Peter Rhodes 1929 - 2016
|I knew a man who could tell such tales
of the times he was up to no good.
He could spin a yarn of epic proportions
in a way that no one else could.
If I might, I'd like to share
some of the tales that Peter told,
of the life he lived, the people he knew,
and his antics, daring and bold.
Peter grew up in Baildon,
on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
This small, rural English town
was the setting for a number of tales.
And at the time of World War Two
the children of Baildon were bored.
The movie theater had been shut down,
so Pete and a friend explored.
They found a church, and had great fun
making the church bells ring,
swinging on the dangling rope,
the music taking wing.
It was a simple, innocent, childish delight,
but the vicar didn't agree.
The clanging of the church's bell
was a wartime signal, you see.
It meant an invasion by the enemy,
and was the fastest way to spread the news,
so when Pete rang those church bells,
he lit a dangerous fuse.
One silly bugger panicked,
as Peter would later say,
and in Shipley he started his bells too
and then in Guiseley, the other way.
The Home Guard had turned out in force
to defeat the invading troops,
and in Otley, seven miles away,
the French Canadian Armoured Groups.
But there was no dangerous enemy
for all the soldiers to defeat,
just these two small sheepish boys,
and one of them was Pete.
Time went on, the war was won,
Pete was in and out of strife.
It seemed trouble was his middle name
and his way of life.
At high school Peter and a friend
found chemistry a bore.
They found a strange, weird formula,
not sure what it was for.
They carefully placed their concoction
on the sill in an empty room,
assuming no one would ever find it.
Except...the concoction, it went boom.
You see, they'd made some nitro-glycerine,
although they hadn't realised it.
When it heated in the sunshine...
Oh darn, oh dear, oh sh.....shoot.
The entire science department
was blown to smithereens.
Thankfully no one was injured
by these trouble making teens.
The other teen, Peter would say,
when he was giving his talks,
was descended from the legend
that was Yorkshire man Guy Fawkes.
Yes, Peter was a magnet
for rascals and ne'er do wells,
right from his earliest days
and the ringing of those bells.
You might think that the army
would be different now, but oh,
trouble went where Peter went,
this we surely know.
The desert was dark, and still and hush,
and a group of soldiers gathered round,
breathless with anticipation
as they stood on sandy ground.
Their commanding officer was off to bed,
but Peter had beaten him to it,
and placed a dead snake in his sleeping bag,
and all the soldiers knew it.
They roared with laughter when shouts rang out,
so pleased with Peter's prank,
until bullets ripped through the canvas tent
and to a man, they hit the bank.
The dead snake died again and again,
until the officer returned to calm.
Once again, it was sheer dumb luck
that no one came to harm.
One more story, I'll leave you with,
one he always told with a smile.
A rare one that was a true accident,
and not planned with classic Rhodes style.
He was driving down a country lane,
in Otley, one fine day,
perhaps going just a tad too fast,
as we know was Peter's way.
Then suddenly, before he knew it,
there was a bloody jersey cow.
In the middle of the road,
Peter tried to stop somehow.
But alas, poor cow, it was too late,
the cow, it was a goner,
and Pete was up before the magistrate,
"I'm terribly sorry, your honour!"
But the magistrate was a local,
a farmer too, you see.
"You stand there, with no remorse
for killing our prized Jersey!"
They ran a photo in the local rag,
Peter's car, the dead bovine,
and 'thank you for driving safely'
right above them on the sign.
There was a multitude of stories,
many, just like these four.
If we'd heard them once, we'd heard them all
a hundred times before.
But right now, what we wouldn't give
to sit around his chair
and hear Pete tell them one more time
with Peter's brand of flair.