Well last post it was fishing and the pleasantries of camping beside a beautiful fast flowing river, today is a bit different. Today we will explore the behaviour of country boys and violence toward one another…naturally this is all in the name of fun, seriously good fun! If I were to see boys doing this today I would undoubtedly be horrified but there you are, what a difference half a century makes.
Where I grew up there was a lot of clay easily accessible. Now when I say “clay” I don’t mean that soft pliable stuff that is like play dough, no this stuff was hard, really hard, and you could dig it up in lumps and then break it into pieces, pieces that would immediately be used as missiles to hurley at one another. At this point I will just remind you that I was the youngest of the three brothers living at home, so the comparative pain that I could inflict compared to the older of the three brothers who was eight years older…yeah I was on the losing side of that story. Anyhow, we would walk around the neighbouring farms always looking for something to do, like our lives weren’t busy enough, and if we came across a sand pit inevitably there would be some amount of clay there and a fight would ensue. Eventually we would return home dirty with cuts, bruises and the odd black eye. I still have a scar on the palm of my left hand where I stabbed myself with my knife trying to dig out clay, the knife went between the bones of my fourth and fifth fingers and pushed the skin up on the other side like an umbrella! Pulling it out was fun, I can still remember my horror when some flesh popped out through the wound…
Now you might be wondering what my parents were doing while all this was happening. Well a lot of the detail they never new, but they were both country kids themselves so they weren’t that perturbed by our antics. I can actually remember one occasion where we’re out walking as a family with a friend (more about this guy later) when we came across a very big pit and the inevitable clay fight started. The friend who was in his late thirties at the time soon joined in along with our father. So there was a kind of wild side to them as well. As it turns out, that day my older brother hit this friend just below the ribs with a sizeable lump of clay…it turned into the ugliest bruise I have ever seen.
The less painful version of this was the water fights. Again not something small time, no water pistols, no freezer bags full of water, not a chance, this was buckets of water and high pressure hoses. My parents joined in with this, not so much in a participant role but more of a support role, opening and shutting doors to help us escape a drenching, or handing us a bucket of water. On one occasion my brother and I had given our friend (the one mentioned before) a surprise soaking and he was chasing us around the house, as we went past the back door, my mother opened the door, we ran in thinking we were safe, however the bucket of water followed us in…everything was wet, us, our mother, the floor, everything in the line of fire. Still, mum took it in good humor, we just had to clean up the mess.
On another occasion our friend was inside his caravan throwing water out through the roof vent. We just couldn’t get a decent shot at him, so being young and imaginative, we took a different approach. While two of us continued with the water throwing approach, the other got the garden hose ready and as soon as he lifted the roof vent the hose was pushed in. His natural instinct was to slam the vent shut but this just james the hose in there spraying water every where – it took a couple of days before he spoke to us again. Still once overcome the aggressions continued. It wasn’t uncommon to be asleep and get a cup of water tossed on you through the open bedroom window (our house was never locked and in the summer the windows were most often open).
I think these were probably the best years of my younger life and although the depression and death thoughts had already started, the influence of this friend and his steadiness influenced my ability to cope. Now when I think back about him, I sense there was probably a darker side to his life, he had lived through German occupation during the Second World War as a child and although he never spoke about it much, it is probably safe to assume that it wasn’t all fun times. For me he was probably the right person in the right place at the right time.
Till next time….