Almanac Life: Onkaparinga Gorge – farts, sticks and socks



Stand By Me remains a favourite film and I was reminded of this yesterday whilst hiking with the boys and two of their friends in Onkaparinga Gorge.


I once heard that most beer commercials will feature a group of four men (not women) drinking together. It’s not two men because this can appear a little intimate and conflicts with the stereotypical image at play in beer drinking contexts. Neither is it three as this is an odd number and suggests two friends and an outsider and an uncomfortable, unbeery dynamic. So, the aesthetic and psychological forces mean that four works best for the assumed audience.


The director, Rob Reiner, might have known this numerical truth when making his film about Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern going on a secret hike across Oregon to find a dead body. But, of course, it’s really about friendship and being on the cusp of surrendering their innocence. I had the afternoon off and thought it timely to get out of the house and into nature. There were four boys and me in the car and it took thirty minutes to get there. Most of the conversation was about farts. It was ridiculous and compelling. Farts never go out of style when you’re twelve.


In blustery conditions we hiked the Punchbowl Link Trail on which we saw no-one. The ground was soggy and we all grabbed walking sticks for beyond a torch there’s not many objects that resonate so enduringly with a boy than a stick.


Another inescapable boyhood trait is for wearing socks outside. Why is this? With a couple kilometres to go we again struck some muddy terrain and one of the boys took off his shoes and completed the hike in his socks which, I’m sure, will never be that vibrant yellow again. Apologies to his parents. Apologies to the socks. Us adults are helpless against this incurable desire. It’s a rite of passage if not a daily habit. Maslow might argue that wearing socks in mud leads to self-actualisation, but maybe not.


Back at the car we all scraped our shoes on the road to get rid of the mud. It didn’t work. We drove down from the hills and home towards the beach. There was no mention of farts.


It was a fun afternoon and I was aware of our fortune in being able to venture to this isolated trail when so many across our country can not enjoy some distant exercise, and for the boys to be with each other in a time and place they might remember, or not.


Stand By Me is narrated by a writer played by the excellent Richard Dreyfuss and he’s telling this very story. In the final scene he types on his computer screen-

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?



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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Nice evocation of “Stand By Me”, Mickey.

    Three years ago, a couple of good mates (with whom I went to primary school) and I floated the idea of organising a Grade 6 school reunion (40 years). In the end, my mate Tucky said “Nah, we were twelve back then. It was all different. Remember ‘Stand by Me’?” And that was the end of the reunion idea.

  2. Thanks Smokie. Yes, reunions are complicated. Fun on the surface but often with much happening below.

    Watched the film with the boys last night. Well-received but with a few talking points to discuss. I think it’s stood up pretty well. And in this age of overly-long movies it’s under 90 minutes and there’s nothing I’d delete. Wonderful scenery, fun soundtrack and fine ensemble acting. Worth a look.

  3. Hayden Kelly says

    Good read and a good movie which does stand up well over time . Fair point re your best mates at 12 Smokey . 54 years on whilst I know where they all are only one of them is still a good mate .
    Watched 3 around 12 year old boys making their way home from school today whilst out walking ,full of bravado ,throwing stones at anything that took their fancy across the creek and no doubt plenty of fart jokes . The more things change the more some things remain the same .
    Mick Malloy did a fart joke on The Front Bar last week which brought a laugh . I guess some boys stay 12 forever and good luck to them .

  4. Great read Mickey. Only a writer such as yourself can write so eloquently about farts. But I’m curious….when do they go out of style?:)


    Yes. Nice read Mickey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie but (maybe unrelated) Stand By Me, the song, was the start of the Playing For Change movement I came across about 10 years ago, Hired a DVD from the local library and it went from there. Loads of music discovery.

    I have a couple of friends who are in a group of six or so (plus partners) that have stuck together since primary school. They all turn(ed) 70 this year. Have met them all over the years. Absolutely fabulous friendships, ups and downs, trips away, celebrations etc.

    They are generation breakers, those fart jokes!

  6. Thanks Hayden. Are twelve year olds the same now? I wonder if we’ve forced them to enter the world a little ahead of time and many of them don’t really wish to.

    Daryl- the song plays across the closing credits and gives the movie its title. I imagine this was a decision taken early in the film’s evolution. It captures perfectly the theme and mood and lends the closure a triumphant feel. Thanks.

  7. Someone- thanks for this. Like little black dresses and pizza, I imagine they never go out of style.

  8. Don’t joke about farts. I’m still trying to forget being called “Organ Arse” in high school.

  9. DBalassone says

    Cracking yarn Mickey and a fun day it seems. You’re onto something re socks. I reckon they are a necessity for hiking, just to provide that extra layer of protection in case any creatures of the serpentine variety spring into action.

    We do seem to be a nation of sock-wearers though. And it gets worse as we get older. Bill Bryson observed that in Australia there was a tendency among men of a certain age to wear knee-high socks with shorts.

  10. Ahh, Organ Arse, PB. So many metaphors. There was that live Cold Chisel album called Barking Spiders and in Caddyshack when breaking wind at dinner Al Czervik asks, “Whoa, did somebody step on a duck?”

    DBalassone- apart from pink safari suits our late premier Don Dunstan enjoyed the knee-high socks too. I reckon these were also known as ‘walk socks.’ I wonder if they’ve still available?


  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Mickey, you and every bank teller north of Coolangatta will be pleased to know that ‘walk socks’ can still be purchased here in three fashionable colour variants:

  12. Thanks Swish. Just had a look. The fact that these are

    1. $16 a pair
    2. Described as being “ribbed” and
    3. Available in a beige colour called “putty”

    means they’re sexual dynamite.

  13. John Butler says

    Mickey, another coming-of-age film debuted in 1986, along with Stand By Me. It was called River’s Edge. It is an entirely different kettle of fish, but for some reason I still have the two linked in my memory.

    Enjoyed this piece, as usual.:)

  14. Thanks JB. Don’t recall River’s Edge but what a cast- Keanu, Crispin Glover, Hopper! Must investigate.

  15. roger lowrey says

    Just to put a slightly different interpretation on how I read the header Mickey.

    My mind immediately went to the Great Eastern at Oakbank which of course was originally the Onkaparinga Racing Club.

    I’ve been locked up too long. The mind starts making wishful connections like that.

    Ahhrrgghh, let me out of here!


  16. RDL – I love how a day at Oakbank means that you spend all day inside the track and it’s close to impossible to see all of the track from there.

    If, as HG would say, you can stab the winner of the Caulfield Cup, you might feel a little better.

    Hang in there.

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