Boyhood Games and Heroes
Boyhood Games and Heroes
Remember those days, when we were young,
Playing games like ‘hide and seek’?
And when we’d play at soldiers,
Down on the banks of a nearby creek?
Toy guns we’d use in our war-games,
All the ‘baddies’ were dressed in black;
And I always had to be the hero,
Pretend to lead some mock attack.
Hours would pass, then we’d call it quits,
And ’twould always end the same;
No one hurt and we’d go back home,
’Cause it was just a boyhood game.
And we’d always have our heroes,
Like ... ‘The Phantom’ and ‘Superman’;
There was Randolph Scott and Robin Hood,
I think I was his biggest fan.
As well as ‘The Flicks’, and later on TV,
There were all those comic books;
Davey Crockett and Biggles, Ned Kelly too,
Some were good guys and some were crooks.
Long John Silver and Captain Blood,
Pirates often had very strange names;
We’d fire cap guns, slash with wooden swords,
Pretend heroes in boyhood games.
’Round kitchen tables, or a fire’s side,
Innocent minds listened mute in awe;
Adults spoke of faraway places,
And real fights that they called ‘war’.
They’d talk all about ‘The Islands’,
And life in some foreign land;
About ‘Huns’ and ‘Japs’, and ‘yellow hordes’,
Things I didn’t quite understand.
And ‘The Man’ in charge, was always ‘Right’,
‘Pig Iron Bob’ made outlandish claims;
Devotion to a Queen, held ‘Whites’ supreme,
An old man playing boyhood games.
And late each night, when I’d go to bed,
Mum would come to say: “Sleep tight!”
Tucking me in, she’d say a prayer,
And: “Don’t let those bed-bugs bite!”
Now children live, in a fantasy,
There were things, that we hadn’t known;
Young ‘boys’ had fought, real-life battles,
And were dying to make it home.
So I’d drift off, to another world,
Where my father’s heroes wore no blame,
To take my place, amongst real men,
And play out my boyhood game.
I’d wade ashore as the bullets flew,
Images racing across my brain;
Whilst all around me, mates had fallen,
Yet, grandpa’s face then showed no pain.
In jungle scenes, ’twould always rain,
And there was always lots of mud;
Although in my dreams, no shattered bones,
Wounded comrades lost no blood.
Since fantasy dreams make heroes,
I’d smile when the morning came;
Couldn’t wait to start all over,
Go out and play my boyhood game.
We all turned out, to honour our Queen,
A young nation in red, white and blue;
Whilst ‘The Man’ who played, on all our fears,
Played the fawning loyal subject too.
And at that time, Dien Bien Phu,
Had meant the end to some strange war;
Geneva’s talks, meant nothing of course,
The year, ’twas 1954.
Then J.F.K. and Fidel Castro,
Struck new sparks that turned to flames;
And Diem and Ho, old men we now know,
Were playing real-life boyhood games.
Years went by, we all grew up,
No longer innocent anymore;
Minds re-arranged, ideals changed,
Life not simple, like ’twas before.
Times were tough, privileged had enough,
Others disadvantaged, ’twas true for some;
So ‘The Man’ appeared on our TVs,
Some now say that he planned this one.
And the people all became divided,
Tears welled-up, when they called our names;
A law for compulsory heroes,
For us to die in old men’s games.
So in this God-forsaken place,
Why we’re all here, perhaps He knows?
Too many names on our Honour Roll!
With each day it just grows and grows.
As I lie awake, in this ambush hide,
My gun covers a well-worn track;
I’m waiting like all those years ago,
For real-life ‘baddies’, still dressed in black.
Yet, no heroes here, to ease my dreams,
Death awaits, for that’s the aim;
And this time I’m in no fantasy,
Lost in playing my boyhood game.
Music & video courtesy You-Tube
This poem is a reflection by a young soldier, caught up in a war zone, upon times in his childhood and how some of those memories and harmless fantasies of yester-year, for him, have merged into stark reality.
♪♪ Looking back, on all those times,
Playing war games in your yard …
Everybody had to be a her-o,
Back then it wasn’t so hard.
Night would fall and we’d call a truce,
And we’d all ... go ... home …
Ya had to go and be a ... her-o! …
Got a new game for all you boys, It's war without a choice … Compulsory Her-oes! …
Just tryin’ to make it home! …
They’re dyin’ to make it home! ♪♪
- from the song Compulsory Heroes (modified), by the band 1927.
An Australian rifleman in action - (modified from Nam - Ed. Tim Page/John Pimlott.)