MOTOR LORRY SPORT.
By H. G. G. HERKLOTS.
THEY are dirty, they are noisy, they smell vilely, they are no respecters of persons ; all this, and more, I will cheerfully admit against motor lorries. But I am a bicyclist, who spends some at least of his days pedalling about the country, and I speak as one, it is as a bicyclist, that I have cause to be thankful for the lorries upon the road.
It was very early in my youth that I acquired the habit of hanging onto lorries when I grew tired or when the hill was long. There was a spice of adventure in the thing, for in those days it was a forbidden pastime. To-day I do not find it an adventure to hang onto the back of a lorry ; I merely find it useful. If you are out to see the country, beware of lorries ; you had far better travel by train. All the subtleties of nature are lost upon you. You only hear the rattle and the clatter and the bang as you hang on, determined to get home in time for tea, after all. It is no use trying to drink in the scent of a field of beans as you pass ; you will only smell petrol and the fumes of the engine. A lark may sing for all that it is worth above you, but you will not hear it. You may even try to sing yourself, but you will not sing for long. Your hands will soon be far too dirty.
Of course, some lorries are dirtier than others ; some even are tarry. But beggars cannot be choosers, and if you really want to get back in time for tea, you must cling hold of the first lumbering vehicle that comes your way. Beware, however, of steam lorries. I say this for the sake of your eyes. For you cannot, unless indeed you are an expert, remove a smut from your eye at the same time as you are cycling behind a lorry. (Your bodkin is probably in your waistcoat pocket, and you cannot get at it.) It is hard even to pull your hat on straight, and it is impossible to be civil to a lady. The inhabitants of Moscow, So I learnt at school, must be prepared for great extremes of beat and cold. It was so, at any rate, before the Revolution, and it is probably so to-day, for not even a Kommissar can gain an adequate control over the weather. The lorryhanger, too, must be so prepared. On the level the breeze blows coldly and you wonder that you did not put a sweater on that morning. But going uphill the engine splutters and spurts ; its vapours and hot unpleasantnessei are wafted towards you. Behind:a:lorry, also, it is well-nigh impossible to eat. Sometimes this becomes a real problem. You are hungry and you come dashing into the town or village where you had in tended to have tea. Visions of hot buttered-toast and the most delectable of cakes rise before your eyes. Yet
you have thirty miles still to go, and time presses. You stick to the lorry and go hungry, or else have tea, and drag wearily home.
Although I have often hung onto the backs of lorries, I had never ridden in one until one day last summer. It was evening, and I had already travelled eighty miles. Sixty more lay ahead, and I was determined not to spend a night in an inn. I knew that I would not be home until the small hours. Indeed, I had
telegraphed, instructing that the front-door key should be left hidden in a place that I knew, against my arrival.
But a motor lorry hove in sight, and I clung tenaciously for a few miles. Then the lorry went slowly for a moment, and the driver called out to ask how far I was going. I told him.
“Not to-night, are you ? “
I nodded and I pointed to my lamp.
” ‘Well, you’d better put your bicycle on behind. We’re going there, too.” The lorry was brought to a standstill, whilst the driver and his mate helped me to lift my laden velociped onto the back, where it rested comfortably amongst seven tons of asbestos sheeting. Then they made room for me in the box. It was very hot. I was at once reminded of the most terrible journey I have ever made, seven miles in a Ford in France. On that occasion I looked down and saw that the footboard was nearly burned through. I watched it for a little while, and then pointed it out to the driver. Throw it out”,
he said, or French to that effect. I threw it out ; and I noticed, beneath my feet, a red-hot pipe, a pleasant foot warmer. If I caught fire, perhaps I should be thrown out, too. It was, I say, very hot in the lorry, very hot and very cold at the same time. My body was roasted, but an icy breeze caught me full in the face. The driver’s mate had with him, I noticed, an accordion. “We’re our own concert party,” he had said, as I stepped into the car, and I feared the worst. Later, he practised it. It was an excellent place, so it turned out, for practice ; so great was the noise of the engine and of the wheels on
the road, that only by watching his hands had I any knowledge that he was playing. A man might practise a double bass in a motor lorry and incommode nobody. The driver himself was an amiable, friendly fellow. He seemed to meet a friend in every village that we passed, and he waved his hand to half the girls upon the road. I hope that he is not a married man ; if so, his infidelities were appalling. But I felt very lucky to fall in with so friendly a fellow. Then, suddenly, he produced a pistol. He took a cartridge from his pocket— small, indeed, but deadly looking—and he loaded it. I feared that I had fallen in with a couple of highwaymen. Every indication seemed to point in that direction ; the ready welcome ; the statement that they were going in the same direction as myself ; the accordion ; and now this pistol. I saw it all as a ghastly and terrible trap. I imagined headlines in the paper, and a tearful
identification of my body by my sorrowing parents. I imagined a funeral. With fear and trembling I remembered that I had a pound note in my left pocket and four stale buns in my right ; those buns were all that I had to eat, and I was determined to defend them. ” Now we’re going to have some sport,” shouted the driver, and above the noise of the engine I dimly heard. It was good sport, too. Whenever we passed a motor or a bicycle, off went the pistol, and for a brief moment the driver or bicyclist imagined that one of his tyres had burst. One man loaded the pistol and the other fired. No one seemed to take any notice of the lorry which went its own sweet way down the road. But whilst the cartridges lasted, the sport was good. (One was most regrettably wasted on a rabbit, which took no notice whatever.)