ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Story by Hazel White (Deceased)
Edited by her son Edward Langley
and niece Colleen White
Hazel was born in Marandellas,
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1936. She was the middle child of Willem and Sarah
White. Hazel was raised and loved her life next to the railway tracks, as her
father worked for the Railways.
She married in 1955 and six children
followed. Her philosophy on life was there is no such word as “cant”.
This meant repairing cars, washing
machines, spray painting, sewing, cooking, writing, running a business etc., and
raising her family were all done with out fuss and to the best of her ability.
She was always willing to help
others and animals that needed her help.
The Blue Jay that always accompanied Zell, usually on her shoulder, sat on a
branch twisting it’s head, looking first from one eye and then from the other.
Making doubly sure that the young girl in her early teens who stood ranting and
raving, was truly the hero who had fostered him lovingly from the day she’d
found him on the hard ground at the bottom of a hollowed tree trunk.
Zell, understanding why Shires feathers were ruffled, and shouted back at the
noisy bird, It’s very well for you to sit there and shout your big mouth off.
Your crop is full but I have to find something for these wretched animals to
graze, or they will start dropping like flies. Look for yourself Loud Mouth,
already their skin has sunk so low between their bones that a vulture will need
a magnifying glass to find a taste.
Disgusted with Zells performance, he let out several loud croaks of
displeasure. The bird shook his brilliant plumage several times, trying to rid
itself of the harsh tone, without success, flew above her head, croaked several
more times flapping his wings loudly took himself into the blue yonder and
disappeared into the distance, leaving her to wallow in her misery.
Coward, the young girl shouted after the bird, you should be a bright yellow,
not a brilliant blue.
Desperation overwhelmed Zell, causing her to lose patience with the cattle that
would or could not walk. She gave the cow nearest her, a vicious prod with her
crutch and immediately her face contorted with regret as the crutch struck bone
on the animals rump. Where to? As far as the eye could see, the position was no
different to the area around her; the cattle had already grazed anything that
was edible within sight. There was nothing but dust and intense heat. Maybe, oh
God let it be, that the thorn trees on the kopje across
the river some five miles away have sprouted new shoots. With this new found
hope, Zell urged the scraggy cattle onwards, waiting just long enough for them
to drink from the cool water that trickled around the huge boulders in the river
bed, before driving them on. Her stance more subdued, Zell encouraged rather
than threatened the cattle that were drawing on their last reserve, to keep them
going. She pressed on regardless of the elements that threatened to blister her
bare feet and fry the marrow from her cattles protruding back bones.
The persistent ache in her lame leg, the result of polio, worsened as the
terrain became rocky and rose steeply. This caused her to lean heavily on her
crutch for support. Nearing exhaustion, Zell arrived at the thorn trees and
lowered herself under the first one she came to, unconcerned as to whether the
cattle had found food or not. Breathing heavily for several long moments she
sat with her back resting against the rough bark, unable to open her eyes and
face another disappointment.
Thank you God, she exclaimed when she saw that the swollen buds had burst open
exposing a cluster of new fine leaves laying behind long needle sharp thorns.
The continued absence of Shire disturbed her more that she cared to admit. She
missed the lively chatter that kept her occupied the most part of each day.
Other arguments hadn’t lasted this long, she thought.
She raised her eyes to scan the tree tops, remembered the spitting cobra and
instinctively shielded her eyes to avoid the venom that would damage her eyes
permanently. It was bad enough being a cripple, to be a blind cripple would be a
living hell. The blind boy in the village not far from where they lived had made
the same mistake when he found a hawks nest. The villagers had to tie his
hands behind his back to prevent him tearing his eyes out of his head. When the
pain subsided his vision left with it. Other incidents returned to taunt her,
especially the experience her father had related so realistically around the
wood fire one evening, making the hairs come alive on the back of her neck, as
it was doing now, only worse, because the setting around her was perfect for an
attack from a Python. What chance did she have when her father, who was known
for his strength, had struggled for hours to unwind the cold slippery reptile
from around himself, to prevent it crushing his ribs into his lungs? Even with
multiple stab wounds the python had continued to constrict its powerful body
with very little effort and had almost won the fight. Sitting alert, every
nerve taut, Zell examined every suspicious tree, vine or branch for any sign of
movement before she relaxed her guard.
When the afternoon shadows lengthened and the cattle remained feeding on the
nourishing new growth, she left them to decide when they should start the long
Her thoughts were never far from her elderly mother and the hardships she had to
endure. Collecting wood for cooking, fetching water from the river in heavy clay
containers balanced on her head several times a day, not only for the house but
also for the vegetable garden, which she insisted, was a necessity. Zell decided
to surprise her mother and collect some of the wood that lay scattered around
She wielded the dangerous temo and
in no time at all a pile lay cut, and tied with long strips of bark torn from
one of the younger more pliable saplings. Somehow she was going to persuade
Mukaka the milking cow to carry the wood home. She saw her coming out of the
dense undergrowth, obviously remembering the calf that needed to be fed at home.
Come Mukaka, she urged, not knowing if she was doing the right thing in trying
to make her carry wood when she could scarcely carry herself. I have walked far
to bring you here today. You owe it to me to carry the wood home.
She placed the rope around her neck and led her back to the pile, glad that she
didn’t object when she lifted the bundle onto her back and secured it with more
rope around her belly. Several times she checked to see if the pile was
slipping, it would be a disaster if Mukaka were to get a fright and run
stampeding through the bush with a bundle of wood dangling under her belly.
Besides she would be the laughing stock of the community if it were known that
she was using a milking cow as a donkey. Quietly she spoke to her, it didn’t
matter that the gently voice was insulting her by informing her that she did
look like a donkey – but only a little bit, as she chased the flies from her
ears. Mukaka followed the other cattle right up to the enclosure and refused to
take one more step. Zell pushed, and pulled but the cow stood firm, as she had
no intentions of taking the wood to the huts. So near and yet so far, Zell
thought. She may as well have left the firewood at the kopje for all the good it
did her where it was.
You do look like a donkey and what is worse you act like one as well.
Angrily she untied the wood from Mukakas back, and watched her stroll off
nonchalantly to where the other cattle stood chewing their cud. How easy it
would be if she could lift the bundle onto her shoulders as she had always done,
but she couldn’t and she knew it. A smile crossed her face as she found the
solution. She picked up the piece of bark tied it to the wood and started
hauling it to the huts.
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