Escaping from God through Oklahoma
Hello, ‘tis my first post.
Dog willing, it won’t be my last. Should you find this story interesting, say so. ‘Speak now or forever hold your peace’, because the tale is long and cruel and true.
It is a coming out story of sorts, so convoluted that it is divided into six or so chapters, more a memoire than a revelation. I post only chapter one now and will await the reaction of Mr Black and Mister Pervert and some others I have grown to love and fear by reading their posts. I also hope it is entertaining. If you would like to see chapters two to the end, that’s up to you.
Exclusive Brethren suffer a special brand of insanity. Any difference between them and the Taliban is blurring. This is my story.
Escaping from God through Oklahoma.
Chapter One. The Last Supper in Fairfield (every Sunday).
I guess it was worse for some. My grandmother’s Koori genes got in there somewhere and inserted the need to walkabout. So, when I was a baby, before WWII, Dad bought seven acres at Edeansor Park in south west Sydney for twenty five quid down and not much more to pay, a few miles outside our local Exclusive Brethren ghetto at Fairfield.
Living where we did and being not quite under absolute control, eventually led to the incident with the four by two, but even before that, our geographic separation was enough to keep us relegated to the outer circle of The Meeting.
We were seated only one row closer to the symbolic Last Supper than Bill Sutcliffe, who we were told, smoked a pipe and was suspected to be a drinker. But for me and my sister, because we lived far from extended family and fellow parishioners, having a friend who was not in the Brethren was tolerated, but not encouraged.
Ron Brazel taught me a lot of things, including smoking his father’s old home-rolled butts under his house at age seven or eight, and with the help of his sister, that my penis had other uses. Not that we ever DID anything, but we did wonder and play sex games of mimed intercourse and even buggery. That was to have far reaching consequences, particularly for my sister who never did recover all her sanity.
Ron was my only friend, but we only need one. There and then, the world was a different place, at least for us. At eight, we had bikes and were allowed to roam the countryside all day, unsupervised and apparently without causing worry. Almost traffic free dirt roads around Bossley park and Smithfield that wound between farms and through bush, are now kerbed and guttered. Our childhood playground is now blighted with McMansions, ranked in soul-destroying faux grandeur all the way to the mountains.
Did you know that on Prospect Hill, above the reservoir, there used to be ruins of a grand house with tunnels and convict built wells? If you were careful, you could lie on your stomach and peer through a hole into a brick lined abyss? A dropped stone took a few seconds to plop into dark water shallowly covering its brick floor. We didn’t have the maths to calculate its depth, but we knew it would hurt to fall in and we never did. But we returned again and again for years until we moved.
I later realised we moved house mainly to take me and my sister away from the Brazel influence and their tree of knowledge of good and evil.
East of the Prospect ruin was the escarpment. A sheet of old roofing iron made a dangerously effective toboggan for us as we became Ginger Meggs and Benny on Deadmans Hill. Somehow we miraculously avoided being impaled on the barbed wire fence at the bottom.
Anywhere we saw water, we were attracted to trespass. How we were not drowned in one of the muddy farm dams, where we waded in up to our chins, years before we could swim, I will never know.
Mum always put it down to Guardian Angels but I never gave it mush credence. We had hurt ourselves plenty of times, like when, at age nine, I was sent on Mum’s bike to collect meat from the butcher at Bonnyrigg, a few miles away. On the way back, speeding downhill past St John’s Park school, the string bag of meat swung into the spokes of the front wheel, catapulting me, still clutching the chops and snags, over the handlebars to hit the gravel road, losing more bark than a doctored dog. Guardian angels pleased themselves what days they workd. And I did wonder why other kids who did drown, fell from trees, breaking arms and legs or died from diphtheria or whooping cough were denied their own angel.
If I ever asked I’m sure I would have been told it was because they were sinners!
At eight and nine I had no idea what a sinner was, except that I must have been one. I do know I was ‘given the strap’ regularly, sin or not because it was good for me. In fact if I went a day at home and did not attract a belting, it was a special day indeed. Sis had her own way of handling it. She held her breath until her distress became a more immediate problem than not ‘sparing the rod’.
Much more real for me was my mate Ron and the fun and freedom we were given (or took) to explore our surroundings and ourselves.
Back then, battlers who could swing a hammer didn’t bother with mortgages, or maybe it was just us. But Dad was always working on the house. Being the eldest, I was on the other end, holding and carrying. After my ninth birthday, when I was given a hand saw to go with my hammer, I was occasionally promoted to assistant carpenter and sawed four by four bearers and two by four hardwood ‘sticks’ that came in ‘super feet’.
Individually cut joists and rafters, purlins and braces, plates and battens were gradually added to the growing skeleton that was to become our house.
We moved in as soon as it reached what would now be called lock up stage, not that we could lock it. I don’t think any of the second hand doors Dad got at the junk yard had locks. There were certainly no keys!
