Log Cabin Chronicles


Jim, Iqbal, Andy

Putney, Vermont

It seemed that it was up to us to play the hand dealt by the mad dump truck driver and his pal. The PNG sergeant directly behind me decided to open the bidding. Without mentioning anything to the rest of us he pulled out his .38 caliber revolver stuck it out the rear window and squeezed off all six shots at the fleeing truck.

The proximity of his seat and the length of his arm put the pistol about four inches from my left ear when the first bullet discharged.

"Oh, sorry," was his comment when I finally caught my breath enough to scream at him. At least I think I screamed, I really couldn't hear what I said then or for the next week or so. Not happy with the artillery arrangements I asked him for his pistol and six more rounds.

We Austin's are not noted for our enthusiasm for firearms but we have watched enough Miami Vice to know what to do. You point, you shoot, no big deal.

I unhooked my seatbelt and shoved my torso out the window so that I was seated on the window frame. Andy, the driver, reached over and grabbed me by my Sam Brown belt to forestall an early departure and swerved violently left to give me a shot at the front tire. With double tires in the rear it seemed to make sense to try and plug the front.

I assumed the classic double-handed grip on the pistol and fired all six shots at the front tire of the truck. Nothing happened after my fusillade of hot lead and I resumed my seat rather sheepishly.

Clint Eastwood would have smirked had he seen my performance. However, had Clint waited a few minutes for the air to escape from the punctured tire he would then have admired my marksmanship. Not only did the tire flatten and come off the rim, narrowly missing our vehicle, the rim itself came off and bounded into the bush.

Most PNG mechanics know that six lug nuts on a rim is a waste of four and as a consequence Mario Andretti was down to his brake drum. On my very first try at pistol shooting I had scored a hit. Cool.

Now the truck was down to about 25 miles per hour with the brake drum scoring a serpentine trench into the asphalt of the Hagen to Wabag highway. We were going to pass the truck easily. What we thought we were going to do then was unclear. We never had to deal with that little problem as the driver turned off onto a dirt road.

We followed and encountered another difficulty which looked like putting an end to the chase. The dry-season dust came up in huge clouds and hung maddeningly in the air forcing us to drop back at least a quarter mile. Andy was furious, Alistair was obviously elated and the rest of us pretended to be disappointed. We were sure that the two criminals would just pull over and flee into the jungle where they would be gone for good.

To our surprise we rounded a corner and there was the truck. It had missed a sharp left turn which would have carried them over the river via a Bailey bridge. Mario was reversing his cumbersome Indy dump truck to have another try at the bridge. I think shooting the tire off the truck had altered my natural state somewhat.

Jim AustinI was a portly Rambo in blue spats and combat boots as I leapt from our vehicle and ran to the driver's side of the truck. The window was open and I let our nemesis have a face full of mace from a container about the same size as an aerosol can of Reddi-Whip. (We were issued mace with the brand name "Federal Streamer" which projected a garden hose stream of toxic liquid.) The driver caught it full in the face.

This character was no quitter. Totally blind and gagging he shifted into first and plowed forward. Events got a bit surreal after that. The truck piled into the cement side of the bridge and rolled down the bank toward the river stopping about eight feet below the road, roof to ground and all six wheels spinning.

I looked down and saw the windshield had popped out and the driver was crawling through and heading under the bridge. Since several police cars were pulling up behind us with thirty or so cops I saw my chance to go down in reserve history. I drew my baton, screamed a mighty oath and jumped down the bank to confront the driver from hell.

Two steps and I was face to face with him screaming "Halt!" at about 20 decibels. Why I thought he would halt for me after all the effort he had put into not halting I don't know. Blinded but full of fight he advanced on my position. I forgot all of my baton training about striking shoulders, elbows, or knees and bashed him square on the melon.

Luckily for both of us my weakened arm carried all the power of a butterfly's kiss and he ignored the blow. He staggered off in the opposite direction forcing me to jump on his back and apply the sleeper hold.

I had watched enough World Wrestling Federation bouts to know that when the sleeper is applied it is only a matter of time before the opponent is a limp bag of mush ready to be counted out. Unfortunately third world criminals don't get to watch the World Wrestling Federation.

With a powerful shrug I was detached and sent tumbling the rest of the way down the bank into a gooey backwater of mud at the river's edge. Dreams of being carried off the field of battle on the shoulders of my comrades was fading fast.

When I finally climbed up the bank I saw Andy with his shotgun about halfway up the nose of the evil driver's passenger. The driver himself was in a fetal position on the road where four of PNG's finest were vigorously putting the boots to him.

It was sort of like a Rodney King deal without the caring gentility of the LAPD. Eventually the cops tired of stomping our suspect and tossed him and his pal into a waiting paddy wagon. On the way home I advised Andy to have an ambulance waiting for us at the station as I was sure our man was severely injured if not dead.

To Part Four

To Part Two

Jim Austin likes a challenge.

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