Sidney’s Coming of Age – Chapter 1

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Uncle Jack

Sidney limped the five-kilometer road home from his rural school at Sandy Creek. It had been a hard adjustment coming from the city where everything was predictable and the way home from school in the evenings was on sealed roads and pavements with plenty of time for play before his mom called him in to complete his homework. Roads in this area were not sealed and passing vehicles covered any unfortunate person walking with dust. No longer would there be play time because chores had to be completed on the farm and then the rush through homework while the diesel generator provided enough light for them to have their supper and have family time together before the generator was shut down at 9pm spending the rest of the night in darkness.

Nights could be a little terrifying when wild dogs ventured in looking for something to eat to be driven back barking and snarling by the trained farm dogs well fed and looking for a fight with their scrawny distant cousins. Occasionally those wild dogs would try their luck with young cattle hovering around the milking shed at night and it was only occasionally they’d find their mark as the herd was capable of inflicting significant wounds on any wild dog that ventured near their calves.

The rural kids at school hadn’t accepted Sidney with open arms. There was a feeling in rural settlements those presumed prosperous city folk felt superior to them when they did their weekly trip for provisions and services to town and now, they had one of those perceived city snobs in their midst and would show him how it felt to be marginalized.

Sidney’s father Rick had visited neighbors perched on the same hill within easy walking distance as soon as they moved to the farm to establish friendly relationships. That gesture had been met with guarded courtesy which Rick felt could establish a friendly relationship. Rick was not aware of the undercurrent of resentment rural folk felt at that stage and being an outgoing personality resolved to maintain a friendly relationship with them.

One of Rick’s reasons for the visit was to determine if those neighbor kids would allow Sidney to accompany them to school each day after the initial formal entry procedures at the school had been met.  Sidney would be driven to school on that first day so Rick could sign any papers necessary for admission. Little did Rick know that driving Sidney on that first day would be interpreted by the local kids as a sign a pampered city kid was in their midst, and they’d resolve to bring him down to size and deal with this presumed superiority.

So, on the second day of school as Sidney’s mom walked him over to the neighbors to hand him over to their kids to accompany him to school that’s when the persecution began. Everyone was on seemingly friendly terms while they departed down the hill under the watchful gaze of their mothers but as soon as they were out of sight they turned to Sidney.

“We jog to school from here.”

Sidney tried his best to keep up, but these kids had been raised in tough farm conditions and he hadn’t. He pushed himself as best he could but watched in alarm as they gradually moved away and were soon small figures in the distance on that stretch of straight dirt road. Eventually he reached school to be sarcastically applauded as he approached by the assembled school students and a grinning teacher in this one teacher school. The teacher proved to be as brutal as the school kids and would cane at the slightest provocation. Sidney endured it all in silence.

The road home proved to be an equally grueling experience. Those neighbor kids jogged to the foot of the mountain climb taking them all home and waited nonchalantly for their victim to arrive. Then they walked friendly style up the mountain and wished Sidney a pleasant evening. By the time evening came Sidney gladly climbed into bed exhausted and frustrated dreading the next morning and that jog to school. But his pride hurt more than his legs and he determined to toughen up and give them their own back over time.  

Sidney watched in recess time as the bigger kids played football. They had no football, so they used whatever happened to be around to kick in their game and Sidney flinched as those bare footed brutes slugged it out emerging after recess seemingly unwounded and full of good humor. These muscular giants in Sidney’s perception eventually tired of that and challenged all those in the lower grades to play against just two of the giants. The outcome was predictable, the lower grade kids gleefully accepted, and the giants would drag the young ones vainly trying to tackle them several hanging onto their legs to the goal post. Giants won every time but the battered bruised and scratched young ones would yelp with glee at this sport. Of course, Sidney was forced to join in and added wounds to exhaustion in those first months at school. But slowly he began to toughen up and his latent determination to get even drove him to that goal every day.

