Childhood memories. “… another place, another time”
A tiny black and white photograph fell to the floor. Had it landed face down I probably wouldn’t have noticed. I reached down and picked it up. It was a photograph of a boy gazing intently at a peach. The young boy was sitting in a sand pit amidst a few wooden blocks of various shapes and sizes. Not much to look at; just another old photo that had ended up in a shoe box, hidden under the spare bed with many other bits and pieces of family stuff. It was a photograph of me from another place in another time. A time long ago when life was simple, kids were care free and each day bought new adventures.
As I looked at the photograph it brought back memories that had long been buried in my mind.
The peach was a sheep and the blocks of wood were my trucks and other farm machinery. I had watched my older cousin from the farm adjoining ours as he shaved a peach of its fluffy skin to form bales of wool then load the bales onto trucks for transport to market. My very own pretend farm was a reality in my imagination and I spent many hours in that sand pit shaving peaches, forming little bales of wool and trucking them off to market.
I have a younger brother and growing up on a farm meant that as kids we were often left to amuse ourselves and to dream up ways of doing things. That is not to say Mum and Dad didn’t care what we did or where we went, on the contrary, they gave us much and taught us many things. We listened, we watched, and we learnt. On that foundation we built our young lives. The photograph or rather the simplicity of what it depicted, and the memories it evoked got me thinking about things we did as kids and the toys we played with.
There was a tree guard made from rabbit netting that we called the paddock. It was big enough that my brother and I could fit inside. In the confines of a tree guard we acted out imaginary adventures of make believe and fantasy. Peddle cars, tricycles, wheel barrows and most numerous in number were toy cars and trucks. I reckon we built miles of roads and tunnels along which we drove our toy vehicles. We built houses and shops from sticks and leaves and I well remember the skeletal remains of a rabbit’s rib cage that was our town jail.
As we got older we became more adventurous and some of the things we did to amuse ourselves would be the stuff of nightmares for many modern-day parents. A sheet of wall panelling salvaged from one of the many DIY jobs that Dad carried out on the house became a sled. The design was simple. Two holes with a length of hay band passed through to form a handle. This we dragged to the top of a nearby slope. We would then sit on the sled and let it go back down the hill. It was necessary to lift the leading edge of the sled off the ground to avoid snagging on rocks. No brakes and the only way to guide the sled was by shifting weight or with one foot. On most occasions when fear crept in it was too late because maximum velocity had been reached and to hang a leg off the sled was a mistake which resulted in severely grazed elbows and bum cheeks.
We built many billycarts. Wheels were always scarce, and we were constantly on the lookout for replacements. There were plenty of hills on our farm. They were steep, so speeds were high. Nerves of steel, balance and skill the basic requirements for safe negotiation of all descents.
Horses played a big part in our childhood. Dad was a keen horseman so encouraged us to ride at an early age. When we got our first horses a whole new world of freedom and adventure opened. Our horses took us far and wide. One of our favourite pass times was hunting or trapping rabbits. We would pack our saddle bags with food and water and with our dogs following head out to the back paddocks of the farm where we had a trap line set. The days were spent checking the lines and chasing rabbits. Rabbits were almost in plague numbers back then and were easy picking for fast dogs and a couple of lads with a .22 calibre rifle. We carried the rabbits home slung in pairs over the necks of our horses.
Some memories are indelibly etched in my mind. The good times had, the lessons learnt, and the challenges met are what laid the foundation for my life. I am grateful for little things that remind me of my childhood even though some of the memories are faded. Just like that old photograph.