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More Stories - The Way We Were

From contributor Hilda Graham: a story about her late brother Teddy, plus a poem in his memory.

My Brother the Poacher

In the early years of WW2 1940, my brother Teddy (Edward) was 15 years old.  He was attending technical school as an apprentice for his ambition was to be a pipe fitter for large construction such as building bridges, pipelines etc.
He had other talents one in particular, he was a poacher <G>.  He would go out into the countryside always accompanied by our little terrier dog and would catch rabbits by snaring them which was illegal as he was doing this on private property owned mostly by the gentry or farmers.  In the winter when it was snowing he had an easier time catching rabbits as they would get caught in the snowdrifts and would not able to escape.

Now my brother Teddy was not a large person, I remember he had a big overcoat given to him by our uncle.  He would go out in the cold weather wearing this overcoat and when he returned home he looked as if he weighed about 200 pounds, he would have 5 or 6 rabbits tucked inside this heavy coat. 

Our neighbors loved it when Teddy went poaching - err... - rabbit hunting, for he always shared his ill-gotten gains with them.  There is no telling how many families benefited from his dastardly deeds as he helped stretch out the food ration coupons by providing them with something substantial to eat.  I remember some made rabbit stew while others would have baked rabbit or rabbit pie.  To me baked rabbit tasted like chicken.  I have often wondered why it was a crime to poach wild rabbits for food when there were literally hundreds of them, especially during wartime when food was so short.  I know that many of our neighbors were sad when my brother went into the service as they had come to depend on him for at least one or two meals a week.
Teddy was lucky, as he never got caught by the game warden.  He seemed to sense their presence and managed to stay hidden from them.  This is a trait which probably served him when he was sent to the South Pacific, where he survived many terrible battles along with the Australian forces, sometimes fighting against them, for there was a friendly rivalry between the British and Australian forces especially when they raided each others' canteens.  But when the time came they joined forces and fought the good fight against the enemy.
After the war was over Teddy volunteered for the suicide squad.  He stayed behind and was sent to Borneo, and their task was to disarm weapons left over by our troops as well as the enemies.  This was in order to protect local tribes from harm.  These tribes lived in the jungles and there was always a chance that they would decide to harm the soldiers who were sent to protect them.
Teddy told tales about being in the jungle for days at a time locating all these weapons. They were told never to go out alone but always to travel in pairs.  On one trip my brother and his partner got separated and my brother came face to face with a wild boar which he shot but did not kill.  The boar became enraged and charged at him.  He managed to climb a small tree but the boar charged it, and my brother dropped his gun while trying to hold onto the small branches.  He was afraid his time had come as he did not know how long the tree - which was not very large - would hold up to the boar's charges.  Finally he summoned up enough strength to yell very loudly for his companion, and thank God he heard him and was able to kill the boar with a couple of shots from his rifle. 
Oh, the stories he would tell about being out in the wild several days at a time, unable to bathe or shave, so when they got back to camp they looked like wild men - exhausted and haggard.  Several times on their way back they would meet a group on the way out with new recruits who had never been in the jungle before.  They would tell these new recruits that when they went into the jungle they might catch jungle fever and go mad, scaring these young soldiers to death.  They would then stagger out of the jungles into camp pretending they were out of their minds, calling imaginary dogs and making strange sounds, waving their guns around pretending to shoot anything that moved, walking up to and staring at the new recruits.  They would be ready to un-volunteer when finally they would be told it was all a joke, which brought much relief to them.  I am sure this put ideas into their heads and soon they would all pull the same crazy stunts when they had been indoctrinated into the group.

I also remember Teddy telling how several of them were in the jungle and spotted a large Bengal Tiger that measured 9 feet from head to tail which they managed to shoot and kill.  The soldiers who killed it were very indignant when their captain ordered them to skin the tiger.  The captain was able to get the hide tanned and preserved.  He took it back to England as a present for his wife to use as a rug. 

I was in America when my brother returned from Borneo and completed his courses for the trade he had chosen.  He was working on a government project and sent to South Africa.  We did keep in touch by mail and phone.  The next time we were together was when we both made plans to return to England for a visit in 1957; it was wonderful to have all the family together again for a short time.  I had my 4 children and that was the first time they had met their uncle Teddy, whom they had heard so many tales about.  This was a reunion to remember.

Too soon we had to leave, for my children and I were eager to return to Texas and be with Eddie who we had missed so much.  He was unable to make the journey with us; it was hard leaving the family but that was to be expected.

My brother returned to S. Africa and that was the last time we would be together.  He died August 10th, 1997.  We had spoken just a week earlier and he was making plans to come visit us in Texas.  He had just received a good report from his doctor who told him he was in excellent health.  He died a week later of a heart attack; this was really a terrible shock.  I had visualized him as always being there for me, but this was not to be.

Here is a poem which I wrote about a week after his death recalling some of our early childhood memories.

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