One day we were asked to go out to a remote station in the middle of the bush veldt. We drove and soon we were in amongst long grass following a small bumpy sand road towards our destination. We parked up when the road ended and got out. My colleague headed off towards the station at a slow jog. Strange, but it was a new job so I followed keeping pace. We reached a small clearing and stopped. My expression must have given me away because he smiled and proceeded to explain why he jogged. It seems that most snakes will hear you coming when you take a trip through the veldt. Most, but not all. Seems there is a lazy snake called a puff-adder. This snake likes to lie about in the sun and seems to know that it’s very venomous and expects everybody to avoid it. Being a lazy sort it’s often trodden on. This of course makes it a bit grumpy and it promptly bites. A bite from this snake can kill, especially when you are a distance form anti-venom. So the answer to this for the experienced people in the bush veldt is to take a slow jog. If you step on Mr. Puff-adder and he decides to strike, chances are good that you will already be away. Of course this also means you shouldn’t follow too closely the person in from of you, because now the snake is upset and fully awake.
As part of our mandatory first aid training we had area specific training. One of these were on identifying snakes, snake bites and treatment of snake related injuries. One of the procedures when bitten was to try and identify the type of snake that had done the biting as different venoms had different effects and of course treatments. The person doing the lecturing was the medical station superintendent and he said, “Try and catch the snake if possible as it will make identification easy”. This led to an incident that we all still talk about fondly. The story goes like this… A party was going on and drinks had been drunk. The host was a bit unsteady on his feet and whilst talking, mention was made of his new motorcycle. This had to be shown off, and the garage was duly opened. Whilst opening the garage he felt a sharp pain in his hand and lifting the garage discovered a snake attached to his hand. The surprise made him shake the snake off his hand. He then realised that this was not a good situation to be in and his first aid training flashed before his eyes. The snake started to slither away just as he remembered the part about “capture”. He then spent the next few minutes attempting to catch the snake, but the state he was in did not assist with this very well. Eventually after being bitten 4 more times he managed to catch the snake by it’s neck. Not having a stable container, nor the presence of mind to find one, he got a guest to drive him to the medical station superintendent. The hospital being miles away he realised his knowledge on snake bites left much to be desired so getting help quickly seemed to be a good idea. As the medical station superintendent answered the door the snake was thrust into his face with the slurred words, “This snake just bit me”. After some panic, screaming and explanation it was thankfully found not to be poisonous and part from a very bad headache the next day everyone survived. Needless to say the procedure was modified a bit after that incident.
It had just finished with a summer downpour in the bush veldt. The hot tar roads were hazy as the water turned into steam. Dusk had just crept in and we were driving back home from shopping a hundred miles away. Noticing a small lump in the road I made no effort to avoid it. A Kudu, cow or some other larger animal would of course have resulted in a sharpish stop, but lumps were of no concern. Then another appeared, and another. Slowing down was advised and so I did. Then a rather loud pop, followed by another. Now that I had slowed down I could see the whole road was writhing, not quite normal. The car now started to slide a bit and it took a bit of effort and concentration to keep it on the road whilst slowing down. Then it cleared and I was able to slow down and stop. Getting out, and looking back I realised what was going on. Large frogs were taking advantage of the heat of the road and were crawling, hopping and lazing about on the hot surface. A few snakes had emerged and were gorging themselves on the bountiful meal. The loud pops I heard were frogs that the tire caught from the front and the air pressure caused them to pop. Remembering a movie I saw I was careful when opening the door, and after making my way home double checked the car to see if any passengers had made it aboard.
Living on a small mining community in the bush veldt far away from civilisation I discovered life was a bit different from the city. There were interesting and deadly animals. Lions, crocodiles and snakes were just a few I encountered. I discovered this quite quickly when I returned home from work one day and my wife and daughter were on the kitchen table, my wife with a very large knife. Apparently a snake had been slithering around by the back door. We learnt to check for floating logs in the aptly named crocodile river before jumping in. Some of the logs had eyes and teeth!