African Tales – More Monkey Business

Vervet monkey

Vervet monkey

April 8 – One day when I was a boy, an African man came to our yard with a young vervet monkey that he wanted to sell us. Of course I was very anxious to have a pet monkey, and my folks bought it for me. We put a collar around its waist, attached a long chain to the collar, and then the chain to a long wire stretched between the house and the syringa tree. This way the monkey had a lot of exercise room and could climb up into the tree for refuge from dogs or the night, and could run over to the house and sit on the window sill and look in the window at us.  She would also chase regular folks if they got within reach of her chain.

On the mission lived an old, blind man named Pogo, and he used to find his way around to the various missionary homes and ask for food. Somehow he knew where all the houses were and could find his way to them without a guide. The path up to our back door from the gate in the hedge was within reach of our monkey’s grasp, and that monkey would usually rush over to whoever was coming in and scare them, but she treated the old blind man differently. She would just tug gently on his trouser leg and in alarm he would say “Ah, ah!” and that would be the end of it.

Yes, our monkey could (and did) bite!

Yes, our monkey could (and did) bite!

It seemed that any time she managed to escape from her chain it was on Friday when folks were busy getting ready for Sabbath and couldn’t afford to take time to chase her down. She had to be taken by dishonest means, since she could zip up a tree in a flash and be perfectly safe from pursuit. I would sit by a tree and pretend to be eating something delicious, and eventually she would come sneaking up and beg for a share. Then I would snatch her in a flash, get bitten for my trouble, and then attach her chain to the collar and she was captive again.

Sometimes the chain would break instead of the collar, and she would climb around in the trees until the chain got tangled in the branches. It was then my job to climb up the tree and rescue her. It was sometimes quite difficult to be way up on slender branches, unwinding Monk with one hand while hanging on to branches with the other hand, and getting bitten now and then when Monk got tired of being wound around and around to loosen her chain.

The Marx family lived across a small river from the mission station and ran a trading store for the local folks. Their son Ron and I played together a lot. He had a large dog named Jumbo and I had a small fox terrier named Happy. One day our two dogs had a serious disagreement right under Monkey’s syringa tree and were fighting angrily. Above them, hanging from the low branches, was Monk, cheering our dog on with chatters and grunts. Suddenly she lost her grip and fell kerplunk right into the midst of the fighting dogs! In a moment her chain was all tangled up with their legs and she was screaming in fright as they fought and lunged around her. I eventually managed to wade into the melee without getting bitten and rescued poor Monk. – DALE

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