Kids, Cultural Differences and Willy Wilson’s Ferrets.

 

When one reflects on some of those past acts of terrorism it seems the culprits of a certain “terrorism raid” were teens from 14yrs…backed by “adults”…Jeesus..how frightening!..it would have scared the bejeesus out of us as kids, so when my big brother , with the help of his ‘Junior Chemistry Set’ purchased by the adults in the family for a Chrissy pressy, discovered that if one mixed sulphur with some salt-petre…we would have  been raided by ASIO these days.

AND we had a “plot” to scare the rival gang across the gully..; The O’Niels with a cunning assembly of inflated party balloons and some of the “Ingredient X” and following a scary demonstration of our recently discovered knowledge of gunpowder, were going to float the “Greek Fire” across to their grass fort and wreak havoc and let slip the dogs of “war”…..nyahhahahahaha!!

Unfortunately, the one dexterous user of the bow and arrow (constructed of wild-olive branches and bamboo arrows, the feather fletches from grandma’s pet turkey’s arse stuck on with wattle-gum) ; John O’Niel shot long and true and burst two of the balloons and so sabotaged the entire plot!…party balloons were hard to come by in those days!

But anyway, we made a big show of what they could expect…one day..so help me god!

Only flaw in the plan was that we all grew up and set about to inflict “terrorism” on the girls that fell within our limits of wandering..

But truth be known, even there, we were no match for a greater plan of a greater scheme of things and our small band of tremulous but heroic boy-warriors were soon overwhelmed by that power bigger than all of us…and I will never forget those last words of Karl Hebble as he finally succumbed to that fatal feminine wound…

“I will”…

On “our side” of the gully, up the hill a ways, there was a ruin of a house..or rather, not really a ruin, but the remnants of an intention to build..it perhaps was one of those ill-fated projects that get started by one of the party “in expectation of”..but is then abandoned when things go awry…I know of a few such stories..quite sad, really…I’ll tell you about them someday..

Anyway, we closed off the windows and doors in this one-roomed ‘fort” and we started a “club”…and we called it “The Kit Kat Klub”…I don’t know for the life of me where we got that name…all I can think of is perhaps that old sit-com ; “The Private World of Dobie Gilles” (perhaps!).

But the “eternal enemy” from across the gully..no!..not the O’Niels this time, but those German immigrants ..; the Skrypeks and the Leuchells…broke in and graffitied our club name there on the wall to : “The Shit Kat Klub”….bastards!!

The first thing to do was to get out the old chemistry set!

It was then that we learned of the abyss that divided catholicism from the proddos’…WE would never have written the word ; “shit” on any wall…THAT would be a “cardinal sin” !…just seeing the word there, I remember made me blush…but also perhaps, dangerously, awoke in me a curiosity for the power of the word.

Yes..growing up with only half a clue as to what is really going on in the adult world maybe a good thing. And speaking of girls when you are growing up..I remember this little plump girl used to hang around us down the beach all those long hot summers..Cyglinda..or Ziggy as we used to call her…it was amazing how in the space of only a couple of summers, she had lost that puppy-fat..or rather it had moved to all the right places and those scraggly locks of wispy hair had grown to blonde tresses to be admired…amazing!!

Ziggy became Cyglinda..once again and where only a couple of years ago she had thrown Davey Parker over her shoulder in a full toss for giving her lip, there walked with demure poise an attractive young lady!

Ah yes…Cyglinda …her old man was, I believe a unrepentant Hitlerite..He had a white scar ran around his neck, about 1/2″ wide where he claimed a Polish officer, when he was captured as a German soldier, had cut his throat and left him in the snow…He survived, as was apparent..and thrived on Emma Street .

 

Emma Street held a sort of local “infamy”, in that it was the scene of a fateful train collision where two people, a man and his wife were killed. There were no bells or wig-wag signals there and the train came suddenly onto the crossing from between a cutting.

It wasn’t so dangerous in the days of steam locomotives, as the noise and smoke from the engine gave warning…but with the onset of the old “Red-Hen” diesel electric trains, they were much quieter.

