As a young kid, gravel rash was an occupational hazard. Many of Armidale's roads were unpaved beyond a strip of tar in the very centre, while the footpaths themselves were pretty rough. Those unpaved road sections were quite useful, actually a good source of clay that could be used to make many a misshapen object.
We seemed to run everywhere. Most of our games seemed to involve sometimes violent exercise. British Bulldog 123 was popular, especially in scouts where we played on a cement floor, while another variant, Red Rover Cross Over, was also generally popular. Chasings, yes it is a valid scrabble word, was popular, as was hide and seek and later wide games, another scouting influence. After I was given a stop watch for a present (I can't remember whether it was for Christmas or my birthday), we used to time ourselves running around the block. This was exactly 880 yards.
Later when we got bikes, we used to ride all over Armidale and into the country around, often with Rover, our red kelpie. Rover was a working, not show, dog and really most unsuitable for an urban environment. Still, he did get lots of exercise, something that can be a real problem today when dogs are meant to be so controlled. Poor Rover. He survived the inevitable accidents with cars, he did like to bark at the wheels, only to die from snake bite.
I suppose in those circumstances prangs were inevitable. I was a slightly clumsy child, so when my feet somehow got entangled, the gravel and I would collide. I don't know that I minded so much, although picking the gravel out of the grazes was sometimes unpleasant! Later with the bikes, risks increased, although there were remarkably few accidents.
Looking back, it's hard to remember just how fit I was. During the football season in my last years at secondary school I played two full eighty minute games of Rugby per week, trained two afternoons a week, and walked, ran or rode everywhere. On boring Sunday afternoons when friend David came across on exeat (he was a border at my school), we would sometimes go for very long walks just to see how far we could get in the time. From memory, our record was eighteen miles.
You would think in all this that I would like cross-country runs, something that was popular at the school. In fact, I hated them. To do something for fun was one thing, to do it because you had too was quite another thing.
I was reminded of all of this by a rather nice tale told by Denis Wright - Five-ex, blood and the zebra twins, Five-ex, blood, and the zebra twins 2. I won't tell you the story, beyond noting that in my world kids no longer rode to school on horses. That stopped with the school buses. And yet, in stories of Australian country life, that ride to school often features very heavily.
The photo, I have used it before. shows a gaggle of us on a horse. I am the tall one. Brother David is just behind, hanging onto me. Its a very placid animal. Note our bare feet.
Despite the photo, I wasn't good on horses. My grandfather sold Foreglen, his property, when I was very young. After that as a townie, I lost all contact with horses. Years later when I came to get on one, it seemed so bloody big, I was a long way from the ground, and I had forgotten what to do. I didn't enjoy the experience.
It would be many more years before youngest took up riding and I learned to ride again. Then the years fell away and I found that, with gentle reminders, I could remember what to do. Mind you, they were placid old nags!
Still, even though I wasn't riding, I did understand those early rides to school that I read about or heard described. I think that you will enjoy Denis's recollections.