One other thing worried me for a while, twenty years ago. Dad’s favourite material was fibro, then made from asbestos. We cut it, hammered it, sanded it and lived in it, unpainted for at least twenty years and none of us were ever stricken with mesothelioma. Of course none of us smoked then either, so maybe that’s why.
The bits-and-pieces house took ten years to complete. Uncle Frank came back after the war to paint the outside, that rare event recorded on the family Box Brownie.
Was Mum happy? Not really. After all those years of making do, washing in a copper suspended precariously over a burning stump or cutting her own fire wood in a house impossible to clean properly and never finished, Dad sold it and we started again!
(to be continued)
Last edited by The Irreverent Mr Black; 7th September 2009 at 07:58 PM. Reason: With Ford's permission, paragraph separation
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
But we did have a social life. We had family visitors, mostly her two brothers as they used our place as a half way house in their travels.
The kitchen was finished first, with its Metters, kettle always near the boil ready to make tea, apparently compulsory whenever the sound of a visitors’ engine, as their truck came groaning up the hill, not only alerted us to an imminent arrival but the identity of its occupants.
We could all identify the make, model and owner and would have the kettle boiling and tea made before they pulled up in the yard. Tea was always made, maybe to create a place for conversation to start. “Oh, Hello! Would you like a cuppa?”
We always had chooks and a cow. Dung and the dunny were our sources of fertiliser for the house garden. The dunny was also the source of school sores and boils, no doubt. A meat safe and later, regular ice deliveries kept the home-made butter and last Sunday’s roast chook cool enough to provide sandwich fillers up to Wednesday.
Except for flour, tea, meat and some vegetables, we were virtually self sufficient, so apart from petrol for the old ute, really a sedan with the back cut off and a timber platform bolted on, most money went on wood, nails, fibro and corrugated iron. Luckily none of the family was a drinker or smoker. The dump provided old bricks which we cleaned with a brickie’s bolster and what was called a ‘mash hammer’.
Harry’s Junk Yard, on Smithfield Road was a cornucopia of delights, providing second hand doors, louvred windows and sash weights for the ‘Redwood’ windows we made from scratch. We used a tenon saw and chisels to make the mortises then wedged and fixed the frames with glue, heated on Mum’s stove in a double pot, stinking the house out with the odour of molten horses hooves.
Cramped together, they sat for a week until they could be planed to perfection with the Stanley smoothing plane, sanded and varnished. By the time we started the second house, we had electricity and could work into the night, any daylight left in the early evening reserved for making concrete roof tiles. Those hand made tiles, all five thousand of them, were to be the other half of the catalyst that brought on our ‘withdrawing’.
Back then, Monday to Friday plus half Saturday was the working man’s week.
Push bike five miles to the station, then forty five minutes rattling along the train tracks then a fifteen minute walk completed the commute. That, plus waiting times, added to the return journey left little time for building. So, Sunday always presented Dad with a dilemma. Would we continue to live in the shed, dirt floor and all, hastily erected over a long week-end with the help of Uncle Frank? Or would he defy the elders and have some Sundays away from Church to nail the joists and tack on the fibro?
He sometimes chose the latter and paid for it with a level of guilt, that for most Christians, ceased with the end of the Inquisition. But for our family, it was always there. Mind you, we did comply most Sundays and push-biked the five miles to Fairfield for the morning service and a few times attended the Gospel meeting at night where a preacher would thunder on about sin, fire and brimstone, whatever that is, and in a gentler voice assure us that we were loved by a gentle and forgiving God whose son died for our sins on the Cross.
The whole idea of sacrifice never did make sense to me. I always wondered why we should all feel sublimely thankful because Jesus died horribly over three days in extreme agony, hanging by nails driven through his hands and feet on a wooden cross. And I was particularly horrified when I heard the story of Isiah, who was prepared to kill his own son to prove his faith in God, the dickhead. To be fair though, God did provide a sacrificial goat at the last minute, sparing the child the knife if not the terror. Maybe the point was not to impress God but to impress someone else. After all, God would have seen through the ruse, wouldn’t He!
Inside the hall, we sat in silence, ranged in elongated concentric circles surrounding a raised platform supporting a large rectangular table holding a single loaf of bread and a crystal goblet of Penfolds beside the collection box in a recreation of the Last Supper.
I note the substitution of a real collection box for the symbolic one of the original.
I often wondered which of the Brethren was sent into Satan’s House to spend the three shillings on cheap port? The answer had to be Bill, the poor semi-ostracised bugger. After all, he went there anyway, to pick up his bottle of beer on the way to damnation.
Nothing happened to open the service. We just sat there silently until suddenly an elder, one of the twelve at the table, would feel the spirit and jump to his feet to pray.
