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Camping In Caves
By Paul Francis Mc Cann
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
You never know what can happen going away camping .
Our neighbourhood was rough so often we had to stick together , It was a strength in numbers thing . We had a good crew . All of us had played football together . We played for the same club and our friendship was strong .
There were the Aherns , Gerry and his cousin , Poppy , The Meehans , the Duanes , Micky , Spider , Lefty Armstrong and my best friend Stevie .
We were friends even before we started school . From the day we started school we all began to ride our bikes everyday to and from school .
Sometimes we swapped over our bikes just for something different .
As we grew up we started to stay out later and we went away on the weekends . Our favourite place was the bridge by Kanga Creek . That’s were we went jumping off the bridge into the creek . Some of our other favourite spots were Dandy Point . Sometimes when we had enough pocket money we would hire a boat and go fishing out on the Bay . We never caught many fish but we enjoyed each others company .
As the years went by we had a few disagreements but we always stuck together as friends . It was now our last year at school .
Some of us felt a little sad because some of the crew were moving away from the neighbourhood entirely . After school was over this year it would be goodbye forever for some of us .
As this was our last summer together we as a crew decided to spend a weekend camping up in the high country near Woolwash Lake .
We made plans to do lots of rock climbing and fishing . There would be a lot of time for drinking beer and doing what men do when they are out there alone in the wild . The weeks went by and the countdown was on .
There was only a few weeks left until school was out .
Our head teacher Mr Balty stood in front of year 12 in the final assembly in the sports oval one afternoon . He pointed his finger furiously and called us the worst class the school had ever had .
As Gerry started to laugh others joined in .
It was the end of school for most of us and all we could do was laugh .
Balty was a frustrated academic who at times reacted in a slightly overdramatic way . He loved an audience and school assemblies were his big chance to star for a little while . It was kind of cute most of the time .
I can still remember the last words he said about our crew in front of the entire school assembly . There was a huge silence after he said ,
“In all my thirty years of teaching I have never been so disrespectfully treated by any student . You have a lot to learn and as you have not learnt anything in school I hope you can learn through what life may bring you . ”
“Some boys seem to think its funny !“
Balty screamed .
The whole school began laughing . One of the other teachers noticed what was so funny . Somebody had hoisted up a desk to the top of the flagpole .
The desk was in fact Mr Baltys very own .
The day only got worse after that . There were keyholes in classroom doors filled with contact glue . Teachers chairs with legs sawn off . Blackboards spray painted with graffiti and trip ropes in the corridors . Most of the stairwells in the school were barricaded with school furniture and somebody had unplugged all the computer terminals and phones . It was chaos .
When school was finally out the crew held a special meeting that evening after dinner in the club house .
About a dozen of us met that evening inside the change rooms of the local swimming pool . That is were we met to discuss the issues of the day and the state of play for the weekend . Football was over for the season and the main issue at hand for the crew was about our weekend camping .trip .
We had to work out how much beer we could carry and who would be in charge of the money . There were other things to be decided . Who would cook and who would clean . Who would stand guard and who would be responsible for first aid .. In case of an accident .
That’s the way we did things in the crew . We worked together and got things done . Some of us we really starting to mature . One of the Ahern twins even had a full beard on his chin . Spider and Lefty had tattoos and Micky had was dated a few girls .
There were some of us who didn’t want to be old because that meant leaving behind the golden days of our youth . Most of us never let on but I guess deep down we were all afraid of losing those times . That’s why we wanted a final fling together at the Woolwash .
Everything was planned .
After school was over for another year we were all going to Lake Woolwash .
Suddenly the day came and there we were , standing on the side of the road with thumbs put out . Eventually we all got a lift . It was in the back of an old lumber truck on its way north . We spread ourselves around the tree trunks and logs on the back of the truck and there was plenty of room .
That afternoon we arrived by the Lake . We made our way over to the side of the Lake and changed into our swimmers . Some of us tied a rope to a tree and swung back and forwards into the water . A few others climbed up to the top tree branches and dived into the water head first . After a while we made our way to the caves on the side of the cliff face . Once inside the caves we lit and small fire and started to unpack . Sleeping bags and beer were the two priorities . After we drank a few beers we drifted off to sleep .
