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Reader’s Digest Asia - January 2022

Reader’s Digest Asia - January 2022





22 28 44

may 1985 july 1964 april 1994

The Squire Of Awake Through “Don’t Look Down”
Footrot Flats A Brain Operation
The heart-stopping
The zany cartoon For surgeons to be ordeal of 21 miners
characters of farmer able to perform this trapped in a broken
Wal Footrot and delicate procedure, cage 1100 metres
his sheepdog the patient has to below the surface.
The Dog spring to be alert and fully
life through Murray conscious. JOHN DYSON
Ball’s skilful pen.
AND MARGO PFEIFF 38 june 1933

22 december 1950 My Adventures
With A Paint Brush
The Mystery
Of Minnie The great British
statesman found
What is behind the painting to be a
mysterious events source of delight.
that hold a small
community together? WINSTON S. CHURCHILL,






august 1976 march 1946 may 1949

Surgery In Marble When Krakatoa At Last, Tyres
Blew Up Without Tubes
Piece by painstaking
piece, how An Indonesian The story of an
Michelangelo’s volcano explodes engineer who was
priceless Pietà was sending shock waves determined to develop
restored after around the world. tubeless tyres, making
the statue was punctures and
vandalised. ERNST BEHRENDT deflating less likely.


august 1996 A String Of 96
Blue Beads
Dodie’s Darling may 1985
Dalmatians A young girl’s gift
selection brings Crawling In
A writer’s love for hope and the The Paddy Fields
large spotted dogs chance to make a
with boundless fresh start Hard work as a young
energy led to a classic to a grieving and boy taught the author
Disney film. lonely man. and his brothers the
meaning of ‘You reap

2 january 2022 YU YUH-CHAO


100 Departments 20
february 1975 the digest

Try The Orange 16 Pets
Peel Approach 18 Health
20 News From The
If your façade is
slipping around other World Of Medicine
people – take a deep
breath and relax. 119 RD Recommends


6 Letters
october 1999 10 News Worth Sharing
12 Staff Picks
Bonus Read: My 14 Smart Animals
Penniless Journey 67 Patter
91 Picturesque Speech
Most of us won’t leave
home without money humour
– never mind set out
on a 27-day-long 36 Life’s Like That
walk relying on other 58 Laughter
people to feed and 84 All In A Day’s Work
house you.
the genius section
FROM THE BOOK 122 Puzzles
126 Puzzles Answers
SOME OF THESE 127 Word Power
HAVE BEEN Follow us @ReadersDigestAsia




Depth Of Reflection

takes a different approach. We step back and
reflect on the writers and story-telling styles
of the past that have helped make Reader’s
Digest a unique publication.

We revere and enjoy the mystery of the ‘old
ways’ that are different to what we experience
today. While Reader’s Digest still upholds
genuine focus on detail-driven reporting and
story-telling, there is a simple beauty and value found in the articles
of past decades that are therapeutic to both readers and editors alike.
The turn of phrase, the depth of reflection and semantic accuracy
provides a wonderful lesson in the English language – while imperial
measurements in some stories set the tone.

My favourite article, ‘When Krakatoa Blew Up’ (page 76), features
no human heroes. In this portrayal of the world’s biggest volcanic
explosion, keep an eye on the wise characters that appear towards
the end of the story, particularly the spider. The appearance of that
tiny creature is a sign of hope for the reader. It also highlights the
inspiring capacity of nature, animals and ourselves to recover and
rebuild after suffering a devastating setback.

Volcanoes, miracles, adventures, hidden secrets of the human
mind, heroic men and women and a spider – this year’s Classics
compilation celebrates extraordinary behaviour, extraordinary lived
experiences and lessons learnt along the way.

Happy reading!


4 january 2022


Vol. 121
No. 707
January 2022

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Email: [email protected]
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Email: [email protected]
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Contact Us – Singapore (65) 6955 8633
or [email protected]
Contact Us – Malaysia and rest of Asia
+65 6955 8633* or [email protected]
Administration Office Direct Publishing Asia PTE
LTD, Singapore Post Centre, PO Box 272,
Singapore 914010

*International call rates apply

Published under licence.
Reader’s Digest publishes 12 issues a year.

MCI (P) 014/12/2021. ISSN 0034-0383. MALAYSIA KDN PPS
1910/08/2019 (026008)



Reader’s Comments And Opinions

The Joy Of Reading

I read October’s My Story (‘A Child Reader’
by Jenny Canty) with a sense of wonder.
Her experiences of reading as a child
closely mirrored my own, even though I
lived on a different continent. Just like
Jenny, one of my most treasured childhood
memories was also the Reader’s Digest
Junior Treasury which I inherited from an
older cousin. To this day, my dog-eared
copy of the Treasury brings recollections of
a happy childhood spent growing up with
its stories. My own children are now
reading the same book, tenderly turning
the now yellowed, fragile pages and finding
the same joys I found three decades ago.


Living With Face Blindness absolutely no idea who they are
or how they know me. When we
I can relate to the article ‘Do I Know go to parties or get-togethers my
You?’ (October). I too suffer from husband has to greet people using
face blindness. They say it can be their name so that I know who they
hereditary – in my case it was: my are. If someone smiles at me, I never
father certainly had it, as do all of know if it is a friendly stranger or
my siblings.  someone who actually knows me.
To help me I have made notes in
Someone will talk to me who
clearly knows me and I have

Let us know if you are moved – or provoked – by any item in the magazine,
share your thoughts. See page 8 for how to join the discussion.

6 january 2022

my phone about people’s looks. I Letters

can sometimes be OK with people FISHY BUSINESS

in context, for example, at the gym, We asked you to think up a clever
caption for this photo.
but if I see them elsewhere, in street
What a laugh! They expect us to
clothes and not activewear, I have no give our seal of approval to their
half-baked conservation plan!
idea who they are. It’s also a struggle
to follow movie plots because I don’t
Mum, can we go to the
recognise the main actors in them. dive-in movie?

Face blindness impacts my life RAJ SANEJA

most days. It is so embarrassing Seal of disapproval.

because people think that I CYNTHIA BRINKMAN

am being rude when I don’t Let’s seal it with a kiss!


Stop Dreading The Dentist Oh no, darling, not garlic
prawns again last night?
‘7 Common Causes Of Dental
Anxiety’ (September) would RUTH FELLOWS
resonate with many of us.
Consuming unhealthy foods Congratulations to this month’s
high in sugar is not uncommon winner, Rob Walker.
these days, neither are oral health
problems from an early age. So it’s WIN!

Come up with the funniest caption
The best letter each month for the above photo and you could win
will win a Pilot Capless
Fountain Pen, valued at over $100. To enter, email
$200. The Capless is the [email protected]
perfect combination of luxury
and ingenious technology, or see details on page 8.
featuring a one-of-a-kind
retractable fountain pen nib,
durable metal body, beautiful
rhodium accents and a 14K
gold nib. Congratulations to this
month’s winner, Michele Choo. 7


important to address and overcome CONTRIBUTE
our anxieties – such as fear of pain,
embarrassment, loss of control – R E A D E R S D I G E S TA S I A
early. Fear of pain was the cause of
my mother neglecting her dental Anecdotes and jokes
health until it was unavoidable. $50–$100
Send in your real-life laugh for
But it’s important to remember, Life’s Like That or All in a Day’s Work.
oral health is not a cosmetic issue, Got a joke? Send it in for Laughter
it is a health issue, which needs the is the Best Medicine!
right treatment from the get go.
Smart Animals
Share antics of unique pets
Goodbye Allergies or wildlife in up to 300 words.

