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3_USA 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 8_Nostalgia sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

Road Trip Out West

First we went west from Oklahoma, to New Mexico. I went with the Manars in Tom’s luxury (I really should know what that car was) towing their blue Willys Jeep, quite a recent model. We drove to Red River, to Granma Merrill’s cottage in the valley south of town.

– Granma Merrill’s Cottage outside Red River –

After a wonderful stay with a huge gang of the very best people, Jim n Katie Patterson took me and Dottie Moffett to Las Vegas from Red River, New Mexico in their silver-grey Ford LTD.

The LTD, with Dottie Moffett, Katie and Jim Patterson

We drove via Colorado where we caught a steam train from Durango north to Silverton.

Then we drove through Utah, visiting Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park:

In Vegas we stayed at The Stardust on The Strip. It boasted (natch) the ‘biggest neon sign in the world’! I learnt to gamble. I learnt to win. I battled to lose. Dottie was a good luck charm! I kept on and on gambling, determined to lose. Finally as dawn approached we were $10 down. We’d paid our dues and could go to bed.

Jim n Katie took us to a show! We saw Joan Rivers being delightfully rude and Petula Clark warbling away – also Joan warbled a bit and Pet told a joke! I saw Jim slip the doorman a cri$p note to get us good seats! We got great seats.

StardustSign1973

After Vegas we stopped off at The Grand Canyon: We stared down at this awesome sight from the lookout on the south rim. We only had a few hours there, so we were just look-see tourists. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it! I just had to get down there. I started running down the Bright Angel trail. Dottie joined me; she was fit – Oklahoma’s number 2 tennis player! It’s about 10km to the river. I’d give us an hour to get down, I thought. The run was easy on a well-maintained track with the only real obstacle being the ‘mule trains’. Every now and then we’d have to step off the trail and let a bunch of mules pass, sometimes with a steep drop inches away. We made sure we were always on the upside!

Bright Angel trailhead
Bright Angel Trail seen from the South Rim. Grand Canyon NP, Arizona.

At first it was all open desert trail, but at Indian Gardens I was surprised by the amount of greenery in the Canyon. From the rim it looks like all desert, but in the protected gorges there was water, green shrubbery and even some tall trees.

Indian Gardens Grand Canyon.jpg

In about an hour we got to just above the river. I stared in awe at the swiftly-moving blue-green water. I had never seen such a large volume of clear water flowing like that. Our South African rivers mostly run small and muddy and I wasn’t expecting clear water. Right then I thought I MUST get onto this river! I’d been kayaking for a few years, but if I’d been asked I’d probably have said on a raft, little knowing that eleven years later I would kayak past that very spot, under that same bridge in 1984 on a flood-level brown river! *(see below)*

bridge grand canyon.jpg

The hike back out was steep, but hey, we were 18yrs old! Cross-country running had been my favourite obsession the year before, so no (or an acceptable amount of) sweat!

Then we headed home by and large followed the old historic Route 66 – the new I40. Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, back to Oklahoma. To Apache, and then Katie and I drove the delightful Dottie on to Ardmore.

I learned later:

  • They tell you Do Not try to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day!
  • The 10km climb down Bright Angel is about 1000m vertically, and every metre down you’re going back about 100 000 years in geological time!
  • The name Colorado was for its muddy colour and its clarity is in fact an undesirable artifact because of Glen Canyon Dam upstream;
  • Jim Patterson has since hiked rim to rim through the canyon a number of times – he made it an annual pilgrimage. The last I heard was when he was 70!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Footnote – Eleven years later, in ’84, I arrived under that bridge in my kayak:

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (27)
– our group’s accompanying rafts under the same bridge, eleven years later –

The level was high, and the Little Colorado poured brown floodwaters into the Colorado, so the water wasn’t running clear.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
3_USA 8_Nostalgia Family school sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

Letters from America

Sister Sheila returned to me letters I had written to her and to Mom and Dad back in 1973:

4 July 1973 – Aerogram to Sheila with apologies for being late for her seventeenth birthday. We had been out in the sticks camping in Canada, north of Lake Superior on her day 26 June, next to ‘one of the most beautiful white-water streams I’ve ever seen.’ Then we had canoe’d and camped in Quetico Park, west of Thunder Bay – caught in pouring rain. Then to the Lake of the Woods, ‘absolutely fantastic, unbelievable.’ Five in a VW Bug, three Oklahoman lasses, an Aussie and I. I rave in the letter about what perfect traveling companions they were and hint – shh – that Dottie is ‘sort of the girlfriend’ – adroit with the lasses as always! Sigh!

