~ Big Weapon Unleashed ~
When you’re fourteen years old, you don’t have too many ‘big weapons’. Within your group, there might be one or two of you who is slightly more mental than the rest. They are the bigger weapons. One night our group had cause to bring forth an even bigger weapon. The biggest weapon we law-abiding teenagers could call upon. A threat so great, that we needed the ‘big gun’. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.
Each Christmas a group of families camped at my parent’s block of land, seven acres of natural bush beside the beach. The type of place that doesn’t exist anymore; real estate developers have pushed those simple, secluded pieces of beach-land off the map. But we enjoyed it while we could; living without electricity, sitting around a fire, playing cricket during the day, board games at night, and most memorable of all, crapping down a large hole.
The stretch of beach out front was ours – like we owned it. Not that there were too many people to object. Occasionally someone would walk passed on their morning walk, but they’d keep going. The territory remained ours, population about twelve kids, from seven to seventeen.
That all changed one Christmas. A rival group appeared on the beach, about a hundred metres up. I know what you’re thinking. A hundred metres away isn’t that close. But on a beach about 10 miles long, with only the occasional signs of life along it, that was pretty close. This bunch of kids looked about a similar number to us, about the same age as us, but we suspected they were a no-good bunch. Anybody new couldn’t be trusted. They were invaders.
We were like dogs when it came to protecting our territory; we’d watch them closely, make sure they didn’t come too close, look for who their likely pack leaders were, and we’d almost succumb to barking. As for marking our territory, we were practically the same too. In fact, that’s where the trouble started.
At night, before going to bed, I’d always go to the toilet first. Nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night, in a tent, and wanting to go to the toilet. You’d have to find a torch, locate your shoes, outside was pitch black, and every little noise creepier than a haunted house. Going to the toilet, meant finding a convenient tree; one not too close to be heard, but one not too far off the beaten track. The best solution I’d found over the many years of camping was to take a small walk down to the beach. Along the foreshore dunes I had a particular tree. Let’s call it my toilet tree.
This one night, on my way to the toilet tree, I didn’t even need to use my torch. The moon was so bright I left it turned off. You didn’t tend to lose the path when it was the beach. I stepped up to my tree and commenced business. I gazed around whilst relieving myself and looked at an old stump of a tree, ten meters further along the dune. Many trees had collapsed over the years as the sea encroached and retreated. As I stared at its exposed root system, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. It came from the idea the shape mightn’t actually be that of a tree. My brain started to think the shape looked more like two people, sitting perfectly still and absolutely quiet on the beach. I hoped desperately that I was wrong, but the more I looked, the more my fears multiplied.
Probably the two sitting on the beach weren’t that happy either. They had been sitting there quietly, perhaps canoodling, when this young lad walks almost right up to them, pulls out his junior and lets it rip. I expected they hoped and prayed I didn’t notice them either. They certainly didn’t move a muscle.
I did the only thing I could, I finished my business, zipped up and walked away. I tried to look as casually as possible, but I wished so much to run. Looking back now, I was thankful I wasn’t chased away with laughter.
Arriving back at camp, I sounded the alarm. The neighbour’s kids are invading our territory. There needs to be a response, it needs to be decisive, gather our arms. Of course it was about protecting our territory, nothing to do with my immense embarrassment.
Our arms were very bright torches. My small partner in arms was a young ten-year-old Andrew; scout trained, tough as nails and as keen as a bloodhound on a scent. We lead the way, followed by every other kid looking for excitement. The mission called for a covert attack, so we took the back path to my toilet tree.
Creeping up behind the dune, we looked over at our objective. The two teens were still sitting there, obviously not a tree stump from this angle. My last shred of hope that this was all some ‘trick-of-the-light’ gone. Commence attack, launch the retaliation. Andrew held a ten-volt, light-up-the-moon, mega torch. Its beam caught the invaders square in the eyes. It didn’t half surprise them. They jumped up and nearly fell over. They tried to identify their assailants. Unfortunately the torch was just too bright for them. They could sooner look at the sun then stare down that light. And Andrew was ruthless too. It never left their eyes. They soon gave up any attempt at resistance. They turned their heads and left.
Success! Enemy in retreat, territory reclaimed. That will teach them. That’s what we thought. We chatted euphorically on the way back to camp; the power of the torch praised, and the retreat of the invaders mocked.
If I thought I had a good story to invoke my fellow campers with when I returned from the toilet tree, imagine what kind of tale the other two kids had. Sitting there, minding their own business, and well, you know the rest. They launched a counter offensive. I guess they just needed to find out what sorts of clowns were camping next door.
The dogs tipped us off first. They started getting a bit edgy, growling a little, looking down the path to the beach. We had an inkling of what might be occurring. We migrated to the top of the path to the beach. Who knew what might be down at the bottom, in the shadows? There needed to be some sort of scout party. Naturally any thing to do with scouting, Andrew was first in line. I went with him. We crept down toward the beach, reinforcements close behind. This was the most excitement we’d had all holidays.
We settled into a small gully near the beach, just off the track, to listen. We could hear murmurs. Our suspicions were confirmed. A counter attack had been launched. Scout party two settled in near us. That gave Andrew the confidence to unleash his weapon again. He flashed his beam at the end of the path and we saw the flash of an arm as the kids dove out of its way, hiding in the shrubs near the beach. No matter how hard he tried, Andrew could not spotlight them again. So he resorted to verbal insults, such as ‘nick-off’ and ‘go home’. The response came. Several balls of sand flew in, directed at the torch and its bearer. None hit us, but one hit the torch. The look of horror on Andrew’s face was colossal. A big ball of sand had sullied his pride and joy. I was surprised there were no tears. He raced back to camp, threatening a bigger, tougher response.
I salivated at what weapon Andrew was about to unleash; an enormous water pistol, an arsenal of water bombs, stinking fish, or even the dogs. He came marching back down the path, bold as brass and yelled, “You’re all in trouble now! Here comes my mum!”
That was it. We no longer held thoughts that we were tough. Our reputations sank in the sands. We’d unleashed our biggest weapon. We’d called in a mum.
We never lived it down. And that was just amongst the girls in our own camp. They teased us for days. Who knew what the kids next door thought? We did our best to stay hidden from them. I’m sure we’d given them enough to laugh about for the rest of the year. Our biggest weapon – Andrew’s mum. Sure enough it had done the trick. The kids disappeared back to their camp. It just wasn’t cool. We were dorks.
I’d like to think we’ve graduated from there. I think we mostly have. Unfortunately for Andrew, he is still reminded of his biggest weapon. If he ever gets worked up, they usually taunt that follows is, “Don’t call your mum.”