Thinking Independently

Helen Jenkinson and their two girls Leslie and Gail sitting astride an eighteen foot crocodile shot at the Umnaiti/Sinyati ju
Helen Jenkinson and their two girls Leslie and Gail sitting astride an eighteen foot crocodile shot at the Umnaiti/Sinyati junction.

Helen Jenkinson and her two daughters, Leslie and Gail, sitting astride an eighteen foot crocodile shot at the Umniati/Sanyati junction.

Thinking Independently  

After Sir Edgar Whitehead’s moderate government lost the general election he called in 1962, confidence in the country began to wane.  Vic Jenkinson, was a young architect with a family to feed.

Thinking Independently

The new,  inexperienced Rhodesia Front government had been vehemently opposed to the progressive constitution negotiated by Sir Edgar with the British Government just the year before.  Having persuaded the British Government of their own bad faith, they now accepted the British Government’s expressions of good faith. They agreed to the break-up of the Federation, without securing Southern Rhodesia’s independence (unlike the other two colonies, which had never had self-government).

Every weekend, Vic began taking is wife, Helen, and two little daughters, Leslie and Gail, far into the bundu, to the junction of the big Umniati and Sanyati Rivers to shoot crocodiles.  There were way too many crocs in this area.  Farmers were only too grateful to Vic for helping them get rid of what they considered vermin.  Skins fetched a good price.  This money kept the family afloat.

Every weekend was spent on the banks of the river.  A tarpaulin on the ground and a tarpaulin tied to the mopane trees provided their shelter for their weekend camp.  Helen managed Leslie and Gail in this primitive, serene and grand scene.  But she worried about the dangers of the night hunts.  Setting out in a boat, Vic would swish the water, whilst making the sound of a goat in distress and then watch red eyes heading towards him in the torchlight.  It was unnerving plying the inky blackness of the African night, with all its attendant sounds, in the middle of nowhere.

One night, Vic caught a whole heap of baby croc.  Having hauled them in they started snapping around his ankles.  Their sharp teeth are made for gripping  onto flesh.  Powerful muscles clamp down the jaws with immense force and hold them shut.  He knew the pressure of a crocodiles bite was more than 5000 pounds per square inch: the greatest of any animal.  He got such a fright he dived off the boat into the darkness of the river.  As he hit the water he realized the stupidity of that decision.  He made a mad scramble back into the boat.  He did a balancing act on the seats, got the boat back to shore, put the little crocs into a cage and headed back out into the darkness.

Just where he had “abandoned ship” he picked up a pair of red eyes.  He aimed carefully.  He was a good marksman.   With a single shot he bagged an eighteen-foot croc.  It was quite a prize.  Vic and his workers worked hard to get the carcass ashore.  The hide would fetch a good price.  The workers would make the most of the meat.  Nothing would be wasted.

But alas, Rhodesians did not escape the consequences of their political panic in 1962.