Fire and Water (and crocodiles)


Storage drum

March 13 – One of the town as we lived in while I was a boy in Africa was called Clonsilla, a suburb of the town of Gwelo. My parents had rented a house there and in the yard around the house was a well-built shed where Dad stored his travel supplies, canned food, bicycles, and a 40 gallon drum of petrol (gasoline) that he used to fill the containers that he took with him on his tours. One evening he sent his helper out to the shed to fill a can with gasoline.

Because it was getting dark, the boy took along a kerosene lantern to light his way. Setting the lantern down beside the drum of gasoline, he begins siphoning gas into the can he had brought along. Very shortly he became aware of the dangers of this procedure, for suddenly the can he was siphoning into caught fire! He began trying to beat out the fire but it just ran up his legs and then jumped to the drum itself and with a loud roar the fire shot to the ceiling in a powerful jet. The drum did not explode but it very shortly had reduced the whole building to charred ruins.


[ All burned up ]

For hours afterwards we could hear the canned goods exploding now and then. My almost new bicycle was destroyed, along with many other things. The odd-jobs boy did not maintain his employee status for very long after that. I think he may have had some other problems as well, as one day he became excited over a strawberry he saw in our garden and grabbed it up and bit it while loudly exclaiming “stukwane“, the African name for an evil spirit.

The town of Gwelo got its water from Whitewater Dam, a few miles out of town, and it was a nice place to go for picnics, fishing, etc. It would have been nice to have had some of that water to put out the fire!

In Africa one should not venture into ponds or pools as a rule, because one never knows what may be lurking there. Crocodiles have a habit of wandering overland at night, sometimes far from their river home, and will often take up residence in a farm pond or damn for a while and feed on whatever fish may be living there or on whatever animals come to drink.


[ Not gonna argue with this guy! ]

Therefore, it was not surprising when one day when some African women were washing clothes at the foot of the spillway, over the edge of the dam wall and down the concrete spillway came rushing a crocodile! In various stages of dress and undress the woman fled shrieking and arrived at the home of the official in charge of the dam nearby and reported what it just happened. The official took his rifle and destroyed the crocodile, but no doubt they were others still lurking behind the damn.

As it turned out, a friend and I one day had been at the dam and wanted to get over to the other side quickly so just threw in a couple of large tree limbs and used them as supports while we paddled over in the deep water to the other side. This was before the spillway incident, so we are not acting as cautiously as we should have. I guess we were lucky! – DALE

NOTE: none of the pictures in this post are of the “actual events” described

This entry was posted in Africa, Animals, Childhood and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s