 

The train-line came out of a cutting onto a high embankment that fell away on both sides..The road wound into the gully past Langdon’s and Willy Wilson’s place, curved around the base and ascended the side of the hill straight onto the Emma Street crossing.

 

It was there every night, the grandmother of the four children of those parents killed , would walk to the crossing with the children to meet the parents on the other side and then they would all get into the car for the ride home just up The Cove Road a ways…so they were there when the car was hit and they must have saw their parents killed. It was talked about for years. The crossing was closed after that accident.

 

I must have been about nine or ten years old then. I remember hearing the crash while we were racing our bitzas down Paringa Avenue hill..it wasn’t a crash!, but more of a whoomph!..and someone said ;

 

‘Was that a crash?”…but then it was silent so we went back to our bitzas..until the sirens came and then we ran toward the station and we could see the “Red-Hen” train stopped just at Emma Street crossing and we knew it was an accident.

 

When I got there, I could see these two bodies laid out on the ground with sheets covering them..but the sheets were not long enough to cover the entire body, so the feet stuck out the bottom…It was a man and a woman..the man had black patent-leather shoes and his feet were leaning away from each other in a ‘V’..The woman had stockings on and one apricot “pump” shoe on her right foot, there was only the one shoe..but in their haste to make the bodies half decent, they had put the ladies shoe on the wrong foot, and it hung there by the toes…and I had this almost unstoppable urge to go and put the shoe (an apricot one with a white petal with a bright pearl centre fixed at the tongue) on the correct foot…of course, I didn’t.

 

I was staring at this strange and to me, unsightly anomaly; transfixed by this one disorderly item when the world came crashing in with Willy Wilson’s pitched voice calling my name….I looked to where he was standing at the bottom of the high embankment on which we stood .

 

“Is it an accident? “ he asked in all innocence.

 

“Yes!” I replied

 

“Anyone hurt?”

 

“Yes”.

 

“Oh…..Hey!…I’m going ferret’n tomorra…wanna come?”…I had turned back to the bodies there and was once again held by the offending shoe..and that was the funny thing , it was the shoe that worried me more than the two people dead there…very strange !

 

“D’you wanna come!!” Willie called again…an as I turned away a big copper appeared on the scene and called for us kids to clear off out of it..

 

“Someone get these kids out of here!” he yelled…”C’mon..get out of it you kids..bugger off!”

 

We turned and ran away and I remembered Willy , so I called back to him..

 

“Ok..yeah!..tomorro’ at my place..ok?”…and I could see my mother coming with that cross look on her face so I ducked past Hogben’s place across the paddock to home. But I tell you what..those ferrets of Willy’s were an out of control lot..and he didn’t know that much about the fine art of ferreting and that turned out to be one big adventure!

 

I was telling you about Willie Wilson and his ferrets…Willie Wilson kept ferrets, he used them for trapping rabbits in any of the multitude of warrens dotted about the hills where I grew up before the Mixxy got a hold..I’m talking back in the late fifties or so. A lot of people kept ferrets for that purpose in those days..there was a front-bar trade in fresh bunny-meat back then..along with local caught fish like snook and such, that you could buy off the catchers down at the Seacliff Hotel….I know, ’cause my old man used to come home of a Thursday evening, with a smile on his face, a good half-dozen clinking away in his kit-bag, a big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate in his rough hands and a roll of newspaper-wrapped fresh produce under his arm…every Thursday night, like clockwork…that’s how it went in those days..before age, homesickness for the old country and the drink got a hold on him…that’s how it went in those days…

 

Willie Wilson kept ferrets, so did the Oxfords…and the O’Niels..not the ones on the corner, but down by the station…The O’Niels on the corner..( one ; John, grew up to become a copper in forensics and he had to deal with those “Snowtown Murders” ..it done for him..I’ll tell you about him one day). They kept ferrets to catch rabbits…the ferrets were clean, but the cages would sometimes stink to high heaven!..Tex, Marlene Oxford’s long time beau kept the cages clean,,I’ll tell you about him too someday. Tex knew how to hunt with ferrets…Willie was just learning…it was a slow job with Willie…he was young, he was keen.

