Sounds of Distant Drums

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Cowboys don’t cry

My old and dear friend Frank Du Toit always used to remind me “Alf, cowboys don’t cry; not in front of their horses anyway”.
Well, we had just disembarked from the chopper after a sortie into Mozambique; a police Land Rover had been blown to Hell by some cowardly ‘Boegs’ at Kanyemba. The mood back at base camp was pretty somber; suddenly I remembered that one of our 5th Batt. blokes had brought his bagpipes.

After a few words in the chopper pilot’s ear he was again airborne, this time with our lone Piper. The pilot was the best, as all Rhodesian pilots were, and he dropped our Piper on top of ‘Cleopatra’s needle’, a huge needle like granite monolith towering many, many meters above the beautiful autumn leaves of the M’sasa trees. The helicopter was silent a few meters from us as the Pilot came to join the entire compliment of soldiers to witness the spectacle from our hilltop base.

As the sun touched the horizon, silhouetting our lone Piper (about a kilometer away), the haunting melody of Amazing Grace drifted across the entire valley on the cool evening breeze.

I have just returned from the Edinburgh Tattoo, August 2006, and the lone Piper there was unbelievably brilliant, but he couldn’t hold a candle to our Piper; on that unforgettable eventide he played magnificently. If cowboys don’t cry, as Frank insisted, I can tell you for certain that battle weary and hardened Rhodesian soldiers do; even in front of their horses.

My very dear Friend Frank died on his farm in Raffengora some time ago, but I will remember that day we shared with that piper as long as I live; the day when we wept openly for all the friends we had lost; for a country we loved; for a war we believed in, but which tore us apart inside.

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