The Sting

The senior boys at CJR Junior School in Gwelo hunted scorpions in their free time. Photo

The senior boys at CJR Junior School in Gwelo hunted scorpions in their free time.  Photo

The Sting

In 1951, Tim, at age twelve became top of the ‘pecking- order’ as a senior at Cecil John Rhodes Junior School in Gwelo.

The Sting

Horse riding lessons, approved by the school, were held once a week at a local riding school. Tim didn’t enjoy riding but attended as an outing.  The lessons came to an abrupt end when he fell off and broke his right arm. Like the breakage of his left arm years before, it took three months to heal.  After that, he kept well away from horses for many years.

Tim was a ring leader of the after school ‘boy’s business’. He helped design and construct the ‘foofy-slide’. A length of plain 10 gauge wire, removed from the school boundary fence, was tied to the top of a big ‘snot-apple-tree’ and to the trunk of another, 30m away. A metal ring was threaded on the wire.  Hanging onto the ring, the boys launched themselves from the tree top.  It was a thrilling ride. The ring was returned to the top of the tree by flicking it back up the wire to be used by the next dare-devil.

Another activity was the scorpion and field mouse craze. Fencing wire was pushed down a scorpion hole in the school grounds. Tim and other boys would dig a hole, follow the wire till they could hook the scorpion out into a jam tin. The scorpions were  active and venomous. On the school boundary fence line,  along field mice grass passage-ways, ingenious jam-tin-traps caught field mice alive. Back at the boarding house one of the baths at the ablution block was used as an arena for the scorpion—mouse fight to the death. The scorpion always won.

At certain times of the year fruit trees in private home back yards, near the boarding house, would be loaded with ripe fruit. Midnight raiding parties were planned pillows and clothes tucked into beds to simulate sleeping boys.  Out of the window went the gang. Anyone who wouldn’t go was called a coward from then on.

Most embarrassing for Tim, the gang  raided his second cousin’s orchard. Luckily no one was caught. Soon afterwards, at Easter, those cousins were invited to spend the long weekend at Melrose Farm. They gave Tim a lift.  When they reached the spruit (tributary) between the railway station and the farm it was running-a-banker.

Tim said, “The water level will be down in an hour, please wait”. They were ‘townies,’ couldn’t wait, and drove back to Gwelo. Tim had to spend Easter at their house, instead of lovely home.  He decided that they deserved to lose their fruit if they were so dumb.

At year’s end most boys went on to senior school at  Chaplain High School in Gwelo.  Tim’s father, Gervas, had other ideas.  Tim was sent to Plumtree High School way out in the bush on the Bechuanaland boarder. Tim was most unhappy. None of his gang were going there.

Many thanks to Tim Hughes of Queensland, Australia for the excerpt from his unpublished manuscript Matambega and Son written in the 1980’s.

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  • betty goolsby

    Reply Reply June 2, 2013

    Boys will be boys, they say….but I and none of my brothers ever did anything so scary or challenging as those activities, and we never would sneak out to take fruit from neighbors yards! The worst we did was put insects under magnifying glasses and sizzle them in the sun, or build soap box cars and run them down the street! We were so BORING! My brothers took all the electronics apart secretly and tried to put them back together before mom could find out. We had scorpions in Georgetown…everywhere, but they were really tiny, and none here in the Hill Country, where they are supposed to be bigger and more venomous. mom found them in her shoes every morning in San Antonio!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 3, 2013

      Betty, We also had an annual soap box derby from St. Stephens Church to the railway station at the bottom of the hill. It was quite a fast ride down. Much work went into the design of the cars. The boys with fathers who were fitters and turners did the best of course.
      Yes, I remember a plague of scorpions in a cutting on the highway driving through West Texas…everything is bigger and better in TX. It was quite a terrifying sight. Better keep a good look out on Lookout Mountain!

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