was old but still frisky when we first met. I ignored his dints and
bruises and he ignored mine. It was love at first sight. I was living at
Byron Bay then and after breaking my polio leg was forced to rely on
crutches to get around, so I lost no time in mounting Oscar, whose only
protests were a few tinny grumbles, but when I carefully headed him out
through the gate towards the park he responded with alacrity. It was a
weekday, school was in and there were no football or cricket teams to
threaten us. The path that led through the park to the town road was
deserted. With no traffic and a crisp breeze to cool the sun's heat, I
coaxed Oscar to increase his speed.
picking in the dirt and dust flew off bewildered; a couple
of cats squealed and turned tail, while dogs heading
towards us suddenly stopped and stood rigid with ears
stiff and upright. I was soon to realise that it was
Oscar's soft whine that unsettled the animals. They could
hear it long before we approached them. The road up to
Byron Bay's shops seemed too rough so I kept
Oscar on the footpath, rough as that was with broken
kerbing and ramps on our side of the road and long grass
on the other side. Difficult as our progress was, though
tough on Oscar, it was better for me than struggling on
crutches over such terrain. Soon, ignoring the bumps, we
quickened our pace. As we passed the well-mowed bowling
green, the bowlers paused and waved to us. “Take it easy,
love!” one called to me. “Don't let the coppers catch you
speeding.” “I won't!” I shouted back, as an excited Oscar
bumped over the broken kerbs.
Oscar! For months he took me everywhere, to coffee shops, restaurants, and
down to the Byron Hotel overlooking the ocean. He was a bit clumsy at
first, entering a coffee shop and knocking over chairs and tables, then
having difficulty in turning around and getting out of the shop, but most
shopkeepers were very tolerant, sometimes laughing as they lifted Oscar
with me on top of him and turned us around clear of their furniture and
facing the door.
both contrite as we slowly made our way out of the shop. Oscar was a big
bloke. I doubt that he had ever been nimble, even when young. Now at
whatever ancient age he was, his furrows and creases were becoming more
always been very fond of children and they of him. They would follow him
around, pat him, try to mount him, talk to him and ask me questions about
him. My own grandsons, then quite young, knowing they were not allowed to
get on him, would run by Oscar's side, challenging me. “Go on, Nanna Joan.
Go faster. Go on!” I don't think Oscar enjoyed those challenges, and they
scared me too.
eyesight was deteriorating for he was most clumsy in the Supermarket,
knocking packages off shelves and tipping over stands in the aisles. But
when we headed for home he needed little help from me to find his way
there. On the porch I would connect him to his sustenance and when he was
finished, I would cover him and say goodnight.
day our happy journeys were interrupted. I had to go to hospital with my
broken polio leg. Eventually I was flown to Sydney for an operation and
had to leave Oscar with my son. I don't think he liked that, nor did I. We
had become very close to one another. A few months later, the operation
over, the hospital surgeon said I could leave but was not to walk any long
distances yet. He recommended that I use a wheelchair but when I told him
about Oscar he agreed that I could use him instead.
was great excitement when Oscar arrived at the hospital. All the
nurses wanted a ride on him. Everyone thought he was beautiful. Oscar
wallowed in their admiration. I was allowed to ride him in a safe space,
but was warned not to let him loose around hospital staff, patients or
left for a stay in a hostel, he came too but to our mutual sorrow,
Oscar was relegated to a back yard with no protection from the elements.
What was most disturbing was that I could not get to him. I moved on from
that hostel, trying out a number of others. In the ones in which he was
welcome, the terrain was too difficult for me, or there were too many fast
cars. Then I moved to Manly, lovely Manly, where I had lived with my
parents during the war years.
we had there! I would ride Oscar along the ocean front, then down to the
harbour. As I rode him down past the Manly pool where I used to
swim, and onto the wharf to watch the ferries berth and leave again, I
would tell Oscar stories of travelling on those ferries in the blackouts
at night, with the ferry musicians playing “When the lights come on
again”, an English wartime song. Or I would tell him what it was like to
go for a ride on the Ferris wheel where at the top you felt you could
almost touch the stars. Oscar was a good listener never interrupting.
we would go for coffee on the Corso. The shopkeepers never resented his
presence at their outside tables and would rush to move chairs out of his
way. Then came the day when builders started digging up roads and
footpaths. Getting around was no fun, unless we stuck to the Corso.
Small children loved him and would race up to ride him sitting in front of
me. Oscar was very gentle with them, moving slowly and being careful to
avoid the bumps. But I was finding it difficult to ride him over the
broken roads and footpaths. One day we both nearly had a bad fall. I knew
his time was almost up. But first the local newspaper wanted to take his
photo with me riding him. That really was our last ride together.
very painful having to part with him but a man bought him and promised to
be kind to him. The last I heard was that he was enjoying the fresh air
and open spaces of country life.
replace him I bought the “Rascal”, a frisky little devil, younger and
smaller than Oscar, and very fast. A “show-off”. If I don't control him,
he'll tip me off, run into a restaurant or even people without stopping to
apologise. Guess I'll learn to control him one day. He's a clever little
scooter but I doubt he'll ever be as faithful as my first scooter, dear