I don’t know how God does it, but he alters the way people speak. In church, any church, cadence and tone are decaffeinated as the clichés roll out. ‘We trust in his love and are led into righteousness…’. Dreamy tones alternate with the dramatic anger of a vengeful God wash over us as we are lulled then startled, until he drops in the ‘Amen’ and announces the name of the hymn he is about to launch into.
I enjoyed the singing. Brethren hymns could not be compared with American Gospel I was later to come to love, as I developed a life long passion for Jazz.
When I followed what started as Dad’s love of music, to eventually become a successful professional musician, he would wait up until the early hours to ensnare me as I arrived home and berate me for playing “the Devil’s music”. I had to leave home for the same reason he was forced out of the church. But he never saw it, as I didn’t, until long after they killed him by ‘pointing the bone’. He died of a heart attack, but the guilt and ostracisation they dumped on him killed him as surely as if they had blown his brains out with a blunderbuss.
Exclusive’s could sing. Two and three part harmonies moving through the simple musical structure of hymns challenged me to try. I guess it was OK or I would have received a surreptitious slap from an embarrassed parent.
Maybe my skill at counting was born there too. Between the hymns, my eyes never left the big round clock on the wall as I counted each jump of the second hand, ticking away the hour and a half of boredom until someone on the dais got the message to stop. The vigour and speed of his exit from God’s House suggested that God, having had enough Joyful Noise for now, told him to piss off.
Strangely, we never stayed inside to socialise afterwards, but spilled out onto the footpath where we milled around avoiding meaningful conversation. Perhaps we were uncomfortable talking in His closer presence, afraid we might say something sinful. Eventually, an elder would lead his wife away and we got the message it was safe to get back on our bikes and ride home for lunch.
Last edited by The Irreverent Mr Black; 7th September 2009 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Paragraph formatting, with Ford's permission
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
Escaping from God through Oklahoma.
Two. Falling in love with Wendy Gibson.
I guess we are born romantics or not. I was and that hasn’t changed.
At school we were kept busy on rainy days, making long pencil thickness sausages of woollen yarn, using recycled wool, unravelled from old jumpers.
It was called ‘spool knitting’.
Wendy Gibson and I were five when I fell in love with her. Mind you, I didn’t fall in love with her right away. There was no love at first sight, she was just another kid in my kindie. There never has been love at first sight for me, except once, but by then I was too damaged to handle it.
I might get around to telling you about that one day. It’s also about God and guilt and how we all live lives of dishonesty even within ourselves.
Some live lies all the time, but most of us live, at least publicly, through several personas, none of which is the true us. Such a persona is the Pope, playing the part of God’s rep on earth.
Have you ever wondered what the Pontiff might admit in a drunken moment of honesty?
Imagine, the two of you, totally shit-faced, unburdening painful truths.
“Tell me mate, old Popey-poo, Ha Ha, does God really talk to you? Ha ha ha!”
“Are you kidding! Don’t be fuckin’ stupid!”
“Then why do you say he does? You’d have to be a real wanker to believe that!”
“Wanker! Ha, that’s really funny! But get real Mate. Some schizophrenic Pope heard voices and I’m stuck with it. Can’t deny it now. It’s expected. I’d lose credibility!”
“Credibility! Ha Ha! Too late for that Mate! Ha Ha!”
“Give me a break! you unfeeling bastard! It comes with the job!”
At five, the school photos show Wendy as a tubby little thing with short bandy legs, a shock of fuzzy hair and a mouth full of pointy little teeth. She looked more like an echidna than a teddy, but I loved her unconditionally for almost a day.
It’s not that I’m not loyal. I’m loyal to a fault and it’s not that I’m not faithful either. My wives, all my living ex-spouses, know I don’t stray. My second wife even wrote me a reference in which she described me in such glowing terms I suspect she regrets having left.
Of course, at the time, she ran away for a good reason, that being to snare the fat slob with attitude, a minister of the crown, who was tipped to be the next premier.
He was also an excentric multi-millionaire-to-be (when his father dies) and she wanted a bit of that. Unfortunately, she mistook arrogance for intellect and yet-to-be-inherited money for wealth. Now, she lives like a pauper with a cranky, aloof and unpleasant bloke who doesn’t like her much.
When I fell in love with her she was working as an Infants School teacher and part time call-girl. I was not a customer. In fact I met her at a Bat Mitzvah. Not hers, she was an Atheist before I realised I was, but she was there as a guest of a mutual Jewish friend, a famous and talented musician/composer.
When she walked in alone, I was introduced and she said the strangest thing.
“I’m so glad you could come!” Now, isn’t that an odd thing to say to a stranger!
Of course my musical friend had done a selling job on her.
Mind you, she wasn’t a stranger for long. We soon escaped the party and sat talking in my car. That’s when she told me what she does when not teaching kids.