After suffering from coughing bouts My Story $250
for many years (Health, September) Do you have an inspiring or
which would last for weeks and life-changing tale to tell?
often result in secondary infections, Submissions must be true,
my GP arranged for a pathology test. unpublished, original and
The test failed to reveal the cause 800–1000 words.
and I realised that I had the worst
symptoms during springtime. Here’s how to reach us:
Email: asiaeditor@readersdigest.
Staff at my local pharmacy
mentioned that something in my Write: Reader’s Digest Asia
garden was probably triggering an
allergic reaction. I finally realised Editorial Department
that my allergy was probably Singapore Post Centre
coming from the pollen that bees PO Box 272, Singapore
collected for their honey. I stopped 914010
putting honey in my tea and my Online:
coughing ceased. SANDRA SHEEHAN
Include your full name, address,
Happily Ever After phone number and email.
Letters: We may edit letters and use them in all
As always the October issue was print and electronic media.
Submissions: All submissions become our property on
filled with interesting, informative payment and subsequent publication in the magazine.
We may edit and fact-check submissions. We cannot
and entertaining content. I really return or acknowledge material not accepted for
publication. For terms and conditions, go to www.
enjoyed ‘She Finally Said Yes’. For
guidelines. Figures refer to US dollars.
the cynics out there, when it comes

to true love, you just know when

you’ve found it. DEIDRE HALE

8 january 2022



Canine Lifeguards Paddle To The Rescue

T he Italian School of Water Pilenga uses the ‘dolphin system’, PHOTO: COURTESY FACEBOOK
Rescue has been patrolling the which involves a handler on a boat
country’s beaches for more than holding the dog’s harness as it swims
30 years – with man’s best friend. out to the person in distress. Over
Some 400 fully trained ‘lifedogs’ – the years, Pilenga added different
Labrador retrievers, Newfoundlands boats to his missions as well as
and German shepherds – save about trained dogs to leap into the water
30 lives a year. Founder Ferruccio from rescue boats and helicopters.
Pilenga, a 61-year-old former Newfoundlands and other water dogs
photographer, began operations are especially good at lifesaving,
with his own Newfoundland dog, Pilenga says, because of their natural
Mas, saving several people during strength, water-resistant coats, and
the first few years. ability to navigate currents.


10 january 2022

Into A National Park
Repurposing Unused
W ith many countries Medical Supplies
abandoning fossil fuels
for renewable sources, W hen theatre nurse Claire
what are they to do with the Lane learnt that packs of
now-toxic landscapes left unused medical supplies
behind? Norway has one very were being thrown out, she
good idea. It’s turning its last was prompted to take action.
Arctic coal mine, located on the Although clean and unused,
Svalbard Archipelago between the packs containing drapes,
Norway and the North Pole, gowns, masks and other medical
into a nearly 3000-square- supplies, can’t be recycled or
kilometre national park. re-used in Australian hospitals
because of Australian standards.
The new Van Mijenfjorden
National Park, named for one The realisation that these
of Svalbard’s largest fjords, will supplies were going to landfill
help unify the wilderness area of led Lane and her former partner
the 61,000-square-kilometre to create the not-for-profit
Svalbard Archipelago. The organisation Save Our Supplies.
archipelago of glaciers, The charity collects clean,
islands, fjords and mountains unused medical supplies and
already has six national redistributes them where they
parks, 15 bird sanctuaries, are needed. Even though they
one geopark and six reserves. have passed their expiry date,
Some 20 million birds nest on “they are still perfectly clean
the islands in late summer, while and can be used in a lot of other
about 3000 polar bears use its environments,” Lane told ABC
sea ice as hunting grounds. Radio Brisbane.

Volunteers collect, sort, pack
and deliver the supplies to where
they are needed. So far they have
assisted wildlife and homeless
charities, universities, and have
been sent to Papua New Guinea. 11



We enjoyed putting this issue together for your
reading pleasure. Here are some of our favourites

His story opened my eyes to the
wonders of nature, and the different
hues of light and shade in plain sight
that we are too busy to see.


gripping true life account this is!
Like many of us, I grew up loving My adrenaline levels literally rose as
the Disney film 101 Dalmatians I read this extraordinary tale. Deep
and its various off-shoots, but knew underground, trapped miner Mario
little about the book that inspired Cockrell attempts to save the lives
the film, and even less about the of his fellow workers. And time is
story behind it. It was fascinating to rapidly running out...
get a glimpse into the life of author
and playwright Dodie Smith and HUGH HANSON, ART DIRECTOR
her own beloved Dalmatians who
provided the inspiration for this ‘THE MYSTERY OF MINNIE’ is part
heartwarming tale. love story, part mystery but mostly a
feel-good testament to the power of
ZOË MEUNIER, MANAGING EDITOR community and kindness to others.
I cannot think of a better way to be
immortalised than how Minnie was.



BRUSH’ is Winston Churchill’s The humour pages show that a
account of how taking up painting good joke, while often charmingly
enriched his life. It sharpened reflecting the context of its time, has
his focus and made him aware of as much power today to make us
colours and details in the landscape smile as it did when it first appeared.
he would previously have not seen.
12 january 2022




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Entries close January 31, 2022



Most creatures enjoy receiving a bit of extra attention

A Unique Bond this adorable fuzzy plump koala.  ILLUSTRATIONS: GETTY IMAGES
My first reaction was to second
guess myself. I had never seen a
I never imagined that my routine koala so close before, let alone
Sunday walk would turn out so finding one wandering along the
inspiring. It was the first weekend ground. I was amused that it chose to
in spring last September and use the concrete footpath rather than
the sun was shining vibrantly in the grass. I stopped in my tracks and
a cloudless blue sky. Instead of watched in awe.
facing the familiar morning crowd
of early risers strolling through the The cute fuzz ball clicked away on
John Davidson Park in Strathpine,
Queensland, I was greeted with You could earn cash by telling us
something far more peculiar. about the antics of unique pets or
Clambering casually towards me was wildlife. Turn to page 8 for details
on how to contribute.

14 january 2022

the path with its curved black claws, We felt terribly negligent for not
completely unfazed by my presence. being aware of her condition,
It stopped for a moment, spotted particularly because we had noticed
a large nearby gumtree, and then that she limped at times. We had put
looked over at me. I honestly thought the limp down to ageing as it did not
that it was seeking my approval of seem to bother her and there was no
its chosen tree. I nodded my head, pattern to when it would set in.
smiling in response. Maybe the koala
understood because without further A few weeks passed and our
ado, it diverted off the track and beloved Bree started to limp again.
latched itself onto the tree trunk.   We made a big fuss of her, spoiling
her as we would any injured or sick
I edged in closer, mindful not family member. Thankfully, another
to alarm the animal. Its cute furry check-up at the vet revealed that
ears, pea-sized eyes and black oval she was fine.
matted nose made for a picture-
perfect moment. I snapped away on The limp, which continues to
my phone while this furry marsupial randomly take hold, is thought to be
patiently posed, innocently blinking ‘pins and needles’. Our clever dog,
at me. When I was satisfied with my however, has associated her limp
photos, it gave me one last dreamy with the extra affection and attention
blink, then made its way to the top (and treats) we showered her with.
of the tree, wedging itself in between Now, whenever she feels as though
the fork of two branches. she needs affection or treats, she
begins to limp. We fall for it every
I was very lucky to have had the time. Then, as soon as we’ve given
opportunity to share this special her what she wants, she takes herself
bond with a koala that day. It off with an even and normal stride.
reminded me of how precious these
cuddly creatures are. 15


The Great Pretender


Our rescue dog Bree, an eight-year-
old Staffordshire bull terrier-Shar-Pei
cross, recently visited the vet for
her annual check-up. She was given
a clean bill of health but we were
surprised when the veterinarian
mentioned that her kneecap was
healing well after being dislocated.



