Copyright 2022 by Ezra Azra
.Photo by vishnu deep on Pexels.
the 1950s, I lived at 61 Torquay Avenue, Fynnland, Durban, Natal,
South Africa. Ours was the last home at the end of the Avenue. In
those days, the word Avenue was an exaggeration of what was merely a
two-adult width path overgrown with tall weeds. For the last few
hundred feet up to our house, the ground on the Avenue was not
visible for the weeds. Beyond our home there was virgin jungle for
about two miles to the next suburb, King’s Rest.
have many memories of our encounters with wild animals entering our
unfenced yard from the jungle. Here is one such encounter.
night, every night, from the sounds, animals in the forest were doing
terrible things to one another. When night settled in, we dared not
venture even into our yards, front and back. It was normal for noisy
animal fights to spill into our yards. We had no fence.
the early evening after the daily violent short tropical thunder
storm, things quietened down a bit. That's when a pastime of ours was
to sit still in the dark on the wild grass in our front yard, and
wait for bats to snatch mosquitoes inches away from our faces,
without touching us.
was a normal sight every morning to find bloodied animal parts in our
yards. Commonly seen in the daytime many times a week in our yards
were snakes, rabbits, foxes, jakkals, and a slew of animals for which
we had no names.
most of those wild animals feared us as much as we them, and so both
of us scurried off on sight of one another. Most animals. The
exception were the monkeys.
us, monkeys always behaved aggressively as if we were intruders.
Tribes of monkeys would swing by every few months, and belligerently,
slowly, walk about our yards, jabbering, growling, baring teeth at
stayed indoors all the while. Locked doors and closed window
curtains. We had come up with a protocol whereby if anybody was not
at home when the monkeys arrived, we would stick a long stick in the
ground at the gate as a warning to not approach.
rowdy fights, rough horseplay would break out amongst the monkeys on
the ground in our yards. If these antics were staged to intimidate
us, it worked. If we were coming home while there were monkeys on the
ground, we turned around and retreated. Quite often some of the
monkeys gave chase.
back in the past when we did not know better, we had left clothing on
the clothesline in the backyard. The monkeys attacked the clothes.
Ever since that first time, hastily clearing the clothes line was one
of our chores when approaching tribes were heard.
good thing was those monkey gangs never arrived silently. Always, we
would hear them from far away enough to allow us time to clear the
clothes lines, and other objects that would provoke the monkeys into
loved sticks long and heavy enough to wield as weapons. They would
pick up the sticks and bang them about, at one another, against
trees, and against any item of furniture we forgot to take indoors.
Their favourite surface was the wash stone in the backyard. An
ancient tradition used to be that water-soaked hand-washed clothing
was swung and slapped on the slab of wash stone, that was about two
feet in height. A monkey with a stick would go at the wash stone
ferociously. Quite often the monkey would not stop whacking the stone
surface until the stick was reduced to splinters. Early on we had
removed all sticks when we heard the monkeys approaching on the tree
tops. After that, they brought their own sticks.
were so very thankful that none of the monkeys acquired the knack of
throwing stones as missiles. A monkey always threw under-arm, ‘like
a girl.’ Hence, a monkey with a stone was never a threat.
few times down the years mother monkeys brought their children to
play in our yard. The children would stay close to their mothers,
while the mothers seemed to encourage the children to explore farther
away, alone. Our yards could have been an uncomfortable place for
children monkeys because large areas without trees like our yards,
were nonexistent in the jungle.
small portions of lifted indoor window curtains, we would spy on
monkey mothers not having it easy trying to instill independence in
their children to move farther off to be on their own in our yards.
was no electricity in our home. The jungle was our source of wood
for cooking and general indoor night lighting. Between monkey
incursions, we chopped down trees and left them to dry up before
hauling them home.
on hot days there would be rain in the sunlight. When there were
monkeys in the trees on such occasions, it drove them insane. They
had vicious noisy fights high up in the trees. At some of those times
when the fight was near our home, monkeys would run into our yards
and behave as if they were asking us for help in their fights.
would throw themselves against our doors as if trying to flee for
shelter, and jumping up to look into our tightly-curtained windows.
of fear, we never got involved.
were forever grateful that in all those years it never occurred to
any monkey to throw an object against a window.
used to wonder why those monkeys never got around to working out the
mechanics of a glass window pane. After all, it came naturally to
them to try to gain access by a door by throwing themselves against
it. I used to wonder until at some time down the years it occurred to
me that while those monkeys could have seen us open and close doors,
they could never have seen us open and close windows. Always, when we
heard the chatter of a tribe approaching along the tree tops, we
promptly shut all windows and closed curtains before they arrived,
and we never opened any of either until the tree-swinging beasts had
the side-edge of our backyard, were three huge-stemmed tall trees
with some thick branches that extended over our home.
home had a flat single-sheet corrugated iron roof. The monkeys jumped
off the branches of the trees, onto our roof. From the sounds of it,
they proceeded to have a ball once they were on the roof. We heard
everything through the single corrugated sheets. We could never
corroborate if some of the sounds we heard were of monkeys peeing.
Never corroboration; but always a hundred percent accurate guessing.
would have liked nothing better than to make those trees into
firewood, but we couldn't figure out how to guarantee they would not
fall on our home when we chopped them down.
goola-goola fruit was the reason the monkeys came as far as our home.