Now, not for a second did I get the impression she was drumming up business. I was genuinely interested in her and asked what that entailed and was told. I now realise I saw another opportunity to ‘save’ somebody, a pathetic pattern of co-dependence that was again repeating itself. Of course, the co-dependent is always there for the pay off, to create obligation, and it didn’t hurt that she was young and gorgeous.
Although I got the impression she was not all that chuffed about jumping into bed for money, I didn’t think she was keen on doing it for nothing either and didn’t expect to hear from her again. But next day at EMI studios in Sydney, where I was working with Ted Egan recording a new album, she turned up.
All day she sat beside me in the studio, chatting between takes. I took her to lunch but when the last session was over, she left with no indication of her reason for being there or any intention of contacting me again.
I collected my old farm ute and drove home to Wollombi, a small village in the Hunter region of NSW, not expecting to hear from her again.
Last edited by The Irreverent Mr Black; 7th September 2009 at 08:05 PM. Reason: With Ford's permission, formatted for easier reading
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
If you’ve ever lived in a place like Wollombi, you will be familiar with wind-up phones, party lines and telephone exchanges that close at ten PM. They’ve all been replaced with automated exchanges but back then, operators had to go to bed. Being shut down while they slept allowed then to avoid sleepless nights fretting at missing out on eavesdropped juicy bits of their neighbours’ private conversation! One day I actually caught them at it. It was the family’s entertainment!
My first two kids, living with me by choice rather than with their poor mother, alcoholic and prescription drug addicted bi-polar victim of abuse, mutually chosen as co-dependents, were with her for the Christmas holidays so I was home alone.
Dinner was over and I was settling in with a bottle of red and a book when the phone jangled.
It was the call girl calling! We chatted for three minutes until the operator in Sydney asked, “Are you extending?”
She inserted another few twenties and talked until she was asked again and dropped more coins. I was anxious that the conversation was almost certainly being ‘monitored for training purposes’. The new guy in town being rung by a female late at night was too good to ignore. I asked how much phone money she had.
“Ten dollars, why?”
“That’s more than it costs to drive here,” I suggested. “How about you come and spend the day with me some time?”
She agreed that was a good idea, got directions and rang off.
I really expected to hear from her next weekend or never and went to bed.
At about two AM, the dog woke me, going crazy at the door so I got up to investigate.
My property was a hundred acre farm with a very old but lovely timber house at the edge of town with a few cows with, as they say, ‘calf at foot’.
Immediately I feared a wild dog was harassing a calf, grabbed a gun and torch and accompanied by the dog, rushed out the door.
The hall light flooded onto the veranda and there she was. The skimpy dress demanded that all eyes be drawn to her exceptional décolletage. She was clutching a small bag and wearing a smile that would melt granite. No dog that!
Of course, I invited her in. We talked some more over a bottle of wine, then went to bed and she never returned to Sydney, except for more clothes and her stupid Taliban trained Afghan hound that eventually died from a lead overdose, 22 calibre.
It eventuated that despite having a good job and goodness knows how much she earned through her badness, all she had in this word apart from an old car and the dog was $2 having spent her phone and petrol money. That should have been significant, but it’s hard to register such detail while distracted by an erect penis.
Thinking back to when we met, from the vantage point of almost ex-co-dependency, I remember what may have been a key part of our first conversation.
“You live at Wollombi?”
“Yes I do… Do you know it?”
Tinkle of laughter. “Oh yes, I take my dog there and I love it. What’s your house like and how many acres have you got?”
That should have set off the alarm but if it did, I didn’t want to hear it.
Oh well, although I never did really get to know what motivated such a gorgeous young woman to run away to the bush and take on a talented but emotionally damaged much older man. I must admit life with her was delightful for most of our sixteen years. That ended when she went on the prowl looking for someone really wealthy. She found a few to try and eventually trapped her Minister with a pregnancy, leaving me with the children.
Unfortunately for me then and her now, she mistook arrogance for intellect and yet-to-be-inherited money for wealth. She now lives like a pauper with a bloke who doesn’t like her much, tied to him by two more children who I suspect have as much respect for her as he does. To top it all off, to add to her lack of access to the family fortune, he lost his parliamentary seat after the birth of their child before becoming Premier, thus destroying her chance to be the state’s first lady.
So, what happened to end the almost-one-day love affair with Wendy Gibson?
In the evening around the fireplace, on the bus, in fact any free time not spent trapping rabbits or helping around the farm, I spent spool knitting. Eventually a huge ball of yarn grew until Eusebia, my lovely other grandmother, knitted it into a small, thick blanket for the baby. There always seemed to be a baby.
One afternoon on the school bus, Wendy was sick. I mean, she vomited all over herself and her clothes. She was inconsolably distressed and the driver, the only adult aboard, couldn’t do anything except hurry on to get her home.