 

I can only recall going “ferreting” with Willie once…just after that Emma St. crossing crash that I told you about..The day was cold, it was wet and the whole episode was a disaster for both ferreting and friendship. There were four of us..Davey Parker, Bruce Irving, myself and Willie..we took turns carrying the cage with the ferrets..we hiked right up to the top of the long gully, not far from the old Linwood Quarry, where one of the O’Niel men (there were four families, not related , in the district) got his coat caught in the crusher feeder and was killed there…I can just remember the wife coming to our place and my Mother comforting her with some prayers…I suppose it was a catholic thing.

 

There is an art to catching rabbits with ferrets…Willie did not have that art..all he did was to block as many holes as he had nets, bury in the rest and then let the ferret down one hole..if all goes well, the rabbits will flee the ferret and get caught in any one of the nets as they run out of the warren..the biggest worry, is that if the ferret is hungry, it will trap and kill a rabbit down in the warren and remain there till it eats it to it’s hearts content. Then all you can do is to try to smoke it out or wait.

 

That’s what must have happened..after the rabbits stopped coming out, the ferret remained. Willie tried to smoke it out with setting fire to some paper in one of the holes, but all it did was to sear the ferrets nose and made it flee back down the warren……..and it rained..and it rained, and rained, and rained some more till we all looked like a picture of one of those groups of American Indian’s sitting under their blankets on the prairie..except we didn’t have blankets, just wet skin, cold hands and it was getting dark and we lost our patience and our kid-tempers and told Willie where he could stick his ferret IF it EVER came out and to our dying shame, we deserted him there and then.

 

Not my most glorious moment, but there is only so much the patience of a child can stand, especially when we could see more rabbits hopping about the dusky hill-sides than what we caught with the stupid ferret!

 

The last I heard of Willie Wilson , and that was many, many years ago, was from aforementioned Bruce…He mentioned he had bumped into Willie at the old “Vincent Hotel” there on Mosely Square.

 

“He was hard up for some dough and he said in all confidence that he had been “casing” this jeweler shop down Jetty Road, and he had a plan all worked out on how to rob the place….I told him I didn’t want to know…truth is ; I thought he was full of bullshit at the time” Bruce took a healthy drought from his pint of beer.

 

“And then?” I asked.

 

“Well..I was wrong..he did rob the shop…or rather..he TRIED to rob the shop..”

 

Now..bear with me dear reader and let us ‘workshop’ through what Bruce told me :

 

It seems that Willy’s “well though out plan” consisted of an early hours raid on the shop with the help of an airline bag with half a house-brick secreted inside it. The object of the brick was to penetrate the plate-glass shop-front, the airline bag was to transport the swag away…devilishly clever , what?

 

But…(there’s always a but in these plans).

 

Scene: Willie stands in front of the jeweler shop , it is three am. No-one is about..he takes the half-brick from the bag and flings it toward the window….

STOP!…

Let us apply the filmatic application of slow motion to the following scene…: We are at the moment where the brick has just left the grip of Willy’s right hand..At that very moment, a police patrol on it’s regular neighbourhood patrol turns the corner into Jetty Road two shops down from the Jeweller..The lights attract Willy’s gaze and he turns his head (we’re still in slow motion, mind) toward the source..the police officer in the passengers seat likewise turns his gaze toward a person in the moment of executing an unexpected action on the sidewalk of number one fifty six Jetty Road Glenelg..The half-brick continues it’s unstoppable course toward the plate glass…cause and effect is inevitable.

 

The upshot (if we return to real time) was that the patrol car had pulled up, apprehended and escorted Willy to the back seat of the patrol car while the last shards of the plate-glass window was still tinkling onto the sidewalk…cruel fate.

 

And that was that for Willy Wilson as far as I can report. I have heard no more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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