Paul had been giving thought to the question for some time. On each occasion he’d crossed this border he felt irritation while looking at that sign. Usually he had to wait in line at the sign for periods of time while his car sat stationary at the end of a queue, motor idling ready for each slow lurch forward as border quarantine finished checking each car.
The sign was quite explicit. Any fruit remaining in the car must be deposited in bins set up at the border crossing. The reason? The dreaded fruit fly!
Now Paul tried to visualize the terror on the faces of those minute critters as they buzzed along merrily from southern states expecting to spend a day on Gold Coast beaches and enjoy tourist attractions there. At the border they’d hit that invisible barrier preventing them entry into the glorious Sunshine State. Reading the sign and seeing quarantine sleuths minutely examining each car they’d return crestfallen to their orchard of choice and drown their humiliation with a few apple ciders.
But what about those who took the inland route and hadn’t followed along merrily in the shadow of highway traffic? Imagine their horror on learning they’d broken the law on returning down the southern highway and observing traffic queued up at the border check point? The thought of having avoided finger printing and a criminal record as they furtively flew over the border must have caused loss of sleep for many a night.
Paul sat lost in thought as his friend Des dozed in the passenger seat. He came back to reality as he realized it was the last lurch forward and he was being approached by two determined men. One bent down to look in the driver’s window.
“Got any fruit to declare?”
“Nope,” said Paul absently. He’d been through this routine many times.
Des woke with a start to find the other officer eyeballing him at the passenger window.
“Got any fruit?”
Des looked at Paul to search for the answer then decided on the safest course of action.
“I’ve got two oranges!”
“Would you both please get out of the car, we need to do a search. Please open the trunk so we can look in there too.”
The officer in charge looked triumphant, he’d caught the driver trying to conceal two oranges.
One officer searched the car thoroughly looking carefully under seats and checking all bags. He looked disappointed.
“Two oranges,” he yelled to the officer at the back who was busily engaged looking in the trunk.
“Aha, are you carrying any livestock?”
Paul looked at him incredulously!
“You’ve just done a complete search of our car. Did you find any cows?” Paul began to laugh but caught a warning in the officer’s eye.
“Are you looking for us to book you young fella? Don’t get smart with me! You get into your car and move out before I change my mind”
Paul subsided and put on his humble face. “Sorry!”
“What happened to the good old Australian sense of humour!” Paul complained to Des who was beginning to nod off again.
“Well I got a lecture from the other guy. It sounded like he’d memorized it from a book. I suppose he has a point. They look for any kind of animal crossing the border as they could be carrying cattle tick or scrub tick. What I can’t understand though is we have one of the longest borders and there’s nothing to keep animals crossing. It’s only toward the coast you’ll find fences and they wouldn’t keep most animals out! But what about that question he asked you? Looking in an empty trunk, searching the car then asking if we had livestock on board?”
Both boys roared with laughter as they thought of the absurdity of the question.
There followed a time of silent reflection. Both boys were from a rural area where cattle ticks were a problem and animals had to be regularly treated to eradicate pests. The same ticks seemed to like cattle dogs as a host too.
Several months later as holidays loomed the boys made plans to cross the border again and do their customary inspection of southern beaches. It was getting to be difficult to find both parking and beach space on the Gold Coast so beaches south of the border became an attractive alternative
It was only on returning and thinking of the usual border delays for quarantine control on the home journey their previous experience came to mind. The absurdity of the whole operation was discussed. Yes, there would be other check points where roads crossed interstate, but that would only deal with fruit crossing by road what about the rest of the unfenced border, or for that matter the fact that flies do have unrestricted air space?
The border people needed to loosen up a bit. It was un-Australian not to see humour in life. Paul thought it would be nice to remind them of their Australian heritage of good humour and tolerance.
So a plot was hatched, Des would drive the car through the border crossing. When the inevitable question would be asked if there was any livestock in the car Des was to keep a straight face and point to the trunk. Paul would stay in the trunk to surprise when the door was raised for their customary inspection. No doubt a laugh would be shared around afterward.
Events did happen in that sequence, a surprised border officer took the keys from Des and went to check out indicated livestock in the trunk.
Bending down to look the officer put his head inside.
In his loudest voice Paul shouted “I’m Dick the Tick!”
The surprised officer jerked upward and smashed his head against the trunk door shouting in surprise.
Paul leaped out from his confined space and stood waiting for the laughter to commence while other officers came running to the scene.
This time the two didn’t escape with a warning. The officer’s head was bruised and his ego inflamed.
At the court house the judge listened impassionate as the story was retold. It was hard for him to keep a straight face as the Dick the Tick conclusion was reached. However, our border quarantine officer’s dignity had to be upheld and the gavel came down with a fine sturdy enough to encourage the two not to engage in such practices again. The border officers departed mollified and the boys out of pocket and rueing the fact Australian humour does have its limits.
NB While this story and its named characters are fictional, you will probably find in researching newspapers of the 1950’s an event similar to this story did happen.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved”
The above image courtesy of gizmag.com