Seeing her so alone and distressed, I had to do something. I felt responsible. I have always felt at least some responsibility for everything bad that happens. My father saw to that. He belted me for everything ‘sinful’ I did and for some things my poor breath-holding sister did. I was held responsible. I was expected to stop her, no matter that I was probably off somewhere on my bike with Ron at the time.
Wendy was distraught, crying pitifully, as the other kids moved away from the mess and smell.
“Yuk! Wendy stinks! Poo!”
What could I do? I did the only thing I could think of and gave her my spool knitting!
She took it. At five years of age, I guess it provided a distraction. I remember her going through the bag of stuff. Interest proved stronger than distress. It dried her eyes and kept her occupied for the remainder of the trip.
Her bus stop was before mine, so she was soon gone, dripping vomit and clutching my spool knitting.
Next morning, the bus stopped in front of her house. Maybe I had already forgotten she had the knitting, or really expected her to keep it, because I was surprised and alarmed when big scowling Mrs Gibson bustled onto the bus and without saying a word, thrust a brown paper bag into my lap.
I can’t describe the rejection I felt. In a way, I guess I expected it from my father, but this was the first person outside my family apart from God, who treated me as a nothing.
I met Wendy Gibson again fifteen years later. She had grown into a strikingly beautiful woman. She turned up as a new secretary where I worked but I was too embarrassed to even say hello.
I was always embarrassed to meet anyone who could conceivably know of my sordid past. A sordid past that so embarrassed and outraged my father, he gave me up to Satan in God’s name. I was nine years old.
Last edited by The Irreverent Mr Black; 7th September 2009 at 08:11 PM. Reason: Black, with Ford's permission, for formatting ease.
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
Mr Black has some very good material to work with here. A very enjoyable read.
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
Three. Into the fire with Marcel Marceau.
This has to be a good case for sex education in schools.
Wesley, last name withheld, eventually became a distinguished psychiatrist. But when he was about eighteen, he was famous among the local grots including me, for his demonstrations of masturbation.
I don’t know how Ron organised it, but apparently Wes was easy to get.
Soon after I was told what he did, Wesley turned up at the empty farm shed next door, perched on the edge of a wooden crate and did his trick. He didn’t get us to do the masturbation for him, but did have the little boys hold his testicles while he wanked. And I will never forget the smell. Like pot, it is unique and unforgettable.
It was amazing to us, like magic. I don’t remember him becoming excited or even saying anything and I don’t remember it exciting me either. It didn’t rate in the titillation stakes like watching a cow being served! But it was educational in its own way.
At about that time we found a packet of condoms in the hollow stump in the bush where Stanley and Hildergarde were rumoured to meet at night. Of course we stole some condoms and put them on, playing Stan and Hildergarde with our sisters. Again intercourse didn’t happen. We were not aware, I guess, that penetration was the purpose and giggled our silly heads off miming intercourse and buggery and even pretended to fuck the dog!
That game would have run its course, like marbles or yo-yos, had it not been discovered and Dad, feeling bound to intervene, did his God-driven best to scare us from repeating it. Exclusive fathers are under a lot of pressure, particularly if a family member strays. They are held responsible for everything that happens in the family, so he acted and the damage was done.
Come to think of it, and I am sure there are ex-EB’s among us who might like to comment, but I don’t recall any Brethren woman expressing an opinion at any meeting, and certainly never saw a woman lead a prayer or start a hymn. What influence women had at home is anyone’s guess. Perhaps a female escapee could tell us!
Anyway, we were sprung by Hazel Harrison, another family mystery.
Dad was a reluctant soldier. He applied for the RAAF early in the war but was rejected because of lack of education. Rejection offended him so much he refused to volunteer for anything else and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the army as a ‘Chocco’.
Meanwhile, Dad’s brother Hovee, AKA Bill, brought his wife Violet to our house to live. We all liked Violet. Bill was funny and a born practical joker.
Violet caused her own crisis. As a volunteer truck driver during the war, she chose to drive in overalls. Of course she looked great in them and they were practical but the Brethren women were outraged that a woman should wear Pants!
In the bush, when I was about ten, Bill told me he saw a rabbit go into a burrow. I grabbed a mattock and proceeded to dig it out, feeling ahead every metre of so, putting my arm in to reach the rabbit. After about two metres of digging, I felt ahead and pulled out a half-metre long frilly lizard! I was lucky not to be bitten. He thought it was hilarious and I should have known better. He had tricked me before.
When they came to live with us, he brought a ‘wireless’ into the house. How he got away with that I don’t know. Wireless radios were forbidden, as they still are. The EB’s decided that a biblical reference to Satan ‘speaking to the world with one voice’ means Satan will use the wireless (and the internet and TV and movies and now universities), to destroy our, that is, the EB’s relationship with God.