Solving Litter Box Issues

Trial and error resolves most common problems

BY Dr Katrina Warren

Our regular pet OUR FELINE FRIENDS are spending less time
columnist, roaming outside and more time indoors as owners
Dr Katrina Warren, increasingly recognise the benefits of keeping cats
is an established contained. This, however, leads to one of the biggest
and trusted issues faced by cat owners – litter box problems.
animal expert. Many cats are surrendered to animal shelters
because of undesirable toileting habits – either cats
refusing to use their trays or owners who don’t want
to deal with the smelly litter. Either way, kitty litters
and their associated problems are a reality of cat


cat has started going to the toilet outside their litter
box it is a sign that something is bothering them. Be
sure to rule out underlying medical conditions first.
Take your cat to your veterinarian for a check-up to
rule out a bladder infection or other health issue that’s
causing them to toilet away from their box.

TYPE OF LITTER BOX Some cats don’t like an

enclosed hooded type of tray. Some will prefer
small trays while others like larger trays. Cats are
very individual, so try offering your cat a couple of
different options of litter box to see what they feel most
comfortable with.

16 january 2022


TYPE OF LITTER Cats can be Cats usually develop a preference for
the type of litter tray and litter used
very fussy with their litter choice
and you may need to experiment PRIVACY Be sure to place the litter
with different types. If
you’re changing to a new tray in a nice quiet spot well away
type or brand of litter, do from the cat’s eating area.
it very gradually. First offer
both and slowly phase out STRESS Toileting problems are
the previous one to make sure
it doesn’t cause upsets. often a sign of stress. Moving house
or the arrival of a new baby or
CLEANLINESS As cats have a highly additional pet can cause upheaval
in the daily routine and stress for
refined sense of smell, problems your cat. Try to give them a calm
might be the result of a litter tray not and consistent environment, and
being sufficiently clean. Try using perhaps even a dedicated quiet
less litter in the tray and discard it room to chill out in.
daily, washing out the tray every time
and replacing the litter. At the very
least, spot clean the tray each day,
removing any solid matter.


generally don’t like to share their
toilet, so if you have more than one
feline friend be sure to provide one
tray per cat, plus a spare.

people simply don’t want to deal
• Each cat should have their own with the smelly task of cleaning
litter tray, food and water bowls. the litter box or they can’t tolerate
the smell indoors, so they let their
• Offer at least one climbing tree. cats roam outdoors and do their
• Provide scratching posts. business outside. This is not a good
• Don’t force interaction strategy as it can put the health of
between cats. the cat at risk. Research indicates
that indoor-only cats live an
estimated ten years longer than cats
with outdoor access. 17


HEALTH than 100 grams of fructose a day can
cause weight gain. Instead, choose
Reasons lower fructose fruit such as bananas,
You’re Not strawberries and blueberries.

Losing LARGE PORTION SIZES Sixty years
ago food was more expensive, scarcer
and portions were smaller. Studies
show portion sizes have grown as
much as 98 per cent since the 1990s,
and this contributes to unwanted
weight gain. Controlling your portion
sizes by using smaller plates is one
way to help keep the weight off.


NOT EXERCISING ENOUGH Even if Not sleeping enough can make us feel
lethargic which leads us to craving
you regularly go to the gym or walk, sugary or carb-laden snacks to ‘wake
if you’re generally sedentary or in up.’ But too little sleep also triggers a
a sit-down job, you probably aren’t rise in cortisol, the stress hormone.
getting enough exercise. The key to This signals to your body to conserve
losing weight, says personal trainer energy to fuel your waking hours.
Laura Williams, is to fit exercise into Because of this, you will hang on to
every part of the day. “The best type fat. Try to get more sleep to allow your
of workouts to do in five minutes are body to let go of excess body weight.
things that get your heart rate going,”
she says, such as jumping, skipping
and exercises that use several
muscles, like push-ups and lunges.


We’re told that fruit, legumes and
grains are healthy. But they can keep
the fat on if we over consume. A lot of
fruit, such as mangos and grapes, is
full of fructose and if eaten in large
quantities can contribute to weight
gain. According to studies, more

18 january 2022


News From the


FREQUENT INTERNET USE: than once a week. Previous studies PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
NOT ALWAYS BAD might help to explain why: one of
them, a 2015 analysis published in
Spending chunks of your day on the the European Journal of Clinical
internet can be helpful or detrimental Nutrition, reports that even though
for your mental health, depending some establishments provide healthy
upon what you do there. A 2020 food, restaurant fare is usually less
Canadian review linked social media balanced than home-cooked meals.
use to mental distress among teens, in It tends to contain more kilojoules,
part because it can bring a feeling that saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
others look or live better than you do.
On the other hand, in a 2021 British PROSTATE CANCER
study, seniors who went online at
least once a day during the lockdown A healthy diet may slow the
tended to feel less depressed progression of prostate cancer, initial
compared to those who accessed evidence suggests. This is good news
the internet only once a week or less. for patients who choose to monitor
Benefits included communicating their disease rather than opt for
with family and friends, finding immediate tumour removal surgery,
inspiration for offline activities, and which can cause sexual dysfunction
enjoying a quick, feel-good distraction and loss of bladder control.
on a rough day. (Cat video, anyone?) In a US study of patients with

EATING OUT A LOT IS tumours that weren’t yet large
A HEALTH HAZARD or aggressive enough
to make surgery a strict
In a new US study, people necessity, those
who ate restaurant whose meals
food twice a day had resembled the low-
a 49 per cent higher fat Mediterranean
risk of mortality at diet had a lower
any point in time, risk of cancer
compared to people progression.
who dined out less

20 january 2022

22 january 2022



Farming life is brought to the world
by Murray Ball, creator of New Zealand’s

most beloved comic strip

BY James Hutchison AND Margo Pfeiff 23


n a farmhouse at the foot of steep, green hills behind
Gisbourne on North Island’s balmy east coast, an
alarm clock shatters the 4.30am stillness. Murray Ball

I slides from his bed in the pitch black and brews a cup
of tea before heading out back to his office, a barn-like
building besieged by a Noah’s Ark of livestock.

