It is timely that I add some hindsight, to obtain perspective, in light of the stories published so far.
If you have read the stories about my feather phobia, the driving lessons, and the bird attacks you may begin to think I was a wimp, or bullied, or childhood was fraught with danger on the farm.
On the contrary, it was filled with fun and games, and excitement and danger. There were four children with only four and a half years between the eldest and the youngest. Sometimes the four children made up a gang of four. We could be a formable mob, when the four of us ganged up to protect each other against a perceived enemy, or standing up for our rights, or ganging up against our parents.
This comradeship, as the gang of four, also went against us sometimes. For example if one had been naughty, or committed a child crime, unless that child owned up to the misdemeanour, the gang of four wore the consequences. Sometimes our parents reprimanded the four of us together, for the one crime or misdemeanour committed by just one of the children.
We learnt early in our life that dobbing on a sibling, could be dangerous, and probably best avoided at all costs. The aftermath and payback from dobbing was far worse. I recall being an easy target, especially after the other siblings discovered my feather phobia. All they needed to do to keep me in line, or to toe the line, was to threaten me with a feather.
Sometimes it suited me to side with the older brother against the other two siblings, or to side with my younger sister against the two brothers. It all depended on the circumstances, and what was at stake.
Most of the time my second oldest brother sided with me, when the other two ganged up on me, or when they were playing tricks on me. Brian empathized with me, he felt sorry for me, and protected me. Brian was not as involved , or stayed on the side, or in the background, when many of the shenanigans were being played out by the rest of us. Brian was too busy with his horses, or watching my parents training a horse, or he would be helping them.
Playing pranks was not the sole rights of the children. My mother was a prankster when it suited her. Sometimes it sounded like bedlam in our rather large house, whether from children’s games or fights going on somewhere.
I recall one such night, I think we were playing hide and seek, with much noise and laughter when each child was caught. The four of us, we were probably aged between two and seven years at the time. Suddenly all the lights in the house went out. Stunned silence followed for the next five minutes. Maybe there was a storm brewing outside, or a monster had come to get us all.
Then I heard my brother Brian call out from the corner of the room.
“Listen, listen, the cats pissing, where, where , under the chair, where’s the chair, on the grass, where’s the grass, up the bulls arse.”
Within an instant, the lights came back on. Stunned silence again. Would a monster or burglar come into view ? We heard someone at the door, then the door opened and there stood my mother, laughing. “Got you” she said, “now time for bed”. She whispered a warning to Brian about his language, not being suitable. We thought Brian was very brave and funny. Brave to use such language, especially if the adults were within earshot of it.
Mum played pranks on individuals at times. When my eldest brother was old enough to start going out at night, there were curfews imposed, or time limits to come home on time.
One night mum confided in the younger siblings, that she would play a trick on our older brother. She would take a torch down to the front gate to meet him, when he returned home. She had a piece of hose, about a metre long, that might look like a snake in the dark. We had to be quiet and not let on about the prank, we were not allowed to warn my brother.
Sure enough, we sat quietly on the veranda, and waited quietly for my brother’s return. We watched mum go down to greet him with the torch. We heard her make small talk as they turned to walk back up the long driveway leading up to the house. Then we heard it, my brother yelled “snake”, and appeared to jump three feet in the air, as he took fright and flight. He came running up to the house, his face was white.
“There is a snake down there he said,” puffing. We turned and looked, mum was calmly walking back to the house.
“Is this the snake ” mum said as she carried the hose up the stairs to the veranda.
We tried not to snigger, or to let on, that we knew about the prank. The twinkle in mum’s eyes was enough, together with a wink at the other siblings.
I think my mother played the snake trick prank a few more times. It was also a subtle warning, as there were real snakes about in the summer. One could never be too careful, one could not assume it was a hose or a prank, lest it was a real snake.