Luckily we escaped the usual inspections carried out on EB’s who lived in the ghetto and proceeded to enjoy radio programmes, particularly kids serials, like Search for the Golden Boomerang, Superman and Biggles. At night, we listened to Mrs ‘Obbs and on Thursday nights we were allowed to stay up for ‘Australian Amateur Hour’.
On that program I heard what was probably the last Castrato. Some European Church choirs practiced castration of selected boy sopranos to preserve their angelic voices for the continuing glory of God. Good one, Christians!
Many years later, I drove to Werombi to visit my uncle Bill and Aunt Violet.
When I arrived, Bill was milking the cows. I had brought my beautiful little boy, David, to visit but although I was no more than a few metres away, he refused to look up, totally ignoring me. After I had been trying to attract his attention for a while, Violet came from the house and invited me in for a cuppa.
Of course I asked what was wrong with Bill.
He was ‘back in The Meeting’ and wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone who wasn’t!
This was the man who had lived in our house, a funny and loving uncle we loved in return and whose clandestine wireless had opened our family to wonders of the world through radio.
He first came to visit when I was about two and a half. I then had a little pedal car that I practically lived in, racing around the yard and even down the street if I could get away with it.
I was happy driving around in my car, pedalling away, eyes front, avoiding obstacles, until one day he put out his foot to stop me and said,
“Race cars go backwards, yer know!”
That was it. From then on I drove everywhere backwards until I eventually wore out the tyres then the wheels. I’m still a dab hand at backing, even trailers!
Anyway, Dad was called up, did his training in the army and being a carpenter, was sent to Tamworth to build barracks. He came home on leave now and then, but was gone for months at a time,
Then one day, a girl arrived from Tamworth to live at our house. Hazel was unmarried and very pregnant. Now, I have no idea what happened that led her to our house, but am prepared to believe Dad had nothing to do with the pregnancy. But, it would have been ‘very him’ to offer his wife’s help to anyone in need.
But I do know she brought my sister and me undone.
The four of us were off on another condom flashing session. Ron pulled one out of his pocket to show us as we passed the side of the house.
Hazel saw the condom and told Mum. Of course Dad had to know and when he came home, we were given the mother of a hiding. Sis was subject to special attention and given a very angry adult level version of what God did to fornicators! She was seven. She has talked about it since and I agree with her that what she suffered was a form of sexual abuse.
Being beaten so often causes a child to be totally cowed or become inured to it and carry on regardless.
I was of the latter. Of course, I never really understood what brought on the anger and violence. I wasn’t deterred from adventure, I guess, believing the beatings would come whatever I did.
Therefore, still full of my exciting knowledge and needing to earn acceptance at school, I informed two classmates about ‘poofs’ and what they did. As nine years olds, they were suitably intrigued and wanted a demo. A minute in the toilet block demonstrating the principles attracted an audience and within minutes we had been dobbed in.
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
I was given a stern lecture by the principal and thought that was the end of it. I was wrong.
My father received a letter. I can only guess he was informed that I and two others had been caught in homosexual intercourse and of course I was fingered as the leader of this unsavoury gang.
I can imagine how devastated Dad must have been when he received the letter. Following so soon after the previous episode, he was furious, and presumably, excruciatingly embarrassed. He pulled out all stops to halt what he believed to be fully consummated homosexuality. Let me hasten to add here, that even if it had been as he imagined, it was still a game.
If the school had been English and upper crust instead of Australian and parochial it would have been expected rather than regarded as a matter of life and death, spiritual death, that is.
So, this part of the story is a cautionary tale of how not to question kids on serious matters if you seek anything like the truth.
Nobody asked what we actually did. If someone had asked, or been given a demo, I am sure what followed would have been different. Perhaps they had their own reasons for being unwilling to ask for details. Nevertheless, they presumed we had behaved as they imagined and filled in their own gaps.
A more careful interrogation would have revealed the truth but more importantly, I would have known the truth too. Swamped by guilt, I didn’t get around to examining, in my mind, the actual event until the guilt subsided enough to let me see clearly. Truth would have to wait for forty years.
Eventually, long after the guilt had faded to a sometimes shameful thought, I was thinking through the detail, running the actual video in my head, mainly because I was interested as a teacher and psychology major, in how children act under stress.
Suddenly I felt shock when I realised that all the pain, all the pleading to God, all the angst suffered by me, my parents and on down the line. My co-dependent partners and my children, all suffered because of a childish game, misinterpreted and used to shame and blame a kid.
The truth was too late for my poor tortured father, but not for Mum who was clearly relieved to learn the truth despite the passage of time. We didn’t really do anything other than mime a sexual act. We must remember that back then, homosexuality was illegal. To us innocents, it was just as much fun (and no more morally horrific I guess) than other and more acceptable childhood games of the times, like shooting Indians and killing Japs and Germans.