– gateway to the west –

The blue aerogram – postage 15c – was written from Dubuque, Iowa, where the Okie lasses and Kneebone the Aussie had dropped me off with my last host family Don and Jackie Lehnertz, who would ferry me back to Apache. ‘Fraid I mostly slept in their car, after the excitement of drinking, camping and jolling with that great first-class team of friends. We did go up the stainless steel arch in St Louis, I remember that. Cramped up in a little cocoon and then a narrow view from 630 feet above the Mississippi. Cost a dollar and I wouldn’t pay a dollar to do it again. ‘Course I was way too polite to say that then.

29 July 1973 – Nine-page letter to whole family. 21c postage. Written in Durango, Colorado where Jim and Katie Patterson had taken me and Dottie Moffett after two weeks in New Mexico. One week with the Manars in a lodge in Red River, The Ponderosa; and then a week in Granma Merrill’s cabin in Pine Valley outside town. The rest of the Apache ‘Bunch’ then arrived en masse – so now we were five couples with five 4X4 jeeps and lots of kids! The Paynes, Hrbaceks and Mindemanns joining to make a party of twenty nine, of which nineteen festively crowded into Granma’s double-story cabin!

– Granma Merrill’s Cottage outside Red River –

We jeeped up steep, rough switchbacks, stopping for beers and bloody marys in the hebcoolers tied to the tailgates, full of ice; we hiked up the Sangre de Christo mountains to 12 682 feet, still the highest I have ever climbed above sea level.

– Dottie and Jim –

Saw mule deer, a badger, a weasel, squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, rabbits, groundhogs; also many hummingbirds, blue jay, stellar jay, cardinals, western tanagers. Dottie and I played tennis at a Taos ski resort. She was a really good tennis player, ranked as high as No.2 in Oklahoma; she toyed with me, but I recorded the score; I got one set off her! (yes, she probly let me!); 4-6 8-6 6-3 and 6-2 she whipped me.

We visited a hippie commune in Arroyo Hondo. We visited Taos pueblo where some famous characters would hang out and bail out of the rat race. Crazy actor Dennis Hopper – 1969’s Easy Rider – was one, around about that time.

Off to Colorado – Durango to Silverton on a steam train – spectacular

Ouray – ‘Switzerland of America’

– Ouray, Colorado –

On to Arches National Monument, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah (passing a turnoff to ‘Koosharem’!):

Zion National Park, where we hiked and swam:

– the LTD in Clorado – with Dottie Moffett, Katie and Jim Patterson –

Las Vegas. We all gambled till 5am, Dottie and I continued to 9am. I immediately lost $11, then recovered till I was $12 up, continued, refusing to go to bed till I’d ‘paid my dues.’ When I was down a dollar or two we quit. Meantime I also had $5 from Odie Mindemann which I increased to $11, tipped the dealer a dollar and when I got back to Apache I gave her $10. She immediately gave me $2.50 – ‘commission’!! The second and last night Dottie and I gambled till 7:30am.

On to Hoover Dam where we took the tour down into the depths of the wall. Then overnight at the Visitor Centre at South Rim, Grand Canyon, Rose early to see sunrise on the edge. Dottie and I decided to walk the eight miles to the Colorado river at the bottom along the Bright Angel Trail. After 4.5 miles we got to an oasis, ‘big trees, birds, squirrels and chipmunks; and a drinking fountain.’ 3.5 miles later we were looking down at the river flowing ‘clear and swift and strong over great rapids – I’d love to canoe it’ I wrote. Seven and a quarter hours later we were back – and I had forgotten to take a picture of the river!

