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).