I blame Uncle Remus’ story, “The Tar Baby”, for what happened one lovely summer day in the UK, many years ago. The story left such an impression on my young mind, so, when I saw the lovely big tub of tar the workmen had left by the roadside when they went for their lunch, I was so excited. I told my little brother and sister I would make us all into tar babies. I did! I covered us all in tar! Hair, face arms and legs. Three little children, once white with white-blonde hair became black all over in minutes.
We loved it and played at being tar babies for a while. Suddenly a piercing scream filled the air and mother came running over to us.
“What on earth have you done?”, she asked, rather pointlessly, as we all stood shaking in our shoes in front of her. My aunt Kit, who was visiting at the time came running out to us wondering what the screaming was all about. She just stood there and roared with laughter at the sight of us.
All three of us burst into tears, as we became aware of a burning sensation all over us. Yes! Tar burns – did you know that? Well I didn’t, till that moment. We started screaming and Mum panicked, as she realised what was happening.
Unable to touch us, Mum and Aunty herded us into the back kitchen. They sat us up on the table well padded with newspapers and covered us from head to toe in Tallow grease. The three of us screaming and wriggling us they did so. What a sight and what an experience. I will never forget the rubbing and the awful smell of the tallow. The burning, and the many baths it took to get our skin white again; or should I say red? It was so sore. It was a long time before all traces of the tar was gone from our hair. Much of which had to be cut off. I still love the Uncle Remus stories, but you could say I read the tar baby from a very different aspect now.
This happened a long time ago, but my brother and sister have never let me forget the day I turned them into ‘tar babies’. Though we can laugh about it now, of course!
What mischief did you and your siblings get up to when you were kids? Share with us below.