aware of what Tony Buzzard was intending, knowing that the whole mess would make it’s way into the gutter system and by natural fall, then into the river, and because she had been fighting the council for some time trying to stop them emptying the towns waste water into. the river, she began waving and shouting for him to stop as she ran from the Library’s front door. Tony lifted his head from the water spray for a moment as he heard the shouting, as he did so, raised the water spray just enough to lift it and the load it was carrying up from its path to the gutter and gave Miss Ireland a thorough drenching and splattering with the can contents,
At this moment, several of the shop keepers and their customers who had been witnessing the scene from the relative pure air of the closed shops, decided that this matter required their personal intervention and joined the scene. Miss Ireland, completely incensed by the drenching and now doubly determined to make sure that Tony Buzzard would not succeed in his efforts was continuing in a menacing way to stalk toward him and his hose. As she reached the hose, she gave Tony Buzzard a push that sent him backwards and once again, Miss Ireland was given a thorough drenching. By this time, the water had succeeded in sluicing most of the cans contents into the gutter and it was now beginning its slow and stately amble down the full length of the main street, to take a left hand turn into Cox Street and thence to the river.

The contents of the cans had the added attraction of torn up newspaper since most of the shop keepers were too mean to supply toilet tissue and this, like the more solid contents was decorating the whole mess as it made it’s way towards the post office corner, Miss Ireland, galvanised into action now and in a fury, took off in hot pursuit of the travelling night soil (the current polite name) and was pursuing it, in full voice and shouting at anyone and everyone who would listen.
As she passed the State Saving Bank, which had remained open during tile whole episode since the manager had read the regulation that absolutely forbid the banks closure other than when a criminal event or activity was perpetrated or thought to be possible. She was watched by the whole staff who had at first climbed onto the rung of the ledger desk to get a better view out the window and then, unable to see properly, gone into the street. Mr Badger, the bank manager, unsure of just what was happening, had carefully collected the banks revolver and was carrying it in his right hand, brandishing it in a way he hoped would dissuade ,any would be robber from attempting a heist. Miss Ireland approached the bank, yelling at full volume and wet from head to toe with her hair hanging in forlorn ringlets from the carefully rolled up and pinned hair do she usually effected.
Mr Badger, certain that a robbery had taken place or was about to take place, raised the pistol into the air and let of a volley of four shots. The teller Mr Dade, an Englishman who had joined the bank when he and his family migrated to Australia under the ten pound scheme and who had requested ‘a posting in a ‘smalland quiet country town, crumpled to his knees certain that he had been shot. Mary Nightingale, the daughter of the local shoe shop owner and ledger keeper at the bank, let out a piercing scream that frightened even herself and fled .indoors. Mr Badger, ‘having caught sight of Mary fleeing into the bank was again unsure of what was happening.and thinking that the robber may well now be inside the bank, fired the pistol’s last two shots, one of which ricocheted off a nearby awning and went straight into the window of his own office smashing it to a million slivers of glass in a resounding crash.
Mr Dade,’now recovered’ turned on his heels and headed into the bank just in time to collide with Mrs Badger who, having previously been in tile kitchen at the rear preparing ‘the staffs morning cup of tea and heard the commotion was coming out toinvestigate. Finding the-bank deserted, ‘she ‘had ‘climbed ‘over the tellers cage window and was now going out the door when she was fallen upon by Mr Dade. Thinking it was the robber, Mr Dade, to his own amazement, quickly wrestled the wife of the bank manager to the ground and managed to grasp her hands behind her back, he only discovered his mistake when Mr Badger rushed through the doors with the intention of reloading the now empty gun and saw his wife being wrestled to the ground by Mr Dade.
In the meanwhile, the contents of the can, now with a number of the towns more important residents in hot pursuit was making its way along past the Craig Lea cafe, where eleven members from a tourist bus that included Port Fairy on its tours and had a special arrangement for an early Iunch with the cafe, had been sitting down to a mixed grill. Daryl Thomas, the owner of the Craig Lea and a council member of the Port Fairy Shire ‘Council, hearing the gunshots had suggested to his clients fhat they move down to the next section of the dining room while he investigated the commotion. At the same time, he told his wife Shirley,wilo did the cooking that maybe she had better give them a free ice cream and canned peach, (she called it a Peach Melba when she had added a splosh of raspberry syrup on top!) or they may Iose the trade in future.
As he stepped from the front door of the Craig Lea Cafe, he was greeted by the sight of an apparently completely insane Miss Ireland, totally dish-evelled and by now. moderately distraught, gesturing wildly towards something in the gutter and shouting things which he could not understand. As the smell of the phenyl and the contents of the gutter, now passing the Craig Lea on a wave of water like-surfers on surf boards, Daryl realised that some awful accident had occured. He unwiseiy reached into the shop, slipped the snib on the lock and slammed the door shut in case any of his guests from the tour bus were tempted to leave the premises.
Miss Ireland, ‘recovering sufficiently to recognise that she had cornered Daryl Thornas, a shire councillor, promptly headed towards him and grabbed his arm, propelling him along with her as she followed the surfing night soil. Daryl! Not a person overly endowed with bravery and who was under the thumb of his wife, having only stood for council because “she said it would be good for business, did not know what to do and was allowing himself to be towed along by the now indignant and very angry Miss Ireland.
As the parade approached Alec Hill’s Sports Store, Alec, also a member of ‘the local ‘shire council, was silly enough to walk out onto the footpath, just in time to be grabbed by the free left arm of Miss Ireland since her right hand was clutching Daryl Thomas in a death like grip and was immediately swept into the fray.

