White Tree Nympth
Butterfly Dipping 1969
So far in this small series over the last few days, you will have read about Boils with Splat, and Puffer Fish with The 9 Lives Theory, well respectively they happened in the months between April to November – so really giving my parents a run for their money so to speak. In December of 1969 l was seriously restricted on what l could do and who l go out and play with after school, and that was because both of my parents said l had caused them too much stress.
The one story you don’t yet know is the one today which occured in February of that year, and when combined with the two that followed, you can see perhaps why l was grounded in December. My Mother said that enough was enough for panic stations for one year.
I used to get along better in many cases with the locals from the kampungs, maybe because they didn’t consider me weird, because yes even at five l was considered a bit quirky by my other friends from Australia and England. Sure, NOW we know why l was looked upon as a bit of an oddball, but back then no one knew. They just figured that as my Dad was weird, that was the reason for my strangeness.
My kampung friends one Saturday asked if l would like to go Butterfly Hunting with them at the end of the street in the bush. My Mother kicked off a bit and said NO, but my Father agreed as long as l went with one of my friends from school, as l was still only five. I said to them both that l was soon going to be six! They both agreed that was true, but six was in May and seeing as it was only February, that meant l was still five and not yet six. I knew l was fighting a losing battle. It just meant that l had to find one of my friends willing to go hunting with me.
Thankfully Billy Wheat at the end of the street said it would be great fun. So we two atypically westernised kids set off into the dawn with our two small butterfly nets to meet the kids at the kampung who were only armed with slingshots??! When they saw us approach they all laughed and explained to us that whilst nets ‘were ok’ they were after bigger game, and that in order to capture them and mount them for sale, that slingshots and small pebble peas were the best tools to use.
Billy and l just exchanged looks and mouthed ‘Wow!!‘ to each other, this had to be seen to be believed! We both knew that the locals sold mounted butterflies to the tourists and made some very good money from the sales and one of the bigger buying markets were the Americans.
There used to be enormous butterflies fluttering all day everyday over our gardens, so l wasn’t surprised that tourists wanted them equally as much as the collectors.
There were seven of us that left the kampung that day, Billy, myself and five local lads and we all walked up the street to where the bush was. The bush was basically the low grounds that led into the start of the jungle.
Once we got there, l think both Billy and l were astonished at just how many butterflies there were! They were literally everywhere, all sizes, all colours and many species! That just fifteen minutes away from our street and our houses, that there could be so much pretty colouring filling the skies?
Lacewings, nymphs, pansys, limes and tigers were just everywhere, alighting onto the flowers and it was breathtakingly beautiful, l am not sure if even my Father has photographs of some of the butterflies that we saw daily. I was used to seeing them on Malaysian stamps and it was one of the reasons l started collecting stamps when l did, because being someone that adores colour, the Malaysian stamps just made collection lovely. There were insects, butterflies, flowers, birds, trees and fruits and so much much more that to a boy of five, how could l resist the urge to collect them?
Exactly – you couldn’t.
We both watched them all spring into action and within seconds they had shot down perhaps twenty different butterflies. They didn’t kill them they simply stunned them, stored them in jars and then continued ‘hunting’. Their accuracy was remarkable, that they could send a small pebble through the air no bigger than a piece of grit and hit the butterflies without damaging them was amazing. and all they did was simply ‘stun’ the insects and as they fluttered to the ground, they caught them up.
Billy and l had got seperated and l was chasing after the prettiest red butterfly l had ever seen [Malay Red Harlequin] and suddenly all the locals were yelling at me to stop, “Stop running!!” They all yelled repeatedly.
I heard the words too late really, l was done for when the words actually made sense, and by that time l remember there being no ground beneath my feet. I remember falling for what seemed like forever into a dark hole, l remember Billy yelling my name and then the last thing l remember was hitting water and it was dark ………….
Had l been awake before l was washed out of the drain, l MAY have seen a similiar view to this!
But l didn’t because that is simply way too romantic a thought!
What happened was that l had fallen into an open monsoon drain well point and fallen twenty feet to the bottom, and luckily instead of it being shallow, there was plenty of water in there following the rains of the previous week and so l was then flushed out to sea.
Billy with the locals had run full speed to my parents house and told them what had happened, and they flew out to check the main drains. Once l was seen by one of the locals, which was very lucky, because before the drains opened up only by the sides of the housing and prior to that there were ‘intersections’ underground meaning l could have gone anywhere down ‘three’ points, and as it was my ‘lifeless’ body chose the main exit which led out to the ocean.
By the time l was seen, my Father, Mother, Choy, Billy, Billy’s Dad and the locals were all running by the side of the drain watching my body being swept out to the seas. My Dad and Billy’s Dad waited by the top of the drain and grabbed me when l came floating out and luckily the tide was out, so all that really happened was that l came to rest with the swirling sewer waters of the drain on the mudflats.
Now l don’t remember any of that, what l do remember is waking up in hospital. I had been pronounced dead at the scene, but one of the military nurses from my street wasn’t having any of that and worked on me till l came back to life and then l was driven to the airbase.
I was there for a week whilst they ran tests and observed me in case of … well who knew, in case of anything!
In December 1969, my Doctor’s told my parents that they believed their Son lived a charmed life, either that or he was luckiest unluckiest kid in the world!
So you see, that’s why l got grounded in December – because l was just too damn clumsy for my own luck!