During the night some wild life had crept into the cave . Charlie Ahern jumped out of his sleeping bag screaming about a snake crawling into his sleeping bag . In a panic , we all jumped up and started to bash the sleeping bag with anything we could lay our hands on . If there had been a snake in there it didn’t stand a chance .
Charlie took his sleeping bag and went outside the cave to upend the contents over the ridge . As he was out there he could hear someone calling for help . The voice seemed to be coming from higher up the cliff face .
He came back into the cave and told everyone what he had heard .
With more that enough dutch courage it was agreed that the whole crew would climb up the cliff to where the cry for help was coming from .
Like lizards on a rock we all crawled up the side of the mountain . Every foothold and hand grip was carefully considered before continuing the climb . The voice was now clearly distinguishable . It sounded like an old man was in trouble .
We called out to him .
“Hang on we’re coming .“
“Please hurry .“
Came the response .
All the lads made their way inch by inch closer to where the man was .
With the assistance of a flashlight they located the old man cradled by the branch of a tree on the edge of a rocky precipice . It looked like he had fallen from some place higher above .
What a surprise it was when they recognised who they were rescuing .
Badly shaken but still intact was Mr Balty their old head teacher .
It took a while but they were able to free him from the branches of the tree . They made a human chain and slowly but surely the lowered him down to the entrance of their cave . Once he was sat beside the fire and given a few drinks he started to come around .
Mr Balty was so relieved and said ,
“Well boys there I was on Chambers Lookout taking a photo of Lake Woolwash .“
“I didn’t know you were a photographer Mr Balty .“
Lefty said .
The old man replied ,
“Oh yes and as a matter of face I am a member of the Woolwash Photographic Society . Well actually there are only four of us in the club but each week one of us in challenged to take photos of a certain topic . This week my challenge was Lake Woolwash .I wanted to capture the Lake under the best light and had everything perfect before I slipped and fell . It was the branches of a tree that stopped my fall and as a matter of fact I wish I had my camera with me as I sat there in the branches . The Lake was a real picture from where I was . Te aperture was perfect and a number of wild swans had glided down onto the surface .”
“What happened your camera Mr Balty ?”
Spider asked .
Mr Balty thought deeply for a moment and said ,
“Well as far as I can remember there I was on the lookout leaning out with my camera adjusting my stance when suddenly the camera slipped out of my hands . It didn’t go very far . I could still see it on the ground over on the other side of the safety barrier . There was no one was around and the more I looked at the camera just sitting there , the more I could see O wanted to recapture it . I never thought about the edge of the cliff face . It really seemed so simple . So I jumped over the fence and made my way over to where the camera had fallen . As I reached out for the camera the loose ground started to give way under my feet . It was to late . Recovering the camera was now the furthest thing from my mind . I frantically reached out for any kind of hold but everything I reached for came over the edge of the cliff along with me . “
What kind of camera is it you had ?
Gerry asked .
“Well actually its a very expensive digital camera .
Balty said but befor ehe could continue Gerry said ,.
“Is it like this one Mr Balty ?“
Gerry held up a large silver camera .
“That’s it Gerry . Where did you get it ?”
Old Balty replied .
“I found it lying on the ground outside the cave .“
“Thank you very much .“How can I ever repay you boys ?”
Balty replied taking back his camera .
“Maybe you could tell everyone at the first school assembly next year how some of us ex- year 12 students saved your life .“
Spider said .
“You have a deal ?”
Balty replied .
The weekend camping trip went well , even with Mr Balty there as the uninvited guest . After the weekend was over everyone got to know Mr Balty a little better . He wasn’t really that bad when you got to know him .
What a surprise we all had during the week when we say a photo of us in the cave and an article written about the heros of year 12 .
Mr Balty had written a from t
The newspaper had an article about us and had it published on the front page of the local paper .
About a month later we all got a nice surprise when each of the crew received a personally written school reference in the mail from the Principle .
By Paul McCann
Site: Poems To Share
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