We killed snakes in Africa in the 1960’s, many still do. Now, many of us know that the ecosystem is fragile & snakes have had a bad press, but things were simpler back then.
Today, we might feel a twinge of guilt if we kill a snake. If we kill it because it’s about to strike a person or animal we care about then exterminating it might be considered acceptable. Killing a snake because it’s in our path is deemed less okay, & actively clearing them from an area is frowned on. That said, there are less of them now, & we often have someone to call if our paths cross – The Park’s Board, Reptile Park or snake lover. It was different then because there were so many more of them around, & Okkie, my favourite snake handler, was still a child.
Snakes are potentially deadly, some aren’t but often it’s hard to tell the difference. We erred on the side of caution, besides, there was so many snakes & many were known to be territorial. Relocating wasn’t popular because it was time consuming, we were busy, and they could come back after all. We heard stories of snakes or their partners returning to a scene to kill for revenge. Far safer to shoot them so they couldn’t hurt us or our children. Later, there’d be nature talks & snake parks. In 1965, we lived close to the bush & we shot trespassers.
I love this photograph, it captures the simplicity, honesty and pride of the day. People were mostly hard working, honest & dedicated to building a future in a country where their families would be safe, fed & educated. Community spirit was high, conversation focused around things like improving roads & which route was the best for travel. There was talk of doctors & schools, machinery & motor repairs. Records were played, dances were danced, & people did what they needed to do to survive. Some lived, some died, a few made fortunes.
This was 1965. The year of UDI. Hard times would follow, sanctions, boycotts, political opinion would split, many would stay & fight, some would leave and live in exile. Conversations would change and people would talk about who was pulling strings, question the agenda of the world leaders, and many would scratch their heads & frown in confusion.
This photograph is a great family snap, but for me it is so much more. People confident about who they are, living in a country they love, raising their children & teaching their grand kids skills they need to stay alive. This isn’t my photograph, it’s one of many from a private family collection. The names of the people don’t really matter because for me, they represent many other families in the area, & of the era.
It easy to forget that settler families were not the elite. The vast majority were builders, road & rail workers. Other were refugees from the wars in South Africa & elsewhere, or sent by their governments. We read about the success stories, but many had different stories. Men were often migrant workers, moving to where there was work & needing to leave their children behind in boarding schools & orphanage facilities. Despite this, families were resilient & relied on each other & their communities.
A lot went down, some good, some bad, some ugly. On this sunny day though, this black mamba was shot by Mr Gordon Walsh on Grey’s Block Farm which was situated near the Khami Ruins in the then Rhodesia.
The venom of the black mamba is highly toxic, & a person being bitten by one would expect to collapse within 45 minutes, followed by death in 7 to 15 hours. While it might attempt to flee from humans, it is said by some that it sometimes chases people to attack them. It is capable of striking from a distance, & biting multiple times in quick succession.