David Brown, the second of the towns chemists was contemplating a morning after the night before and was looking forward to one o’clock when he could shut the shop and head for Marty Hearns pub to have a couple of beers to stop the trembling. The sight of a completely wet Miss Ireland, David Brown noted that her figure had passed its prime, although she was still very presentable. Clutching two of the town councillors and one of them, ‘one of his drinking partners was too much.. he closed the shop, put a notice up that said he would be back in ten minutes, went into the street and straight up to Marty Hearns for a drink. It was only Iater, when he telephoned his wife Dulcie, who had been across at Nightingales Electrical store looking at a new toaster, did he learn of the full event.
As the post office came into sight and the whole wave began to take a left hand turn, one of the posties on his bicycle was about to cycle up with a telegram to Mrs Guyett informing her that her mother was ill, rode straight into the three fleeing locals and his bike with him on it, crashed straight into the gutter and into the mess that was heading for the river. On smelling the mess, the postie not completely sure about just whal it was leapt up and returned to the post office via the rear door. As he entered the portals of the office which only before had ever smelled of cigarettes and ink, the smell of his now dripping clothing changed the entire ambience of the place and even the post master in his corner office which was usually closed off with solid wooden doors because he was the one who had to send the telegrams in morse code and needed to concentrate, looked up and sniffed the air. As the smell grew stronger, warmed by the warm air in the post office and the posties body, the full impact began to be felt and the two officials on counter duty vaulted the counter and, followed by the post master, left the premises. The couple of people still sorting the morning mail, took one look at the dripping postle and fled.
By this time, the councillors and Miss Ireland were being followed by a good crowd who were remaining at a safe distance from the main body of the water as it carried its load and were hugging the fence as they ran. The post master, who considered it his sacred duty to be well informed about the activities of the town and who, because of his unique position as sender and receiver of telegrams, had a good idea about the successes and failures of the whole town, joined the ‘parade and by asking questions of some of those who were struggling to keep up near to the back of the parade, ascertained that a major spillage of some offensive and very dangerous chemical had occcurred and it was heading for the ‘river where it ‘was anticipated that unless it was stopped the whole fish population of the river was in jeopardy.
Just at that ‘morrterrt, the fire truck, after Tony Buzzard and his men had re rolled the hoses and turned off and resealed the hydrant came around the corner, again with its bell clanging and all the men, by this time, in high spirits, still with their helmets on, hanging on to the sides and rear of the truck. The fire chief, who took his work seriously had decided that it was his duty to pour water on the offending material and also his resposibility to see it through to a succesful conclusion.

They sped past the crowd and stopped just at Coffin Alley outside the Shire Chambers where another hydrant was set into the footpath. Acting quickly and this time well preparedl the firemen had unwound the hose and were in the process of turning on the water just as the wave reached them. With the advantage of being in front of the approaching water Tony Buzzard felt sure that he would be in a better position to disburse the offending material and bring the whole matter toa safe and satisfactory conclusion.
Drawn by the madness of the activity ‘outside, the Shire President, accompanied by the engineer were just ‘stepping out of the door to investigate the hubbub when Tony Buzzard ordered the water turned on and directed the jet at the approaching wave. The resulting clash of waters raised both solid matter and liquid matter along with sheets of torn newspaper into free air in a complete and not unattractive fan shape into which the ‘Shire President and engineer walked and emerged from the other side like some showgirls stepping from a waterfall.
The Shire President, who always wore a hat, that day had it decorated with an object that, not even in his wildest dreams, could he have imagined using, The result was that Tony’Buzzard, concerned that he had offended the Shire President, and seeing the offending decoration on his hat, turned the full force of the hose onto him in order to wash away the unwanted decoration.
The wave, interrupted and widened now with the extra new water, surged forward and headed even further down Cox Street preparing to cross Gipps Street and head for the river. By this time, Miss Ireland had gathered one or two supporters along with those willing and unwilling participants some twerrty people were accompanying the offending material on its journey to the river.
There was very little that anyone could do as the wave reached the Intersection. At this point it plunged beneath the road in a free fall that carried it even faster to the river. The band of followers, realising that there was little they could do since the material was underground, grabbed the shire engineer and asked himwhere the ‘outlet was that would allow the offending material into the river. The shire engineer not at all sure just what this material was, but having heard that it was both an offensive and dangerous chemical, pointed towards the ice works and indicated that the drain came out just below.
The band of followers headed in the direction lndicated, some through the ice works, others onto the wharf, aIl heading along toward the drain. Miss Ireland, with her two’ prisoners still gripped firmly and with not the slightest intention of letting go had opted for the over land route with the intention of placing one or both of the bodies of the two councillors in front of the drain to block the final exit of the offending material into the river. As she spotted the drain, she dragged the councillors down the river bank just in time to see the surge of water beginning to pollute the river.