There, he sits at an inclined draw- inked in, usually by 1.30pm, Murray
ing-board to create another daily naps until his children return home
slice of mirth and mayhem for mil- from school.
lions of New Zealand and Australian
newspaper readers. By daybreak, the A dyed-in-the-wool Kiwi, Murray
zany characters of Footrot Flats – Wal, would far rather show you his farm,
Cooch, The Dog, a cat named Horse Mikos, than talk about himself. On a
and all the others – will have sprung bumpy bicycle tour of the 50-hectare
to life beneath the skilful pen of our property, he proudly points out the
best-known cartoonist. nut trees, the neighbour’s Clydes-
dales (“models for the strip”), his own
From a modest beginning ten years cows and sheep. His wife Pam and
ago, Footrot Flats had rocketed into a their three children, Mason, Gareth
cartoon-strip phenomenon appear- and Tanya, share Murray’s enthusi-
ing in 20 New Zealand and 100 Aus- asm for the land.
tralian newspapers, with book sales
currently topping the four-million Mikos provides much of Murray’s
mark. Success, however, has wrought inspiration and insight into New Zea-
few changes in Murray Ball’s lifestyle. land rural life. He also draws heavily
At 46, he looks just as lean and fit as from childhood experiences on his
he did in his younger years as an All uncle’s farm – Pam says he has an in-
Black trialist, and stoically maintains credible memory – plus other real-life
his long-standing six-day-a-week characters, events and situations.
work routine.
Footrot fans probably imagine the
The first of his daily quota of three strip’s creator to be a comedian, but
cartoons roughed out by 7am, Murray actually Murray has a rather serious
heads off to hand-milk Nan, the cow, view of life. What he mostly pokes
before joining his family for break- fun at is himself. “People expect me
fast. From 8.30 to 10 is ‘think time’, to say something funny because I’m
when he sketches cartoon sequences a cartoonist,” he says apologetically
to be filed in his ideas book for future in a hybrid New Zealand/South Af-
strips. After the day’s cartoons are rican accent. “I’m a bit of a hermit
really, and cartooning gives me the

24 january 2022

The Squire Of Footrot Flats

opportunity to work alone.” an All Black trialist, he made the

Murray Ball was born on January finals but failed to make the team.

26, 1939, in the small, rural North Disheartened, the 21 year old re-

Island community of Feilding. His joined his family in South Africa –

family moved to Australia when he but not for long. He and his brother

was eight, and then on to South Af- Barry set off on a three-month adven-

rica when he was 11. He grew up ture that landed them penniless in

there. Drawing was always a favour- Britain. Murray headed back to New

ite hobby. “My brother and I were Zealand, where he found a job doing

sport fanatics,” he says. “We’d listen feature satire cartoons for his old em-

to rugby on the radio, ployer, The Dominion.

and I would illustrate In 1963, he was

the matches in car- “PEOPLE back in South Africa,
toons. If the Spring- EXPECT ME called home because
boks were playing, his mother was dying.
I’d draw springboks; TO SAY He had a job operat-
for the All Blacks, I’d SOMETHING ing dodgem cars at
draw kiwis.” an amusement park
FUNNY owned by his father
DODGEM CARS BECAUSE I’M A when he met a young
CARTOONIST” Englishwoman on a
At 19, he was on the

move again, back to working holiday. They

New Zealand to pur- hit it off immediately.

sue his ambition to “It was a bit of a shock

become an All Black rugby player, for my parents to learn their daughter

as his father had been. He worked in was engaged to an unemployed car-

the evenings as a cadet reporter for toonist working as a dodgem-car op-

The Dominion, Wellington’s morning erator,” Pam recalls. Nevertheless, they

paper, until he found he hated to ask married in 1964 in Surrey, England.

questions; more often than not, he The newly-weds headed for New

came back from assignments with Zealand, expecting that Murray’s job

doodles on his pad instead of facts. with The Dominion would be wait-

After three months, he gave it up and ing for him. It wasn’t. Murray took a

went back to Feilding, hoping for a crash course in teaching at Hamilton;

job as a cartoonist. he had to make more money than

Murray was lucky. He got a job the four pounds a week that came in

drawing for the local Manawatu from the odd few cartoons he sold.

newspaper, The Times. This sub- While at Hamilton Teachers’ College,

sidised his rugby career until, as he wrote his first book, an illustrated 25


satire about rugby called Fifteen and occasional small sums of money

Men on a Dead Man’s Chest, which Murray’s father sent from South Af-

was sent to the publisher the same rica, while Murray freelanced, an al-

day his first child was born. Though most impossible way to make a living

Murray dismisses all of his early work in the competitive British cartooning

as “terrible”, the book received good trade. Today, Murray tells hopeful

reviews and sold well. young cartoonists that the two things

From 1966 to 1969, Murray was a they need to survive are “luck and a

teacher at Whitianga on the Coroman- rich father”.

del Peninsula and wrote his second In April 1970, Murray finally man-

book, The Peoplemak- aged to sell Punch a

ers, about teaching. collection of cartoon

Then, because there THE DOG strips called Stanley,
seemed to be little ACTUALLY the misadventures of
hope for a career in DOES HAVE A an underdog cave-
cartooning here, the NAME (AUNT man. Stanley became
Balls decided to go DOLLY GAVE IT one of Punch’s long-
to Britain. After ship- TO HIM), BUT est-running cartoons,
ping their furniture HE HATES IT and opened the door
overseas, they had to a steady stream of
three months before work illustrating comic

their own departure, books.

so they moved to the “I’d get the scripts

Manawatu country of and instructions in the

Murray’s childhood, into a ramshackle mail, then do the drawings and send

old farmhouse that would later be the them off,” Murray says. “They’d come

model for Cooch’s house in Footrot back pencilled over and crossed out.

Flats. “It was one of the happiest times I would have to do them again. It was

of my life,” he reminisces. “We used real purgatory. But I was lucky. These

logs for seats and hung our clothes on people were old hands and knew their

willow branches. The wall-cavities trade backwards. It taught me to be

were full of possums.” professional.”

THOR THUMB Work began to pour in. Murray de-
veloped his own comic-book charac-

After arriving in England, with their ter, Thor Thumb, did political cartoons

second child due any day, they for the British Labour Weekly and

bought a cottage with money bor- another strip for Punch.

rowed from Murray’s father. That first The Balls had been in England

year they scraped by on their savings nearly six years when they adopted a

26 january 2022

The Squire Of Footrot Flats

girl from Malaysia. With three noisy sealed for fear of upsetting his canine
young children underfoot, Murray pal. Footrot’s most popular charac-
developed his early-morning work ter, The Dog gets his fair share of fan
routine to take advantage of the quiet mail. “We get a stack of cards around
hours. But they had outgrown their October the 13th for The Dog’s birth-
cottage and it was time to move again. day,” says Pam, “and lots of kids write
Murray had always wanted to do a to ask his name, promising they won’t
New Zealand cartoon strip, so when tell anyone else.” Some letters arrive
his agent, Bardon Press Features, said addressed simply to Footrot Flats,
that he could continue his British New Zealand.
work through the mail, they set off for
home – and bought the farm that to- ANIMATED FILM
day is Mikos.
Even the bureaucracy gets caught up
Less than a year later, panic struck. in the strip’s humour. The Whanga-
Due to postal problems, his supply rei city dog ranger served hydatids-
of work failed to arrive from Britain dosing and registration papers on
for over two months. “I was going Wal and Murray, claiming The Dog
grey worrying over the mortgage, so breaks every law in the book.
I thought I might as well begin the
New Zealand strip I hadn’t had time Pam, Murray’s toughest critic and
for with all my other work,” says indispensable business manager,
Murray. “A farmer and his sheepdog handles a thousand daily details that
seemed like a good idea.” Footrot he gratefully acknowledges would
Flats was born. drown him in a week, including a
new line of Footrot Flats products
From the strip’s first appearance – soft toys, T-shirts, hats. Murray’s
in The Evening Post, New Zealanders time is devoted to producing Foot-
took the characters to heart as part of rot strips, calendars and two books
their national identity. Wal typifies a year. A musical based on the strip
the no-nonsense farmer, somebody has been staged in New Zealand
all Kiwis know. “Cooch [Wal’s eccen- and Australia, and a feature-length
tric neighbour] I drew from a friend animated film is due to be released
of mine who lives on an island off the in mid-1986.
Coromandel Peninsula,” Murray ex-
plains. “Wal tries to break the land, If you’re looking for Murray Ball
Cooch lives with it.” among the characters of Footrot
Flats, you will have to look hard.
And, of course, there’s The Dog. The “There’s a little bit of Murray in all of
Dog actually does have a name (Aunt them,” says Pam, “but The Dog is as
Dolly gave it to him), but he hates it, close to him as you can get on four
and Murray says his pen is for ever legs.” 27


The gripping story of a patient’s faith
– and a surgeon’s skill
BY Annette Anselmo

28 january 2022 29


n the autumn of 1953, Annette Anselmo of Salt Lake
City, Utah, travelled to a well-known neurological
institute to seek help from Dr Jones (not his real

I name), a renowned brain surgeon. For 30 years, ever
since the age of four, Annette had suffered epileptic
seizures with devastating frequency. Anti-convulsant
drugs and a brain operation had banished the severest
seizures. But she still suffered smaller convulsions,
sometimes as many as 65 an hour.

