Log Cabin Chronicles


Jim, Iqbal, Andy

Putney, Vermont

She was right. I had paid $500 for a new set of Pings in Hong Kong not three months ago. By the look of my hand it was going to be a while before I could use them but still, it wouldn't hurt to ask for them back.

The fact that Ruth thought of the clubs and I even considered asking for them doesn't make a whole lot of sense but we were in a state of shock and not really making great decisions. I walked up to the window and spoke to my assailant.

"Would you mind letting me get my golf clubs, they're in the back."

He gave me a very strange look and decided that he had been around long enough. He and his pals jumped out of the car, and with Ruth's purse dangling from his shoulder scampered off to parts unknown.

Net profit to crooks: One purse, contents; one handkerchief and one driver's license.

Now it was time to look after my hand. Ruth called our doctor who told us to meet him in his office. She then called the police and arranged to have them meet us there as well. Ruth jumped behind the wheel, released the handbrake, and in five minutes I was on the examining table.

While in the doctor's office the Commander of the police department took my information and at the same time administered the oath of office for me to become a police officer. Since the remainder of the group were due to be administered their oath of office the next day I became, by one day, the first reserve police officer in the history of the country. Cool.

Dr. Nelson looked over the wound and announced that this was a job for the surgeon. While he called the hospital we drove over to the emergency room and waited for the surgeon on call. He wobbled in about an hour later and started examining my hand. I was afraid that if he breathed much more whiskey breath on the wound he would pickle it so I got off the examining table and headed back for the doctor's office.

He agreed that surgeons who are pissed to the eyeballs seldom do their best work and recommended I be flown out to Brisbane.

Ruth went to work that evening. She called friends in Brisbane who arranged for a plastic surgeon specializing in hand reconstruction to meet me at Wesley Hospital. Twelve hours from the time my hand was chopped I was on the operating table with Dr. Andrew Jenkins wielding the cutlery.

I asked him to leave a lurid scar so I could impress the ladies with my nightmarish tale. This request was ignored of course and my only souvenir is a hairline scar across the back of my hand. I have since recovered full function.

When I returned to Mt. Hagen three weeks later I had my arm in a sling and had lost considerable muscle tone due to inactivity. The boys at the club were telling war stories about their police activities and I became anxious to exert some of my newly conferred authority. In retrospect the clamor to get on the beat usually came after several drinks at the club. I would like to think that revenge was not on my mind but I couldn't swear to it.

My very first official duty was on a sunny Saturday when I and three non-police golfing buddies were on our way to the course. Traffic slowed on the highway and I noticed two police cars directing traffic around a body lying on the verge of the highway. I pulled off to the side of the road and informed my associates that this looked like a job for a trained officer. Me.

I got out of my car and halted the slow moving traffic. I admit to being a bit self conscious as I clacked across the highway in my golf spikes, wearing plaid Bermuda shorts and a fire-engine red golf shirt.

"What's the problem officer." I queried to my colleague, a member of the regular force.

"Dead body" he replied, "hit by a coffee truck."

I guess I should have known it was a dead body since enough there was a corpse lying at our feet, stiff as a starched collar. I felt I had to do something so I leaned over the body and felt for a pulse in the neck. There hadn't been a pulse in this guy for several hours so I told the officer to "Carry on" and clacked back across the highway.

I could be mistaken but I thought there might have been an element of sarcasm in his "Thanks for the help." Maybe it was just a glitch in our cross-cultural communication, yeah that's it, he just "sounded" sarcastic.

After a short while Andy became the Sergeant over all of the reserves. There were about forty of us on the Mt. Hagen Police force including 11 expatriates. Nationally there were thousands of reserves who signed up but only 12 "Whiteys" were among them.

That eleven of us were from Mt. Hagen was a testament to Andy's powers of persuasion and our severe limitations around logical decision-making.

With my cast off I was ready to assume my duties that consisted of two evening patrols per week. We always did one during the week and one day of the weekend. Most officers spent their six-hour shifts on foot patrol. It was tiring and dangerous work.

I had managed to avoid foot patrols mainly because I was Andy's pal and Andy always drove. It was a Friday night and Andy, Iqbal, and I were cruising around the town. Andy was looking to arrest someone while Iqbal and I were counting the seconds to the end of the shift. The radio crackled once and an evening of "Keystone Cops On Acid" was about to begin.

The dispatcher seemed in quite a flap as she announced the following: "Wanpela tipper has crashed through ples pasim rot and is heading to Wabag."

This interesting mixture of languages could be translated to mean that a dump truck had crashed through the police roadblock and was heading out of town. Andy perked up like Count Dracula at a carotid artery convention. Since dump trucks in PNG can often contain half the population of village we were able to convince Andy that a few more bodies might be of use.

We stopped a foot patrol and enlisted the aid of a Papua New Guinean sergeant and another reserve constable who hailed from Jamaica. The posse now included Andy the Scot, Jim the Yank, Iqbal the Sikh, Alistair the Jamaican, and Ungla the PNGer. We were a regular U.N. expeditionary force.

We blazed by the roadblock where two police Suzukis lay on their sides in the ditch, scattered like crumpled blue dice. The roadblock officers pointed us in the direction of Wabag. It didn't take too long to catch up with our felonious dump truck.

The driver had the gas pedal buried but 50 miles per hour was all he could muster. Every time we tried to pass him he would swerve over and try to hit us. This made for some very tight sphincters and a lot of imaginative cursing from Andy. About that time the Jamaican cracked.

"Ondy mon, I got a wife at home and two kids," he squawked.

"Shet yer mouth ya bloody bahstarrrd." Andy replied sympathetically and pushed the Nissan to within four millimeters of the dump truck. It was then that the "Fox Unit" had caught up to us.

This was a plain clothes squad of detectives from the regular force. Their small pick-up truck took our place directly behind the tipper. Andy had reluctantly dropped back and we now waited to see what brilliant strategy the cream of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary would come up with. We were not disappointed.

One of the two Fox Unit regulars in the back of the pickup stood up with a tear gas gun and (I am not lying) fired a canister into the back of the dump truck. It clanged off the body in back of the cab and fell into the tray. Naturally tear gas started pouring out of the dumper directly into the window of the pickup truck trailing behind it. This caused the driver to swerve violently and pull off to the side of the road, eyes, presumably, streaming tears.

Even though the situation was tense this caused a bout of uncontrollable laughter from everyone in our vehicle except for Alistair, who was still concerned about his future on the planet.

To be continued

To Part 3
To Part 1

Jim Austin likes a challenge.

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