Our unexpected visit to the Snake Pit


One summer’s day, we four children decided we would leave home. It was the School Summer Holidays and we were all fed up with our parents. We were hot and bored, after weeks of very hot weather, it was too hot to ride our horses, water restrictions meant cooling off under the sprinkler was banned, and most of our usual endeavours were out of bounds, we were fed up.

I think we had probably been getting into strife too many times during this hot weather. From memory my eldest brother would have been around 11, the next brother age 9, I was 7 and my baby sister was 5. We were a formable mob when we ganged up, and united together. We were all very different as siblings are, and rarely were united as one. The elder brother and baby sister held the most clout, as first born and baby siblings do in the hierarchy in families. My younger brother and I were the middle siblings, that usually moved around like shadows, and did our own things, away from the spotlight.

We had planned our escape the evening before. The two older brothers had decided we could probably bluff our parents into taking us on a holiday, or planning something exciting for us for the remainder of the holidays. We could not go on the way we were. It was no fun anymore, the days were hot and the nights too. There was little relief in sight, and we had exhausted all the fun and games and activities normally available to us.

We had taken our horses on midnight rides when it was too hot during the day. We had swam our horses in the dam in the evenings to cool all of us down. The dam had been getting low on water, and without rain in sight we had to conserve the water that was there. The final straw may have been not being allowed to swim in the dam to conserve the water.

I think Dad may have been away droving, or buying cattle for clients, leaving just mum with sole responsibility for our amusement.

Anyway the meeting was called, and we decided that after returning from Sunday school the next day, we would inform mum that unless she could promise to meet our demands, we would leave home. It would be a good opportunity, as we would be dressed in our Sunday best, so that if she did decide to let us go, we would be dressed for the occasion. We each packed our small school suitcases with a change of clothing and any money we had in our piggy banks. If mum did not call our bluff, we would catch the train to Melbourne and visit some relatives we had down there. The older brother would get a notepad with names, addresses and telephone numbers, so we could contact them. We had no idea how much the train would cost, but we thought we might be able to sneak onto the train without paying or being caught.

My parents had either driven us to Melbourne, or taken us by train many times over the years. We all loved the excitement of the City, the big smoke, with so much to see and do. It was vastly different to country life.

My brother was sure we would be able to catch the train to Melbourne, and get another train to whichever suburb our relatives lived in. We were all quite excited, what an adventure this would be, with the four of us to look out for each other.

The next morning before Sunday school, we hid out suitcases in the boot of the car. Mum took us to Sunday School and we all prayed that our demands for a more exciting holiday would come true.

After Sunday school, when we had all climbed into the car, we confronted Mother with our demands. We suggested unless our demands were met, she should drop us off at the Railway station. Mum suggested she would have to think about it and drove off. It appeared to us, she was going to take us seriously, and started driving us home on the usual route. Then not far from the house, instead of going home she drove up the back lane, and headed out to one of our farms. She said she just had to check on a cow that was due to calf, or some similar reasonable excuse.

To our horror she drove past the farm paddock and on up around the bend, we all looked at each other, as there was only one other destination we were aware of.

Bakers Lane as it was called was a very rough track along a swamp, beside a lagoon that ran parallel to a river creek. We had been to Bakers Lane before over the years, and it was a bad place. There were always many snakes there, Black snakes, brown snakes, and the Red Bellied Black snake. We had seen them over the years. Cattle had become trapped in the mud and had to be winched out with a tow truck. The mud was dangerous; a child would disappear if they fell into the mud. Our parents had warned us never to go there, it was too dangerous.

Sure enough mum steered the car around the reeds and mud and stopped the car in the middle of this awful place. She then informed us, if we wanted to leave home, we were welcome to, but this was where she would leave us. We could find our own way to the Railway Station. “Now who is the first to leave”, she said. “You can hop out of the car now”.

Silence. Then almost in unison, we all chorused “Not me”. We started praying silently, “Please god, keep us safe, and ask mum to take us home”. My mother suggested we all say  prays, and promise unto God that we would be good for the rest of the holidays. We would behave ourselves, and be on our best behaviour at all times. There was to be no more fighting, or nasty pranks against each other, we would do our chores without complaint, or we would be brought back to Bakers Lane and left here.

We did say the prays, and mum took us home. I think we were possibly the best behaved children on earth for the next few weeks of our holidays. We never ever forgot about the threat of a visit to Bakers Lane.

We missed out on our post Sunday school treat that day. Most Sundays, during the school holidays, our parents would take us out for morning tea at the local tea rooms. We were allowed to order special treats, like milk shakes and ice cream, or banana sundaes or cakes.

The missed treat was the furthest thing from our mind that Sunday afternoon, as we climbed out of the car, back in the safety of our home.


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