Drove to Albuquerque to overnight with Jim’s sister Pat; and the next day back to Apache. The day after was the Rotary meeting and I ‘gave the program,’ whatever that means – spoke to the good people of my sponsoring club, I guess. (Which was better than I did fifteen years later on honeymoon! Trish and I were out birding and clean forgot about the weekly meeting! Really REALLY embarrassed about that unforgivable slip!).

Soon Dottie had to go home to Ardmore near the Texas border; Good ole Katie – she who had organised that we had this amazing three weeks together – drove us there.

A while later Jim took me to Dallas to watch the Dallas cowboys beat the St Louis Cardinals.

29 August 1973 – Letter home. Moaning about the heat in Apache – practicing football in two layers of clothing, knee, thigh, hip, bum and shoulder pads; helmet with chinstrap and teethguard. ‘I’m playing fullback on offense and safety on defense and still don’t know much about either!’ At school I’m taking typing (‘my wrists ache’ – !?) Annual Staff, producing the school yearbook, Ag Shop, learning to weld, Oklahoman history and P.E! Then I’ll be helping the science teacher with one of his younger classes. School is from 8:30am to 2:20pm and then football starts and continues to 6:15pm, so I don’t have time to get much done, I moaned! Lots of moaning!

– Dr Denny Moffett –

Went to Ardmore to visit Dottie; met her folks and her twin sister Dale. Her Dad, Dr Denny Moffett, gave me a lovely book, which, the more I’ve read it, the more I think Dottie’s Dad was telling me ‘The history you were taught is not the true history of how things went down.’

I had broken my tennis racquet strings in Cobleskill, New York on our trip up north and Dottie had it restrung for me in Ardmore free-of-charge! In Ardmore she entered me in a tennis tournament. Lost in the 2nd round to the eventual winner. Dottie had sent a Las Vegas photo of me to Mom Mary (I said Good! It cost me $7) and Mom – thinking maybe a daughter-in-law was in the making? wrote back to Dottie. Katie picked me up and took me home to Apache after a visit to her folks down in Shreveport. The next time I saw Dottie was at UCT in Cape Town, two or three years later.

Back to Dallas with Bob and Carol Crews. Watched the Texas Rangers beat the New York Yankees at baseball; saw the grassy knoll where John Kennedy got shot; spent the rest of the day at Six Flags over Texas amusement park. ‘Breathtaking and hair-raising rides.’ Two hours in the queue for the biggest ride!

After that back in Apache, football season was starting, we had practice matches or ‘scrimmages’ against Cache, and Temple, then our first game against Snyder. Lost. Lost. Lost.

19 September 1973 – Short letter to family at home. Mom had written saying Jock was going to be given away. I pleaded for him to be kept.

23 October 1973 – Letter to family at home. Busy – four Rotary talks in four days: Lawton’s Lions Club; Apache Rotary Ladies night; Boone school; Anadarko Women’s Club with Eve Woodhouse from Durban and Helen Worswick from Marandellas, lovely and popular fellow exchange students. Someone would have driven me south to Lawton, west to Boone and north to Andarko – they were all so kind to me! In Lawton an elderly man came up to me, greeted me in Afrikaans and sang My Sarie Marais at the top of his voice! His mother had moved to Oklahoma in 1909 and taught him those few words and that one song all those years ago!

Played golf in Fort Cobb, Eve’s town, with Andy Claborn, then went to Cameron College with Andy, Robbie Swanda and Jay Wood. Then to Norman with Junior school principal Jim Stanton to watch Oklahoma University beat Colorado University 34-7 at college football. Katie fetched me in Norman and we drove down to Dallas again to meet her folks, Mama and Papa Hays. Went to the Texas State Fair; then Papa and lil Jimmy and I went to another Dallas Cowboys game, where the Cowboys beat the New York Giants 45-28.

Back in Apache I resumed my rivalry with Robbie Swanda in international darts and pool. We were pretty evenly matched. This is where I learned that ‘closies don’t count, ‘cept in handgrenades and horseshoes’ which I changed to handgrenades and jukskei. Then out to Jim Patterson’s farm where he was planting wheat, as the rain had finally stopped, enabling him to get into his fields. We’d decided I would bunk school and help him, but Danny Swanda put his foot down – exchange students shall not drive tractors! He was right. So I only did some harrowing – on the quiet, though. Two laps of Jim’s 180 acre field took me an hour on the tractor.

