"Whenever a situation arises that creates fear, there are two alternatives; either you fight or you take flight.
I am sure that we have all done some dangerous things in our lives; things that after we did them, we'd sit down and and realise that we could have seriously hurt or needlessly killed ourselves. I know that I have in my youth.
When I was twenty, I considered myself fearless and the possessor of a charmed life. In the 60's, young men were expected never to show fear; especially in front of their peers and I was always capable of putting on a brave face. Whatever the challenge, I found it easier to take on than turn down. I probably had a twisted personality at the time as one of my greatest fears was heights, yet I believed that only by climbing higher would I ever conquer this fear. My greatest fear of all however was the possession of fear itself; any fear!
I can recall climbing up an eighty-foot high chimney in the works of Harrison Gardners for a £5 bet, and at the top, inching around the circumference and descending by the iron ladder at the other side. I had always been afraid of heights and remain so today. So while I never lost that fear, I can say that I won the bet! I remember the railway bridge in Heckmondwike near the Catholic Church. Two boys would race each other across walls of one foot wide at each side of the road. If you fell the forty foot drop onto the rails below there would be one less at the table for tea. I must have taken up this foolish challenge dozens of times and I never heard of anyone falling.
We did many daring and daft things in those days. When new housing was being built on Windybank Estate where I lived, it was the initiation task of every new gang member to climb the scaffold and jump from the roof height of approximately twenty feet into a pile of sand below. The newcomer to the gang never knew until after their 'leap of death' that the rest of us had buried at least one dozen bricks beneath the sand surface! We also had real life Cowboy and Indian battles down the fields called Green Lane at Hartshead armed with 202 pellet guns and arrows with darts fixed in the end of their shaft. The one time I came a cropper was at the age of 17 years when I mounted a cow in a field on Windybank Lane, pretending that I was riding a bronco horse or rodeo steer. Seconds after mounting the cow, it threw me to the ground and ran over me. Fortunately, a few broken ribs a fractured wrist and bruises is all I incurred along with a few days in Batley Hospital. Naturally, when I was telling the tale to the rest of my drinking mates in the pub later, I magically turned the cow into a raging bull and instead of remaining on its back for mere seconds, I rode it for almost five minutes before it stumbled in a field pothole and managed to throw me. The film that was all the rage at the time was 'Tommy the Toreador,' starring Tommy Steel; the year was 1959.
I know now that doing those dares then was stupid, but these were just a few of the initiation tests necessary to join the gang and to remain a proud young man who maintained the respect of other gang members. The girls on the other hand had their own favourite sport, which usually involved leading the lads a merry dance by pretending that they were not interested while forever yearning they had been born boys instead of having bigger boobs. If however a girl wanted to join a boy's gang, a special initiation test would be devised by the boys. Ah... those were the days! " William Forde: February 26th, 2016.