Family Life Was Not Easy When Pioneering In Africa In The 1800’s

As I age, I dream more and more of this Africa I love and her people. So much so that I have now almost turned full circle and have even geared my opportunities in that direction. I will never live on African soil again, but I will visit her and tell her stories.

It takes a lot of nerve and luck to settle in a new land, and back in the 1800’s Africa called with a vengeance. Africa’s European settlement was not like that of Australia, with her penal colonies. The people who went to these darkest of lands were free. Some did it for adventure, some did it because they had no place to call home or no reason to stay in the homes they had. Some did it because of their health, and some went to expand their countries empires. No one knew what they were getting into or how it would end.

My families adventures started when my ancestors arrived on the most southern of African shores in 1820. Nathaniel Morgan was a doctor by trade and a Welshman, who was disinherited for marrying a lovely Catholic girl. I was the sixth generation from this union to be born on Africa’s glorious soil. Ultimately it was my decision to leave her shores and move to Canada in 1981.

There are many stories of these early adventuring African times, a lot of them not so good. A lot of them have been documented and a lot of them have been lost in the annals of time. Fortunately with me came a treasure trove of stories. Stories I still need to tell…..

When I was about 9 years old, I met a remarkable and very old gentleman. I had been invited to his home for dinner as a guest with dear friends. I must admit that I don’t remember what we ate, but I do remember stories being told after the meal and this one has stayed with me and will do so forever.

Our host George had been born the last of many children whilst on a trek into the hinterland with his pioneering parents. These treks took months if not years and life was not easy. The large canvas covered wagons were pulled by a team of sixteen or so oxen and a sharp eye was needed to keep them safe from snake bites and lions. There were no roads to follow, and no maps. Food and water was not always available and what meager supplies they had were rationed. You could die as easily from drinking river water as you could from a mosquito bite.

Life was hard, the sun was hot and baby George was not doing too well. His mother was not producing the quantity of milk needed to keep little George alive. He was starving to death. One of the family concerns was that although his mother managed to produce some milk during the day, the nightly feeds were dry.

After a long hard and dusty day fighting to keep man and beast alive, George’s parents were only too happy to climb into their communal bed in the back of the wagon, their children tucked in around them, and sink into a peaceful exhausted slumber.

By now poor little George was skin and bone and his mewing sound of a cry had basically stopped. He just did not have the strength anymore.

On this night George’s father was wakened by a movement. A stealthy movement not only in the dark and very close by, but one that was IN their bed. Gingerly he lifted the covers and froze with fright. There between husband and wife was a huge African Rock Python. A snake as thick as his very own thigh. This big African boa constrictor was happily and ever so gently nursing from his wife’s left breast.

George’s father could do nothing but watch as this aggressive opportunistic feeder finished its meal. The Python then, just as stealthily, slithered from the bed into the wagon wheel well where it coiled itself into safety and slumber. This snake had been a stowaway for many months – if not years, and was the reason for dear little George’s almost demise.

The next morning at the break of day, the wagon was carefully unpacked, the sleeping African Rock Python found in the wheel well and quickly dispensed with. The larder was filled with the unexpected bounty of snake meat pickled in vinegar. The snake skin was well cleaned and strung out on the top of the canvas canopy for curing in the African sun.

Mother had her milk back and little George now in his late nineties, still had the snake skin which hung on his living room wall. It was over 18 feet long!

If you have any dissatisfaction with my content, you can tell me here and I will fix the problem, because I care about every reader and even more so about your opinion!

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