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Global Lay-Correspondent Report on South Africa

 

 

 

 

South Africa

by Jeff Spahr-Summers, US

4: Lord of the Ridge and Fort Scorpion

“George, are there snakes around here?” Mom demanded to know (before we moved into our house). Without hesitation, “No!” he lied smoothly. Mom was petrified of snakes and he knew it, she would never have agreed to live out in the country like this, knowing there were snakes (lots of snakes) nearby. Within days, she asked our landlord (who lived next door) the exact same question … “Good God, yes!” He replied, “They’re everywhere, you must be careful.” He then proceeded to tell her stories about these very snakes. Mom was molten, and Dad instantly (it seemed to me) produced a snake-bite kit, with which we practiced, quickly learning how to administer serum, just in case … in case we were ever alone and bitten. The kit was kept in the master bedroom, always in the same place. Certainly around the house it would be accessible, but I spent most of my time outside, sometimes miles away up on the ridge behind our house.

The ridge was mine. 10 square miles in line, we lived near the center at the base. I spent hours alone up on the ridge, long dog days of exploring in the heat, the sun heavy on me, not a tree in sight. There was a huge gravel quarry consuming one end of the ridge, and an impressive man-made waterfall at the other. I familiarized myself with the entire ridge, promptly deciding to build a fort of rocks, a home base of sorts, a place where I could relax and bask in my accomplishment. I built my fort slowly, rock by rock, day by day, week by week, constantly hampered by alarmingly aggressive black scorpions hiding under the rocks. I routinely scouted the terrain around the fort cautiously because the whole ridge was teeming with Puff Adders, nasty creatures that tend to freeze rather than flee like most snakes. They are short and thick, puffing themselves up to intimidate when confronted. Many people are bitten when they step on these snakes mistaking them for rocks. One had to be very alert. Some days I carried a throwing spear, but I preferred to bring my tennis racket, a great weapon to swat at snakes, better yet … it was my guitar.

I made the walls of the fort about 4 feet tall, which allowed me to stand up to look around. I could see in any direction, but mostly I looked north (away from the city). I let my imagination run wild as I gazed north for hours … perhaps one day I would see armies coming to free the natives, or a revolution, or something of consequence, something to warrant grand recollections. I relished the time alone, master of my imagination and possibilities. And suddenly one day (only once in four long years), I was taken by surprise, by a young boy and girl about my age, who (although momentarily stunned because I ran barefoot and naked, brandishing a tennis racket), spent the day with me and we talked and we laughed about many an adventure, and it was good.

 

 

 

 

 

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