I was taken to a room by Dad. The bible was brought out and trawled for appropriate guidance. Eventually, the thunderous voice of God was found to have damned ‘boys who lie with boys’. There will be no forgiveness. ‘They will surely die!” I was damned to hell with no hope of forgiveness and I knew what that meant. Eternity of fire in Hell.
It is well known now, that many children, particularly abused children, will agree with anything a powerful and threatening adult says. They will even admit to have done things they didn’t do. Some of those will go on to believe their own fabrications.
The human ability to accept myth as truth, when to question it will deliver violent and painful repercussions, may be why true believers seem to be so sure. They really do believe it. We seem to be hard wired to live in a myth, if that enhances our chances of survival. So, don’t blame God, blame Charles Darwin!
For me, truthfulness was too hard in my world of violent and arbitrary retribution.
Luckily, in a way, Summer school holidays arrived and I was shipped off to Grandma’s Werombi property. That probably saved my life.
Two things held me back from suicide. One was terror of an eternity of agony in the flames of hell, and the other was my wonderful uncle Owen who always found time to take me ferreting, shooting, swimming and included me in everything he did.
That wonderful man died alone, single and sad, not permitted to claim fatherhood of his only child, a son, borne by his sister-in-law Violet. Bill was shooting blanks, probably the result of early adult mumps, so she recruited Owen in her quest for a sperm donor. He obliged with non-artificial insemination!
Owen was probably unaware of the love all us kids felt for him, a gentle man, denied marriage and overt parenthood by his own father who demanded he stay single to work on the farm to support his parents, the cranky old bastard!
I still remember the anger I felt and no doubt showed at his funeral. The clergyman who conducted the service knew so little about him it was an insult. Platitudes he muttered in his flat professional tone did not celebrate the man’s life. There was no mention of his mechanical genius or his kind and optimistic nature or of the people he loved and helped.
My anger was against the fakeness of the Christian service. He was dead forever and I suspect he took his own life.
Turnbull family ritual consisted of only one of the trapping of Christianity, that being the saying Grace at meal times. Otherwise, nothing. In a way, Grace was the signal to start eating rather than a heart-felt thanks for “God’s mercies.” Interesting that, food as a mercy!
Eusebia, despite her isolation on the farm, became an authority on Esperanto, a manufactured hybrid language, easy to learn, designed to be a universal tongue to facilitate international communication. Unfortunately for Esperanto, it was taken up strongly by the USSR and therefore suspected to be Communist inspired. It found little support in America or here, and I imagine, forbidden by the EB’s as another of Satan’s tools. It seems to be enjoying a resurgence, but back then, it was clearly revolutionary. Eusebia was an internationalist.
At night on the farm, I was sent to sleep in a shed away from the house. In that isolation, the nightmares returned. The prospect of fire, fire and more fire terrified me lying there in the dark.
“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, Look upon this little child.
God bless Mummy and Daddy, Grandma and Owen and….”
After the complete family had been lined up for blessing, there came the pleading.
“Please Lord, have mercy on me. I’m so sorry I did it. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again…”
This would go on every night until I drifted into exhaustion and nightmare filled sleep.
The significance of my terror of fire was not realised, even by me, until many years later.
My wife had a friend who ran Rebirthing sessions. She booked us in for a session. Having done a course of Meditation to help me relax, I was open-minded about it.
For some it was a fizzer but for me, it was a revelation.
For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I will offer a short description of what happened.
Lying comfortably on a soft mattress attended by the therapist, I was told to breathe in a pattern that I believe causes hyper ventilation, saturating the brain with oxygen and releasing suppressed memories.
I lost all awareness of my body. Suddenly, I registered pain. I was a child again, screaming for my mother. Meanwhile, I was still conscious of myself as an adult and felt safe. I was me in the present watching myself as a child, helpless and in extreme pain as he burned and screamed.
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma
When I came out of it, I felt different. I had dropped most of the background fear that had clouded most of my life. Changing the fear level effected everything, including my driving, at one end of the spectrum, to my confidence and attitude to sex and relationships at the other.
Mum filled in the detail.
When I was about two and a half years of age, women used to boil clothes. Not yet having a laundry, she was boiling a ‘copper’ that was balanced on a burning stump in the back yard.
She was siting on the veranda watching me running across the yard playing with my puppy. Looking back at the dog, I lost sight of the copper and ran straight into it, knocking it over into the fire and pulling the hot water and clothes down on top of me.
I do remember regaining consciousness for a moment. In that moment, I remember seeing Mum in a wicker chair staring at me and puffing. She was sitting, unable to touch my melting skin, waiting for the ambulance. She had run the several hundred metres to the one neighbour who had a phone. Not knowing what to do, she just sat and waited for the half hour until the ambulance arrived to take me to Fairfield Hospital.
I lapsed back into unconsciousness and stayed that way until I was into my hospital stay. In a way, it was Hitler and winter that saved my life.
