Monday, 23 August 2010

Then I Grew Up.

At the end of The Second World War I was five years old. The war had a profound effect on all of us, young and old. There was no man in our household, no male role model. Plus we children were influenced by men returning from the war, and in some cases by men simply not returning. Presumably that is why some of us developed cruel tendencies that were perhaps awesome in their originality.
We would create hollow balls of mud using local clay. We would carefully insert insects, ants and the like inside these man made prisons and place them in the hot embers of bonfires we had created specifically for our foul endeavours.The animal kingdom we disregarded and disrespected. We were alas, infantile and immature, truly depressing. All manner of insects would be executed by inserting their heads through the holes in a clock face and decapitated by turning the clocks hands. Where we learnt such cruelty I know not. But what I do remember is that we made reference to 'the Boche, Hun or Jerries' and 'the Japs'. Those suffering our initial cruelty were always symbols of the enemies that had occupied my live seemingly forever. Childish behaviour, very childish; then I grew up.
No more ingenious torturing of insects. (Excepting a phase where we blew up frogs, literally, using a straw inserted up the rectum.) We were older now and left childish behaviour behind; or did we? We made dobbers, ghats, catapults, call them what you will, that fired stones (and steel ball bearings if you could find them.) Plus bows and arrows, the arrows preferably tipped with the pointed end of a discarded dart. The object, to 'down' any bird or wild animal within firing distance, lethal if successful, equally dangerous also to any of our 'gang' within firing range. We were village children, presumably some of our behaviour at this stage of our development was connected with a primeval urge to hunt and forage. Mercifully I don't remember one single occasion when any animal or bird was actually harmed on our expeditions; then I grew up.
In mid teenage I had a gun that fired nine millimetre cartridges. Small but still a dangerous weapon particularly at close quarters and in the hands of an untrained novice. I have no idea where I obtained this weapon or what eventually happened to it. What I do remember is hiding this weapon from adults and stalking the hedgerows of surrounding fields, reminiscent of Davy Crockett, a cult figure in my youth. (Again I do not remember a single instance of the gun being fired in anger. Perhaps a pattern was emerging); then I grew up.
It was in some ways an age of indifference to the pain and suffering inflicted on the animal kingdom. Animals were often disposed of without thought as to the suffering inflicted. I have seen kittens killed by hitting their heads against a farmyard wall. The drowning of kittens in a bucket of water was commonplace. Recently a man in Staffordshire's conviction for animal cruelty for similarly drowning a grey squirrel surprised many. Some suggested grey squirrels deserve little else. Can anyone with any sensitivity whatsoever imagine the abject terror inflicted on such animals in the last moments of their life.
If my aversion to blood sports loses me readers, so be it. But I loathed fox hunting, defended by some as a very British institution. Look how they slaughter my chickens some say. But they're an animal for goodness sake. Do you really need to defend the barbarous pursuit of foxes by howling dogs and demented bloodthirsty fools on horseback. Please spare me the 'It's very British' bit. I have a farmer friend who would not allow foxhunting on his land, so please don't tell me it's only 'townies' who object. I have no doubt I will be subjected to charges of sentimentality by some. But I watched the foxhunts as a child; then I grew up.
We lived in Lincolnshire when I first married. To see hares 'dancing and shadow boxing' in the adjoining fields was indeed a joy to behold. We hadn't been there very long when we awoke one morning to the sound of gunfire; lots of it. In front of our house (a forty plus acre field) a hare shoot was in progress. We will never forget it. Very reminiscent of the Alamo. Both my wife and I were distraught. And next came the pheasant shoots. Packs of ruddy faced individuals with nothing else in their empty lives than to blast away as hand raised pheasants flew overhead. Some birds fortunate to escape the barrage and settle not too far away. To be re-hunted in the near future; were they really the lucky ones. What clever men you were, and such bravery, such skill.
All these thoughts came rushing into my head as I viewed on the television a terrified bull running amok at a bullfight in Northern Spain. A hot, sunny family afternoon for mothers, fathers and children alike spoilt by an inconsiderate, albeit terrified bull. What a hell of a way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Evidently this was not the traditional bullfight but an event where participants go into the ring and goad, aggravate the animal. I read of this 'happening' also as a news item. It suggested bullfighting in general needs to be looked at 'As the lives and safety of the spectators and human participants should be of paramount importance at any sports event.' Amazing, no mention of the cruelty involved, no mention regarding the animals welfare. This absolutely says it all. I too went to bullfights in my late teens; then I grew up.
We read of horrific acts still perpetuated by children and grown ups in the world. I am not qualified to know the reasons, I can only suspect less than perfect instruction as to the rights of animals in particular. And whilst there are many in this twenty first century who are still indifferent towards animals, many fortunately care. Thankfully my wife, children, grandchildren treat the animal kingdom with the respect it deserves. Because whatever their ages, they have grown up.

34 comments:

the fly in the web said...

I can say 'mea culpa'.
I grew up in a hunting family..took on all its' views..was 'blooded' and only once I was married with a child did I reconsider my pastime.
My disgust with myself was enough to change my way of life.

But the sound of the hunting horn still rouses my blood.

Pauline said...

