Egging On The Opposition
Sometimes after school we were near the bus stop when the Catholic school children came off the bus. Some of the older boys in our group would tease the Catholics with taunts like:
'Catholic dogs sitting on logs eating maggots out of frogs.'
One thing led to another, and a rock fight usually ensued. I did not have a clue what a 'Catholic' was but I loved the rock fights. On weekends sometimes I played with these 'Catholic' boys, so there was no ill feeling here. It was all just good fun. Those 'Catholic dogs' liked the fights as well.
Fighting is a part of a boys growing up I guess. But the best fight I remember was between the Benns and the Olivers. Usually we were good friends. One Saturday morning a truck pulled up outside our place and mom got out. She was very hard to keep up with at times. This was the same truck and driver that delivered the Christmas chooks. No chooks this time, but a big crate, The driver carried the crate into the house and put it in the bathroom. A closer inspection of said crate revealed it was packed chock-a-block with eggs. Now eggs might not seem so exciting here, but you must remember this was during the war when things like butter, eggs and many other things that were usually plentiful, were in short supply. So we asked mom where she got them and mom said:
'They fell off the back of a truck.'
But even I had doubts about that story. I checked every egg in the first two layers and not one was even cracked. I think my mother tells fibs. The eggs were 'acquired' by a group of local ladies, mom, Mrs Benns, Mrs Brown and Mrs French. When they all appeared at our place there was great excitement and chatter. But as with the gossip brigade and the dunny man, I got no feedback as to where the eggs came from. There were too many eggs to eat before they went off, even with four families sharing, so there must be a way of preserving these treasures until they can all be used.
A lot of cookbooks are perused until they decide on a preserving technique. After a lot of work the preserved eggs are repacked in the crate, which is left in our bathroom. The next two weeks are great, with plenty of eggs for all. After two weeks a strange smell started wafting out of our bathroom. Another meeting of the big four, with a little bit of crying because the eggs are off.
So one Sunday afternoon, guess who is given the job of burying the now very smelly eggs, the best hole digger in our street, Reg who else. So the big four adjourn to Mrs Frenchís to drown their sorrows with some cups of tea. With the help of Tony, Bill and me, Reg digs a big hole in our backyard. At the side of the hole Reg puts up a board with sections marked out in pencil. The crate we put about fifteen feet away. Each section on the board is worth so many points, we take it in turns to throw eggs at the board, it is good fun. Where we are in the back yard we can see across the road and up Benns path to their house. Next thing Reg is very edgy and says he has to get something from the front yard. He grabs two eggs and heads off. I look up Benns path and see Henry and Alan coming down to the road. Now I know Reg wouldnít throw eggs at the Benns boys because they are good friends and play together often. So there must be someone else on the road. I reckon I might have a look too, so I take off behind Reg. Alan is just level with the side of their garage when Reg lets fly. The egg hit the side of the garage and splatters over Alan.
'Ah-phew, what a smell,' Says Alan, looking across the road at Reg.
So Reg lets go the other egg which hits Alan on the shoulder.
'You dirty bastard, Oliver,' Yells Alan.
He looks around, then dives into a depression in their nature strip filled with water. He grabs a handful of mud and lets fly at Reg, but Reg ducks and it hits me, so Reg and I duck into a big hole in our nature strip. So its on for young and old. Tony and Bill hearing the noise bring up all the remaining eggs. Henry and Alanís younger sisters June and Lorraine join in, so its four against four. The Benns mob are behind their front fence, at the side of their garage. We Olivers and Bill are in the hole in our nature strip, just behind the gutter. Mud is flying back and forth with a lot of insults to top it all off. But the Olivers have the edge because we have the eggs. So an occasional egg aimed at the garage wall behind the Benns mob splatters very nicely all over them. What an exciting time we Olivers are having and what a smelly time the Benns are having. But there is always someone around that does not like anyone having a good time. In this case, it is Edith, the Benns second oldest girl. Edith is sixteen and works in the city. Because Edith is working she knows she is above all of us, she is a bit of a toff. Edith hears the ruckus from the house, she decides to put a stop to all this uncouth behavior. Edith stalks down the path and stands beside the garage with her hands raised.
'Stop-stop this stupid behavior, right now,' She yells.
Unfortunately she makes too good a target for Tony to resist, so he lets fly an egg. A great shot, because it hits Edith fair in the middle of the chest. At almost the same time Bill hits Edith on the fore head and the egg splatters through her hair, very messy. Poor Edith staggers back and sits down in the mud (in her best Sunday dress too). This is just too much for Edith, who bursts out crying and without another word heads down the road looking for her mom. Next thing a white hanky is waved by Henry, so we all stop. Everyone comes out onto the road. We all agree this is the best fun we have had for a long time. But we also agree that when Edith reaches Frenchs place and tells our moms we are all in deep trouble.
A very rushed clean up program is launched, but is nowhere near finished before our moms appear. The Benns mob are marched off up the path to their house. The Olivers, plus Bill are lined up at our front gate for an ear-bashing. Mom was pacing back and forth glaring at us.
'Who started this.' She snapped.
'I came to the front yard to get something.' Says Reg.
'I had an egg in my hand, when it simply flew out of my hand and hit Alan.'
That is brilliant, I thought. If a chook can fly without a head, then itís on the cards that an egg can fly without wings, isnít it? Boy, that Reg can tell some beauties when he wants to. But I can see straight away that mom does not like it. She shakes her head and curls her lip a bit.
'That is a terrible story Reg, even Robert,' she waves a hand at me 'could do better than that.'
'And who hit Edith with those eggs.'
She looked straight at Tony and Bill.
'It was you two, wasnít it?'
But I noticed a slight smile on momís face for a second. She was probably remembering how Edith looked with a couple of smelly eggs plastered all over her. Mom goes on.
'I am going to get you a cake of soap, you are all going down to the creek to wash yourselves and your clothes. First you will all go over and apologise to Mrs Benns and Edith, you will get back here clean or there will be no dinner.'
Geez I thought, that's a bit drastic, after all we were only dirty, we weren't really bad eggs. And donít forget we had got rid of all those smelly eggs. Even if most were in Benns front yard.
Mrs Benns got a lot of complaints over the next couple of weeks from neighbours and passers by, about the horrific smell and the state of their front yard (passers-by tried to pass by at a distance). The Benns mob tried to blame it all on 'the big fight'. But I doubt that, the Olivers were in 'the big fight' too and our place smelt alright. There is a saying I have heard, and that is, you can pick your friends, but not your neighbours. A sloppy lot those Benns. Certainly not showing a good egg-sample to the rest of the street.