They’d been on the farm six months when an uncle unexpectedly turned up for a visit. Uncle Jack was fresh out of the war zone and strong as an ox. Rick was grateful for his brother’s help as the orientation to farming had been an uphill battle for him. Jack was an outgoing personality and visited around the farmers after getting to know them at country dances. His rugged good looks and army background resonated with the farmers who felt he was more attuned to hardship than these city softies. He particularly interested the young adult farm girls who did everything possible to catch Jack’s attention encouraged by their mothers. Through these contacts Jack began to comprehend the undercurrent of feeling toward his brother’s family who were still viewed as city folk.

Sidney idealized his uncle and had often tried to get him to relate his war experiences but returned soldiers will not discuss those experiences among those who’ve not been part of the experience themselves. Some of those memories are just too painful. Jack had always enjoyed his nephew’s company and they’d spent many happy hours working together on the farm now so Jack by careful questioning drew out Sidney’s unhappy school experiences one by one.

He decided to help the boy. “Sid, I think you need to show the kids at school you’re just as tough as they are. Would you like me to show you how?”

Sidney brightened at the thought of being accepted. “How Uncle?”

“Are you willing to let me toughen you up over the next few months, it will mean a lot of hard work and sometimes pain.”

Sidney nodded his head hopefully.

When Sidney returned home from school next day his uncle was waiting for him at the gate and exchanged pleasantries with the neighbor kids who’d grudgingly warmed to him during frequent visits. Their eighteen-year-old sister was particularly interested in Jack’s visits with her parents though the age gap was quite considerable. Jack led him underneath the house and pointed to a punching bag hanging from the floor above and a couple of sets of gloves.

“Your dad said you’re excused from helping with the milking this afternoon while I get you oriented to a toughening up program. We’ll make an army recruit out of you. Put on the gloves and I’ll show you some moves then we workout a schedule so you’re up earlier in the morning before milking so no late nights for you from now on. You need your sleep. Got some weights for you today too and I’ll show you how to use them. Are you prepared to dedicate yourself to my program? I’m going to be with you each day and I won’t be easy on you.”

Sidney was excited. “I’ll do what you want me to do uncle and won’t quit.”

“Good, once you’re toughened up a bit we will work on martial arts. I taught it in the army and from now on you must view me as your instructor not your uncle and I’m very demanding. Are you still willing?”


That evening Sidney felt every muscle in his body was in torture and was beginning to have second thoughts about this toughening up process. But at 3 am Uncle Jack now instructor Jack dragged him out of bed.

“Time for exercise before you help your father with the milking. By the end of this week, you’ll wish I never came to visit you but its for your own good.”

Uncle Jack’s prediction came true. By the end of the week Sidney was begging for a lighter pace but his uncle now his instructor would have none of it and kept up the training pace. Sidney began to have a different feeling about his uncle but his parents who’d now become aware of Sidney’s difficulties at school silently approved of what his uncle was trying to do for their son and didn’t intervene.

One month into the program Sidney suddenly became aware of two things. A natural growth for his age saw him gain several inches in height and the muscles in his body were beginning to take on a much firmer appearance. He looked at the full body picture of himself in the mirror and was quite surprised and proud of what he saw. Usually, he only used the mirror to do his hair. He’d recently commenced martial arts training with his uncle and had quite a few bruises to show for it his goal now was to throw his uncle with techniques learned but Jack was always one step ahead of him and he’d come off second best every time. He was beginning to show a little fuzz on his face too pointing toward manhood and enjoyed looking at it. He approached the discipline of his instructor with a new confidence and began to enjoy the exercises hard as they were.

To be continued

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© Copyright 2022 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

13 thoughts on “Sidney’s Coming of Age – Chapter 1

    1. I remember my dad walking around in the middle of the night with a gun while we were farming seeking to protect the young calves which we kept in a dedicated area with their mothers for protection. The herd by itself is more than a match for those wild dogs which we call dingo’s here. Fortunately my dad quickly discovered there was more to be made from buying, cropping, stocking and fencing properties then selling than there was to be made actually running a farm unless you have a huge holding and mass produce.


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