The wee boy on the left hand side of the photo, with the baggy breeks, fierce expression and kirby grip in his hair, is me, young Bob Redwater. My Ma told me, “If you don’t want to get your haircut, then you’ll need to wear one of your sister’s hair grips to keep your hair out of your eyes or you’ll go blind”. “Okay” I said to my Ma, “I don’t care”. I was a thrawn child, stubborn as a mule.
Keeping my floppy fringe was more important to me than what other folk thought about the hair grip and I had enough self confidence not to be intimidated by cheeky remarks from other kids. My dad had taught me the art of boxing at a early age and I was able to take care of myself.
I was the only kid in my primary school that had a red duffel coat. It was a hand me down, a girl’s one; my parents couldn’t afford the regulation navy one that most of my school mates wore. I can remember some smart kid calling me Little Red Riding Hood. He never said it twice.
Two of my siblings are missing from that photo, young Pauline and Francis. As children, we had a lot of freedom to roam in those days as long we were back home at meal times. There were few cars on the roads and within short walking distance, we could be exploring the woods and fields and nearby farms. In the autumn, when we were hungry, we helped ourselves to raw cabbages, neeps and potatoes from the fields and got bellyache. In the summer months we collected wild duck and waterhen’s eggs from the farm ponds and took them home to my mum.
One one occasion I paddled out to the middle of a shallow pond where I knew there were waterhens and saw what I thought was a dead one on the bottom, face down with outstretched wings. I reached down and picked up the dead body by the wing tips and got the shock of my life. The submerged crafty bird was playing possum and must have been gripping a sunken branch to remain under water. It thrashed out of my grip and flew across the pond. I nearly jumped out of my skin with fright and was lucky not to take a ducking. It was round about the time that photo was taken that I got my pet crow. We called him Kim.