Dr Jones studied her case history, a wire in each of your nostrils,” he
made exhaustive neurological tests, said. “I want you to take a drink and
took brain X-rays and electroenceph- swallow when I tell you to.” The wires
alograms, then gave his decision. “We were to go down into my stomach.
believe an operation will help you,” he Each time the doctor said, “Swallow,”
said. “But I do not promise a complete a few more centimetres would disap-
cure. And you realise the risk: you may pear, until only about 40 centimetres
be paralysed.” remained in view. Then the doctor
took an X-ray to see if the wires were
For Annette, the possibility was in proper position. Three times they
worth the risk. Here is her account of were not, and he would say, “Let’s
the operation as she experienced it. start over.”

“EARLY THAT MORNING a barber Finally the wires were in place.
came into my room and shaved my As he taped the ends to my chest,
head so that it resembled a large bil- he explained that these electrodes
liard ball. Then my bed was wheeled would provide a reading of stomach
into the hall where Dad and my sis- movement – the sensation I often
ter kissed me, trying hard not to cry. experienced with the onset of an
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll be back.” attack. When electrical stimulation
My feeling was, “Today is the begin- of the brain came close to the point
ning of the end of my 30-year war from which my attacks originated,
against epilepsy.” the stomach sensation would be
In the X-ray room, a doctor said to
me with a smile, “This is a big day for Now my bed was wheeled into the
you.” In one hand he had two wires, anaesthesia room. I knew that I was to
each about a metre long; in the other remain fully conscious throughout the
a glass of water. “I’m going to insert operation so Dr Jones could be guided

30 january 2022

Awake Through A Brain Operation

by my reactions. The anaesthetist was Inside, I looked at the wall clock:

to give me injections to deaden the 8.05am. I could see the glassed-in

feeling in my face and scalp. gallery where doctors, nurses and

He asked me to open my mouth students were waiting to observe.

and, with his thumb, located the Each of the six doctors who were

hinge bone connecting the upper and to take part in the operation wore

lower jaw. Into it he inserted a nee- special glasses, for the room had ul-

dle – so far upwards that it seemed to traviolet lighting instead of glaring

reach my skull bone! I felt a searing overhead bulbs. I heard one doctor

pain. But these injections were the say, “We’ll be lucky if we get out of

only way to deaden here by suppertime.”

the feeling in my A doctor behind

scalp and facial skin. IT WAS UP my head said, “This
Each time he TO ME NOT will sting. I’m going
TO MOVE; to paint your head
picked up another NO SANDBAGS with iodine.” The
needle, I glanced at OR STRAPS anaesthetist told me
the remaining pile. It RESTRAINED to lie flat on my back
seemed to grow larger and turn my head to
instead of smaller. ME the left. Towels were
placed around my
Dr Jones now en-
tered, and I could feel

him tracing a design neck firmly but not

on my scalp. “This uncomfortably. In

is the skull opening fact, I hardly noticed

I want,” he said to the doctors with them after a few minutes.

him. One replied, “Yes, a full butter-

fly flap.” NOW DR JONES was standing at my

The anaesthetist said, “She is about head, a tray of instruments beside

ready for the operating room.” him. With foot or hand controls he

“I’m not afraid,” I said, “but do me raised my head to the proper posi-

a favour. When my skull is about to tion. It was up to me not to move; no

be opened, will one of you tell me sandbags or straps restrained me,

a joke?” I thought it would help to except one to keep me from falling

mask the moment of intense pain I off the table. He asked if I was com-

anticipated. fortable. I said, “Yes, but I’m freez-

Out in the hall the doors of the op- ing.” A blanket was tucked around

erating room opened to allow my bed me. Doubtless the impact of what

to pass through. I had reached the was about to happen had given me

point of no retreat. the chills. 31


“I’m going to inject several needles warmth of liquid trickling down my

at the base of your skull, Annette,” cheek. When I realised it was my own

Dr Jones said. “This will eliminate as blood, I said, “I’m going to throw up.”

much pain as possible, but you know A pan was held close to my face. My

I can’t deaden it entirely.” mouth felt parched. A piece of ice was

He began inserting the needles. placed between my lips.

As he worked, Dr Jones occasionally Dr Jones said, “Annette, we are

consulted his associates, and some- about to make a few holes in your

times dictated notes to a secretary skull.” The drilling began. There

in the gallery, through an intercom. was a period of dull pain, and a dull

I thought: “Imagine grinding sound. There

doing a delicate op- were to be, I knew,

eration like this – and THE DRILLING five to seven fairly
dictating at the same BEGAN...THERE large burr holes.
time.” He told the WAS A DULL
type and amount of After an intermina-
medication in each GRINDING ble interval everything
injection, reviewed SOUND...THEN was still, almost mor-
my case history, and I HEARD THE bidly so. Then I heard
explained what he SAWING OF BONE the sawing of bone.
believed to be the I waited for the pain
I so vividly remem-

cause of my seizures: bered when the skull

a birth injury, dam- had been opened in

age resulting from an my other operation

interference with the circulation of two and a half years before. I finally

oxygen-carrying blood to one side of asked how much longer it would be

my brain, at the time of my birth. before they would break through my

Each needle felt as if it would come skull. Someone patted my hand and

through my mouth. I finally lost said, “It’s already done, Annette.”

count of the needles. “How many

more?” I kept asking. “Not many. Try THE CLOCK SHOWED 12 NOON. A

and bear it a bit longer,” the doctor nurse held a cup of something steam-

would answer. ing – soup perhaps – and Dr Jones

I glanced at the clock. It seemed drank it through a straw.

i mpossible but it was a l ready I heard, more than felt, the awful

11.20am. sensation of liquid being squirted over

Now I felt the pressure of what I my brain. When the brain is exposed,

was certain was a scalpel against the air dries its surface quickly, and it

my scalp. No pain; just the sudden must be continuously moistened.

