Let me say at the outset that my darling mother was the most gentle, kind hearted person you could hope to meet. However, she did have a penchant for filling our heads with the most terrifying information imaginable. We kids were both fascinated and appalled. Her stories left indelible memories, especially on me, the most impressionable and fanciful of her brood.
Mum was raised in the back blocks of Tasmania at a place called Reedy Marsh. Apparently one of their neighbours (known as Old Dolf) met a dreadful end. We were told with great relish that he died after eating too many egg plums. According to Mum they fermented in his stomach and he exploded. I suspect she told us this to stop us eating cases of fruit intended for bottling. Needless to say we were alarmed, but not deterred. It was not until I was living in England years later that I actually saw egg plums. They grow in Pershore, Worcestershire, where there is an annul plum fair. My word, that sounds dangerous. And no, I didn’t attend…. just in case.
On the subject of bottling; we grew canning beans on our farm and before we had a deep freezer it was very difficult to keep vegetables for an extended period. One year Mum decided to try preserving them, like fruit. The huge cupboard on the back veranda was soon lined with preserving jars of rather unappealing, khaki coloured beans.
Fortnately, before we sampled any she read an alarming article in the Weekly Times on BOTULISM, and tipped them all out. I still look at any preserved vegetables with deep suspicion
DANGER IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Did you know that foxgloves are deadly poisonous? Mum told us it was something to do with the heart. Oh dear, the urge to poke our fingers into the quaint purple ‘gloves’ was irresistible, though accompanied by the fear that we might drop dead on the spot. Thankfully the foxgloves in my garden always turn white, which I choose to believe are less toxic.
My sister Robbie and I spent a lot of time playing in the bush, which according to Mum was fraught with danger. ‘Never pick up rolled pieces of bark, because they often have snakes in them’ , she said. ‘And snakes will chase you’. Good grief! Then there was the story about the little girl who went to the toilet in the bush and was bitten on the bottom. She was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so she died.
Plovers were another wildlife hazard. Long before Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds appeared, we had nightmares over swooping plovers. ‘They have poisonous spurs and if they strike you on the head…you’re a gonner.’ Thanks Mum! The birds nested in our paddocks and during breeding season the walk from the bus stop was fraught with fear. It turns out they do have spurs, although it seems they are all bluff. But we weren’t to know that, were we? 😨
The most terrifying thing Mum told us scarred me for life. Even though I live in the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales I can never go bush walking. This is due to something so horrible that I cannot even bring myself to type the name, let alone post a picture. Suffice to say it begins with L and rhymes with beaches. They creep up on you and suck your blood. My mother’s wicked brothers used to chase her with giant ones at Reedy Marsh. One day she ran away and hid in a barn with the rats, until a party of searchers found her by lantern light.
Here is a photo of Mum icing Christmas biscuits with her beloved grandchildren. Such a sweet, heart warming scene. My niece and nephew look happy enough, but it was during just this kind of activity that those horror stories came out!
DO SHARE THE FEAR FABLES YOU GREW UP WITH….I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE! LEAVE YOUR MESSAGE IN THE BOX BELOW. COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT’.
Here is another story about the famous REEDY MARSH