On The Right Side

One morning Tony and friend Bill from Kumbada Ave were showing a group of local boys and girls how they could lay under the cattle grid beside the main road when Puffing Billy was going over them. I was there too, and was terrified when both boys disappeared in steam and black smoke. Most of the group watching were uneasy too, the girls white faced. All were obviously relieved when Tony and Bill reappeared laughing. The act got a great response. Tony and Bill strutted around like heroes for a while.

I had a look at the grid, there was plenty of room under there, I was smaller than the other two, I could be a big timer too. The next weekend I tried it too with a small audience. It was certainly more frightening under there than watching. The huge logs the line was layed on moved alarmingly. The steam and smoke and noise made my head spin. The next time was easier though, and after about six times I was an old pro. A big dollop of hot black oil right on my fore head put a stop to my heroics.

My next venture was tunnelling. Half way down our road a drain was piped under the road and under the front yards of two houses coming out beside the second house. This was a distance of about 100 yards. The pipe was about three feet in diameter. We had a fox terrier in those days 'Mickey.' I pushed Mickey along in front of me to take out all the cobwebs and scuttled along behind him on all fours. The house where the pipe finished was a 'weekender', as were a lot in those days. Mr. Connely owned it. He only came up about once a fortnight.

Coming out of the pipe one day, I found that Mr. Connely had a brand new galvanized iron tank delivered. It was lying on its side next to the house. Walking around the tank, I found the inspection hole and crawled in to inspect it 'of course.' While walking up the rounded inside of the tank it started to move. Running up the inside, I could roll it around. I got out enlisting more leg power inside. I had rolled the tank about six feet and layed the grass and blackberries flat. It looked good. Three or four more in the tank and we were really moving. We found we could steer it a bit, and back up too. Mr. Connely wasn't a good gardener; his front yard was a mass of grass and blackberries. Rolling around the yard soon layed them all flat. The yard looked really good and I was sure Mr. Connely would like it. We wondered how it would go up and down the street; well it went really good. Got up a good speed too. But it was tiring work and there were other things to do so I ran it back beside the house and left it. I had forgotten all about it and when Mr. Connely appeared and had a stand up row with my mom. I wondered what it was all about.
Mr. Connely was saying,
'The bloody thing was probably sprung.' and 'who the hell was going to pay for all the damage?'
I did not have to wonder long. About two days later, it was just getting dark. We boys had just had our wash and were playing in the lounge when there was a very hard knocking on the door. Mom was in the kitchen, so Reg answered it.
'It's for you Robert.' Reg said with a strange look on his face.
For me, wow, I wonder who it is, and ran to the door. I got a big shock, because it was the local policeman, Mr. Stag. He was about eight feet tall, so I had to crane the old neck a little. Mr. Stag leaned forward he then pointed a finger at me and said.
'Are you Robert Oliver?'
That's silly I thought he knows who I am. But I said.
'Yes Mr. Stag.'
'Did you steal Mr. Connely's tank last week?'
'Oh no sir.' I said.
'I only borrowed it. I put it back.'
'Hmmm,' He straightened up, then leaned forward again, frowning.
'Do you know what I am going to do with you if I ever have to come here again?' Waving a big finger in my face.
'No sir.' I said.
He then whipped his other hand from behind his back. He was holding a large Hessian bag. The bag was tied at the top with a huge rope. Slowly Mr. Stag undid the rope and opened the bag so I could see inside. He pointed into the bag and said.
'I'm going to put you into this bag, tie the top like this.'
He proceeded to loop the rope around the top of the bag and tie it.
'Then I'm going to throw you into the creek and drown you.'
Well this was definitely panic time, where was my mom. I looked around for her nowhere to be seen when a feller really needed her. Reg and Tony both were white faced and very uneasy.
'Yes sir.'
I said in a whisper. I had seen many bags in the creek, with litters of kittens in them. I could easily picture me in there too.
'I'll try not to do anything wrong sir.'
'See that you don't.' Mr. Stag said.
Then turned and walked down the path. He stopped halfway, looked at me and said.
'Don't go near Mr. Connely's place again.'
'No sir.' I said.
Not that I wanted to. Fancy dobbing me into the police after all that work I did around his place. And I certainly wouldn't want another run in with Mr. Stag again. It frightened about ten year’s growth out of me.
About a month later, I was admiring a large pile of tennis balls behind the police station in
Wattle Ave. when Mr. Stag appeared out of the blue behind me. Two minutes later and I might have been caught in the act.
'There are a lot of nice balls in that pile isn't there, young Oliver?' He said.
'Sure is Mr. Stag.' I said.
'Now your here we better have a look.' He said.
So together, we sorted through the balls. There was one nearly new ball. Mr. Stag handed it to me and said.
'That is yours.'
'Thank you Mr. Stag.' I said.
On the way home bouncing my ball I thought to myself Mr. Stag is a really good bloke when you’re on the right side.