32 january 2022

Awake Through A Brain Operation

At 1.30pm, Dr Jones said, “Turn the just so much is in my hands.”
machine at this angle.” I knew he was A few minutes later came the click-
referring to the machine he would
use to stimulate the electrical activity ing sound of metal as he put down the
of my brain cells. instrument he had used, and I knew
the excision had taken place. I looked
Pictures were taken, both in black- at the clock. It was 2.30pm. How much
and-white and in colour. Then Dr longer?
Jones spoke to me quietly. “Annette,
from here on I will need your full co- Dr Jones said, “Annette, I’m going
operation. We are going to stimulate to stimulate again. Please tell me what
your brain, and I want you to tell me you feel.” I felt the current, and at that
exactly what you feel and where.” instant I felt my left eye turn inward.
Was I ready? I said I was. It was repeated. Then Dr Jones said,
“I am going to remove another small
A few seconds later I felt a light cur- piece of brain.”
rent go through my body. I said, “I feel
as though I am about to fall off the ta- At that crucial point I said, “Doctor,
ble to my left.” He answered, “That’s I have a funny feeling I’ve never had
fine. We’ll try it again.” This time the before. I’m afraid I’m going to have a
current was stronger. I said, “My left seizure.” Metal clicked as he laid aside
leg feels as though it is about to fall off his instrument. A few moments later I
the table.” Moments later I felt some- had the seizure, a small one.
one lift my leg back onto the table.
Then I heard the doctor say, “I want a “What kind of reading did you re-
few more colour pictures, please.” cord?” Dr Jones asked an assistant.
The answer came, in medical terms.
tor, that felt as though my left fore- Once more I felt the stimulating
finger pointed inward.” Dr Jones current go through my body. And this
repeated the experiment, then said, time I had a familiar, sickish feeling in
“Let me hear what Annette said dur- the pit of my stomach.
ing the stimulation.” I heard my own
voice and realised my words were Once again the doctor said, “An-
being recorded. Immediately after, nette, I’m going to remove another
Dr Jones said, “Annette, I am going affected bit of brain.” And, speaking
to remove a small section of your to his assistants, he explained how far
brain which is causing some of your into the brain he was going. He said
trouble.” that the previous surgeon had excised
at precisely the right spot, but had not
Then I heard words which I shall gone this deep, fearing he would leave
never forget: “Annette, remember, me paralysed.

For the first time I felt true cutting
pain momentarily.

When it ceased I said, “If anybody 33


ever says again there is no feeling in- Exhausted, I glanced at the clock as
side the brain, Dr Jones, don’t believe I felt the needle going into my arm:
him. I know better.” 4.30pm.

I kept saying, “I’m tired, doctor. “No paralysis,” I heard. All was
Please put me to sleep.” He answered, well.”
“I’ll bet you a quarter you’ll fall asleep
within the hour, Annette.” NOTE FROM EDITOR, 1964:
The kind of surgery performed on
Then he said that he was about to Annette Anselmo is quite unusual,
make his third excision, and now he and is undertaken only in certain
would touch the section of the brain rare, specific cases. For more than
that controls vision. For the first time, 99 per cent of all epileptics it
I said a silent prayer. would be neither applicable nor
beneficial. It should also be noted
Then I heard him put down his that the techniques she describes
scalpel. I could still see the anaes- have since changed, with progress in
thetist clearly – and I thanked God. neurosurgery over the past ten years.
In Annette’s case, the operation was
Dr Jones said, “Still awake? I guess successful. On mild medication, she
I owe you a quarter.” The recording now leads a full, active life with no
shows that I replied weakly, “Deduct restrictions on her activities. She
it from my bill.” still has seizures, usually mild and
brief; they come always at night,
I was so tired I could hardly hear and only two or three times a year.
the voices around me. After a while The memory of her extraordinary
the doctors began testing the re- experience is one that, for her, is not
flexes of my arms and legs. Dimly likely to fade.
I heard them say, “All four extrem-
ities have good reflex actions. No THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN RECORDED
The anaesthetist spoke: “Hold your
arm steady, Annette, while we locate LISTENING PLEASURE. TO LISTEN, GO TO
a vein.” It meant that the operation
was over. Now they would put me to WWW.RDASIA.COM/PODCASTS
sleep to close my skull.

Cartoon Quips

RD MAY 1987

Man at bakery shop: “Inside me there’s a thin person struggling to
get out. But I can usually sedate him with four or five cupcakes.”

bob thavea, newspaper enterprise association

34 january 2022




number where you can be reached.

P.S. You’re grounded until further


◆ My husband’s office was being

relocated and he had to spend long

hours at work, often staying away

from home overnight. One Saturday

afternoon a fishing buddy dropped

by, only to be told once again that

my husband was out of town.

“That guy is never home!” he


“I know,” I replied, “That’s what I

NOVEMBER 1984 used to say.”

◆ After my 20-year marriage ended “Used to say?”

in divorce, I went to live with my “Yes,” I sighed. “Before I found out
daughter and son-in-law. They
encouraged me to start dating I was pregnant.” RITA M. EVERSON
and, after a few months, I accepted
a dinner engagement with an AUGUST 1988
attractive man I had met at a party.
◆ When I stopped to visit a friend,
Nervous about my ‘first date’, I
told my daughter I would be home I found her on the phone with a real-
no later than midnight. When I
tiptoed in at 3am, this note was on estate agent. “That’s a little high!”
my bedroom door: “Mum, in the
future if you’re going to be late, I she exclaimed. “What can I get for ILLUSTRATION: KURT UNITT
expect you to let us know where you
are, who you’re with and a phone less than $500 a month?” The reply

was evidently not to my friend’s

liking. “I see,” she said abruptly, and

hung up.

“What did the agent say you could

get?” I asked.


36 january 2022

Life’s Like That

◆ Astonished, I watched the man the middle-sized kennel held two,
and the small kennels had one pet
roller-skating towards me on each. Satisfied that they were all
snug and dry, I left.
the bicycle path. An owl, wings
A little later lightning streaked
outstretched, clung to a leather across the sky and thunder boomed.
When I peeked out the back door, all
patch on his shoulder. As they got the kennels were empty except the
big one. In it were all five dogs.
closer, I could tell that the giant
bird had lost part of one wing.

The skater stopped for a

breather. “Twice a day we go out

so he can pretend he’s flying,” the

man said to me.

“I’m sure he would repay you if ◆ I had moved out of town and into

he could,” I replied. my own apartment. Two years later,

“He already has,” the skater said. my mother flew to visit me for the

“I used to weigh 12 kilos more and first time, and I proudly showed her

I smoked.” With that, man and bird around my place. “Charlotte gave

took off again. JAMES EDMINSTER me the love seat, Dad gave me the

TV, Delores sold me the rugs for a

◆ It was my mother’s birthday and song, you gave me the bookcase,

some family members had bought and the lamp was a gift from

shade trees for her yard as a gift. Carol,” I said.

I have an ancient convertible, so Mum gave me a big hug.

I was sent to pick them up. I put “I always knew you could make

the top down and the nurseryman it on your own!” RENEE BEBOUT

loaded the three-metre trees into

the car. Sitting under a canopy of ◆ Everything on the restaurant

leaves, I drove off. menu was à la carte and shockingly

When I stopped for a red light, expensive. Salad dressing was $2, a

the driver of the car in the next lane baked potato $4.50 and asparagus

gave me a startled glance. “Lady,” $6.25. After we had been served,

he called over, “wouldn’t it be a lot a hullabaloo broke out in the next

easier just to put up the top for room, where a birthday party was

some shade?” FRAN BELLER being held. Waiters blew horns and

banged pans.

◆ I keep five dogs in my backyard “What on earth is that?” one

in four kennels of various sizes. man asked.
One day during a heavy rainstorm,
I went out to check on my pets. The “Someone ordered the
big kennel was occupied by one dog,
asparagus!” a member of our group

responded. H.B. ARMSTRONG 37


38 january 2022



A close-knit village holds an incredible
blessing close to their hearts
BY George F. Worts 39


hen I first encountered Minnie she had
been dead ten years. Minnie’s husband,

W Tracy Garrett simply would not permit her
to stay dead; so, in the most amazing way,
she remained alive – a power in the community.

