Powder-monkey for Luigi

By | 23 September 2001

He arrived from Italy in 1952.
20 years old with “Just enough
English to get by.” Started work
at the reservoir in 1955. Was
nationalised in Williamstown in 1956.

I arrived outside his house one
sunny afternoon in 1992. I knew it
was his place before I spotted
the number, his son with a bucket
of soapy water, washing his monaro
in the drive.

Still with the water works after
37 years, he shook my hand
with pride. Proudly introduced me to
his wife and family. The good mate
wwho lived next door.

Even then, before I could start
the interview, he had to show me
the vegie garden. Explain the tomatoes,
cucumbers and zucchini. Open
a bottle of beer.

“I was in charge of a group
of Greek men,” he said, explaining
the detonation pattern he used to blast
the spillway into shape. “I couldn't
speak Greek, and they couldn't understand

10 drilling holes to lay 200
charges of gelignite, hooked up to a
main lead 500 feet long, the whole
show orchestrated by the
universal language of waving hands.
Shaking and nodding heads. Later,

in the spring, for only the
second time, the reservoir flooded
down the spillway. And as I watched
the foamy lace-like patterns
the water made, spilling out across
the concrete face, I thought of Luigi
and his men.

And for a moment felt the shudder
of exploding earth under my feet,
like the first time they set foot
on Australian soil.

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