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Monday, August 22, 2016

Airmail



At 22, I left America and traveled  eastern Australia with my younger sister. One of our older sisters  married an Australian and still lives near Melbourne—we used her home as a jumping off point.  On one of our sojourns, the two of us ended up in Tasmania, off the coast of OZ.  There, we journeyed from town to town via the only public transportation, one passenger van that circled the small island territory daily. Climbing off at some point, we realized we’d passed noontime on Saturday when businesses closed.  It was a long weekend, banks wouldn’t reopen until Tuesday and ATM’s were only  for big cities back then.  We had enough cash to pay for a youth hostel at $3.00 each per night, but then we were broke, which meant no food until Tuesday. 


Slightly panicked, we debated what to do as we walked through the tiny town of St. Mary’s. Unbeknownst to us, one of our fellow van passengers, an elderly English gentleman traveling Australia, overhead our conversation.  Catching up to us, he insisted he’d be delighted to serve as a gallant knight (his words, not mine) to two troubled urchins in need, and offered us $20.00. Through misguided pride, we demurred and he  moved on, but once he left, real fear set in, so a few minutes later and in spite of our abject mortification, we tracked him down and with downcast eyes, mumbled that we guessed we’d take the money after all.   

For the rest of the weekend, we slept well enough, and with the help of his money, ate one good meal,  then subsisted on Ramen noodles and apples “liberated” from a tree in a local orchard.  Tuesday, after visiting a bank, we bought a card and wrote a thank you note. Enclosing a $20 bill we mailed it back to our benefactor who had provided us with a return address in England.  A few weeks later, we arrived back home in the the US, to find a letter on tissue-thin paper from our savior awaiting us.  This long lead up is actually about his letter, which I discovered while looking through photos the other night.  

I hope you'll take the time to read it, and imagine a the charm of this man, late seventies, maybe early eighties, stooped and balding, wearing  a tweed jacket as he trekked the breath of Australia as a kind of last hurrah.  Imagine him home again, perched in front of a typewriter composing a witty, heartfelt letter to two young women he would never see again, and understand how the story of his kindness, and his whimsical words, have become a part of my family folklore.  






I wrote back to him, but never received a response.  He seemed so very old, I thought perhaps he’d passed away soon after his trip, though I’ll never know.  Re-reading his letter after all these years, I hope, somewhere in Worthing, West Sussex, England, descendants of a man named Daniel Pinner remember their father, grandfather, uncle, brother as a dear, and his memory provokes warmth tinged with wistfulness, just as it does me.

13 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What a generous and kindly gentleman. His simple act of generosity was many levels deep. I wonder if you could track down his family?
The line about the secret code department was funny.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

We do meet darling people along the road of life. You met an especially dear gentleman who for $20 became a very sweet memory for the rest of your life.

Joanne said...

I love this. I am sure he was quite pleased to help the waif and stray. I can picture this courtly gentleman. Quite delightful memory and thanks for sharing

glnroz said...

Along with the touching story, there is an element that comes to mind. Letter writing is a lost art. Mr. Pinner painted you a picture that will hang on the walls of you memory forever. thanks for sharing. Glenn

Bish Denham said...

Sweet, sweet, sweet. I loved the last line! "... Sheep and birds are lively too early in the morning for my comfort." What a hoot! I'm glad he was able to rescue you and help make your stay in Taz more comfortable. A delightful memory.

Connie said...

What a sweet and charming story about this lovely man. How lucky you are to have met him!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

What a touching story. There are so many good and kind people in the world. We need all remember that.

Pixel Peeper said...

What a great story, and what a wonderful letter! Kindness and a sense of humor, all wrapped up in one person - and you and your sister had the fortune to come across him at just the right time.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - fantastic story and I'm so glad you kept his letter - the road is still there ... so perhaps the family is too. The road is one major one up from the A259 a coast road (from Eastbourne to Chichester) - which I use sometimes ...

Thank goodness you had the sense to run after him - I bet he was pleased that you did, and then delighted to get your card and thanks.

Letter writing is a lost art - but an essential one - especially for youngsters and 'oldies' ...

I loved his comment about the bleating sheep being the music to his ears, along with the songbirds singing too early for his comfort ... but natural music he was happy to have and to hear ... he does sound delightful.

Cheers Hilary

Nick Wilford said...

What a lovely story! If only there were more people who took time out for such acts of kindness. It also brought back memories of my trip through Australia, going from Darwin and including Alice Springs, though I didn't get as far as Tasmania. I know Worthing well too, it's not far from where I grew up (Brighton)!

mshatch said...

What a sweet man and how fortunate that he happened to be there at that time. Ah, serendipity :)

Kathleen Valentine said...

Gosh, it's been such a long time since I've seen a typewritten letter. How charming. I'm sure he was delighted by the opportunity.

Arlee Bird said...

What a cool story! It's so great to meet someone like that and one can when traveling. The letter is a real treasure. It's good that you kept it.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out