This is the actual street. The high wall is out of shot on the left
The story I am about to tell you is true - it has become part of our village folk law, at least amongst those who there when it happened. It was during one those long School Summer holidays, when as a group of nine year old boys we were lying
in the long grass, looking at the sky, wondering what we should do next.
As we lay there someone had an idea - ‘Pea shooters! it’s ages since we did that!’, and that was it, it seemed good to us all. So we set off to
get some old bike pumps, take out the inside and saw off the end, then stuff them into our ‘S’ hook belts and set off to the village pea mill for ammo.
The old mill building in Dunston was a large square imposing structure
with lots of narrow gauge trains converging on it, with a cargo of workmen, ‘spuds’, beet and peas. Inside it had bags of dried peas and we knew where to get them - you could get a fist full of them at the loading bay so we came away with our pockets,
socks and mouths full of them, we then waddled back to the village to get ready for action.
Badger, Willie, Charlie and myself were to protect the paddock wall against Reg, Counce, Needy and Rex - they were the ones with bikes and were
skilled at the art of riding ‘no handed’ at the same time as loading and firing a pea shooter. From the top of the wall you could see most of the village, behind the wall was the piggery, between the two was the paddock and large clumps of the
worst kind of stinging nettles. We had chosen to defend the pigs against attack.
It was not long before the first attack. The shout went up, the peas were stuffed in our cheeks and one was carefully chosen, moved around on the tongue and
pushed into the spout ready to fire. That action made us feel good, like loading a six-shooter and getting ready to walk out into the dusty street of Dodge City to face the Morgan boys who were riding in from the east at noon. I stood on the wall right next
to Charlie, who would be the first to engage the enemy.
Soon through the summer haze a group of figures were sighted wobbling from side to side in a menacing manner as they gathered speed from the old schoolhouse end of middle
street. Soon we could hear them, some were whooping like Indians, one was shouting ‘Charge!’ , another making the sound of police car - it was obvious that the rules of the game were not made clear - but that didn’t matter, we were ready
and they weren’t going to get our pigs!
They were on us, Reg the leader, rose up in his saddle and spat out this missile, it whistled passed us into the paddock, two peas were returned and pinged off his bike frame. In no time at
all the air was thick with peas, and the sound of each of us humming our theme tunes as we fought in a world of our own. During the first skirmish, Rex had hit a stone and come off his bike, swallowed a pea and bent his front forks and could be seen
sitting on the pavement rubbing his knee and straightening his front forks.
Charlie was into his role, they were his pigs and a personal dual was taking place between him and Reg. Charlie had hit Reg several times and Reg was getting pretty
sick of it, he was out to get Charlie. What happened next was quite remarkable, had I not been there, right next to Charlie, I would not have believed it - but I was and this is my testimony - it happened like this.
mad, he cranked his bike up to speed, put a pea down the spout and set of with the sole intention of getting Charlie. I saw him coming, so did Charlie, who was whooping with delight at the prospect of a final shootout. Reg came on, bellowing like a boar, rose
up from his saddle, took a deep breath, placed both hands on his shooter to steady the aim and spat out the pea at Charlie.
I’m not sure exactly what caused the next turn of events, maybe it was the combination of Charlie looking
down and taking a deep breath that flared out his nostrils and the upward angle of the projectory, but the pea went straight up Charlies left nostril!
The passage of the pea was greatly assisted by the sharp intake of breath
through Charlie’s nose as he whooped - it travelled deep into the tunnel of his nose and settled there. The more Charlie panicked and tried to breath, the more secure the pea became and the further it went up his nose. Charlie screamed ‘It’s
stuck..the pea..can't breath..it’s going to my brain!!..’’ He began to sway backwards, Reg shouted ‘I’ve got him!..direct hit!’
I saw Charlie gasp, snort, then loose his balance and fall backwards of
the paddock wall.
‘He’s gone!’ shouted Badger - and sure enough he had - right into a bunch of stinging nettles! Charlie lay there spread eagled and snorting, the nettles had broken his fall, but he was blissfully unaware of the identity
of his welcomed saviours, who were enveloping him is a soft green bed .
‘Let’s get him out!’ shouted Badger, I looked at my bare legs and the nettles and had no intention of wading in after him......’Anyone got
long trousers?..Charlie is in the stingers’ shouted Willie, obviously he felt the same. The battle stopped, we all leaped into the paddock to see the sight of Charlie in the bunch of nettles. ‘Does he know he’s in the nettles?’
asked Counce. ‘Not yet, he’s still winded ..’ replied Willie.
Just then as the words died on his lips they were drowned out by a mighty piercing wail, turning into a squeal., coming from the nettles - Charlie had realised
his plight! A group of pigs in the piggery panicked and ran about in circles squeaking and convinced that the noise was the slaughter lorry backfiring and that their time for the final journey was here. The din was awful, Charlie competing with the pigs,
the whole village seemed to stir, curtains twitched, people came out of the Post Office and old Daggery, the pig man ran out of his cottage to see what was happening. We remained as grave and as composed as we could.
Getting Charlie out
of the nettles was no easy task, it was made harder by his constant flaring about and snorting in between making suffocating noises and sobbing..’I’m dying..can't breath..stingers.. pea stuck..brain damage..not funny..I’ll get you Reg..’
Eventually we got him out and rubbed him all over with dock leaves until he looked green. This didn’t stop him screaming - but it did make us feel better.
The next day when we called on Charlie his mum said that he had gone to
his Aunt Clara’s farm and staying there for the rest of the holidays, she thought it would be safer for him. What became of the pea? I had no idea. I don’t know how or when it came out or whether Charlie swallowed it in all the excitement.
Soon we were back again, gazing at the sky, listening to the Skylarks hovering above their nests and waiting for inspiration.
Some years later, towards the end of the 60’s during a time when things were beginning to change, Badger
and I were helping clean out the village pub, the Red Lion - it was becoming part of the changing world and being updated. We knew the Landlord well and were asked to clean out one of the stores in which unwanted relics of past events, unclaimed goods and
old photos were kept.
As we cleaned out the area marked ‘Unclaimed’ we came across an old children’s wallet containing a bus ticket on the 2a to Lincoln, a plastic magnifying glass, an old letter and...a dried pea in
a plastic wrapper. After carrying this and other items into the Bar area, we began to sort them out. We opened the wallet and read the letter, it read..
‘Dear Mum and Dad
I hope you are well. I am much better
now, I am enjoying playing on the farm and miss you all. This morning I passed the enclosed, giving me great relief as I wuz bothered about where it had gone to. I will try to remember to post this letter and let you see that I wuz telling the truth when I
said I had swallowed it. Aunt Clara sends her love and has helped me write this letter. See you soon. P.s. my brain is still okay, I think.
Your son Charlie’.
So ends the letter.....and I still have
© john cropley