Memoir: Dodge’s Paddock – A country lad’s reflections

By Allan Barden

 

Dodge’s Paddock was a rectangular area of land on the corner of Maria and Wellington streets in my home town in Tasmania. The paddock was owned by the Dodge family (father Rome, his wife Flo and daughters Ruby and Betty). They lived at the top or eastern end of the paddock where they occasionally ran a few sheep. Today the paddock is occupied by modern houses.

 

In my formative teenage years, the Paddock was used by local kids as their makeshift football and cricket ground. If the Dodge’s sheep happened to be grazing the Paddock when we wanted to play, we herded them into the adjoining paddock belonging to old Claude Press.

 

During the football season rusted baked beans and spaghetti tins placed on the fence posts at the eastern and western ends served as goal post markers. The paddock fence constituted the boundary. The kid who was closest when the ball went out of bounds became the boundary umpire of the moment, and having retrieved the ball threw it into the waiting ruck (ruckmen in those days were barely 4’6” high!).

 

The Paddock was rough ground and while very hard and dry in the summer months, during winter it could be very wet, often muddy and at times partially flooded. More often than not, it was also covered with either dry or wet sheep dung. None of this ever worried us committed youngsters as much as it did our mothers, who had to wash, clean and mend our dung stained dirty and often ripped clothes! Most of us had ‘battle patches’ sown into the knees or on the backside of our trousers. Actually, if the truth be known, I think our mothers were probably happy for us to be active, healthy and playing sport close to home, so I’m guessing that washing and mending our sporting garb was really not so much of a chore to our Mums at all.

 

Cricket and football games were organised either at school during the day or when walking home after school. While teams were selected randomly, there was a democratic process of sorts where all had a say and selection on the day was based on a combination of age, best and not so best, height and so on. Reflecting on those times, what is interesting was the non-bias and sense of fairness that prevailed and the insistence placed on a correct interpretation of the rules of the game. Turns were taken at being the umpire and one could be a playing or non-playing umpire. There were very few disputes over decisions and we just got on with it, being more eager to get a kick than dispute the rights and wrongs of a decision. After the event however, you could be labelled and gain a reputation as being “no good at umpiring”. Despite this, no one so labelled was ever not allowed to umpire again; we just adjusted our minds and play to the fact that poor decisions would be taken on that day when the not so good umpire’s turn to umpire arose.

 

Several of us owned footballs of various sizes, shapes and age. The best one available on the day was usually chosen and this was the ball that was deemed to be the newest and which still resembled a football; in shape at least. After a while our footballs became more circular with use, resembling more a soccer ball or netball than the proverbial Tommy Sherrin! There was always a certain amount of glee when one of us turned up with a new ball, which everyone proceeded to kick to its death over time until it became inflicted with the inevitable ‘roundness disease’.

 

During summer we fashioned a cricket pitch of approximate regulation size out of the grassless, potholed, bumpy and sheep dung infested paddock. We mostly used old kerosene tins for wickets as the ground was too hard to hammer in the stumps. Basically, anything resembling stumps and fit for purpose, such as various pieces of roughly knocked up wooden sticks, was used. The state of the wicket was rough and also the reason we used a tennis ball in lieu of a real cricket ball. When on the rare occasion we tried to use a real cricket ball, real danger presented itself! The up and coming Fred Truemans, Graeme McKenzies and Wes Halls among us had the ball flying around heads, as it careered off mounds and pothole edges and cut every which way off summer dried sheep droppings. Batting then was not a good place to be without gloves or pads, helmets (not yet in popular use) or scrotum protection. We had none of these. Why didn’t we just want to be a plain old spinner of the ball? We all wanted to bowl like Wes Hall and Freddie Trueman.

 

Depending on the day and our inclination, cricket games varied between ‘tip and run’, with over the fence being 6 and out, and just normal old cricket. We loved it all.

