Growing up in a caravan park for a few years of my life was not ideal, however there were moments of excitement and fucked-upness. The caravan park is in the middle of Clunes, stretched out along the banks of the Creswick Creek, directly across the creek from the footy oval. Friday night through the summer meant basketball at the two courts on the edge of the caravan park. It was a healthy competition, mainly filled with aging retired footballers who played footy on a basketball court more than the basketball they were supposed to be playing. The odd fight and random kerfuffles were the norm between the Grass Hoppers and the Young Farmers. It was really busy, dozens of cars parked along the wire fence ready for the nights action, with adults milling around chatting and laughing. It was the Friday night thing to do through the summer.
Seeing as we lived right next to the basketball courts our ‘place’ was a common haunt before the games started. We owned a huge trampoline and every kid in town could fit on it… well, so we thought. Kids with bikes, and skateboards; others with a friend from another town on a sleep-over or their little dog; girlfriends and boyfriends holding hands and best friends giggling under the old walnut tree on the corner of the courts. It was the place to be on a hot summer night in Clunes. sadly the comp is no longer at the park and is now held in the stadium at the footy oval.
My youngest sister was only little when we lived in the park, perhaps five years old. She was well looked after by the local teenagers, everybody looked out for everybody back then. I remember this one afternoon when a couple of my school friends sisters who were older than me, were riding their bicycles around the park. I’ll call them K & K, as they both had the same name. One of the girls parents owned the local milk bar in the main street where they sold ice-creams in a cone so fucking huge that people would travel miles to get one. A single scoop was two huge scoops, you didn’t ask for a double!
I guess Mum was inside the van and Dad was probably at work or the pub. There were a bunch of kids hanging around taking turns on K & K’s bicycles. Back in the eighties most bikes had a wire rack on the back where you could dink someone sitting on it, and of course my little sister wanted a go. The eighties were an age when nothing had guards on it and you lived without worry. Kids could ride around the town without any stress and fun was just being outside in the air with your mates.
My little sister never wore shoes when she was little. She loved anyone a bit older than herself, people intrigued her then, they still do now and she still wears no shoes! She wanted a go. So up she hopped onto the dinkin’ rack on the back of the bike, huge grin, arms stretched around ‘K’s waist. Off they went. She giggled loudly as they peddled off. Simple things can make you so happy. The park had an oval-shaped road through it with speed humps to stop people speeding through the park, it was a great track for a bicycle. A couple of laps in and they came back onto the grass and my sister let out an unholy scream.
K dropped her bike to the ground, my sister falling to the ground beside it clutching at her little foot. Every kid in the park ran to them. Blood squished between her fingers and she was howling like a banshee. K & K stood over her trying to work out what had happened. Mum pushed through the little crowd and pulled my sisters hands away from her foot exposing a raw, bloodied and chewed up mangled big toe.
The little crowd exclaimed in disgust, a couple of kids may have muttered ‘cool’ under their breath. I was completely grossed out. Mum picked her up and rushed into the van leaving all of us standing there in shock. K who was dinking my sister was crying. It was then that we all thought to check the bike. How did this happen?
After a closer examination it was discovered that somehow she had got her big toe caught in between the greasy bike chain and the cog that the chain is on; that essentially caused a mincing of ones big toe to occur. A couple of the boys helped to push the mince-toe-meat out of the holes of the chain with a stick. Leaving the greasy, bloodied chunks on the dirt below. Remarks of ‘totally rad and mad’ were thrown around while the meat was jabbed out of the chain.
Poor K wouldn’t ride her bike home, she pushed it to the other K’s shop and left it there. Forever scarred by the event no doubt. I wonder if she remembers that day still?
My sister now has what we all call her ‘snail helmet’ toe. The bike chain had minced off the top of her toe, luckily missing any bone, but as a result of the injury her nail now grows over the top of her toe like a stack hat. It really is the cutest thing! For years she wouldn’t wear any shoes that you could see her toe in, but thankfully in recent years she has began wearing her stack hat toe with pride.
Moral: wear shoes on bicycles!!
Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!