Challenged the football coach to table tennis – so we were still on good terms, despite my abandoning football! A great weekend lay ahead: The Swandas invited all the SA, Zim, Kiwi and Aussie exchange students for the weekend! Eight exchange students!

31 October 1973 – Letter to family at home. Jock must have got a reprieve, as I asked them to ‘remember his birthday, he’s getting middle-aged.’ I had made his birthday on Larry Wingert’s birthday 4 November. Went to Fort Cobb again to speak to Rotary. Stayed with Eve Woodhouse’s family and ‘helped them harvest peanuts’ – actually watched the Mexican hired hands doing the work. Was planning on joining Jim and Jimmy Patterson at the OU – Nebraska college football game in Norman soon. At school the Indian Club had a big dance, got me to join in and then presented me with a beautiful shirt, bead necklace and choker.

– the Apache Indian Society presented me with a special hand-made shirt – Debbie Pahdapony Grey did the honours –

Went to Carnegie to speak to their Rotary club; hosted by Helen Worswick; beat her at tennis 6-4 6-4 6-4. Spoke to Stony Point Rod & Gun club.

The gang of exchange students had been. We had played table tennis, darts, horseshoes, pool and tennis (in which Jim Patterson’s uncle from California beat me 6-4 6-2). Watched football the Friday night. Apache beat Mountain View, where Jenny Carter from Bromley in Zimbabwe was the exchange student. To rub it in we put the Saturday news report on her breakfast table place on Sunday! Then we headed out to the beautiful Wichita mountains south of town. Tall, good-looking, pommy-accented Helen Worswick from Marandellas in Zimbabwe, Africa, saw a tiny little snake cross the path, shrieked, turned round and ran over everyone behind her like skittles, proving to the Americans in the party how rugged and bush-wise (they’d have thought jungle-wise) we Africans are.

– Dayne & Kent Swanda, brave Helen Worswick the fearful, Jenny Carter, Jonathan Kneebone, Evelyn Woodhouse, Robbie Swanda at Wichita Mountains Preserve –
– Wichita mountains with Pattersons –

Rotary clubs used to get Helen to talk to them ‘just to hear the King’s English!’ She’d probly been to some posh private school infested with Pom teachers straight outa Blighty, pale skin and necks burnt red by the hot African sun?

The next week I saddled up and went ‘real cowboyin’ with host Dad Jim and host Grandad Buck Patterson. We had hats, boots, horses, cattle and dust, as we rounded up the cattle, coralled them and then separated Jim’s from Buck’s, then separated the calves from their mothers. They’d been in the wheatfields so they had the runs and we got it – some even in my hair. Half an hour after getting home I was due to give a talk. Made it. Wished I’d taken my camera on the roundup!

A real character was Buck Patterson. You had to call him Buck. Thassall. Buck. His grandkids Mary-Kate 9 and Jimmy 7 called him Buck. Only Buck. Just like my granny made us all call her Annie. Only Annie. As his new grandkid, aged 17, I decided I’d call him Granpa Buck and everyone was amazed he let me. He’d even boast about it: ‘He’s my grandkid from Africa. He calls me Granpa Buck.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here’s a letter from the year before. I was still in matric and my good mate Steph de Witt was Harrismith’s Rotary exchange student in Ohio.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Wildlife, Game Reserves

Today Fifty Years Ago

Today fifty years ago was also a Sunday. I know cos sister Sheila kept a diary in high school and every now and then she pops out with an entry that brings back a flood of memories. Even everyday entries like ‘had lunch at (place) with (people)’ can trigger memories and start some lovely reminiscing.

On the 5th April 1970 she wrote:

Climbed Mt aux Sources, had lunch at the waterfall and climbed down again.

“My descriptive writing was still under development” she now says! She was thirteen at the time. I had just turned fifteen. Mother Mary was forty one.

Leading us were Mother Mary, Uncle Cappy and Auntie Joyce Joubert. Making up the party were two older boys, Etienne Joubert and Whitey Fourie; myself, Sheila and Deon Joubert, in descending age order.