 

At the top of the eastern end of the Paddock between the fence and the Dodge family home was a large, and when in season, abundantly fruited mulberry tree. After our battles in the Paddock, and with the approval of either Flo or Betty Dodge (and sometimes not!), we would make veritable pigs of ourselves sitting in the tree gorging on the mulberries. Mulberry juice added some extra colouring to our already mud and manure stained clothes. Thanks Mum!

 

Betty Dodge was very supportive of us and used to sit under the mulberry tree and watch us play our games of cricket and football – our audience of one. Betty was famous for her love of country and western music. Her dancing and excitability from the front row of the community hall during visiting country and western shows such as Reg Lindsay, Slim Dusty, Chad Morgan and the like, is legendary.

 

I think that most boys in town of my generation played football and cricket in Dodge’s Paddock. Some of the more regular characters that come to mind and their various sporting traits were:

 

Bruce “Dick” Gray – deadly fast/medium left arm cricketer who moved the tennis ball both ways, off dirt mounds and sheep dung alike.

 

Peter “Spud” Hill – did everything right handed except batting. As a footballer he was a sneaky and prolific ball getter in all conditions and moved well around wet dung.

 

Glenn “Dickie” Hill – good all rounder at cricket and football especially at obtaining tins for the goal post markers.

 

Rodney “Jack” Pyke – loved rolling over when taking a chest mark and could be hard to get out in cricket. Jack later became a very good wicket keeper. He used to miss some games due to music practice with Mrs Rene Glover and sometimes got teased about this. He had the last laugh though, ending up a highly competent all round musician.

 

Graeme “Snipe” Gray – was the eldest so always got plenty of footy grabs and lots of wickets with his quick bowling. Snipe had a long, left foot drop kick and being older and smarter left it to us juniors to retrieve the ball from the dung and then kick it to him.

 

Peter “Flaps” Lewis – always awkward and hard to beat. Maintained this style throughout his football career, including senior football with North Hobart and State representation. Possessed murderous arms and legs.

 

Peter “Dodgy” Dodge – loved running and bouncing the ball, often in the dung. Chasing him too closely was not a good idea.

 

Gary “Gazza” Grey – the youngest and a keen and solid trier. Gazza could be temperamental but was well controlled by his elder brothers who banished him on occasion.

 

Robert “Tanner” Tanner – the local Baker’s son and unknown to his father, the supplier of after game freshly baked dough and sometimes the occasional cigarette. Bigger than the rest of us so he played in the ruck.

 

Denny Whelan, who was the local Saturday morning Barber in those days, and who cut the hair of most of us youngsters (when we had some), often commented to me that we should be playing either on the school oval or on the larger recreation oval with real goalposts and a better prepared cricket pitch. I once put this proposition to the Dodge’s Paddock crew and was unceremoniously voted down! As one of the crew pointed out to me at the time, it was the Paddock with its various intricacies that helped us learn and hone our skills.

 

Arguably, we would never have turned into the brilliant and successful players we did in later life had we played on a manicured field and a flat prepared wicket without a mulberry tree in sight – well, a couple of us anyway; the rest of us in our own dreamtime.

 

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

Comments

  1. Really enjoyed this, Allan.

    Welcome to the Almanac. :)

  2. I love this style of writing – and can relate so strongly to your experiences.

    Love the nicknames.

    What was the town?

    Great read. More please!

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Great read Allan! It brought back fond memories of a similar childhood, those were the days!

  4. Frank Taylor says

    Great piece Allan. Beautifully written. Brought back memories of a not-so-connected world.
    Thanks, and,
    more please.

  5. Fenton Jones says

    Lovely piece Ned . All those names. Brings back memories of New Town High School in Hobart as the majority of them were boarders .Vivid memory of Rod Pyke coming to footy training from the boarding house with a huge raspberry jam sandwich. Us Townies had to go to training from school before going home so we were starving. Flaps Lewis , now he could play!!

Leave a Comment

*