Just to remind you where I am and that I am watching your activity on your blogs. Can’t always comment but I do cheat a little and spy on you all when I get bored with editing this book, specially when Linda is not looking. Oh dear she will get a notice of this post so I’m in trouble already…. I’m adding just a short bit from what is in the book, can’t even remember if I’ve edited this bit… enjoy…
My Nature Lessons Begin.
It was not long after our arrival in West Nicholson, before Dad was fully accepted into the community and invites to go shooting or fishing on the farms in the district were pouring in. Dad enjoyed both and as long as I can remember back in life, the house was never short of biltong and most weekend’s fish was on the menu. Maybe that’s why I’m not keen on fish today.
One of Dad’s first fishing trips on which I accompanied him, we were caught in an absolute down pour, and it rained the proverbial cats and dogs. We got soaked and found refuge in the old Bedford truck he drove. On the way home, slipping and sliding on very muddy roads and way after dark, we had waited for the rain to abate, we collected our first “pets” of many. In the road Dad picked up the eyes of two Nag Apies, or Bush Babies (galago) as they are probably better known. He stopped and discovered these were babies that had probably been washed out of the trees and now abandoned by their parents.
They were promptly placed in his breast pocket for warmth and to dry off, much to my disappointment, but Dad understood the ways of the wild and I still had it all to learn. From there on, all the way home, my lesson began, how to look after the young, to study the habits of the little creatures, what they eat, how their parents would raise them and all the nuances of nature, with him and Mom, I was to become a parent.
Arriving home these two little “pets” probably slightly bigger than a golf ball, are handed over to Mom who now became their mother. I spent all my time watching how she dried them, fed them a milk and meat mixture with a dolls baby bottle and generally looked after them as though she was a Nag Apie. Where did she gain all this knowledge? I was flabbergasted by the knowledge of both my parents and that is when my life, deeply influenced in nature, began.
I had to learn not to pick them up, like all small children I wanted to cuddle them, crush them as though they were toys. Dad started to teach me all that I needed to know. They were fed on their milk mixture, and I had to run around in the grass catching grass hoppers, which apparently their parents did to feed them, a chewed mush whilst still young. Fortunately I was not asked to chew the creeps I caught, but was allowed to mash them with a fork.
Dad was not a great communicator, most of my errors were rewarded with a harsh word and even sometimes a soft clip to reboot my head to the lessons taught. But while at home I spent long nights watching and learning about these two apes. It was Dad’s intention to return them to the wild, when they got big enough to catch and feed themselves, so very little interaction with us was allowed. They spent their days curled up in a little box hung from the ceiling, as they sleep during the day and come out at night.
We lived in a house that, on three sides, was enclosed with gauze wiring to keep out the mosquitos and other night time visitors. Somehow these same managed to get inside and onto the veranda where “Pookie one” and “Pookie two” spent their lives. This was no small house and the length of the veranda surrounding the house measured forty five odd metres long and four metres wide. This was bigger than most zoo cages for Lion in those days. So these two apes that got no bigger than eight inches in length, maybe twelve inches, with the tail being almost half of that length, had a proverbial playground bigger than the area they establish as a territory in the wild.
When not at boarding school but rather at home, I would wait for my parents to sleep and I’d sneak out to watch these little apes. It was not long and they were climbing all over me, interacting as though I was a parent, as I would aid with the catching of insects and food for them. Definitely not allowed by Dad, which I should imagine would have resulted in the clip behind the head to knock the lesson in, but he never found out, till almost a year later.
A Nag Apie has a remarkable jumping ability. The highest reliably reported jump is 2.25 m. According to a study published by the Royal Society, given the body mass of each animal and the fact that the leg muscles amount to about 25% of this, Nag Apies jumping muscles should perform six to nine times better than that of a frog. This is thought to be due to the energy storage in the tendons of the lower leg, allowing far greater jumps than would otherwise be possible for an animal of their size. In mid-flight, they tuck their arms and legs close to the body; they are then brought out at the last second to grab the landing spot. In a series of leaps, these little apes can cover ten yards in mere seconds. The tail, which is longer than the length of the head and body combined, assists the powerful leg muscles in powering the jumps. They may also hop like a kangaroo or simply run/walk on four legs.
But, to aid with their grip on their target they wet their feet with urine. This is known as urine marking as well, due to the fact where they land they leave their scent, warning off intruders from their territory. Naturally females then in oestrus are at the same time broadcasting their readiness to breed.
The time came after about a year when Dad felt these two were doing well enough to return to the wild. A night was chosen and they’re placed in a box for transported to the wilds. Me in tow to learn the lesson of how to free these captive raised Bush Babies. I was heartbroken, I pleaded and cried my eyes out, but to no avail, they were to return to the wild, or so Dad thought.
An area was selected, and we had first to search with torches to ensure we were not releasing these two in the territory of another. No eyes seen, no sign of Bush Babies, it was time to release them. Dad opened the box, they took one look around and headed straight over to me and sat on my shoulder, hanging on for dear life. This was totally new to them and they decided big brother was there to aid. This totally confused Dad till I owned up, after a bit of persuasion, as to playing with them at night. Yes the proverbial clip was administered, but I noticed it had no sting to it, “We’ll have to keep them now!” was all he said as we climbed back into the van. I’m sure he was as pleased as I was, but he would never admit that.
These two spent their whole long lives, on our veranda, teaching me so many lessons, that no teacher at any school could have hope to get into my head. I would sit for hours and merely watch, their interaction, expressions and their communication which became a language I could easily interpret.