VIETNAM, November, 1956, Ben Oostdam story # 11

Ben Oostdam story # 11



I found the explanation of the lack of vehicles on the Mandarin road north of Nathrang when I arrived at a long line of cars and trucks. I was so dumbfounded that I passed them all and noticed that they were all waiting for a small ferry to carry them across a river. Before I even had a chance to turn around and meekly join at the back of the line, a military personality stepped up to me, saluted, and said: "Sir, I am on an important mission to arrange for trucking rice to the starving population of .....", so I snapped a salute from my borrowed Aussie-Malaysian Forces hat and said: "Permission granted". Then I drove on to the ferry which just had moored, and the fellow followed me with his pickup, so we just made up a load....I think there was a low bridge or pontoon further downstream which was out of order. Quite possibly this had to do with the cause of my next problem, of which the officer apprised me: that there was a severe flood with six foot of water on the road inland - the one to Laos.
This panicky news made me decide not to go on and finish the remaining third of the tour, but to return and do the previous two-thirds in reverse. Consequently, Qui Nhon or Bin Dinh was the end of my tour. To make matters worse, my brakes gave out, but fortunately, there was very little traffic (I did not even have to wait long for the ferry back)
Therefore, I had to race back day and night without brakes to return dutifully in time for work at the Dutch Bank in Bangkok :o[

So it came about that I saw a farmer carrying a plow on his shoulder. I decided not to blow my horn but just pass him. Then I saw a bus coming towards me from the top of the next hill and computed that all three parties would be at the same spot at the same time. The bus-driver started to honk, the farmer thought : "Why?", and turned to look around so the plow hit my windshield that very moment and the farmer turned like a top and fell down. A busload of passengers descended upon us, and I did not like the mood.
So I padded myself on the shoulder and proclaimed: "Moi, Docteur!", got out my Johnson babypowder and rubbed it onto the farmer's shoulder while at the same time propping a 500 piaster banknote into his hand.
The bus crowd applauded, and climbed back aboard while the farmer stumbled away .
This must have set the precedent for the US-Vietnam War, when one could hurt the Vietnamese as long as one paid and called it foreign aid.

BLO fecit 20020326/7 adj.20060604 - index of stories