As told to Bob’s dad by Len and Lou’s father.
Not since I was a child have I ever been so caught up in a story. Bob’s ability as a storyteller is second to none, and trust me I have heard a few gifted yarn tellers in my time. So if by some strange twist of fate you ever end up reading this Bob, you’ll have to forgive me for not doing the story the justice that you did.
Lou and Len are twins, who were born in the 1930’s to a young farming couple named Henry and Maude. Apparently, the birth was a highly traumatic affair and the couple never had any other children.
Like most twins they were inseparable as kids. As they grew up, they were teased mercilessly by other children as the ugly stick had shown neither of them any mercy, and to top it off they were quite clumsy.
Maude made sure they were clothed and had 3 square meals a day, but apart from that she pretty much ignored them. In her mind, they were a chore that had to be endured, and she did it with gritted teeth. Their dad, Henry loved the boys but was a workaholic and spent daylight to dusk breaking in the farm. Normally the boys were in bed when he got home at night and still asleep when he left at daybreak.
Not the greatest of starts in life, but the boys made up for it by the very obvious bond they had for each other. They were inseparable, and the farm was their playground. They built huts, caught eels, snared rabbits, collected birds eggs and found plenty else to keep themselves amused. The farm was also their sanctuary, and it allowed them to avoid the merciless teasing of other kids and out of the sight of their dispassionate mother.
Both the boys loved farm animals and the only time they ever enjoyed schools was on pet day. Lou enjoyed raising calves and lambs, and Len was passionate about pigs. As they got older, they started showing animals at the annual A&P show. Their bedrooms were festooned with the ribbons they had been awarded.
Academically they were less than stellar, so they left school as soon as they turned 14 to help dad break in the farm. 15 was the legal leaving age, but in their case, no one seemed to notice or care. The boys loved working on the farm with their dad, and life for them was good until a turn of events changed things forever.
Both the boys were terribly shy and though they were keen on the opposite sex they were too terrified to do anything about it. They beat their raging hormones into submission by working like slaves on the farm. The progress they made on the landscape was stunning and soon became the talk of the district.
And then in 1948, polio reared its ugly head in New Zealand, crippling, killing, closing schools and generally making life miserable. The virus never made it to the farm, but it did deliver a teenage girl named Bernice. It is probably fair to say that polio would have been far less cruel.
Bernice was a second cousin (on their mother's side) who lived in Palmerston North. To lessen the chances of Bernice catching the virus she was sent to stay on the farm. This she did very much against her will as she hated farms with a passion. The sight and smell of farm animals nauseated her; country folk bored her, and to top it all off she had a phobia about pigs. The sight or sound of which, would leave her incapable of speech and shaking with terror.
She was very attractive on the outside but her good looks concealed a very cold, calculating, 15-year old who knew how to use her beauty to get almost anything she wanted.
When the boys first met her, they fell to bits. Lou went bright red, attempted to say something and then fled to his room. Much to his horror, he found his mother unpacking Bernice’s clothes and personal effects into his drawers.
Lou, still completely flustered was greeted by the steely gaze of his mother and told: “This is Bernice’s room now, you’ll be sharing with Len”.
As soon as Len lay eyes on Bernice, he froze, unable to speak or move. She smiled coyly up at him, making him turn scarlet. Mercifully, Henry saw what was happening and allowed Len to escape by asking him to go and chop some firewood.
By this part of the story, I thought I had pretty much worked out how things went pear shaped for Len & Lou. But as Bob told me the rest of the story I soon discovered I was completely wrong.
More on that in the next blog.