January 22 – Two short stories, both with the theme of “you just never know what you’ll find up in a tree!”
In front of our house at Lower Gwelo Mission grew an old msasa tree that I liked to climb, as it had several large horizontal branches that I could actually run along without falling off. One day I noticed, hanging from one of these long branches, a swarm of bees that were probably in search of a new hive. When Africans found a wild bee hive, they would usually rob it of the honey combs and the bees would leave and go find another cavity to nest in.
I began throwing rocks at this swarm, just to see what the bees would do. Well, as luck would have it, a fairly large stone went smack into the cluster, and most of the swarm came falling to the ground before the bees could start flying. Well, the swarm didn’t really fall to the “ground,” but onto the back of our fox terrier Happy, who just happened to be standing exactly in the wrong place! Happy took one surprised look over his shoulder and then took off running. Fortunately he outran the bees and got away unstung, but it was funny to see his look of shock at what had landed on his back.
In the back yard of our mission home on Rusangu were several large syringa trees. I was sitting beneath one of them one day and was quite surprised when suddenly a chameleon fell plop down beside me out of the tree. Chameleons do not usually fall out of trees, for their little pincer-toed feet and prehensile tails hold fast to the twigs they are climbing on, and they move very slowly and cautiously. And then I was surprised again when down beside me fell a snake, a boomslang (which means tree snake in Afrikaans). Boomslangs are rear-fanged snakes that must bite to inject venom rather than just strike and pierce with their front fangs as most venomous snakes do. This snake was quite surprised to find itself lying next to a person, when it had intended to be next to the chameleon, its favorite food. Speedily the boomslang slithered away and back up into the tree, leaving me to catch the chameleon for my collection. – DALE