I have learnt over the past couple of years that two of the things I grew up having been told have turned out to be lies, but which were said to me with the best of intentions.
The first one was when I was about 6 or 7 years old and we went camping one Easter to Koondrook on the
But this particular holiday I caught my first fish. A yellow belly and somewhere I still have a photograph of me standing in front of Grandad’s trailer proudly holding the fish up with a tent peg hooked through its mouth. All my life that has been the first fish I caught – but recently my Uncle told me that it was actually caught by someone else and put on my line. A memory destroyed. Maybe. A virtuous lie, I suppose so. Done with the best of intentions.
When I was 16 Dad came home one night with a puppy. A black and white ball of energy, part dalmation, part kelpie, who I named Billy Jack or BJ for short. My Godfather had actually bought me a Jack Russell several years before but Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me have him so that was given to some other good friends of ours. So maybe, Mum and Dad felt a bit guilty about that or maybe Billy Jack “fell off the back of a truck” like a lot of stuff that turned up for sale in pubs in those days, but in any case Dad brought the dog home for me.
He slept on my bed in my bedroom and listened to whatever I felt like talking about but at some stage over the next year or so he started to cause some problems. There was a lady who lived around the corner and she used to walk past our house all the time. In those days, most dogs just ran free. Most houses had fences but not gates and dogs just wandered the neighbourhood but for some reason, Billy Jack took a dislike to this lady and according to her used to bail her up every time she walked past the house. No one else ever complained mind you, just her, so I always had questions about whether she was the one baiting the dog and not the other way around.
So we tried lots of things, installed gates on the back yard, increased the height of the fences to at least 6 feet all the way around. But day after day, when I arrived home from school, the big lump of a dog would greet me, tail wagging at the front gate having found some way to jump the fence. We then tried tying him and chaining him up, but Houdini like, same thing, I’d come home each night and there he’d be waiting for me. And each night the woman from around the corner would come knocking on the door saying the dog had rushed her again.
One day I got home from school and he wasn’t there anymore. Nor was he inside the house or in the backyard. Mum told me that they’d taken him to the vet and that they’d found a new home for him on a farm somewhere. I really wanted to believe that and I did.
But last year Mum admitted to me that they’d had him put down.
A virtuous lie? Maybe. Done with the aim of not hurting me, undoubtedly.
But even all these years later finding out the truth did hurt.