I was the youngest in our family - quite a shock, actually - my next oldest sibling, my brother, is 11 years older than I, so my parents had thought their family was complete. And yet, Surprise! Along came Linda.
Dad has led a long, full, and fun life. However, it seems age is finally catching up with him. He now lives in the 'Old Folks Home', is almost blind and suffers with severe hearing loss. Because of this, he doesn't get around much, and spends most of his days in his comfy chair listening to his radio. However, as soon as he has the opportunity, he is always ready to entertain his listeners with stories of the 'old days', and to tell what he and his brother got up to, back in the days of 'life on the farm'.
I once wrote down one of his stories, and I thought you might enjoy it. I entitled it, 'Holy Boulder' - you'll soon see why.
The year was 1933. Things were different then – no television, no computers, and certainly no PlayStations – a kid had to make his own fun.
Ernie was twelve years old. He was a skinny kid, with thick black glasses and straggly brown hair. He also had an uncanny knack for getting into trouble. But not today. He was staying at his Uncle Frank’s house, and he was determined to be good.
Uncle Frank was undoubtedly Ernie’s favourite relative. He was tall, slender, and hardworking, and always had time for the youngsters. He also knew how to cook up the most delicious damper and the best beef stew. Without a doubt, the farm was Ernie’s favourite place on earth.
“Well, c’mon, Ernie”, Uncle Frank called, “How ‘bout helping me build my wall down at the creek?”
“Yes, sir!” Ernie responded – he was always ready for some good, hard work, even at his young age.
The horses and wagon were organised, and soon they were rambling along the rough dirt track. “So, no hassling my horses this time, eh?” Uncle Frank asked.
“Er, no....” Ernie began.
Uncle Frank smiled. “Last time, you know – they took weeks to recover - I trust you’ll be keeping your nose clean this time?”
“Yes sir, I’ll be on my best behaviour – thinking before I act, just like you taught me!” Ernie replied, full of determination not to let his uncle down.
In no time at all, they had reached the creek and Uncle began working on the wall. “Right then, I’ll gather some stones, shall I?” Ernie offered.
“Here, take this”, said Uncle Frank, handing Ernie the crowbar. “There’s some good ones up on that hill – see if you can fetch some”.
“Yes, sir!” replied Ernie, eagerly taking the crowbar and scooting up the slope. Quickly, he began digging at whatever stones he could find, and with a quick tap, sent them tumbling down towards the creek. And then, he spotted it. Up on that hill stood a large boulder. Many a time Ernie had tried to shift it, but it just wouldn’t budge – but today, he had been handed a new, shiny crowbar – and had actually been told to gather some stones!
Glancing back to ensure Uncle Frank wasn’t watching, he quickly made his way along the top of the grassy rise, and reached the boulder in no time. “Hello, old friend”, Ernie said, grinning to himself. “Let’s see if we can move you today, eh?”
Ernie began working quickly but carefully, digging the dirt out from around the boulder. Then, placing the crowbar underneath, he gave it a hefty heave. It moved! Only a little at first, but then suddenly, it began to roll. Faster and faster it moved down the hill, heading directly for the creek - talk about perfect positioning!
Unfortunately, a slight bump in the hillside sent the boulder slightly to the left. “Damn”, Ernie muttered, “Now it’s going to head......” Ernie stopped short – for he realised it was going to head for not only the creek, but the horses as well – which also meant Uncle Frank!
The boulder was gathering speed at a tremendous rate – Ernie tried to cry out, but his throat just seemed to close – there was no time, nothing he could do, but stand there and look on in horror.
Glancing up from his work, Uncle Frank had just had enough time to cry out “Holy Cow!” before the boulder hit the clump of rocks on the edge of the creek. The rocks sent it hurtling skyward - over the heads of the horses, and as Uncle Frank ducked, it flew straight over his head, too!
In spectacular fashion, the boulder then plummeted to the ground and crashed straight through the netting fence on the opposite side of the creek, tearing it to shreds. Eventually, it came to rest, surrounded by a cloud of dust, a little way beyond the fence.
Cautiously, Ernie made his way down the hill. Uncle Frank turned slowly to face his terrified nephew. “Ernie....”, he began.
“I’m .... I’m sorry Uncle Frank – I... I... I though it would go over there..”, Ernie stammered – his arms wildly pointing off to the right, along the creek-bed.
“Ernie”, Uncle Frank slowly continued, “I know I told you to gather some stones – but do you think you could leave the hillside there?”
Dropping his arms, Ernie simply stared at his Uncle, tears and frustration welling up inside him like burning fire. “I… I….” was all he could manage to stammer.
“Well”, Uncle went on, “It seems, young man, that you will not be coming to Church with us tomorrow, as you have yourself some work to do!”, and he gestured towards his netting fence, now laying in ruins. And with one final, fierce look, Uncle Frank turned on his heels, and staggered towards the wagon to calm his startled horses.
“Oh”, Ernie gasped, his disappointment now complete. For Sunday was the only chance he had to meet with boys of his own age, and now that opportunity had vanished. And as Ernie turned to survey the damage of the netting fence, he wondered to himself if it wouldn’t be several Sundays before he would be allowed to go to Church, or anywhere else for that matter, again.