Garrett was the Mr Fixit of a village Henry Iverson, the school head-
in which I lived for two years. His master – a handsome and, it seemed,
shop-window housed a dust-covered woman-proof bachelor.
collection of old locks, parts of clocks,
bearings, gears and other odds and One day Miss Anastasia disap-
ends. He sharpened lawn mowers, peared. Three months later she came
repaired bicycles, did odd jobs of home, miraculously transformed!
carpentering and plumbing. Her severe, brushed-back-into-a-
bun hair-do was now a frivolous dark
He was a wiry man of 55 with frame which softened her plain but
gnarled red hands, eyes as bright as appealing face. She wore fashionable
a fox’s, and a stoop resulting from his clothes which set off her slim figure.
years over work benches. There was Within a few weeks she and Henry
an air of secret merriment about him Iverson were married.
not quite in keeping with the legend
of his grief at the death of a woman This dramatic event was partly ex-
he had loved so devotedly over the 20 plained by my neighbour, Mrs Belle
years of their childless marriage. He Fogarty: “Anastasia went to New York
lived alone in a cottage whose garden and took one of those how-to-be-
was an extension of his junk-filled beautiful courses. And anybody with
shop – a sort of pasture into which a grain of sense knows that Minnie
once hard-working machines had was behind it.”
been turned loose to rust out their
lives in peace. “Minnie Garrett?” I asked.
“Who else? It must have cost a lot
After I had lived in the village a of money, and it’s going to take Ana-
while I began to hear about Minnie’s stasia a good long spell to get Minnie
mysterious doings. The first story out of hock.”
I put together by picking up scraps “Out of hock?” I asked. But at this
here and there was that of Miss Ana- evidence of a newcomer’s prying
stasia Peabody, the village librarian. curiosity, Mrs Fogarty retreated into
Miss Anastasia was a plain-looking New England reticence.
maiden lady of unknown vintage My determination to solve the
who had a hopeless passion for mystery of Minnie led me to talk with
other local people, and I collected a

40 january 2022

The Mystery Of Minnie

wealth of stories touching on many My work – writing fiction – had

lives. It was an enriching experi- gone sour. Money I had counted on

ence, but it left me completely in the didn’t come in. Then I was told that

dark as to how Minnie performed my daughter had to have an expen-

her wonders. Each was a story of sive operation. Any relatives or old

someone who had got into some friends who might have come to my

trouble that a moderate amount of rescue were out of reach.

money would cure, and each ended One night I didn’t sleep at all.

on the same bizarre note: “Minnie is Next morning, when I went to the

in hock again.” kitchen to make some coffee, Tracy

One night in the Garrett was there,

chemist I overheard a at work on the sink.

young man say to the AFTER A The drain had never
pharmacist, “Yes, it’s WHILE I BEGAN worked properly and
all fixed. I’m going to he often had to tinker
be able to finish my TO HEAR with it, but I didn’t re-
last year – thanks to ABOUT call speaking to him
Minnie.” MINNIE’S about it recently.
After he had gone, I DOINGS He worked si-
asked the pharmacist lently and solemnly.
about it. He was talk- Finally he said,

ative – up to a point. “Well, I guess that’ll

He said the boy was hold her a while.”

majoring in chem- Then he looked at me

istry at Cornell University but had and said, “Understand you’ve been

had to drop out a few days previously havin’ a little trouble.”

because his father had suffered a So he had heard about it! I was

financial setback. feeling a little bitter, but I also

Soon I discovered that Minnie was felt the need of talking it out with

always put in hock for a sum of less someone.

than $1000 by someone whom the Ga r r e t t l i s t ene d at t ent i v e l y.

village trusted and approved. She “Looks like all you really need is a

was used as collateral until the loan lift for a while till things start comin’

was paid off. your way again,” he said.

That, I assured him, was summing

ABOUT SEVEN MONTHS after my things up neatly.

arrival in that warm-hearted com- “Then it’s time you met Minnie,”

munity I began having troubles of he said decisively.

my own. Everything went wrong. I couldn’t repress a slight shiver 41


and I couldn’t help glancing out of headstone on the grave. Then I want

the back door at his battered old de- you to take what money is left and

livery van. There was a big wooden buy a new $1000 bill.’

crate in it. I was prepared for any- “And that,” he said, “is how the

thing, but all that happened was that Minnie you’ve got there in your

Mr Garrett took a worn pocket-book hand came to be. My wife loved this

out of his hip pocket and slowly re- village, and she wanted to keep on

moved a tired-looking $1000 bank- helpin’ people who deserved and

note. Roughly printed on it in large needed helpin’ after she was gone.”

red-crayon letters was: MINNIE. Garrett paused a moment and then

“All you do,” said continued.

Garrett, “is take Min- “Minnie’s helped

nie to the bank and I HAD BEEN people get married
put her up for collat- ACCEPTED AS and helped babies
eral for any amount get born. She’s paid
up to $1000. You pay SOMEONE g rocer’s bil ls and
the bank their reg- MINNIE COULD helped educate boys
ular rate of interest, TRUST, AND I and girls, and she’s
and pay the loan off WAS HUMBLY sometimes saved
when you can. Then their businesses after
Minnie comes back GRATEFUL they’ve gone out in

to me.” the world. She’s kept

Garrett’s eyes spar- people from worrying

k led. “You’ve been themselves ill. You’d

tryin’ for months to find out who be surprised by how many times

Minnie is and how she came to be. Minnie’s been in hock.

Now if you want to hear the story, I’ll “And now,” he concluded brusquely,

tell you. “you trot down to the bank and bor-

“Minnie is named after my wife,” row what you need and stop worryin’.”

he continued. “She was the finest I began to understand why the

woman that ever lived. The day she town folk had been so secretive.

died, Minnie said to me, ‘Tracy, I’ve They didn’t know whether I could

been thinking that it doesn’t matter be trusted with a secret so precious.

overmuch to God whether or not Now I knew I had been accepted as

I have an expensive funeral or an someone Minnie could trust, and I

impressive monument. He doesn’t was humbly grateful.

set much store by pomp and show. In due course I paid off the note

So I want you to give me the cheap- and returned Minnie to her guard-

est burial you can, with a plain little ian. A week later she was in hock

42 january 2022

The Mystery Of Minnie

again, quietly at work for young Harry A month went by. Another month.
Tompkins, whose bulldozer had been Then one day Tracy Garrett received
threatened with attachment – and a registered letter from a distant city.
the budding Tompkins Construction Inside the envelope was Minnie. Not
Company was saved. a word of apology or explanation.
But Minnie was home again! And in
A LITTLE WHILE LATER Minnie hardly more time than it takes to tell,
fell, for the first time, into the kind of she was in hock again.
hands the village had been fearing.
The man seemed honest and trust- I moved away soon after that. I
worthy. His business got into legiti- don’t know if Tracy Garrett is still alive
mate trouble and he needed $500 in or if Minnie is still in circulation, but
a hurry. He borrowed Minnie from I’m inclined to believe she is. Minnie
Garrett – and left town. strikes me as the kind of woman who
goes on for ever.
The way the village behaved, you
would have thought its most beloved THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN RECORDED
citizen had been kidnapped. People AS AN RD TALKS PODCAST FOR YOUR
gathered at street corners and dis- LISTENING PLEASURE. TO LISTEN, GO TO
cussed the tragedy in hushed voices. WWW.RDASIA.COM/PODCASTS