– Mother Mary on that 1970 hike – looking at the Eastern Buttress, Devil’s Tooth and Mt Amery –

Mom always knew all the peak names – from the Sentinel to Giants Castle.

– the chain ladder around that era –

The feature pic of the chain ladder is more recent – to show the surroundings – the second chain ladder on the right in that pic was added long after 1970. For wimps. Like airbags in cars, we didn’t have spare ladders back in our day (!!!).

– Sheila The Diarist on the edge of the amphitheatre near the lip of the Tugela Falls – Sept 1972 –
– myself, Sheila The Diarist and Bets Key (nearest) on the edge – on a more recent trip –
– this was ca.1998 – I think –
– the view of where we had lunch at the lip of the falls – taken from further east – internet pic –
– a 1973 pic of the starting point of the hike – Sheila in matric here – wearing the white jacket –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Around April 1970:

Rhodesia under Ian Smith had just become a Republic, severing their last ties with Britain;

The 27 Club started, with Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all dying at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971.

Jumbo jet 747’s had been flying for about a year;

Apollo 13 was in space, having gone to the moon but not landed, after an oxygen tank had malfunctioned; The first moon landing had been eight months earlier;

We were singing 1969 and 1970 hits like – All Kinds Of Everything; Mama Told Me Not To Come; Build Me Up Buttercup; Crimson and Clover; Proud Mary; Come Together; and many MANY more! In the Summertime; A Boy Named Sue; My Baby Loves Lovin’; Ma Belle Amie; Yellow River; Beatles hits; Elvis hits; Creedence hits – a long list, seared into our memories, never to be forgotten.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I’ve never forgotten “kickin’ and a-gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer . . “

Categories
6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 9_KwaZuluNatal sport Wildlife, Game Reserves

My Umko Marathon

There he goes, no lifejacket as was the way those days.

1983Umko

. . another guy might be wearing full lifejacket and helmet but he’d be disqualified: wasn’t wearing his club colours! Such was ‘safety’ back when ships were made of wood and men were made of iron!

map 4

I roared in 140th – looks like 152 finishers, but maybe there was another whole page? Can’t tell – the first page is also missing so we can’t see who won. I know Chris Greeff won the singles. I spent a long time training him in the bar till late at night when the GO TO BED!!s built to a crescendo and we politely thanked Jesus, downed a last beer – and did as we were told. This was Jesus Williams, of course, the saintly Umko barman.

– 1983 Umko results with Jesus Williams – when he shaved they started calling him John Cleese Williams –

The next year 1984 there were 280 finishers. Oh, hang on, the other page was given the wrong year. Here it is: 1983 results:

162 finishers out of 263 starters:

1983

Notables who finished behind me were Pete the Pom Mountford, Richard Finlay and Toekoe Egerton. They should pull finger.

That was my only Umko marathon. For a few years after that I would sweep or pick out flotsam and jetsam at No.1 rapid, staying with Barry and Lyn Porter on their game farm afterwards.

– 1987 – the swimming gala below No.1 –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 3_USA 4_Optometry Johannesburg 5_Army days 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

A Slice of Vrystaat

I was born in Harrismith in 1955, as was Mom Mary in 1928, and her Mom Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” of that little island left of France was also the queen of South Africa (and for much of her life she was right!).

– annie watson – mary frances – peter frank –

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

I attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a  Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane – in between it was Voortrekkerhoogte) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980.

I stayed in Durban, paddled a few rivers, and then got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends and my Life With Aitch started. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.

