Mick's Trackeroo
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Mick's Trackeroo

We’d been out on operation, up in the ‘Warbies’ for more than a week. Today was no different than any other. Sentries had been posted while the rest of the platoon were making a brew. Mick took the opportunity and started to tell us about ‘Big Red’, his favourite from his old Roo platoon back in ’66.

What? Someone asked in surprise. “ Don’t tell me you had a Roo here on your last tour.” “Yeah, I did” says Mick, “in fact 30 odd of em. I had made the suggestion to the top brass early in ’65 and they agreed it was a good idea. They were no trouble getting them over here on the ‘Sydney’, except for one poor bugger that committed suicide. All that ocean surrounding him, he just couldn’t handle it. One day as we sailed past Java I think, he just hopped overboard.”

“I had the platoon in training all of ’65 back at Holsworthy. ‘Big Red’ must have been nearly 9ft tall and super intelligent as well.” said Mick. “I could talk to him and he understood everything I said, then his mob would huddle around him while ‘Big Red’ explained in there language what I’d told him.”

I challenged him, and said “C’mon Mick, don’t try and tell us Big Red could talk.” “No, I’d been working on that though,” says Mick, “but in the meantime he’d use sign language, and just like my kelpie back home he understood what I was saying.”

“Anyway it was a day similar to this one, hot and dry and we had ‘Big Red’ with us to help tracking ‘Charlie’. You could say he was our trackeroo. Just like today, we were up here in the ‘Warbies’ when ‘Big Red’ is getting excited like he always did when trouble was brewing. He’s pointing with his paw into some thick bushes and at the same time gives the ground a loud hard thump with his tail. I knew immediately what he was telling me. I yelled out ‘Surrrender’ and sure enough a VC wanders out of the bush, and appears petrified as he spots ‘Big Red’, then drops his AK47 and surrenders.”

“As the blokes had spread out a bit over the next half hour, ‘Big Red’ stops short of an overgrown patch of ground and he’s getting excited again. This time he’s pointing with both paws and giving two loud thumps with his tale. Again I called out ‘Surrender’ and just like I expected, two more VC, looking very pale as they eyed ‘Big Red’, also dropped their weapons and surrendered.”

“Later that day, we came across recently used tracks leading to a VC camp, that was set up in some well hidden caves. We skirted around the tracks and sent ‘Big Red’ up ahead. He’d only been gone a while when he hops back to report his findings. He’s looking extra worried and kept pointing with a bamboo stick he’d picked up. ‘Big Red’ was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure it out.”

“He’s shaking his head from side to side, but I just thought that meant ‘nothing there’. While Big Reds shaking his head he’s pointing the stick towards the VC camp and still hopping around in circles and thumping his tale loudly and faster than usual. I was trying to keep track of the thumps but lost count.”

“All of a sudden, VC by the dozen came running out of the cave and we were almost bowled over in the stampede. They must have got a glimpse of ‘Big Red’ when he was up at the cave checking them out. The sight of him would have frightened the living daylights out of them, because they were running scared and hardly took any notice of us blokes.”

“Our mate ‘Big Red’ aggressively hopped at them in big strong leaps of about 20ft at a time with his tail thumping loudly as he sorted them out. The VC scattered in all directions, they were obviously more than a bit worried at the sight of this monster. In all the confusion, not a single shot was exchanged as we didn’t want to risk hitting ‘Big Red’. By now Charlie had disappeared, and probably died of fright later in the day.”

“I was still trying to fathom what ‘Big Red’ had been trying to tell me before all the commotion. It finally dawned on me later when we were back at Nui Dat. What he was trying to say was, “Don’t go into that cave, as they’ll surround you, there’s more VC in there than I can count, or poke a stick at.”

“And I was too stupid to understand him at the time,” sighs Mick.