Fortuitously, an old Jewish burn specialist, who had escaped the Nazis, was on hand at Fairfield Hospital when I arrived. Winter clothes had protected my body from the actual fire as it was doused by the hot water. Mum had the sense to get my clothes off quickly limiting what would have been fatal scalding but didn’t know that she should have dumped me into a cold bath. Those days we put butter on burns. It took away the sting but didn’t stop the damage.
I must have been tough not to have died from shock, lying there without clothes in winter. But the doctor saved my life. He treated my burns to an arm, a leg and torso. After a few days under his care, I was sent home.
There, I was put into a cot where a wire frame kept blankets from touching my skin, heated by a kerosene lamp under the frame.
A week or two later, the doctor came and I was given chloroform while scabs were scraped off. A nightmare produced by the ether is my only real memory of that ordeal.
Thus, seven years later, the concept of an eternity of fire in Hell was real to me in a way my parents and even their god could not have appreciated.
The arrival of the ambulance too, was must have been traumatic. For years, I suffered the same nightmare of a vehicle, a vintage ambulance, approaching across the paddocks toward the house and me trying to run on legs that were mired in something thick and clinging.
After the sex mine, and after having been banished for Christmas, it was decided I should go to my no-nonsense-aunt Ella, mother of older cousin Wally and Mum’s sister, I guess, to keep me away from other children for the remainder of the holidays.
In fact, I was so impressed by my father’s and God’s damnation, that I remained sex proof until I was married and that is another story.
Wally came to Campbelltown by train to collect me. He was thirteen.
That journey is etched in my memory. On the way to Wally's at Roseville, the train passed through Canley Vale. I felt such shame as the train approached that starion, where someone who knew what I had done might see me, that I hunkered down below the window sill until the train left the station.
I was sure everyone knew God had condemned me, as surely as if I were wearing a plaque declaring my status. For years, I cringed in a constant desire to not be noticed. Photos taken then show a soft looking little kid with brown skin, bowed shoulders and averted eyes.
I had been a stutterer and a bed wetter anyway, so both those afflictions increased until I could no longer speak to anyone outside the family and had a very difficult time at school and even attracted scorn from some teachers.
Strangely, I could still sing fluently and earned roles in end of year musical plays for the next two years, fostering a love of drama and musicals and later an ability to write in that genre. What I could do, particularly helping people, my father, in fact anyone, defined my self image. That was to leave me with a fear of authority and a belief that I could be valued only in terms of what I could do for people.
Later in life, a psychologist tried to impress upon me the concept of a ‘human being’ as opposed to a ‘human doing’. It is an important concept I found difficult to practice. I still jump in, but it is now a joyful community feeling rather than a need to claw back some raison d’etre. And it does allow me to exercise the one-size-fits-all commandment I try to live by. “Do unto others…”
Although my next two teachers treated me as they did most others in my class, that didn’t remove the stigma. For a while it faded, but when I reached puberty, it came back stronger than ever. Not only did I still wet the bed, but now I had wet dreams and was devastated. I thought then, despite my education at the feet of Wanking Wesley, that my own ejaculation accompanied by erotic dreams was another of God’s signs. I had not and never would be forgiven.
Years later, at Teachers’ College I studied child psychology. Maybe it’s true that people study psychology to better understand themselves and maybe that was true of me. However, realistic self awareness had to wait several more decades.
Meanwhile, I arrived at high school knowing nobody. In a way that was fortuitous. It gave me a new start and a new friend.
Lindsay arrived from Victoria. He looked different, wore strange clothes and was alone. We drifted together and became firm friends. I had found anther Ron and best of all, he knew nothing about my past. I still had personality problems of course, but my mind was no longer preoccupied with self loathing.
He was non-judgmental, intelligent, loved literature and was a communist, not that I knew what a communist was at the time, and of course, Atheist.
Best of all, he lived within bike riding distance so I escaped to his house as often as possible. His maternal grandmother was Dame Mary Gilmore.
To me at that time, she could have been Bea Miles, but it was possibly her influence that produced in her family a love of music, poetry, literature and card games. In that house I enjoyed all of that, earning respect through my music and shared love of literature. With acceptance, my stuttering was almost forgotten and I joined in political discussions. That did not make me communist, but did push me far to the left of my father and eventually, to join the Australian Greens.
A clear image survives of me being taught to play poker and euchre by Bert, Lindsay’s amiable and cultured alcoholic father, a half gallon glass jar of brown Muscat at his elbow.
If my dad had known I listened to Jazz and played cards with a drinker, and discussed politics with a communist, he would have had apoplexy and stopped it. Maybe he was relieved to be rid of me. I was by then too big to belt, appeared to be behaving and probably more to the point, I was out of sight (and out of mind).
(Concluding chapter next post)
Re: Escaping from God through Oklahoma