Sunday 18 August 2013

Childhood: Yikes! A snake visiting boarding school

Preserved for posterity
That night, there was much clamour as much of the boys' hostel emptied to chase after what then happened to be a yellowish tanned snake with a white belly - as I can recall - Poisonous snakes of Africa and Asia.
It measured about 2 metres and it was eventually preserved in formaldehyde in a large jar and put on display in the biology laboratory where specimens of other once wild and dangerous but now dead animals were racked on shelves to fill anyone with dread and fear.
Our biology teacher was a Canadian, much unlike other teachers, young, agile and rode a motorcycle, generally friendly and never menacingly cruel nor wielding a cane as the other sociopaths masquerading as teachers that our parents entrusted our care and education to.
Named for discipline
The aftermath of that night would have been grave for some, the commotion at close to midnight when lights were supposed to be out had roused the principal, a matriarch with omnipresence and omniscience that saw through you with a gaze that made you dissolve into nothingness in her presence; strict and motherly, Mrs Adebambo defined the regime of a tight ship.
She called out the sleepers; the spies and the eyes of the authorities, prefects in other words, to gather the names of the noisemakers who had breached every rule of discipline and order, that list almost as long as an arm included the great and the small, we only had to wait until the morning for the verdict which was most likely going to be a suspension rather than interminable hours of bush-clearing.
Bamboo and palm fronds
The grounds of the school were on the edge of a forest and it only had walls on the sides bordered by roads, the forest itself stretched for kilometres, I do not think we were ever sure of where the grounds ended and when we had begun to trespass on the property of neighbouring farmers.
For our annual sports days, each school house; Falode, Mellor, Igimisoje and Adedoyin built huts of a bamboo framework and palm fronds made up the walls and roofs, gathered from the surrounding forests though not too far from the hostel was a bamboo bush, probably decades old, a good few metres wide and a haven for much more than could be imagined.
Fire raiser
I had happened upon a box of matches, exuberant and carefree, as I walked past the bamboo bush, two fingers slid the match box out of its sheath, picked out a match, struck it on the igniter coating and threw it – the fire caught like kindling to tinder and I hurried my steps with the innocence of an idle pedestrian.
As the boys gathered in front of the staff building to receive the verdict of the council who were not aware of the cause of the commotion, the snake was laid lengthwise on the steps at the main entrance of the staff room, mercy came, relief came but why that all happened is only revealed today, I set fire to the habitat of creatures that could have brought a much different story than one told now.
The mischief of almost 35 years ago and that was a typical boarding school day.

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