Below is another section of Ursula’s memories. So good to have these--and some lovely writing. - Tony
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Speaking of maps, I virtually drove all the way from Freetown to Segbwema on the Google Earth map. Quite a thrill. But I was not able to find Njalahun, the Methodist Mission school Mary and I taught at. I wonder if it still exists. The tiny cluster of huts a 100 yards or so down the road was called Walima. I remember their Muslim first call to prayer around 5 am, barely perceptible from my bed, a deep, soft but penetrating beat, slow, like a sleepy heartbeat.
David Williams once brought Mary a mongoose which was the most rewarding pet I think I've ever had. Of course we named him Riki Tiki Tavi, after Kipling's story. He was a ventriloquist, capable of making an extraordinary variety of sounds, sweet bird chirps, loud fast clicking clacks, coos, and grunts in extremely rapid succession. Once a man came by with a snake in a cage, and Riki was frantic to get at him. He was free to roam and ruled our place, especially Mambu, our houseboy, who barely tolerated him because he was not really housebroken. It broke my heart when some Walima residents turned up with his corpse one afternoon, having found him in one of their traps. They knew he was ours and apologized, but asked if they could eat him anyway. We said yes, sure....
And once on my way to visit Steve --- and I'm amazed I can't remember the town he was in, somewhere near Bo perhaps --- the man in the lorry next to me had a very young pangolin, a kind of scaly anteater. I was fascinated, asked him what he was going to do with it. 'Good chop' he grinned. I asked if I could buy it, and he reluctantly sold it to me for 5 Leones. Steve and I coddled it like a baby, offered it ants galore, but it wouldn't eat. I think it was too young, perhaps still nursing. We finally let it go, but were pessimistic about its survival chances. Steve taught agriculture and health science. He grew lots of crops with his boys. He would say: "Food you raise yourself, feeds you twice."
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Paul Chantrey adds the following comments regarding the mongoose: “I wondered where the mongoose went. We had a dog and a cat too, and I can’t remember what became of them. The dog would drag the cat around by its head; their antics were cheaper than TV. We also had a scaly anteater, or pangolin, which I kept in a box in my bedroom. At night he would crawl out of the house by going up into the attic and down the antenna pole in front of the house. Early morning he would reverse his trip and would appear in the box. He must have been caught after a month of night time feeding by a hungry Sierra Leonean. Dave moved to another house the second year and took the mongoose with him. It liked to lie upside down on your lap and have its belly rubbed; it also liked to nip the toes of strangers.
“It would hide under the china buffet and run out to grab treats dropped from the table. He once got into a rice dish sitting on the stove and ate himself silly; he was so full that he looked like a small football with legs. They can eat themselves to death.”
|Our mongoose at Dave Williams' feet, 1963|