I Decided to Take Up Ostrich Racing
I trained at the best ostrich racing school in the world, in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, where I excelled, soon overtaking my trainers in terms of my ostrich racing skills. I was faster than they were, bolder, more determined. I was on the international circuit in no time, competing in races from Australia to Alaska, and winning most of them. My favourite steed was Apunda, a sturdy hen with kind eyes and a permanent sneer. People were intimidated by her sneer, but I knew there was nothing in it. That was just the way her face was set.
Seven years into our career, Apunda and I were on our longest winning streak – 24 consecutive victories – when something went wrong. We were taking a corner – tight, but nothing we hadn’t breezed before – when Apunda’s left leg flew out from under her. We’d been going over 50 miles an hour, so we went down hard, tumbling over and over along the dry dirt floor. Apunda broke her right leg; I broke my left and fractured a couple of ribs. Neither of us could move. We had just two working legs between us, and – as we lay there in a jumbled heap – I wasn’t sure which was hers and which was mine. The medics had to disentangle us before we could be stretchered to hospital.
It was while recovering from my injuries that I began knitting. During those months of convalescence, I made 14 hats, nine pairs of mittens and half a dozen cardigans. For Apunda I knitted an extra-long yellow and turquoise scarf to keep her warm during the cold South African winters. I presented it to her at the party we threw to mark the end of our successful partnership. I could tell she was pleased by the way her sneer softened - just a touch – as she took the scarf in her beak and wrapped it around her long featherless neck.
'As Jazzy as They Come' written by Benjamin Palmer
Illustration by Charly Arias