Favourite say­ing back­fires

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - John An­der­sen john. an­der­sen@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

WE

all have favourite say­ings from child­hood. When I was a kid and would ask my fa­ther where my mother was, he would in­vari­ably say ‘‘ she went mad, so I shot her’’.

My sis­ter and I grew up with this and thought it was a nor­mal way to an­swer a ques­tion about some­one’s where­abouts. We also thought it was hi­lar­i­ous. Dad would grin and then tell us where Mum was. Mum would roll her eyes. This was a ru­ral area. We had guns in the house. There was even a cal­ico bag full of shot­gun car­tridges in the bath­room cup­board.

An­i­mals got shot from time to time. Some­times – in the case of ducks, hares, bronze wing and wonga pi­geons – it was so we could eat them.

Some­times – in the case of a sick dog or a horse with a bro­ken leg – it was be­cause of their in­juries.

If Stockholm tar, sul­phur dust or Condy’s crys­tals couldn’t fix it, the fu­ture for any in­jured an­i­mal was pre­car­i­ous.

I don’t re­call any an­i­mal be­ing shot be­cause it was ‘‘ mad’’.

My fa­ther and grand­fa­ther and their mates might have oc­ca­sion­ally talked about a horse that was ‘‘ as mad as a cut snake’’, but I don’t re­mem­ber them ac­tu­ally shoot­ing one be­cause of its bad tem­per­a­ment. Then again, I wouldn’t have put it past them.

When my own daugh­ter was very young, four or five, she asked me one day, ‘‘ Dad, where’s Mum?’’

It was a ques­tion I had long been wait­ing for. I could barely con­tain my ex­cite­ment at be­ing able to fi­nally de­liver the an­swer I had heard so many times in my own child­hood.

‘‘ She went mad, so I shot her,’’ I al­most shouted, wait­ing for her to break out in a grin and to start laugh­ing un­con­trol­lably.

In­stead she stared back at me, hor­ror sud­denly etched into her face.

‘‘ Uh-oh,’’ I thought. Her bot­tom lip started to trem­ble and she looked like she might be go­ing into shock.

If that wasn’t bad enough, her mother hap­pened to be in the next room and had heard the en­tire ex­change. She came around the cor­ner so fast she would have made Usain Bolt look like a slow coach.

I quickly de­ter­mined that she wasn’t hur­ry­ing to slap me on the back and to have a big guf­faw about my rip - roar­ingly funny ri­poste to our daugh­ter’s in­no­cent ques­tion.

To say she was a ‘‘ bit’’ an­gry would be like say­ing Muam­mar Gaddafi is on a ‘‘ bit’’ of a power trip.

With­out go­ing into all of the gory de­tail, suf­fice to say it was the first and last time I said those words to my kids when they asked me the where­abouts of their mother.

Hav­ing to an­swer ‘‘ she’s in the kitchen’’ or ‘‘ she’s out in the gar­den’’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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