Cathy Buckle: Snakes, eels and burning maize bags

Dear Family and Friends,

Standing on a bridge, looking down into a cold mountain river, I
wondered what the chances were of seeing a trout. It was a quiet
winters morning in an uninhabited area and my patience was rewarded,
not with a fish but with a reptile. A thin green snake swam across the
river, sliding on the surface of the water, from one bank to the
other. At the far side, the snake struggled to get a grip on the
slippery bank before disappearing into the bush. It had all happened
so fast that for a moment I wondered if it had been an illusion.

Walking away from the river along a red dirt road, square chips of
mica sparkled and glistened where they lay amongst the dust and
stones. Turning off the road onto a narrow little path which wound
around tussocks of sun bleached grass and dry, scratchy shrubs,
another surprise awaited. Right there, in the middle of the path, was
a great excavation: a pile of red soil alongside a deep, angled hole
which you could not see the bottom of. This was an Antbear hole but
could just as well be hiding some other creature and its innocent
appearance was as much of a deception as the swimming snake and
shining mica sparkling in the dust.

A little later, near a pool in the river, a sudden movement in the
water caught my eye. It was an eel and within seconds disbelief was
confirmed as a few of us gathered at the water’s edge to witness
this rare sight. Over a metre long, the African mottled eel swirled
and twisted in the crystal clear, mountain water. For a few seconds
the eel lay still in a patch of sunlit water, cameras clicked madly,
capturing a memory that will long be cherished.

Back in the real world, newspapers and emails provided the contrasting
image of Zimbabwe – the one we struggle to live in and survive every
day. One news report told of Russia holding negotiations to supply us
with military helicopters in exchange for platinum mining rights in
the Darwendale area of Zimbabwe. It’s impossible to understand moves
likes this which are in direct contradiction to the incessant
propaganda about indigenisation and the mantra that Zimbabwe’s
resources, in, on and under the ground, are only for indigenous, black
skinned Zimbabweans.

Finally, came the photograph taken recently of our town’s fire
engine. The fire department to whom all of the town’s residents are
required to each pay a monthly levy of US$ 1.82, was hard at work.
They weren’t busy extinguishing a blaze but with carrying people.

The double cab of the fire engine was so full of people that more had
perched on top. Four people, in their own clothes, are clearly visible
sitting on top of the fire engine as it stopped to cross an
intersection in the town. And this is what we are all paying a ‘fire
levy for?’

After a week of swimming snakes, antbears and eels followed by
Russians, helicopter gunships, burning maize bags and passengers
sitting on top of the fire engine – you have to wonder what is
reality and what is illusion. Until next time, thanks for reading,
love cathy. 30th June 2012.

Copyright Cathy Buckle.

www.cathybuckle.com

For information on my new book “IMIRE”, about Norman Travers and
Imire Game Park, or my other books about Zimbabwe: “Innocent
Victims,” African Tears,” “Beyond Tears;” and “History of
the Mukuvisi Woodlands 1910-2010”, or to subscribe to
Cathy’s letter, please visit the  website or contact [email protected]

See other recent posts from Cathy Buckle

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