THE BURNT HAT
Bruce Leane learnt much from his father; through observation, listening to Dad’s stories.
In turn, Bruce became a father; his sons are carrying those same traits of character.
The mindset to overcome what life throws at them and come out on top has been passed down from father to son and to grandson. What will the ensuing generations inherit? Will that daring, intrepid, yet love of taking the mickey spirit survive or dissipate? Will it burst out in another attitude, another characteristic? And thus a new strain be added to the inherent ones.
Bruce says, ‘I saw my father’s strengths and weaknesses; some of his strengths I inherited as well as his weaknesses but many of his strengths I valued such as his compassion for the underdog. I think I inherited that trait because when I saw someone being unfairly treated I just had to go to their rescue and fight for a better deal for them.’
Bruce also remembers the many years he and several friends spent working with the Aboriginal people. In the 1950’s the indigenous people were definitely the under-dogs. Bruce fought for better housing and to be recognized as a people of worth.
Bruce remembers those years growing up at home.
‘My father played a big part in my development as a boy,’ Bruce recalls. With a chuckle, Bruce remembers an incident with a neighbour whose hat had accidently been burnt. There was a church Working Bee to prepare the manse for the incoming pastor. Everyone was toiling away and James, not his real name, was feeling hot and bothered and so took off his hat and laid in on the ground. Some enthusiastic soul set the bracken fern alight to clear it and the hat was burnt. The hat was part of the Home Guard uniform unit during the World War 2. It was a prized possession of James’s.
Some of the teenagers including Bruce and his brother Peter, found the remains of the hat and placed it on a post. When James saw his burnt hat he was irate, ‘Who burnt my hat?’ he wanted to know. His eye fell on the laughing teenagers. He knew they were laughing at him and his ire increased, he assumed they had burnt his prized hat.
Later that day, James beat a path to Dad’s door, “Your two boys burnt my hat, I ought to knock your block off,” James angrily accused Dad. Dad immediately bristled. This was no way to talk about his sons.
I and my brother were shaking in our boots as we listened in on the conversation from the safety of the lounge. We were terrified of both James and Dad because we had been there when his hat was burnt and someone amongst us had hung it on the post.
I DARE YOU
Dad walked outside with James and looked him in the eye and said, “How dare you accuse my sons of burning your hat.
What evidence do you have?”
James’ anger took a nose dive and he stammered “it has to be your boys. I saw the boys standing around my hat laughing. Your boys are always playing tricks on people. It’s got to stop.”
‘Come on then, knock my block off,’ Dad was angry at being spoken to in such manner and having his sons accused of a crime especially when, to his mind, they hadn’t done anything wrong. Dad and James glared at each other, Dad's chin was jutting out like a peninsula to sea, just daring to be hit. James turned and walked away.
YOUR BACK IS COVERED
‘I was so impressed with my father’s courage and daring.
My father was a small man and James was a big man. Dad had faced down a much bigger man.”
Bruce added, “I never forgot the incident.”
“I never forgot that Dad cared for us, he covered for us. It meant a lot to me for Dad to protect us.” Bruce says.
Later in life, when Bruce became a Pastor he needed that courage to face down his detractors, and humor to lighten the tense moments and champion the underdog.
“My Heavenly Father,” Bruce says, “has my back. I have been conscious of the empowerment of God all my life.”
With the innate power of God, Bruce was an inspired preacher and advocate, a champion of the underdog.
Author: "You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page" - Jodi Picoult