During the late 70's early 80's my brother, Scott, and I moved to a new area and found a new neighbour to play with called Tom. Tom was probably about 5 when we first all met, I would have been around 7 and Scott 9. We were inseparable for a while. The 3 of us played the best games, full of imagination. We got ourselves into all sorts of mischief over the years. For a couple of years Scott and I had to leave, to move to Darwin for a while, and the gang was broken up.
When we came back and were a little older we fell back into play as if we had never left. This time we were more adventurous and got to explore a lot more of our neighbourhood. There weren't as many houses in our neighbourhood back then, there was a lot of free space and a reserve that ran through the back of the houses in our street. It was thick with gum trees and the now banned, box thorn bushes, it had a creek flowing through it in winter and some parts were so thick with trees you could barely see any sunlight. It came complete with all the natural flora and fauna you would expect, including snakes, it made for a magical place for children to explore.
We would spend literally hours playing in the reserve, sometimes not coming home until dinner. We would get through the day foraging for our own food, eating wild growing watermelons, almonds and sometimes even strawberries. We would also eat fruit from the many fruit trees growing in people's backyards, we figured if it was hanging over the fence it was fair game. We would walk for miles on foot or race around on our bikes, jumping over the many dirt jumps and riding on the dirt tracks in the reserve. The big dipper was always a rush to fly down on your bike full steam ahead holding on for dear life, hoping you wouldn't stack it at the bottom in front of everyone. It showed a degree of nerve to be able to ride the big dipper!
I remember the many hours spent climbing trees, claiming our own branches and daring each other to jump from higher and higher heights. I can't say we came out of it all unscathed, many cuts and bruises were proudly worn as a souvenir badge of honour. The more battle scars you could compare with the other kids the better your reputation would be.
It was a good day when our gang and the other local kids would come across a rope someone had managed to somehow tie on one of the taller gum tree branches. They would never last long, a few days at the most before some 'adult' would decide to remove it for 'safety reasons'. But before it would be inevitably destroyed, we would all line up and take turns leaping off the embankment holding on for dear life to the loosely tied rope swinging metres above the ground. The most impressive swingers would be cheered and then one upped by the next kid, trying to do that extra special twist or jump that no one else had done yet. When there was a discovery of something like that the rival groups of kids would suddenly get along and join together in our secret world focused on our new prize.
That was when life was free, time didn't matter and exploring the world was the main focus in life. We decided our little gang had to have a name and after thinking long and hard and putting it to the vote, we became the Cobra's. We thought we were pretty cool, we certainly weren't the youngest kids back then but we were not as big as the 'high schoolers' we all feared. The high schoolers who would tear through on their 10 speed racers sure to destroy any game you were playing. That's what secret hiding places and tree houses were for, hiding from the high schoolers and any other weirdo that would wander into our midst.
Before we got too much older and life became too stressful and real, weekends and especially school holidays were spent as the Cobra's. As members of our own gang we had our own rules and even our own written language. We had a character for every letter of the alphabet which only we could decipher. Our codes were the mainstay of our gang. No one else ever was allowed to join, we certainly played with many other neighbourhood kids but none were good enough for the Cobra gang.
When we did have to stay inside and play we developed our own board game called Cobra of course. It was loosely based on the monopoly board game, except ours was written in Cobra code and had Cobra money and Cobra cards to tell you what to do next. We probably spent much more time on making the Cobra game than playing it, but that was the fun of it.
Life was simpler then, to be free to create from your imagination, collaborate with friends and explore the world with a keenness that we all seem to grow up and forget...