They used to play down at the municipal dump. It was not as nice as the par, but venturing to the park involved a much longer walk.
The dump was an exciting place to play, if you could forgive it its preponderance of rats. Anyway, none of them caught anything while they were down there. Well, nothing serious. Nothing that couldn’t be cured by an emergency visit to the hospital and a sharp needle jabbed in the arse.
Excusing the rats and their concomitant diseases, the dump was an exciting place to play, as there was always something new which had been dumped there each time that Johnny and the others turned up. Perhaps there might be some old fridge inside which one of them could hide, and pull the door shut, and Johnny or Mark or Terry could pretend that they were inside some small but shiny space vehicle. The only sad thing about such fridges was that, of course, they were never plugged into the mains, so you could never find out if the light actually stayed on when the fridge door was closed, something which had been a topic of lengthy debate between the three friends in the past.
Other times they would find some old gas or electric ovens dumped at the site. Those weren’t that much fun, as the mates did not really like pretending to cook. They weren’t girls, after all (and no girl would ever come down to the municipal dump to play). But if they ‘borrowed’’ one of their dad’s toolboxes they could try to take the cooker apart, to try to understand how it worked. Johnny was fascinated by how things worked, and if there was ever some old radio down the dump he would claim it for himself, taking it home so that he could disassemble it. He would take those radios apart, and then try to put them back together, not always successfully.
Any other electronic devices Johnny would salvage, taking them apart to see how they were supposed to work, and keeping some of the parts for his experiments. But there weren’t really all that many electronic devices, back then. This was before the time of CD players and expensive game systems and the like. It was transistor radios rather than iPods.
The only place which came close to the dump was where they put dead cars, a scrap of land with wrecks waiting to be turned into cubes. But they didn’t go there, as the people who ran that site chased them off and threatened to tell their parents. Which was a shame, as they bet that they could have built a great den in the cars, just like in some book by Enid Blyton.
“I’m the King of the Castle!” Mark shouted. This was another game which they liked to play. Mark was on top of a pile of black dustbin bags full of rubbish. It was not easy climbing up to the top of the pile, and hard to maintain your balance when you were right at the top. The point of the game was for the others to climb up the pile of rubbish, and knock the King off his perch, so that they could then claim to be the King of the Castle. The toppled King would slide down the rubbish, hopefully not encountering any discarded hypodermic needles on the way down.
He wasn’t going to be King of the Castle for long, though. Terry was climbing up one side, and Johnny was climbing up the other. Terry reached the top first, and got Mark in a bear hug, trying to force him down off the piles of rubbish. Mark, of course, resisted. Both boys overbalanced, and toppled over, sliding down the pile of rubbish onto the ground, leaving Johnny to claim the prize.
“I’m the King of the Castle!” Johnny shouted. “And you’re the dirty rascals!”
And other words to that effect, as the game continued until all three got bored of it, and moved off to do something else.
The archenemy of Mark and Johnny and Terry was somebody who they had named Old Man Withers, even though that was not the man’s real name. They did not know his real name, so they had named him after a Scooby Doo villain. Terry had done the naming. He was the ideas man out of the three. It had been him who had first suggested that they go down to the municipal dump to play, rather than continuing the long walk to the nearest park.
Old Man Withers was not really that old. He was in his fifties. But his hair was turning white, and that meant that he was pretty old as far as the three boys were concerned.
Withers had a hut at the municipal dump. He was some sort of caretaker for the place. But he was not always in his hut. Besides he could not see the far side of the dump from his little hut. So the three boys tended to play on the far side of the dump from where Withers had his lair, running off if they saw him approaching. Old Man Withers walked with a limp – sometimes with a cane – and he never caught any of those three scallywags. They were far quicker than they were.
But that was not for lack of trying. If Withers saw the three kids playing on the dump he would always give chase, loping after them and shouting that he would call the police; that he would inform their parents; and that he would give them a good hiding when he caught up with them. But police cars never turned up at the dump; the boys’ parents were never spoken to; and Old Man Withers never caught any of the boys.
Johnny once suggested that the three of them burn down Old Man Withers’ hut. But that was going a bit too far for the others, in their enmity towards their archenemy. That really would have involved the police. The archenemy did not have to suffer the peril of arson.
The three kids played at the municipal dump for a period of a couple of years. In the end it was not Old Man Withers, or the police, or a bout of tetanus brought on by contact with an old tin can which brought their adventures to an end. No, finally, the three musketeers simply moved on to other interests, those interests being girls, and hanging around a dump, and smelling of rubbish, simply no longer had the appeal which it had once held.