Blush-Hour Reports


A nearsighted friend of mine who hated to wear her glasses
went to a party without them. She started talking to an attractive
man in the buffet line and tried her best to appear charming and
sophisticated. It worked until she put her hand into the ‘popcorn’

bowl and came up with mashed potatoes.

contributed by rosemary p. neal

My daughter and her husband, Jim, left their pre-teen
daughter alone for a few hours while they went out to dinner.
Before leaving, they reminded her to keep the doors locked and
not to let anyone know she was alone in the house. The next day
my daughter met a friend. “I called you last night,” the woman

said, “but your daughter told me you were in the shower.
Then I thought I’d give my message to Jim, but I was told he

was in the shower too.” contributed by stella r. mcdaris 43

44 january 2022



Below the trapped miners was an empty
lift shaft, 600 metres deep. Only the strength

of one man might save them

BY John Dyson 45


radling his hard hat and bag of sandwiches,
Mario Cockrell sprinted for the lift and
shoved his way among the miners jammed

C inside. Many of them grumbled at him: “Late
again!” The doors slammed shut, signal
bells rang, and the cramped, two-level cage began a
16-minute, 1.6 kilometre-long descent into the President
Steyn gold mine in Welkom, South Africa. It was 8.15pm
on March 23, 1993.

Known as the ‘Mary Ann’, the pas- stop them from plunging 610 metres
senger lift carried 21 men this trip, its to the bottom – the height of two
bare aluminium interior lit only by Eiffel Towers.
their cap lamps. For nearly ten min-
utes the ride went smoothly. Then, Mario shouldered Rassie aside to
suddenly, the lift cage lurched and reach the door. “We’ve got to get out,”
stopped dead. he said.

Rassie Erasmus, the Mary Ann’s “WE’RE GOING TO DIE”
silver-haired attendant, was unwor-
ried. “Hold still,” Mario heard him From boyhood, Mario Cockrell, one
say. “She’ll move in a minute.” of 11 children, had learned to fend
for himself. His father had died when
Mario wasn’t so sure. He heard Mario was 12. During his teens, he
a strange slapping sound from the had hunted in the Kalahari Desert
darkness overhead. Then it hit him. with friends among the Khoisan,
Great coils of heavy steel-wire rope living off the land with a homemade
were piling up on the lift roof. The bow and arrows.
huge winch that had been lowering
the cage was still running! As a young man, Mario had been
an amateur boxer and a physi-
We’re in trouble, thought Mario. cal trainer with the South African
Something had blocked the cage’s army, before settling down with his
descent, and whatever had snagged Belgian wife, Connie, and hiring on
it could give way at any moment. The at the mine. Now 31, he was saving
cable heaping on the roof, even a vi- for his dream: a couple of trucks to
bration from the men inside could run as a small business, and a few
nudge the over 2-tonne cage into free acres of land for Connie and their
fall. The slack wire would snap as it sons, three-year-old Etienne and
was jerked tight. Nothing then would five-month-old Mario, Jr.

46 january 2022

“Don’t Look Down!”

Mario forced open the lift door and girders hummed. Falling stones and

looked out. His cap lamp shone on a dust sprayed his face as he peered up.

sheer concrete wall plunging over Another car was coming!

800 metres straight down. Between The whooshing sound, like a dis-

him and the wall lay a 150cm-wide tant train, grew louder and louder. It

abyss. To his right, the wall cornered was the No. 6 cage plummeting down

and ran along the lift’s side. To his left the shaft to the left of the Mary Ann,

was empty space – a series of six ad- carrying tons of gravel for mixing

joining shafts used by other lifts. cement. Now less than 800 metres

By luck, the Mary Ann had stopped above, it would speed past in un-

exactly level with a der 60 seconds. As it

horizontal reinforce- did, Mario realised, it

ment beam that pro- THEN HE FELT would catch the loops
vided a 45cm-wide A TREMBLING of cable spilling off the
ledge. Stepping gin- THAT GREW. Mary Ann’s roof and
gerly onto this beam drag the cage and men
with his back to the FALLING into the void. God help
abyss, Mario shuf- STONES AND us! he prayed.
fled halfway around DUST SPRAYED
the lift, kicking rub- Just nine metres be-
ble over the edge but HIS FACE low the stranded cage,
Mario saw the station

hearing nothing hit for ‘37 level’ – 1100

the bottom. Leaning metres beneath the

on the rear of the lift, surface. It would have

still with a 150cm-wide chasm at his a telephone and emergency button

back, he spied a cluster of vertical for halting all cars in the shaft. I’ve

pipes strapped to the outside of the got to get to it, Mario thought. But

beam. how?

Below him, the shaft seemed to His eye fell on the cluster of vertical

recede into infinity. Ever y three pipes. Most were too bulky to grip.

metres it was ringed by another set Then he noticed a galvanised-steel

of crossbeams. And every 60 me- water pipe, barely two centimetres

tres, he could see a platform where in diameter and encrusted with dried

a brightly lit tunnel led into a work- mud. There was no time to descend

ing stope of the mine. Because of the the pipe hand over hand. He grasped

nightshift change, all the tunnels it and stepped off the ledge. Then he

were now deserted. relaxed his grip.

Then Mario felt a trembling that For an instant Mario fell free. He

grew until the whole framework of squeezed the pipe again to brake 47


himself, the rough surface ripping and filling the shaft with dust, sparks

the skin off his palms. Now halfway and thunder. Leaping to the red box,

between crossbeams, he felt the pipe Mario smashed his fist through the

begin to bend away from the wall. glass and punched the button.

He let himself drop to where the pipe There was a great squealing sound

was more secure. as Cage 6 ground to a halt 20 metres

At last his boots hit the crossbeam below. Loops of the Mary Ann’s ca-

level with the station. But he was still ble were hooked beneath it. A few

one and a half metres from the plat- more metres would have meant

form. Between him and safety was catastrophe.

the yawning shaft. With the telephone,

He took a leaping Mario reached the lift

stride across it, grab- THE GUTTER supervisor. “Keep the
bing a gutter pipe CAME AWAY IN brakes on! Move noth-
on the other side to ing!” he shouted.
haul himself forward. HIS HANDS.
As he did, the gut- FOR A SPLIT In the cage above,
ter came away in his SECOND, MARIO men were praying
hands. TEETERED IN and weeping. “We’re
going to die!” one
For a split second, SPACE cried. As the dust
Mario teetered in cleared, Rassie Eras-

space. With a desper- mus glanced down

ate heave he got his and was stunned to

right foot barely onto see Mario climbing

the lip of the platform, straddling the back towards them, hand over hand.

dark gap. Then he lunged frantically,

hooked his fingertips into the platform “TRUST ME!”

gate and pulled his other leg across. When Mario reached the men, he

He could hear his fellow miners’ found them round-eyed with fear.

shouts of fear as Cage 6 roared closer. “It’s all right,” he said. “Everything’s

T he emergenc y a la r m shou ld stopped. You can come down now.”

have been in a red box bolted to the Not one dared move.

rock wall. Where was it? With the During his army service, Mario

mind-numbing roar of the big cage had always led by example. “Pass

nearly on top of him, he saw the me my bag,” he said now, adopting

alarm, obscured under a coating an angry tone. The frightened men

of dust. passed his sandwich bag out of the

At that instant, Cage 6 whooshed Mary Ann. “Look at what I’m doing

past the Mary Ann, snagging its cable and just follow.”

48 january 2022

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