Bob Brown

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


Bob Brown worked in my Dad's dairy.

Submitted: June 16, 2018

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Submitted: June 16, 2018

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There must be a good half dozen Bob Browns in the world, and at least half of them are probably Roberts! This isn’t about any of them, this one’s long gone and as far as we knew, he didn’t leave any rellies behind. He used live on the way to the gorse track, which was in those days, a sort of local lovers’ lane. Nowadays I’d say with so much gorse, it’d probably be an uncomfortable lovers’ lane, nevertheless it’s amazing what passion will do. A few times my mates and I went there to spy on the lovers but nobody happened to be in love on those days.

Bob worked in Dad’s dairy, but he was more of a hanger-on than a worker, he used to hang around for food rather than perform actually work, filling in time and chancing raids in Mum’s kitchen cupboards for her home baking! He was an old bachelor and lived in a rickety hut up on the hill where the gravel road ended. He had no electricity, water or sewerage laid on. I’d been there a few times with Dad and he reckoned Bob was a squatter.  I think Dad felt sorry for him, because he was checking why Bob hadn’t turned up at the dairy. Bob didn’t seem to like lifting crates of full bottles off the bottling machine, maybe he couldn’t, but he knew how to roll the full twelve and half gallon drums upright along the floor to the pasteuriser.

I still don’t trust smokers! Bob was a smoker and he used to roll his own. Often, I used to sit watching him twiddling his fingers to roll the tobacco into the tissue paper and sometimes he’d get me to lick the gum to finish off the job. I thought I was big time! He used wax matches and he could strike them against anything that was dry. You can’t buy wax matches here these days, they’re deemed to be too dangerous. Anyway, one day Bob fidgeted around in his match box.

‘This is a good’un!’ he exclaimed, and held up a match.

‘Is it?’ I replied, bemused because it looked no different to any of the others.

‘Sure is.’ He smiled, ‘It can burn twice! You wanna see?’

I nodded.

He struck the match, lit his fag, blew out the match and straight way put the hot matchhead on the back of my hand! It burnt alright! It left an angry red mark too! It was a bit of a shock for a kid not yet seven years old.

When Dad came in, I was quick to show him my burn and tell him what happened. Parenting’s a bit different these days. Dad laughed his head off and told me that the men in the dairy are full of tricks and if I go in there when they’re working, I should watch out! They were a rag-tag bunch of blokes, there was even a murderer among them. He did someone in over money for a racehorse bet. I remember a policeman coming to the door for Dad to identify his sweater, but that’s all I know. I’ve tried to find the report in old newspapers, but haven’t been able to find it.

I could still see the burn mark that Christmas, but it wasn’t sore any more, and anyway I was distracted by my present. You see, I liked to draw, and Mum bought me a thick Black Beauty pencil and one each of the primary colours, they were hard to get in those days so I was a lucky lad! They were inside a double-decker, wooden pencil case with a smooth-sliding lid, and it had a special recess for an eraser near where the lid closed. Very flash indeed but I didn’t have an eraser, so I used the blue pencil to colour in the bottom of the recess.

Towards the end of the Christmas holidays, I took my drawing pad and pencils out to the dairy to try to copy the logo on the fridge. Nosey Bob came along wanting to see what I was drawing, he didn’t say much about how good the drawing was, but he noticed my flash pencil case and picked it up.

‘Flash pencil case.’ He said, sliding the lid open. I was a bit worried that he’d try to pinch it, I didn’t trust him anymore!

‘What’s the blue in there?’ He asked.

‘Water.’ I replied quietly. ‘It’s wet, go on, feel it.’

When he poked his finger in the recess, I slammed the lid shut! I found something else about Bob that day, he couldn’t stand pain! He bucked and roared and swore… and swore again! I was out of there!

To pasteurise milk, you slooowly move the bottle past your eyes. Sorry that’s an old family joke. You heat the milk to nearly boiling point and then cool it quickly. We ran it over a gadget that was made of refrigerated tubes placed on top of each other, perhaps twenty of them. One day, I went into the dairy and the cooler hadn’t been cleaned. It was supposed to be Bob’s job, where was he? I scouted around for him and noticed that the milk remaining on the cooler had frozen, so I took a lick. Ting! My tongue stuck to it! I couldn’t move, nor could I call out! I’ve no idea how long I was there, but Mum must have missed me, because it was she who found me. She wasn’t sure quite what to do.

She returned with Bob, he’d been asleep in the stable. He laughed when he saw me and I felt vulnerable. He reached into his pocket and brought out a pocket knife, slowly flourishing like some evil magician. I felt doubly vulnerable, I imagined chunks being cut out of my tongue and he had an evil glint in his eye! And he said, ‘Heh, heh!’ Like the bad hunter in Bambi!

He didn’t hesitate, Bob carefully chipped away at the ice that held my tongue, as gently as if he was skinning a grape and soon I was free! Gratefully free! To this day I haven’t lived the incident down! Family still say that I’m bound to have picked up germs from Bob Brown’s grubby pocket knife!

 

 


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