Sunday, February 17, 2013

Summer footwear of our childhood - a comparitive guide

I was mostly raised in the hills around Adelaide.  The summers are long and hot.  I had thick skin on the bottom of my feet because we tended to not wear shoes.  I did once burn large blisters through the many skin layers walking on black bitumum when it was over 40 degrees (104 F) but generally we were barefoot.

Now my tender-footed husband grew up on a farm.  He wore gumboots all year round, even when it was stinking hot - especially when it was stinking hot. His calves are relatively hair free, I suspect because of gumboot friction.

Why this gumbootage?  Well, in winter it was the mud.  There is lots of mud in natural dairy country.

When summer had finally dryed out the mud there was a new reason for gumbies: snakes - lots of 'em.  Tiger snakes, red bellied black snakes and the odd copperhead.  These range from highly venomous to extremely venomous.  Thumping around the grass in the paddocks or the dams, especially near grain or silage that attracts rodents, they met their fair share.  He accidentally stepped on snakes and fortunately (though not for the snake) broke their backs.  He also had a number of episodes when they were under or inside the (extremely gappy) house.

Living in a mostly suburban area, though near a large native park, I had only a little snakeyness in my life.   We would occasionally see a brown or black snake (the black tiger snake - no pretty red bellies for us) if we were walking through long grass.  There were tiger snakes, death adders and copperheads around but we never met them.

Our next door neighbour's cat SamFred (or maybe FredSam - who could tell - they were brothers) once met a brown snake in our back yard.  The snake won.*  SamFred was lucky to escape with only passing paralysis and a nasty vet bill.  The snake had probably run low on venom laying out the mice living in our recycling heap.

A similar cat to SamFred and FredSam: may they rest somewhere they can never torture basset hounds again.

I remember having my heart leap a number of times when I caught sight of a reptilian face.  Then a blue tongue would flick out or I would see a leg and go, "Whew - just a sleepy or blue tongue lizard."

Who wouldn't love me?  I eat snails and flowers and am just lovely.

We used to think that if you had large lizards you didn't get snakes but I suspect that is rubbish.  If I was a snake I would think a lizard is a very conveniently shaped meal.

Getting to the point, several years ago my husband and I were walking in the park near my parent's home on a nice hot day.  We were wearing sandals and walking along a footpad through tall grass.  I stopped because a brown snake crossed the path ahead of me.  They are pretty shy and it was going about its snakey business.  I thought, "What a pretty snake but it needs some space."  My poor husband, whose snake history is much busier and more intimate, nearly had a fit.  I bet he wish he had brought his gum boots.

*It is hard to have much sympathy.  SamFred and FredSam operated as a two-member bikie gang.  They worked together to torture the other neighbourhood animals.  If you ever need a sound effect for a nightmare, I highly recommend the sound of a basset hound screaming in fear as it was bailed up in a small tin shed by two Siamese cats.  Poor Cindy.  She was a dopey dog but didn't deserve that.

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