‘Strue!! – These random, un-chronological and personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know that with one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt. Names have been left unchanged to embarrass the friends who led me (happily!) astray. Add your memories – and corrections – and corrections of corrections! – in the comments if you were there.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Wildlife, Game Reserves

Early Bird Book

Way back around 1968 a new book appeared at 95 Stuart Street Harrismith. I was fascinated. Nearly as fascinated as I’d been when cousin Jack read Valley Of The Dolls from the big wooden bookshelf in our long, dark, carpeted passage. That novel must have been good, as Mom actually physically took it from me, saying ‘You can’t read that’! Oh? Oh, well, back to the bird book:

I was fascinated by the orange Cock-of-the-Rock on the cover. Fifty years later the book was on my bookshelf in Westville and I was sad recently to discover other bookworms also liked it and had got into it in a big – and deep – way. It was riddled with holes. I copied the pages with the plates I remembered best before turfing it out. Hopefully a whole family of borer beetles went with it!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Valley of the Dolls – by Jacqueline Susann was about film stars, their raunchy pecadilloes and their use of ‘dolls’ – amphetamines and barbiturates. Time magazine called it the ‘Dirty Book of the Month,’ probably thinking ‘that’ll kill sales,’ but that and other anti-reviews made people think ‘that sounds interesting,’ and the book was a runaway commercial success, becoming the best selling novel of 1966. I mean, a review saying ‘Dirty Book of the Month’ might have made Mom Mary not buy it, but it likely had Dad head straight for the bookstore! So there it was: From one metropolis to another – New York to Harrismith – in no time.

By the time of Susann’s death in 1974, it was the best selling novel in publishing history, with more than 17 million copies sold. By 2016, the book had sold more than 31 million copies. In 1967, the book was adapted into a film. Like the book, the reviews were scathing, but it was an enormous box-office hit, becoming the sixth most popular film of the year, making $44 million at the box office. Author Jacqueline Susann had a cameo role in it as a news reporter, but she said she hated the film, telling director Robson that it was ‘a piece of shit.’ – wikipedia

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birds of the world: a survey of the twenty-seven orders and one hundred and fifty-five families, by Oliver L. Austin, (1961); Illustrated by Arthur Singer; Edited by Herbert S. Zim, New York, Golden Press; Many reprints were made and it was eventually published in seven languages over many years. I think ours was the 1968 edition published by Paul Hamlyn;

~~~oo0oo~~~

bookworms: The damage to books attributed to ‘bookworms’ is usually caused by the larvae of various types of insects including beetles, moths and cockroaches, which may bore or chew through books seeking food. Mine were little brown beetles. Buggers. I’m procrastinating about checking all my other books! Must do it . .

They’ve got into my books before, the blighters!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
Wildlife, Game Reserves

Beaut Bird Pics

Old school friend Piet Steyl went to Kruger Park and sent these magic pics of wire-tailed swallows. His cousin Leon Steyl took them.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia Family Wildlife, Game Reserves

Cocky and the Cockatoo

In tiny cages. Cocky the African Grey Parrot and Jacko the Australian Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. We grew up with them and didn’t think anything of parrots in cages.

– their cages behind Francois –
– Jacko on Jabula – our pedal-car was ‘Happy’ –

But when you see a free-flying one and realise Jacko never flew five metres, never mind five kilometres, it makes ya think. Friend Steve Reed ‘shot’ this one in his neighbour’s tree and put it on his blog.

Also left-handed, I see – as was Jacko.

– free-flying in Brisbane –

I commented on Steve’s blog: So amazing to me that this can be a bird that flies free and visits you! We had one in a cage, poor thing. My old man got him from an old lady in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu Natal who had had it for – you know – forty years, and then he had it for – you know – forty years. These numbers don’t get reduced. They grow.
And we grew up with Jacko. Who suddenly laid an egg and became ‘she,’ but kept her name Jacko. Poor thing.

~~~oo0oo~~~

And what happened to them? “Given away” yet again. To a ‘Mnr Boshoff’ who ‘trained’ parrots and put on shows where he would demonstrate how Jacko could ‘dance’ and Cocky could ‘talk.’ He was very well known and that made it a good thing. Except well-known and ‘respected’ bird-cage people aren’t always what they say they are. Here’s what a raid on a parrot breeder found when the South African vice-president of the parrot breeders association’s aviaries in Randburg were raided this week: 150 dead parrots and the live birds in cages in shocking condition!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here they are flocking in the wild:

– thanks kidcyber.com.au –

Mea culpa: While raising kids we let them keep things in cages too! Only fair to admit that!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Wildlife, Game Reserves

Early Bird Books

We grew up with Roberts Bird Book in the house. First edition, but about the sixth impression. It still had its dust jacket with the kingfishers and bee-eaters beautifully depicted on it. Mom and Dad still have it – I took this pic at their home in Pietermaritzburg. We also had a newer McLachlan & Liversidge edition of ‘Roberts.’