We did not chop down fruit trees for firewood. Goola-goola trees were
the most in the Fynnland jungle.
goola-goola tree grows as high and hard as a mango tree. A
fully-grown goola-goola fruit is as large and round and hard as a
baseball, and as smooth as an apple. Inside a goola-goola are four or
five seeds similar in size, texture and sweetness to the fleshy seeds
of a jackfruit. When ripe, a goola-goola is a most delicious fruit.
And jungle-free as Biblical manna!
us and other poor families in Fynnland, goola-goolas and other wild
fruit were our only food, most of the time.
easily crunch through the hard goola-goola shell. We had to use tools
or large stones.
farmer in monkey territories knows what criminally wasteful eaters
monkeys are. A wild monkey never takes a second bite of a fruit
before throwing it away, and grabbing at another. Where monkeys dine
on goola-goolas, the ground under a goola-goola tree is littered with
partially eaten goola-goolas. A broken piece of goola-goola shell
stepped on draws blood. Since all of us, of necessity, went about
barefoot at home and in the jungle, in those times, broken
goola-goola shells were an ever-present danger.
heart-warming sight was the many different species of rodents under a
goola-goola tree mingling peacefully while they feasted haphazardly
on the bits-and-pieces discarded by the monkeys. Especially pleasant
to us was that the rodents, while wary of us, did not mind fleeting
accidental contact with our feet, from time to time.
wasn't easy to climb a goola-goola tree. Goola-goola trees are not
climber-friendly. Branches have thorns. Often, nests of
stinger-insects. We certainly paid a lot in branch scratches and
insect stings and bites for our goola-goola loot.
sunny day we were in the jungle maneuvering one of our dried
chopped-down trees to lug home, when we heard monkey jabberings high
up in the distance, fast approaching. We abandoned the fire wood. We
hurried home. We barely made it home when the monkeys descended into
our yards, in a loud and ferocious brawl.
were ganging up on one. That one already had blood on itself. It was
fighting back, but it was being attacked by several at once. We were
safely inside our home, peering from small corners of the curtains.
This time there could be no doubt. That monkey banging on our door
was pleading for help.
dared not. We might have considered it if that monkey was far ahead
of its attackers. But not there and then when they were shrieking
murder while beating up on it as it screamed and pounded on our door.
lot of fighting happened against our door. The victim fought its way
back to the edge of our yard. There, it gave up.
lay motionless on the ground. Some of the others went at it
viciously. Most of the tribe did not come down out of the trees, but
screamed and jabbered dementedly while shaking branches.
the attackers stopped. The victim lay motionless. A few came to our
door and inspected it. The tribe left.
we could not hear any of them, we cautiously ventured out. The
victim, too, was gone. We agreed none of us saw the others take the
victim, and that it was still there when we saw the others leave. It
must have crawled back into the jungle.
dared go to get our firewood. It took us longer than usually because
we stepped along slowly in order to be extra quiet.
were horrified at seeing a lot of blood on our fallen dried tree. And
moreso when we discovered a half-dead monkey hiding inside the
hollow trunk. Our instinctive reaction was to run for our lives.
dying monkey moaned, as if to gain our attention. That moan was not a
frightening sound. It was a sad soft noise. And, of course, there
was, too, the matter of urgently needed firewood. And, so, all of us
seconds we had impulsively exchanged glances that clarified the
monkey was not a threat serious enough to justify not lugging the
first it was the unspoken agreement amongst us that that dying monkey
was not worth bothering about. Its body could be easily shaken off
our dead firewood tree, and left on the ground.
set about hauling the firewood we had planned weeks ago. While we
took care to stay out of the animal's reach, we hoped it would move
itself off the wood. If it did not move itself, we were not going to
force it off. We spoke to it a little, individually; shooed it a
little. Initially, the monkey paid no attention to us.
were beginning to realize that we might have to postpone our firewood
plans, and come back another time. The wounded monkey extended an
arm in our direction. We jumped back in fright. Our first
self-preservation thought was that the beast was going to put up a
fight. Its next move showed us we were wrong.
monkey slowly clutched the dried tree and tried to lift itself up. It
failed. To our human credit, without conferring amongst ourselves, we
spontaneously joined in to help the animal.
of us ran home to bring back something on which to place the wounded
brought it home, and placed it on a piece of flat corrugated iron. We
went back to get our firewood, while my mother and adult sister went
about making the monkey comfortable.
offered it water in a cup. We were excited when it drank some! That
was the full extent of our knowledge in wild animal care.
night, we placed the monkey on the corrugated iron against a wall
outside, and we slant-leaned another piece over it against the wall
for shelter against the usual evening warm tropical rain.
offered food, but the wounded monkey did not eat. We did not expect
that monkey to recover.
the next few days and nights, that monkey only drank water. And then
my mother came up with a brilliant idea: goola-goolas!
worked. The monkey weakly trembled as it reached out for the fruit.
We bypassed its hands and fed it directly. When it co-operated in
spitting out the sucked-clean seeds into our cupped hands, we knew it
and we were winning.
some time during the day, it went into the jungle. None of us saw it
again. We were overjoyed that it was able to leave on his own
we went into the jungle for firewood purposes, we would look about
carefully. Never a trace of our patient.
we left Fynnland years later, there were still some faded monkey
blood stains on our front door.
that incident, whenever packs of monkeys descended, they were not
noisy nor belligerent in our yards. The reason seemed to be the blood
stains on that sheet of corrugated iron, and our door.
monkeys came down from the trees into our yards. None jumped off the
trees onto our roof. The few who came down into the yards, would
approach those blood-stains, and pause silently for a few seconds.
again did monkey mothers come down from the trees with their children
into our yards.
continued to keep doors and windows closed to them, and to all other
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Story list and biography
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