Firing up a Penny


Rhodesian Penny compared with the US Cent

Firing up a Penny and the Imagination

Guiding was something to be experienced in that phase between eleven and sixteen after which the opportunity vanished.

Firing up a Penny and the Imagination

Mom believed Baden Powell’s camp and woodcraft activities engaged every girl in the spirit of adventure that somehow imparted good values and citizenship.  We all worked our way through Tenderfoot, Second and First Class on half day expeditions up Baggott’s Hill or on somebody’s farm.

We stormed the Bastille.  We were Amazon Explorers being tracked by Indians, with instructions to make a fire on a penny without smoke.   Or we were Red Indians of the Blackfoot Tribe under Great Chief Black Eagle with the password “How!” stalking Westward-Ho pioneers.  We were even visitors from Mars with instructions to find five things that proved that there was life, law and order on earth.   But we were never a Matabele Chief and his Impi against the White men.

Although Rhodesia was landlocked, we were Coastguards and Smugglers. We were the advance guard of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel seeking a new land.  Having collected enough stores from the Quarter Master for half a day’s expedition for our patrol, we would study a map found in an old box of Moses’, and follow its directions to find a suitable place for our tribe.  Along the way we were to take notes and sketch the types of country we were passing through, noting soil types, crops and birds.  When we reached our destination, we were to improvise a flag pole and hoist the flag of Israel.  Next we were to cook our food, and make plans for the rest of the tribe to follow.  We needed to be mindful of the fact that we were in a foreign land, being extra courteous and careful to return across the border by 5 pm.

We’d usually start out enthusiastically enough.   As we climbed a kopje (rocky hill), the views were beautiful with lots of birds but even more noticeable were, of course, Africa’s ubiquitous flies. The terrain made for slow going punctuated with invariable cacti accidents.  We did not have a problem lighting a fire like the character in Jack London’s book: Africa was eternally dry.  Rather it was a responsibility; it could so easily get out of hand as we knew only too well from our farming friends, who battled bush fires annually.  What’s more, smoke signals were not returned, leaving me breathless and annoyed.  We’d search for human contacts, but could not speak the language.  We’d almost boil our billy cans dry while we cooked our Sausage Dreams or Potato Pies, and smoked our bread (an apology for toast) cooking without utensils.  Still it all tasted awfully good after all that effort.  A good dose of grit, soot and sweat made it finger lickin’ good.

All this did develop a keen sense of awareness.  There seemed to be no end to Mom’s imagination or our ability to share in it on those exciting afternoons in our uniforms before everyone, except me, went home to short shorts and real life.

Perhaps in retrospect, it was a good preparation for our lives. I was equipped to make everything from scratch, during the penny pinching years during sanctions with limited supplies in the Public Health Laboratories.  Others set up radio communications between isolated farms, tracked human spoor and read the land, because it did turn hostile.

Most of us, pariahs of the world, would, like Moses, get out the map and search for a suitable new land for our tribe, our own Diaspora, in anticipation of, or after, the terrorist war, to reconnect a half century later, by cyberspace.  Another imaginative idea with a good dose of ingenuity at work.