Here’s the plate I turned to in eager anticipation after hearing a wonderful and startling nocturnal call while camping in the dennebos with Stephen Charles Reed:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Another bird book on the shelf at 95 Stuart Street. This one you collected cigarette cards. Keep smoking till you have the complete set!

ROBERTS, Austin | Our South African Birds
Johannesburg and Cape Town, United Tobaccos Cos, Westminster Tobacco, Policansky Bros 1941; hbk, 25×21 cm, 106pp, colour illus with 150 cigarette cards and five colour frontisp.

~~~oo0oo~~~
Later this beauty arrived. Published in 1961 we got it some years later:

Bloody insects have got into it now!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat Wildlife, Game Reserves

What’s a Hartebeest?

I’ve always been a bit confused about the hartebeest and the tsessebe, which I thought must be closely related.

This weekend we saw a nice herd of hartebeest on the slopes of Platberg in the pine forest, so I thought I must look into this.

And its quite complicated!

As always with classification you get ‘lumpers’ who say ‘They’re the same,’ and ‘splitters’ who say ‘No! Look, it’s a different colour.’ I’ve been a lumper by nature meself, needing real DNA differences before I’d want to say something was a completely different species, no matter how different they look. Hunters are often splitters, wanting to say they shot a red bushbuck and a grey bushbuck and a brown bushbuck; or a brindled wildebeest and a Cookson’s wildebeest; or a Burchell’s zebra and a Crawshay’s zebra; and if you have the money they’ll even sell you a ‘Blue,’ a ‘Golden’ and a ‘King’s’ wildebeests – all on the same farm!

DNA has helped a lot – it’s harder for people to ‘invent’ species now. But even now, debate continues and not everyone agrees on all sub-species vs separate species!

So let’s start with a family of big well-known mammals – the Bovidae, which evolved 20 million years ago, in the early Miocene. Cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals, including domestic cattle, sheep and goats. A member of this family is called a bovid; the family Bovidae consists of eight major subfamilies with about 143 species.

The subfamily I’m interested in here, where the hartebeest fits, is called Alcelaphinae, which has four genera:

  • Genus Beatragus
    • Hirola, Beatragus hunteri – very rare, found in Kenya and Ethiopia.
  • Genus Damaliscus
    • Tsessebe, Damaliscus lunatus
    • Bontebok, Damaliscus pygargus
  • Genus Alcelaphus
    • Hartebeest, Alcephalus buselaphus
  • Genus Connochaetes
    • Black wildebeest, Connochaetes gnou
    • Blue wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus

Things that fascinated me in looking this up:

The hartebeest has only one species, with eight sub-species (although some splitters will dispute this; some like two species, some like three – adding a Liechtenstein’s and a Bangweulu Hartebeest).

The tsessebe is closer to the blesbok than the hartebeest. Except there’s no blesbok! Those buck we saw on top of Platberg? They’re sub-species of the bontebok.

The kudu, nyala, sitatunga, bongo and bushbuck spiral-horned antelope are closer to the cattle, bison and buffalo than they are to other antelope.

The impala is all on its own. Its closest relative being the rare and shy suni.

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Not easy, and this with only 143 species. Imagine how hard it is to classify the small mammals: like mice – there are about 2200 species of rodents; and 1200 bats. Never mind plants!

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Mankind!

The northernmost hartebeest – the bubal hartebeest – was found in Morocco and Algeria, north of the Atlas Mountains. The subspecies declined sharply during the course of the 19th century, especially after the French conquest of Algeria, when entire herds were massacred at once by the colonial military. By 1867 it could only be found in the mountain ranges of north-western Africa that are near or within the Sahara desert. In Morocco the last known herd, numbering only 15 animals, was located by a hunter near Outat El Haj in 1917; He shot twelve of them. The last specimen was ‘collected’ in 1920. The bubal hartebeest was finally ‘protected’ under the London Convention of 1933. Too late . . .

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wikipedia