I had a job in a school that was very deeply and narrow mindedly religious. How and why is another matter. But at one stage we had a young Girl from one of the Midwestern US states (I forget which) who was with us for a term as a trainee teacher. It was some programme run by one of the US Universities to send Graduate teachers to Australia for experience. You had to be pretty good as a post-Grad teacher to get a position and each of the student teachers had to take whichever school they got. And they had to pretty good to get a spot. She was good. Danika was her name. And pretty as a prairie rose. I haven’t seen a prairie rose but it seems the right thing to say.
About a week in to her stay she asked me where, in this country town, could she hire a car. I told her it would be too expensive to hire a car for three months and if she had the cash she should buy a cheap bomb from a used-car place I knew and then resell it when she was due to go home. Even if she lost money it would be cheaper than hiring a car.
I knew Frank who ran a place called Ballarat’s Cheapest Cars. Frank was an ex-copper. Ex-detective Sergeant and a big tough looking bloke who would be the first bloke to have at your back when you walked into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I had his daughter in one of my classes. So anyway, I took Danika down to see Frank and explained to him that she needed a car for a couple of months. Could you sell her a good reliable car for not too much money and then could you buy it back off her when she left.
Frank just smiled at her with a gruff grunt and said, “Do you only drive an automatic or can you handle a column shift?”
Danika said she could drive anything. Frank pointed out three cars and said, “Pick one of them.” So she went and chose a Holden with a column shift and Frank said, “OK. It’s yours.” And he handed her the keys.
“How much will it cost?” she asked.
“Nothing. Take it. Just don’t damage it. Don’t worry too much if you do. It’s insured.”
At this point Danika threw her arms around him and burst into tears. I was a bit moved myself.
Long story short; she became good friends with Frank and his family and he wouldn’t even let her buy him a box of chocolates. “Thanks girlie. But I got a bad stomach. Keep ya money in ya pocket.”
When her time was up we didn’t have a send-off for Danika. One day a bus turned up with ten other US teachers who had been planted all over the Western district of Victoria. We all – that is the staff – went out to say farewell. I stepped up to shake her hand and say goodbye and she gave me a big hug. I thought to myself “Yeah man. You still got it.” And she said, out loud, “I love you John. You remind me so much of my Granddaddy.” Ah well. It was better than nothing.