Don: Backyard scuffles

Today has been difficult, Don could not get out of bed for the first time. He drank some fresh squeezed orange juice, ate a few spoonfuls of scrambled egg, and went back to sleep. Just twenty minutes ago he tried to get up without calling, and fell heavily.  I heard his breathing change and went to see, but the walker was in the doorway, and I could not get past to grab him as he fell. He is so cussedly independent he cannot bear asking for help! Now he back in bed after we managed together to get him up again, to the bathroom and back,  and patch up his wounds.

All his life Don has been adventurous, courageous, inventive as well as a tech-savvy perfectionist. With my mother he travelled around Australia almost three times, and went on many shorter excursions in to the outback.

heading off for the second trip, after the wedding 1987

Here are some more boy-hood escapades.

Don’s Memoirs 2

Dad was a great one for grafting fruit trees and his specialty was a plum tree. This had four different plum grafted on it in addition to the original. When the fruit was ripe I took every opportunity to climb into the tree and try out each plum in rotation until I was full or until I got caught and was hauled down out of the tree and given a thick ear for my trouble.

Our block was at the end of Brown St. and to the front and left was an open area of undeveloped parkland that terminated at the Lagoon which curved around in an arc. At the rear of the block was a laneway then another open block which fronted in Camp St. which terminated at the bridge over the lagoon.

The left rear quarter of the block was fenced of on the centre line and closed by a gate and shed to the outside fence. The shed was divided in two. One half was a fowl house; the other was Dad’s toolshed and general storeroom. Being the youngest I fell for the job of cleaning out the fowl house each Saturday or no pocket money for the Saturday matinee at Grinstead’s Theatre. Having raked up the produce the chooks no longer wanted I had to load it into a barrow and wheel it into the garden where Dad indicated where I should deposit it. I then returned the barrow to the backyard and if I was quick enough I smartly got lost, if not I was back in the garden digging in the fowl manure. Great stuff!

In the backyard close to the shed was a cedar tree which produced beautiful Green berries about half an inch in diameter. Just perfect for use in a shanghai! It was easy to climb the cedar tree and step onto the roof of the shed. Brown Street was also lined with cedar trees. Lots of ammunition!

Walter, brother number 5, and five years older than me and in high school while I was still in primary school, was Mum’s pet (my idea entirely) and whenever we had a bit of a scrap Mum sided with him. One day we were boxing on in the lounge room when someone yelled at us to get of there ASAP. Now usually when a fast exit was required Walter generally chased me out first. This wonderful day however he led the way. As he shot out of the hall onto the back veranda Mum connected with the back of his head with a straw broom and flattened him. I leapt over him and kept going as fast as my legs could carry me while laughing my head off.

One day while up on the shed roof with one of my mates taking pot-shots with our shanghais at anything that looked like a handy target cedar berries started whizzing through the cedar tree from the back veranda. Two of my older brothers, Jack and Bert, were taking pot shots at us, so we immediately returned fire. They dragged Mum’s beautiful scrubbed white table on the back veranda into position, tipped it onto its side and used it as cover. In quick time a dozen or so cedar berries had been squashed flat on the table top. Things were getting a bit hot so a smart withdrawal was called for. We hopped into the cedar tree climbed down and headed out the back gate and took cover behind Miller’s shed. However victory was ours as Jack and Bert were caught red-handed by Mum and smartly put to work with scrubbing brushes and hot soapy water to return that table to its pristine condition.

Don says this is Lachlan St Forbes, a few blocks from his childhood home in Browne St near the lagoon

One thought on “Don: Backyard scuffles

  1. You said Don is “cussedly independent.” That’s probably why he’s lived so long. My grandmother was cussedly independent, too, and she lived 98.5 years. Another thing I discovered as my mom aged is that, no matter how old I was, I was still the child in the relationship. Once, when frustrated that she wouldn’t take my advice, I said, “Mom, you have no idea how hard it is to raise a parent!” You must feel that way some days, too. My thoughts are with you.

    I love these quips about Don’s life. As an American, I have to stop and figure out a few words, but your illustrations help. His shanghai is our slingshot. The photograph of the town is amazing. Look at how clean the streets and walks are! It was taken long before street sweepers were invented so they were surely swept by hand. I see a couple of vintage cars so there must have been some horses still being used but there’s no evidence on the streets. All of the buildings look like they’re in good shape, nice functional stores with a little decoration on the facades and in the middle of the cross streets. It doesn’t fit how I pictured an Australlian town in that period. I expected it to look more like one of our Wild West towns with shabbier buildings. Must be your British heritage that kept the town well mannered. 🙂

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