Hitching a Ride


On the road with Mr. Hector de Jager of Que Que.

 Hitching a Ride

A teenage boy borrowed his dad’s car only for a very special occasion for a very special girl he was ‘hitched to’.  Otherwise he used his bicycle or walked around town.

Distances were great between towns in Rhodesia.  In the 1950’s hitch hiking was something every young teenage boy did if he wanted to explore further afield. Drivers were only to happy to pick up a boy thumbing it if he had room beside him.  The brief companionship ate up the lonely corrugated miles, especially for regulars like traveling salesman.

Hitching a Ride

Mr. Hector de Jager, was the manager of Recappers, Ltd, of Que Que that specialized in vulcanizing and retreading of tires.  This   was a big business, since Rhodesia did not have it’s own supply of rubber.  Every effort was made to extend the life of car and lorry tires on the road, as well as farm machinery off road.  Rhodesia was recycling out of necessity long before it became fashionable.

He regularly travelled with a lorry load of tires between Que Que and Gwelo, the nearest town forty miles south on the Great North Road.

Traveling at high speed one day, he suddenly saw up ahead a very long thin road alligator (strip of rubber) stretched across the road. These were caused by poor tire maintenance, not, as so many accused, de-lamination of retreads.  But looking back, he could see no trace of it.  He knew instinctively it most probably was a mamba and it had hitched a ride.  It is the longest, fastest, most aggressive and most poisonous of Africa’s snakes.  It was not something to be trifled with.

He screeched to a halt.

Already, the snake had got up onto the front axle and worked its way along the engine to the brake and clutch pedals.  The heat of the engine was a little much for it’s liking.  It decided to return to its natural haunts.

As it unwrapped its full length and began to make off, Mr. de Jager wasted no time in going into action.  The nearest weapons at hand on the dusty roadside were rocks.  His aim was good.

It was a black mamba, the most venomous of them all, named for the colour of the inside of its mouth rather than the color of it’s scales.  It was nine feet long.

Many thanks to Dan Deacon for the news clip from yesteryear (probably Midhro Press’, Midlands Observer, undated).



  • betty

    Reply Reply February 10, 2012

    Unbelievable that it could hitch a ride at that speed! Could it have worked its way up into the car from the undercarriage! It was miraculous that he could kill the snake with a rock! God was watching over Mr. de Jager and helped him throw that rock with the right strength and direction….great tale! Did you or your family members ever encounter a mamba! Did it squeeze or bite its victim?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 11, 2012

      Betty, The black mamba is the most venomous of the mambas, one of the ten most venomous snakes in the world. A big one (up to 14 feet long) can kill a man within twenty minutes as the venom is very fast acting. They have been know to kill lions but more commonly of course cattle in rural areas. It’s agressive and strikes in all directions so it usually takes a group of Africans to bring it to book, attacking it in at a kraal with knives, sticks and rocks. A mythical fear surrounds them. Probably confused by the noise and heat of the engine this one decided to high tail it.
      We did have a lot of snakes that would slither along the power lines to our house and we did have a few snake incidents, but never a mamba.

      • Jan Botha

        Reply Reply February 29, 2012

        Hi Diana, yes we also had several snake incidents mainly Puff Adders on our property just below Hillandale not far from your place. I recall my Dad had the wreck of an old Model A lying there and puff adders used to nest there. I had a very close call one day when I was playing in the wreck. I was about 5 or 6 then and have never forgotten. The Puff Adder is also quite a deadly snake

        • Diana

          Reply Reply March 1, 2012

          Jan, You had a close call! When the Polisensky’s lived in the Dutch gabled house above Botha’s Road, Mrs. P. had an encounter with a nest of puff adders. They give birth to large numbers I believe and are bad tempered snakes. We had a water fountain that spilled into the swimming pool at our house and it was frequented by a family of mongoose. I think this kept the snake population around the house at bay. Diana

  • Lawrie Mabin

    Reply Reply February 20, 2012

    Hi Diana. I am the editor of the Western Cape Outpost magazine, a puiblication for the Western Cape BSA Police Association. Although I never lived or was stationed in Que Que I can relate to your short stories as I’m sure most ex Rhodesians would. May I ask your permission to copy one or two stories in future editions of the Outpost. I shall acknowledge your website. What is/was your surname by the way.?

  • Pam Darrington

    Reply Reply September 9, 2018

    Any more information on Mr Hector de Jager gratefully received as he is a relative who we have lost touch with
    Thank you

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply September 9, 2018

      Hope oncecalledhome readers are able to fill in the gaps for you…

    • Dean de Jager

      Reply Reply January 30, 2023

      What an awesome find, that’s my Grandfather

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