For cathartic and nostalgic reasons, every now and then I feel the need to re-visit scenes from my youth. Given that I live a full 8000 kilometres away from where my youth took place, photographs, memory and imagination must suffice.
Predictable nature/nurture questions bubble up: why am I the way I am? How different would I be if I’d grown up somewhere else or been raised by different people?
Did I inherit my utter distaste for foul freezing weather from my Scottish Grandfather, who hated it so that he escaped his chilly destiny for the rolling thunderstorms and cracked earth smell of Southern Rhodesia?
Or is it because I grew up like a sunflower, blooming under constant observation from the African sun?
I’m looking for evidence too. Maybe there is a picture somewhere that will provide the key to explaining why it is so impossible for me to fit neatly into ‘conventional’ life.
Then again, perhaps the photo is just overexposed.
Not having a Television, my parents amused themselves of an evening by setting up a mini-me gladiatorial ring in the sitting room, on this particular evening pitting me against the wiles of a lion cub.
Lion cubs retract their claws when ‘playing’, so apparently I was safe. Not sure about the teeth though, I know they don’t retract. And look at it mauling the dolls face! The emotional scars from this – they may be there – but how they manifest I cannot tell.
Me, dad, my brother in the Land Rover – just another family snap-shot
But along with the blue pigment colouring the truck, and the grey-green ink of the African bush, many stories are bonded to this photo.
The Landy is piled high with game meat for weekly rations. Yes I did say WEEKLY rations, but it was for all the farm workers, not just my nuclear family.
And check out my dad’s legs! No, not like that, I mean look, there is a bandage visible, sticking out from under his shorts. That’s because a few weeks before this snap was taken an actual real live Leopard snapped at him and nearly took his leg off and his life away.
Thankfully my dad busted that big cats’ ass and now the skin of the poor beast adorns the lounge floor of my parents’ home.
Make of that what you will – I’m not in favour of killing animals unnecessarily – but I can tell you I’d much rather have my Pa here alive and kicking than that over-sized kitty any day.
I fondly remember Jimi the Kudu.
Poor young Jimmy was orphaned Bambi-style, when my dad shot his mum by accident… a dreadful mistake – totally against the rules – but Jimmy was released back into the wild successfully.
I used to feed him with a 2litre coke bottle filled with milk formula.
Here I am parading topless again, as I believe was my custom up until I went to school, when clothing became mandatory. Let us here abandon the most obvious line of questioning – I have since acquired the inhibitions (and wardrobe) necessary for life in civilisation.
In fact, looking after orphaned ungulates was a common pastime ’round our gaff. Another favourite was Stoffel the Wildebeest, here seen grazing the lawn with abandoned calves of the bovine variety.
This is a baby Hartebeest. We came home from school one day to find around twenty of them on the front lawn.
Most often they were weaned and released back into the wild. But that being said, a lot of dead animals were also to be seen hanging around.
A regular sight on the farm during the Winter hunting/culling season.
In the Summertime my brother and I would often seek refuge from the searing 38C heat taking turns to lock each other in the walk-in freezer, cooling off amongst the frozen carcasses.
Given my provenance and upbringing, really, there were only ever going to be two possible outcomes regarding my attitude towards meat, both of them extreme and at opposing ends of the pendulum swing.
I was either going to become a militant vegan or a rampant meat-lover. Fortunately (in my opinion), I chose the latter.