Hey! Get out of there!

One year in Nigeria, Chris and I discovered the books of Gerald Durrell, and the wonderful world contained therein.

It didn’t take long for the two of us to decide that Mr. Durrell probably needed assistance in his acquisition of animals for his zoo, so we decided to capture local species and send them to him.

Before I go any further, I should inform the Gentle Reader that at the time this took place, the national sport of Nigeria seemed to be revolution.

Anyhoo, after several days of chasing things through jungle and swamp, Mom had decided that the active route to animal capture was a bit too … strenuous:

Mom (slightly big-eyed, and stiff): “Is that a green mamba in that jar?”

Dad (tapping on jar with forefinger): “I don’t think so. Looks like a green vine snake. Harmless.”

Mom: “Thank God.”

Kids: “Are you sure it’s not a mamba?”

Dad: “Yes. Small gripping teeth only. No fangs.”

Kids (with feeling): “Bugger!”

Confined to the back-yard it didn’t take too long for us to realize that sneaking up on animals was a wee bit difficult if every animal within nine square miles is actively avoiding getting anywhere near our back-yard.

I have suspicions that the surviving astro-lizards had been spreading malicious propaganda regarding our activities, but however word spread we couldn’t find anything bigger than a bug in the yard.

After much pondering on the extensive cowardice of the daylight species, we decided to see if the lack of moral fiber extended to the nocturnal varieties. Since Mom would never allow us to lurk in the back-yard until dawn, obviously we needed to build a trap of some kind.

Out came the shovels.

As a point of pride I would like to inform the Gentle Reader that — by God! — Chris and I dug that hole down shoulder-deep before the gardner came out, contemplated our engineering thus far, shrugged, grabbed his shovel and laid to with a will. Shortly to be joined by the estate gardner, whom, upon seeing his compatriot excavating, apparently figured, “Mine not to reason why,” grabbed his shovel and ’round about twilight we had one heck of a tiger pit. Required ladders for the grown-ups to get out. Beautemous.

Dad, of course, was brought out to inspect the work of his progeny. He made the proper parental noises, then mentioned, absent-mindedly, that as narrow as the pit was, bigger species might be able to scramble out. The traditional solution, he went on to say, was to place stakes near the top of the pit angled down.

Stunned by the simplicity and beauty of this, we immediately chopped some bamboo stakes and added them to the pit.

So. Before we go any further, I wish the Gentle Reader to fix firmly in his, or her, mind a pit. Measuring about six feet long, by about six feet wide. Eight to ten feet deep. At the top of which are not one, but two rows of downward angled bamboo stakes. Which, given the nature of bamboo, are wickedly sharp.

Call it a double-wide grave from hell.

Across the top of this, picture two misanthropic little hellions happily spreading a thick layer of palm leaves and a little dirt, for realism.


Next morning, Chris and I go sprinting out to our trap to discover what the night had wrought. And — oh joyous day! — the palm fronds which had been laid to disguise the trap had been disturbed. Matter-of-fact, most of them were gone. This boded quite well, and (quivering with excitement) we snuck up on the trap to discover …

…a ratel.

For those in the audience who are not familiar with African fauna, ‘ratel’ is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘Psychopathic Buzzsaw From Hell’.

Also called a ‘honey badger’, a ratel is best described as 500 pounds of pure distilled pissed-off crammed into a 25 pound body.

To get a proper perspective, understand that wildebeasts and buffalo have been found dead after a ratel attack, and that lions and hyenas will give an irritated ratel a wide berth.

And we had one of the little darlings in our trap. The day was looking good.

Continued in part II.

Same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.


You know what?

15 thoughts on “Hey! Get out of there!”

  1. Oh, sure, Dawg, leave us hanging again.

    It’s not like we’re still waiting for the outcome of the pink gorilla suit or anything …

    (Good tale. But where’s the end??!)

  2. You grew up in Nigeria?
    I wondered where some of your British type sayings originated.

    Awaiting Part 2 with interest!

  3. And this was undoubtedly before the phrase, “Take off and nuke the site from orbit–it’s the only way to be sure” entered the lexicon.

  4. OMG. This reminds me of the ‘possum in the doghouse’ incident when my Lance Corporal was about 9. I SO feel for your mother.

    I was blessed with one of your kind of boy. And she had TWO…. In a county with armed revolutionary types…..
    and many more types of poisionous reptiles than inhabit Kansas…..

    She should be nominated for sainthood.

  5. Ah, yes, Gerald Durrell. The next-to-last chapter of My Family and Other Animals ranks right up there with Mel Brooks at his best.

  6. “Its ferocious reputation extends to attacks on animals much larger than itself. Several African tribes report that the honey badger attacks the scrotum of larger mammals if provoked and has even castrated humans” — Wikipedia entry for Ratel.

    Just thought you might want to know the verocity of the animal…


  7. Yep – I can verify they are evil buggers – ever see ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy?’ – I can’t remember if it’s I or II – but one of them ends up getting grumpy at one of the guys shoes and follows him forever trying to take chunks out of it. If you haven’t seen them I would very much recommend them, slightly odd but laugh after laugh.
    Keep it up Dawg !

  8. Damn you, LD! The three worst words at the end of a TV show, radio broadcast or GRIPPING STORY: “…to be continued!”

    Damn you!

  9. Karla said:
    “And she had TWO…. In a county with armed revolutionary types…..
    and many more types of poisionous reptiles than inhabit Kansas…”

    Yeah, but after reading LD’s stories don’t you feel sorry for the rebels and the snakes?

  10. Well, yes, I rather do feel sorry for the snakes. It was the ‘mongoosaquarium’ story that got me hooked on Dog’s stories in the first place. I sporfled tea all over my monitor – at work.

    My co-workers had me read that story out loud and I thought our lead (who is preggers) was going to go into labor. She was whooping, she was laughing do loud.

    We are all anxiously awaiting the rest of the Pink Gorilla story as well.

  11. Hey, it’s 11:01pm, and no Part II yet! We want part II, we want part II!

    (And part III of the Pink Gorilla Suit! )

  12. Awesome….
    I remember attempting to dig a hole to China in our sandbox when my brother and I were kids. When we reached a layer of red clay, we quickly ran away, believing, as only a child could, that we’d dug straight into Hell and had somehow missed China.

  13. Am I the only one that gets a serious “Nibbler from Futurama” vibe from the descriptions here and on Wikipedia?

  14. As for the ratel, there’s always the foreword from Robert Ruark’s book The Honey Badger: “There is a bloody brave little animal called the honey badger in Africa.  It may be the meanest animal in the world. It kills for malice and for sport, and it does not go for the jugular— it goes straight for the groin. It has a hell of a lot in common with the modern American woman.”

    I always thought that summed up the reputations of both the ratel and American women pretty well…

  15. I know this is an old blog…but, I’m so surprised to read of someone else in the U.S. having read Gerald Durrell. I love his books! This is a very good blog, too.

Comments are closed.