Emerging into the Light
The lingering gloom of that place, still casts shadows on my mind. As boys we were so often lured into its mysteriously dank depths. I look back over my shoulder to see the seeds of adventurism sprouting there.
I feel fortunate to have lived in Corstorphine Road on the outskirts of Dunedin, close enough to nature to be nurtured by it's greenness. " Corstorphine ", near to our house, was the family seat of the well-known T K Sidey family, a large estate, with pine plantations, native bush, orchards, and the Big House. As boys, this meant nothing to us, it was a place to be away from parental control, and wild.
Our early, (at about seven,) experimentation with smoking with fusca bark was there, gravitating to the real thing, pinched from my dad's shop, (well, he didn't pay me for work done at his shop). How we didn't set fire to the pine plantation escapes me. This early start paid off, as I stopped smoking at fourteen, for ever. My best mate, Russell Duncan and I soon gravitated to making gun powder, using a pipe stopped in one end with molten lead, fired in an old vice, attached to a log in the forest. Russell and I had a thing about guns, so we conspired to acquire the real thing. One day Russell said to me, " on the way home from Boy Scouts, we pass the armory of that big high school, should we break in?" After a moments thought, (I was known for not being caught,) " Why not " Having sawn the bars with hacksaw blades, me being the smallest wriggling inside, our team successfully purloined four 303 rifles, hiding them in " the forest " This was during the 2nd World War, when all our beaches were a network of barbed wire, so next day The Otago Daily Times was full of, " was it Japanese or German supporters, bank robbers, or just run of the mill criminals?" Though bathing in glory, we became more and more scared, until one dark night, wiping them down, we threw the offending booty back over the fence into the school grounds undetected.
The forest " was also ideal for petty gang warfare, (no real guns!) but many a bloody nose or black eye was worn.. Why ever do boys love to fight"?
The favorite place was the orchards. Raiding them was legend, and almost compulsory for prestige. So the final indignity towards The Sidey's was executed at the very large glasshouse attached to the " Big House " where we would gather bags of apples, climb a tree nearby, proceeding to lob them though the roof of said edifice. With the alarm raised, and the old gardeners feeble attempts to catch us, we would scurry through our well-known escape routes to innocently " be " at home, even before the police turned up at the glass house to survey the carnage.
Now a mystery unfolds here. The police visited all the other boys' homes, but never mine. (Luckily, as my mother would have skinned me alive, guilty or not). My youthful romantic mind would have it that the police were scared of my father. Dad was an articulate, physical man, obviously held in high esteem by me. I could think of no other reason for my escapes, but bathed in the fortune of this.
These are just a few of my juvenile criminal activities, you know," it isn't always bad to start early," as with the smoking episode, and guns (rarely used since,) by the age of thirteen, I had learnt " that crime doesn't pay", in fact it began to look stupid. I never crossed that line again. From the dark recesses of that forest, I had "emerged into the light "of honesty.