Sunday, March 31, 2013


I have a large number of very good friends because I like people and they for the most part find me interesting. I tend to have a fairly unique take on life in general or so I'm told, I have had very many interesting experiences this I do know and there have been many occasions when God has blessed me exceptionally  - my 'extraordinary luck' to those of doubtful faith. 

Along the way in this extraordinary and very marvellous life I have made some very exceptional and extraordinary friends, one of whom was Mitchell. We were very young, seven I believe... possibly younger when we first met in a little town called 'Wankie' (an unfortunate name for a coal mining town). Wankie is located in the north west corner of what once was Southern Rhodesia, known today as Zimbabwe where even the names of many towns such as Wankie have been changed, or rather translated to Shona for the most part. That particular area was very rich in minerals such as coal and tin but a very hot and dry climate. 

Mitchell lived down the road from us along with his four brothers and parents. Edith, Mitchell's Mom had polio as a child and this had effected one of her legs causing her to walk with a pronounced limp. 'Aunty' (the term used in those days for all adult female family and friends) Edith was a beautiful soul, she had a heart of gold and became good friends with my mom.

My father worked as a telegraphist on the Rhodesia Railways at the time but I think Dad met Mitchell's dad (for the life of me I cannot remember Mr C's christian name so I'll simply refer to him as 'Mr C') through the church or 'Kingdom Hall' as the Jehovah's Witnesses prefer to call it. My father was ... and is to this day a staunch JW as is my youngest brother, Dan. Ronnie and I are 'Born Again Christian's', Brothers Guy and Shane don't belong to any particular faith 'Bush Baptist' being their preferred term so when we were recently reunited after 30 years, you can just imagine the ground rules that needed to be put in place in order to prevent lengthy debate's on theology. A whole book could be written on this subject alone so this will be left for another time.

The commonality between Aunt Edith and mom were that neither worked or belonged to the JW faith, both wanted daughter's but only had son's and only lived a few houses apart. Mitchell was the third son and at my age so we were in school together. We formed a pretty special bond as I think most kids at that age do. So of course it stands to reason that when Dad was posted back to Bulawayo (since the introduction of teleprinters his position was becoming redundant) I was pretty devastated as any eight year old would be. New home, new school, new church, no friends but as Dad said, I'd be closer to my cousins both older and younger and new bonds would be formed... and they were over time. Our first day in our new home, second youngest brother Shane fell face first out of a tree in the front garden onto a half drum, made a mess of his mouth which caught the rough cut edge of the drum... neither Shane nor I were strangers to this type of accident but... what a start to our new life.

We just couldn't seem to settle down, we moved house and changed schools a fair bit over the following months until we wound up at Marula Ave in Sauerstown at about the same time as Mitchell's family arrived as if by some miracle on the same street, on the same block but at the other end. Mitchell and I were in the same class at the same school, 'Hugh Beadle', only a block from where we lived in this old renovated hotel and life was grand. We had an interest in pigeon's and wanted to try racing them but would start with homing pigeons.

We managed to acquire this rather flea bitten old brown homing pigeon from one of the older boys in the school by trading comic's and a pocket knife for it.... yay! we had our first pigeon... now where on earth would we keep it. Since I lived in the neat old hotel with fourteen bedrooms and it even had a room enclosed with chicken wire (our bicycle shed) we would put the bike's in another room around the side of the main building and turn the bicycle shed into our pigeon breeding coup. Convincing mom and dad that this was a good idea was a little daunting so we went ahead and rehearsed our reasoning and our foolproof plan to keep our families away from that terrible 'skid row' that the oldies were always talking about. Of course our excited and breathless delivery of the 'plan' was met with much scepticism but delighted enthusiasm.

If we could show that we would take care of these new pets faithfully and diligently, then yes we would be allowed to keep and breed pigeons however, we were not to get our hopes up for great wealth as it was doubtful that our enterprise would generate much income if any for .... well at least a long, long time.

We did just as we promised over the following few junior school years and our dad's encouraged us to such an extent that each built breeding coups for us in the corner of our respective yard's to house our pigeons which we went on to breed and cross breed. We had Fantail's, Bohemian Croppers, Blue Tumblers, Chinese Nasal Tuft's..... as well as at least ten squab's amongst fifty birds. We would often move all the birds from one coup (loft) to the other for cross breeding and since Mitchell had the biggest and best breeding hutches they would spend most of the mating season at his loft.

I was about 12 years old when one evening, while I was tending to some minor repairs on my coup (the pigeons were over at Mitchell's coup) when I heard Mitchell sobbing as he ran up to me.... Something about being sorry, Mitchell's dad and pie... I ran over to his house with Mitchell, with that sick hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach becoming more and more pronounced the closer we got to the coup... There were feathers everywhere and spattering of blood over the coup but not a single bird in sight. I felt absolutely gutted and I could see that Mitchell was in a worse state than me... We hung onto one another and bawled our eye's out, there were a lot of things that died that night beside pigeons.

This event drew Mitchell and I closer together but little did I know that within a few weeks something far more devastating would take place. Stephen (one of Mitchell's younger brothers) received a new bike from Mr C - his dad, for doing well at school. We would all take turns riding each others bike's and on this particular afternoon we were going over to the "B's" family home on Beech Ave about a block and a half from Mr C's house, Mitchell was riding Stephens bike while Stephen and I ran along side (I used to love running as did Stephen). 

We had collected the comics after a little procrastination. Mitchell had the comics as he climbed onto Stephens bicycle. Both Stephen and I were running after Mitchell yelling at him to give us the comics, all of us wanted first choice so whoever had the comics in hand.... a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Mitchell was a good 20m ahead of us trying to get away as we chased after him when the Sauerstown Omnibus overtook Stephen and I but Mitchell was losing control of the comics.... the bike began to wobble as Mitchell tried in vain to regather the slipping comics. 

The blood runs cold as I recall the screech of tyres, punctuated by a slight popping sound... Mitchell had disappeared for a moment, the bus lurched and all of a sudden we were kneeling beside Mitchell who was laying at an odd angle on the road. Comic's were scattered all over the road, the bicycle was caught up in a twisted tangle under the bus... everything was still and quiet as though frozen in time, I tried to lift Mitchell's head but my hand seemed to sink into a ... something mushy as Mitchell's eyelids flickered and he said something inaudible. A part of me was lost forever as I watched the life fade from my best friend's eye's. 

In memory of Mitchell. (Sorry that I could never bring myself to visit your family after the funeral).


  1. This made me cry. Peter I never knew Stephen saw him die. My mum always blamed herself for not taking him to work with her that day. My dad was Willem. I loved going to your house. He was such a lovely boy, everything changed after he died. Mum has dementia now. She cried when I told her your mum died. XX

    1. I am so sorry if I opened old wounds Ruthie, you were so very young at the time. Please give your mom and your brothers my love and respect.

  2. Peter this made me cry, My dads name was Willem, Mum has dementia now but She cried when I told her that your mom was dead. I did not know Stephen saw Mitchael die. so sad. Danny was my best friend. Everything changed after that.

    1. That's right, I don't know why I had a such a memory block, we used to call your dad Uncle Willie. Your Mom is a very special lady, probably more than you know. Give her a big hug for me. Things are never the same when a someone close to us has been lost. I hope I haven't opened old wounds.