Without so much as a by your leave or beg your pardon she thrust the now exhausted and very unhappy Alec Hill, who was the lighter of the two and by luck had been closest to the drain, with a hearty thwack to his middle regions towards the drain and as he doubled over, she pushed again and to her delight, his bottom fitted neatly into the drain hole and prevented the escape of the material she was determined to stop.
As the’ material continued its trip down to the river, the water from the additional washing outside the Shire Chambers, joined in. The pressure inside the’drain now blocked witIl the bottom of Alec Hill began to build up and he found himself being pushed out. Miss Ireland, attemlpting to win at all costs, was pushing him back into the drain, she was urging her followers to join the fight, but many realised that this was not a fight she could win and stood back to watch the outcome. Alec Hill by this time was in considerable pain and was very aware ofn the build up of matter now putting lots of pressure on his rear end, was howling in pain and protestation. As Alec Hill faught back againist Miss ireland, the water from the extra hosing arrived and Alec Hill popped from the rain hole like an enormous release of flatulence and was ejected into the river, accompanied by a now also wailing Miss ireland, they were soon joined by the enormous amount of efluent and an aroma not usually experienced in the calm waters of the Moyne River.
At the next meeting ‘of the Shire Council The Shire President, at the urging of the shire engineer and foreman of works had a motion passed calling for the replacement of all worn out Dunny Cans. They also dealt with several requests for the allocation of the old cans but that was refused on the basis of possible misuse. Marly Hearn from the pub had suggested that a can be mounted on the wall of the public bar in celebration and recognition of the internment and revival of one Harry Sawyer.
Harry Sawyer was the toast of the hotel as the only man who had been interred and known to survive, locally anyway. He was able to get free drinks far at least the next three weeks, The only problem he had was that his children who attended the local Catholic school had to put up with the taunts of both the kids from their own school, then face the taunts from the kids who attended the local State School who now chanted ‘Catholic dogs smell like bogs.’
Old Treg decided there and then as he watched the antics that he would mention to his wife the advantages of having their home in Gipps Street fitted with a septic toilet in order to avoid this ever happening near to her since she was too delicate to ever survive the experience.

Miss Ireland, at the next meeting of the towns conservation and nature group was urged to take a more active role and asked to stand for council elections due next month which she did and won a seat with a very handsome majority. The down side for Miss Ireland only came some weeks later when a long term and clandestine affair she had been conducting with the works foreman came to what she considered, a premature demis. With her new found interest in local politics and conservation she went on to become President of the annual Port Fairy show committee as well as convenor for the Gould Bird League of Bird Watchers.
David Brown, who had retired to Marty Hearns hotel during the event, never did make it back and spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel and was roundly and soundly abused by his wife when he arrived home in a very bad state tllat evening. The next day, he decided that it was time for him to dry out and he went on the wagon for a full week where upon he was urged by his wife and family to take up drinking again since he was too annoying when alI the time sober,
Tony Buzzard was called into the office of the Shire President and told that in the future he was only to attend actual fires and unless this was strictly and properly adhered to when his position as fire chief carne up for consideration he would be disregarded.
The manager of the State Saving bank was asked by the local police why he had fired off all six rounds of his gun and a report was submitted to his superiors who sent him off to the local gun club for retraining. His wife never spoke to Mr Dade again, but for reasons that remain between them and them alone, when in his presence, she always acted in a coquettish way.

Mary Nightingale resigned from the bank and went to work for her father in his electrical business, in the long run it was a good decision as she was due to marry Alan Sherman in three weeks and he was one of the fireman who had witnessed and heard the whole thing, In view of her doctors reports as to her nervous condition as a result of the-gun firing and crashing glass, she was offered a good compensation package which she would not have received had she, in the normal course of-events! resigned for her marriage since the bank did not employ married women.
Finally, and wisely, the foreman, in discussion with his men, decided that the rounds of the dunny cart would be rescheduled to a time in the day when less people were around and-when any accidents, less likely to be a problem..
All of this was duly reported in full in the Port Fairy Gazette.


~ by peterwatson on September 1, 2011.

One Response to “The Dunny Cart (truck)”

  1. I can so relate to this.
    On my uncle’s farm in Kincardineshire Scotland, it was a rite of passage for young males to take their turn at emptying the`the nightsoil`bucket from the
    outside `hole in one` it was mainly used by the womenfolk.. because the
    more it was used the oftner it had to be emptyied.

    The bucket was taken in a one wheeled wheelbarrow to the current dumpsite where it was buried & the bottom of the bucket was filled with grass.

    Accidents happened becuase of the weight, the rough terrain and the `slop effect`. Clean up was mandatory

    Yours Aye,
    Angus A Glass

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