African Tales – 1300 Miles to School

150429_HelderbergLogoApril 29 – I turned twelve during 1942, my first year at Helderberg College near Cape Town in South Africa. Being at school, I was forced to miss lots of fun things that were available back on the mission. HBC was around 1300 miles from Bulawayo, the second largest city in Southern Rhodesia, and the trip to school took three days by train. Sad to say, I only got home once a year, and that for for three months.

However, I did manage to find interesting things to do after classes, which did not involve clarinet and piano practice that teachers were being paid to teach me to play! It was far more fun to roam the hills around the college, or climb Helderberg Mountain that towered behind the college. The mountain had four peaks, only the first one of which was visible from the school, and there was seldom time enough to climb beyond that first peak. On the further peaks it was rumored that baboons and leopards roamed, but we never did see any. On the side of the first peak was a place marked to indicate where years ago a student had fallen to his death while being pursued by an angry swarm of wild bees. I believe he was the only student to die at the college in all the years up to the time I was there.

Helderberg Mountain

Helderberg Mountain

Among the foothills between Helderberg Mountain and the college, a small private plane had crashed years before and much of the debris was still there and occasionally some of us would stop at the site and look things over. At the time of the crash, one of the students had salvaged the joystick and still had it when he did some practice teaching there at the college. He offered this joystick as a prize for doing something or other, but I won the prize and had it for years before I disposed of it in some forgotten way.

Silverleaf Tree

Silverleaf Tree

The flora of the Cape Province is beautiful and many of its wild flowers have been domesticated and can be bought today as seeds or bulbs in most of our American seed and plant nurseries. Australian eucalyptus trees were very common and in considerable variety throughout the countryside. There were many types of protea, called sugar bush because of the plenteous nectar in the blossoms, and the famed silver­leaf tree also grew there. I made several collections of pressed wild flowers but only have a few pages of them left today. – DALE

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