I had been at the loader end for two weeks. One morning at the beginning of the shift, coal was only lightly coming over the conveyor end. The diesel driver, Colin T. having brought five empties was waiting for the current cars to be filled. As he usually did, he came and stood with us in the dug-out for a chat. After he had left, although we did not realise at the time, the dug-out began to smell strongly of excrement. We looked round all around the dug-out and on the dusty floor for the offending smell but to no avail. Often excrement came over the conveyor and into the cars but that smell was only fleeting.

Soon the coal began to come over thick and fast and the smell was forgotten, although every time Douggie or I neared the dug-out we got a whiff of it. I accused him of the smell whilst he placed the onus on me; even the pit manager Mr Poskitt, who visit us for a few minutes on his rounds of the pit remarked on the smell. Telling us, as he left to, “clean the place up.”

Towards the end of the shift, when the coal became thinner, I went to sit on the makeshift seat. As I sat down the offending smell reared up again. I realised my sitting down had stirred something up. Taking up the piece of conveyor belt seating, I discovered that the underside had been smeared with someone’s human excrement. Colin, the diesel driver arrived on the scene and remarked “Oh you’ve found your present then? I just thought I’d leave it for your coming Sixteenth birthday.” Douggie and I both called him all the names under the sun and many more besides.

Although it seems now a filthy trick, taking it in context it was a minor thing. A good laugh and I was to get my own back, literally. I had been racking my brains how I could get one back on the diesel driver, Colin. Douggie suggested something and I thought about it and decided to refine his idea.

One morning when I had time on my hands, I took my leave of Douggie and walked a little way down the track for some privacy. I then defecated in a small white sweet paper bag. Twisting the corners like a bag of sweets I carried the ‘parcel’ back and put it to one side. Colin came in his diesel to collect the five full cars. As he drove passed our dug out on the way to the pit bottom I shouted, “Colin, have a birthday sweet,” and threw the ‘parcel’ into his lap. When he returned some Fifteen minutes later I was very wary and expecting some retort, in action or words. But nothing, Colin never mentioned it. It was as if the incident had never happened.

I was puzzled and a little disappointed that my trick had fallen on stony ground. The coal began to come over the loader end thick and fast and work began in earnest. The whole shift carried on as normal and I completely forgot the incident. Towards the back end of the shift, Colin drove down with the five empties, but had to wait as the previous five were not full.

Colin parked his diesel and came and stood to my left hand side. I in turn was watching the conveyor end spilling coal. Colin asked, “All right Jack?” Without looking at him I nodded a reply. With that he flattened the Sweet bag full into my face. Imagine a clown thrusting a custard pie into the face of another, which describes his action.

I had to scrape the mess from out of my eyes so that I could see. It was all so sudden and unexpected, I was at a loss what to do, but I had to do something in retaliation. I swung round and grabbed his coat lapels and pulled him close to me, at the same time trying to wipe my excrement covered face over his shirt and coat. We began to wrestle and ended up on the floor in the dust.

Unbeknown to either of us the sweet bag remnants had fallen to the floor, Douggie gingerly picked up one corner and deposited it between our wrestling bodies. We were totally unaware of this. The upshot was the both Colin and myself became plastered. I was reasonably lucky because the shift was almost over and having cleaned down as best I could, I left for the pit bottom for extraction out of the pit. I did not have a change of clothes and there still being no pit head baths, I had to walk home smelling. Colin, whose shift started at seven o’clock, had another hour to go before he could be relieved.

That day I really got my own back in more ways than one.

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