Chapter 6. Independence.


- Tony

By the age of ten I had taken to roaming the waste land and fields surrounding a polluted brook that ran close to some factories. When I was younger I was warned never to go near to the brook for fear of catching the killer virus Polio. To an outside observer the area must just have seemed like unprepossessing scrubland consisting mainly of a demolished prefab estate and a tangle of hawthorn bushes. But to us it was a wild frontier where we could roam without the supervision of adult rule.

In contrast to this urban aberration we would go on our bikes in the summer holidays to Ruislip Lido a large lake for swimming, fishing, waterskiing and other general recreations. You had to pay to go in so we went in the back way! Behind the lake was a beautiful forest known as Ruislip woods and Mad Bess woods. We found and slightly enlarged a hole in the chain link fencing round the Lido and had our own private, free entrance.

During the holidays we walked through the town with our airguns to these woods hunting for grey squirrels. One afternoon we were aware of a tall adult coming along the woodland path.

Hurriedly we hid our guns under the fallen leaves. The tall brown clad figure of the wood keeper slowly came into sight so we went off further up the path and hid until he had passed. We waited and waited for what seemed like an age but the 'Woody' didn't materialize. When we eventually returned to collect our guns, to our horror they were not there.

Because my gun was new and had meant a lot of saving, my Dad decided that I should go with him, confront the wood keeper and apologies.

At the edge of the woods we knocked on the door of the old cottage that no doubt went with the job. The long legged man talked for a while with my father before beckoning me forward. From behind the door he produced my gun and handed it to me. "When you are a bit older young man you can come and help me shoot the squirrels but don't come shooting in my woods uninvited".

I smiled weakly and nodded my acceptance.

I had now acquired a large powerful air rifle. I was aware of the importance of the heavy rifled barrel that fired waisted slugs. This aged weapon was held together with two jubilee clips. It had a worn sear making it unpredictable on closing and hair triggered on firing. But with careful handling, always closing the barrel gently and pointing it towards the ground, it was safe enough. I also adopted the habit of keeping my finger pointing forwards out of the trigger guard until the actual point of firing. All the bluing and any inscription had long since been emery clothed off but I now judge it to have been an early Relum.

- Tony Sheppard