I really enjoy that post. When I think of the blood-thirsty activities my brothers and I took part in, I shudder and wonder how we all grew up reasonably responsible and normal. The worst thing we did was throw a neighbourhood friend off the chook house roof with a noose around his neck, the price he had to pay for choosing to be on the "baddies" side in our game. Luckily, none of us were boy scouts and our knot gave way after a couple of minutes of his thrashing around but he did end up in hospital and, oh boy, were we in BIG trouble. I shudder to just think about it!!

Uncle Bernard said...

I too enjoyed that read Ken, although being of a similar age I can't recall any of us children getting up to anything like those things you mention.
I, like you, abhor all animal cruelty. If animals, ie vermin, have to be despatched, it should be done humanely. I am totally against bull fights and the hunting of foxes with hounds - and whilst on the subject, I would want to see the banning of animal slaughter by cutting their throats and letting them bleed to death in the name of so called religion!

Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

Well said! Although I have been known to swat a fly hovering over a cooling Sunday roast or cake just out of the oven, or squidged a snail taking lumps out of my flowers, I have always treated animals the way i would be treated myself. My cat and dog lead a life of luxury and I would have it no other way. I cannot bear fox-hunting either,so you still have my readerhip!!

slommler said...

Animal abuse is so horrific! I just can't imagine hurting any of our earthly creatures! It has never made sense to me. Never!!
I too am horrified by the bull "fighting" and that bull running terrified through the crowd made me cry.
Let us hope we all "grow up" and soon!
Hey! My fiber sculpture is now installed! Come see!
Hugs
SueAnn

Fat Grump said...

I remain horrified that people can stamp on a spider to remove it from their homes. I don't particularly like them, but I love the people who scoop them up and release them outside. I deliberately side-stepped a crawly thing on the pavement this morning. It has as much right to live as I have. A week or so ago I saw pictures of a terrified fox who had somehow wandered into a football stadium. Feeling fear, feeling trapped in a strange place, it tried to escape...bounding up the terrace but catching it's underbelly on the rows of hard plastic seats in a most ungainly (and painful I would imagine) manner as it, in blind terror, scrambled it's way to the top of the stand. I thought about that poor fox, so obviously scared, for ages afterwards. I saw the bull amongst the Spanish crowds. The poor thing looked demented and was whacked or poked at every turn..as though it had no feelings, no value.

I think we have to teach our children at a young age about the sanctity of all life. Compassion is a wonderful and valuable quality.

Geoffrey Woollard said...

Well said, than man!

Geoffrey Woollard said...

Sorry, should have typed, 'Well said, that man!'

mhayworth said...

As an ex-Tory who is campaigning to uphold the hunting act, I must say your story and the responses that followed give me some hope.

I'm particularly interested in learing more from 'the fly in the web' to understand how that anti-hunting turning point came about. If you would be willing to discuss it, please contact us through the campaign website at: www.campaignfordecency.org.uk

Happy Frog and I said...

Really good post Ken, I'm so glad you wrote this.

Daphne said...

Great post and so well written - thank you! Loved it! (And I totally agree with you).

cheshire wife said...

That was a bit of an eye opener. I did not realise that little boys participated in such gruesome pastimes.

Valerie said...

Excellent post, Ken. I agree with everything you wrote, including the incident with the bull. I remember seeing the bull chase in Spain, bulls with arrows all over them being chased by a crowd of obvious animal haters. I felt sick then and do so whenever I evoke the memory.

Freda said...

A brave and honest comment. Glad you feel differently from when you were young, but then we all have to grow up and learn. I will certainly think differently about killing a wasp or catching a mouse in a trap. (Two phobias I am sorry to say.) Every Blessing

Keith said...

I must be the only person who was attacked by a fox during a hunt.

I was about 10 at the time and I was standing in my grans farmyard watching the hunt in full cry at the top of a nearby hill. Suddenly the fox ran into the yard followed by the hounds and the only way out was the small gateway in which I was standing.

The fox, in sheer desperation to get out, leapt at me and bit me badly on the arm, but before he could do any more damage the dogs were on us. They tore the fox to bits but didn't touch me thankfully. I finished up in hospital. To this day I still occasionally have bad dreams about it.

A man called Valance said...

Much food for thought, Ken. Yeah, I did things like that, too. Then I grew up.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi
Firstly, for the first time ever, a comment concerning comments to a post. I expected stick (see next post.) I was immensely heartened by the comments made. The world is still full of caring, mature individuals. There is hope for us all.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

fly in the web
Great, have you seen the comments below from mhayworth.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Pauline
Thanks. I found your story amazing. They would lock you up now!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Uncle Bernard
Thanks and I entirely agree with you re ritual killing. But we're not supposed to say so!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Addy
Thanks, we are one and the same. Wonder what the young uns think?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

slommler
Agree totally. Saw your work of art. You are very dedicated and obviously talented. Well done!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Fat Grump
Obviously you care, I wonder why some don't?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Geoffrey Woollard
Thanks, its appreciated.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

mhayworth
Welcome. Thanks and good luck to your campaign.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Happy frog
Thanks, and I was so doubtful re this posts reception.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Daphne
Thanks, you definitely cheered me up!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

cheshire wife
Perhaps it was a boys thing, or was it a sign of the times?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Valerie
Thanks, you obviously 'care', always a good trait.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Valerie
Thanks, you obviously 'care', always a good trait.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Valerie
Thanks, you obviously 'care', always a good trait.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Valerie
Thanks, you obviously 'care', always a good trait.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Freda
Thanks. Mind you, none of us are perfect!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Keith
Crikey, that's one hell of a thing!