In the middle of papa’s vines, in the direction of Grandma’s house, there was a field belonging to Mr Brotoleto. Papa had tried so often to buy this plot from him as it was surrounded by his vines, but Mr B said he still needed it to make hay for his few remaining cows.
From the start of the holidays we would keep a close eye on this field of tall grass and would sometimes go through it, despite the risk of our legs getting scratched. Each year it was the same procedure: wait for the grass to dry out – just enough, check the weather report, then mow the field.
We waited for the last stage – the day that the machine would come to devour the dry grass and leave behind those remarkable bales of hay. These seemed huge to us: I must say that even the tallest among us couldn’t reach 2/3rds of the way up the bales.
Once the machine had gone we would gather by the field from evening until nightfall. And there we would to create our obstacle course. First, we had to move the bales, all by ourselves – often it took four of us to move them, at best three.
We lined them up and spaced them apart. We climbed on top (or rather we hoisted ourselves up with rope which we gripped tight) then we jumped from one bale to the other. We made bridges with planks, or vine posts which we found in the corner of the store room. We timed ourselves: it was like the TV adventure game show of the time. Intervilles, but amongst the vines.
We devoted ourselves to the game with heartfelt joy, ignoring the little cuts and scratches on our bodies. We knew that it wouldn’t last long, that Mr B would end up putting the bales of hay inside before the next rain. But before that happened we also knew that Mr B would come to papa to complain about the damage that we had caused during our evening games.
My father always ended up offering a box of wine to good old Mr B as compensation. The reprimand we got later was minor, compared with the pleasure we had had taking part in these forbidden games.
“This is the last time I warn you about your silliness” he said to us, but we knew that the smile lurking in the corner of his mouth betrayed a certain pride in his kids.