The Broken Club and the Half Eaten Atlas

Interesting tales attached to objects are for me what gives them value. The more bizarre the better. The following is a poem inspired by two items and a family story.

The Broken Club and the Half Eaten Atlas

Safely kept were the tribal club and atlas

Left behind by a missionary man

Some friend of an ancestor

Then the club was broken in two

By one boy who

Used it to strike the floor

And the book found under the house

Half eaten by a rat or mouse

Last possessions of Gottlob Rembold

A resident of Sydney

Who went off to New Guinea

Or so I’ve been told

In the late 19th century

And was eaten by cannibals

©Theartistschild.com 2017

There is a story in our family that a German missionary left some of his possessions in storage with a relative.  The Aboriginal war club (waddy) and Stieler’s Schul Atlas are all that remain.  He was supposedly eaten by one of the New Guinea tribes of headhunters and this was why he never returned to collect his things.  The war club (broken by an uncle when young and mended with some waxed flax by me) is the type of weapon used to attack enemies in tribal battles.

While I am usually dubious about the veracity of such sensationalist tales, I think that the story is most likely true because it came from a branch of the family that was quite reliable.  They were very honest and practical and not the types to make up fanciful stories.   Ellie and I thought that we would investigate this further to see if there was any actual documentary evidence available.

The name Gottlob Rembold and a Sydney address are hand written in the Atlas.  We Googled his name and this has made the story stranger and more complicated.  In Sydney in 1881, a Gottlob Rembold at the age of 27 was charged with shooting and wounding his uncle in the chest with intent to murder.  Apparently this Gottlob was a young man from Germany, who came out to Australia in 1880 to live with his aunt and uncle, a farmer, probably after the death of his father.  There was a dispute about a large sum of money in a will that he claimed was his, but his aunt said it was left to her.  Gottlob also claimed that he had been mistreated since his arrival from Germany ten months before.  Gottlob was found guilty but the sentence was remitted with no reason given.  There is a prison photo of Gottlob but we can’t show it as it is subject to copyright and  only available to view by Ancestry.com members.  It is not a mug shot, but a normal studio portrait and he was a good-looking young man.

His was not a common name in Sydney at the time so it is surely the same person.  The atlas has a date of 1876 and this is when this Gottlob was 22 years old and might have been contemplating travel.  After his release from prison he could have gained assistance from a religious organisation and then decided to become a missionary.  Gottlob had been employed as a gardener so this was a change of direction.  Not that it did him much good.

Gottlob’s story is part of the rampant Western Colonialism that took place around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Probably if Rembold had been a medical missionary or an Anthropologist he would have survived.  As opposed to some of hardline missionaries of the period, they tended to respect the host culture and were not perceived as a threat so usually lived to write about their experiences.  Gottlob must have made enemies if he had such a nasty fate.

Not all family stories are sweetness and light and the sad and bad characters can be just as inspiring as the heroic figures.  Was Gottlob a naive young man mistreated by his aunt and uncle or was he an opportunistic, murderous fortune hunter who turned to religion?  We will never know the whole truth about his end unless we can find a death certificate.  Without more information one can only imagine the mysterious and violent demise of the unfortunate Gottlob Rembold.

Kat

To lift a rather dark story the following is a live version of Rage Against the Machine’s protest song Killing in the Name by my favorite string quartet, Sydney group “FourPlay String Quartet.” They can really rock the strings.  Ellie and I saw them perform this same piece in concert and it was electric.  The members of FourPlay are all fantastic musicians and composers and their own music, while influenced by the past, is of our time.   In recent years they have collaborated in performance with Neil Gaiman.  Check them out on YouTube.

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Of Slaters, Microbes and Five-Headed Creatures

 

I was searching through a box of old papers when I came upon some very short stories that I wrote a long time ago.  I did these before we had a computer and the Internet.  I had typed them on an old manual Olivetti typewriter and had done some sketchy illustrations.  They are in a modern fairy tale style, with an absurd, macabre bent.

 

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The Slater and the Meaning of Life (©theartistschild.com 2017)

Have you ever wondered about what also lives at the bottom of your garden besides fairies? What lives in those dark corners or under that rock?  Well, in one small garden rockery lived a slater named Wayne.

Wayne was a typical slater.  He liked to go out with the other slaters for a nice cool drink on a hot night or to lie under a damp rock and daydream.  Despite such an easy life Wayne was dissatisfied.  He wanted to know the meaning of life so he set out on his many slater legs to find it.

The first being he met in the grass beside the rock garden was a slug.  He asked the slug if he knew the meaning of life but the slug couldn’t speak “slater” and slithered on its way.

Next Wayne saw an ant scurrying along carrying the leg of some dead insect but he could not get its attention.  He became puffed trying to catch up and had to rest under a leaf.  Before he could move on a beautiful butterfly landed on the leaf.  Wayne looked up and asked it if it knew the meaning of life but the butterfly was more interested in enjoying the sunshine and told him to push-off.

Wayne plodded on through the grass until he came to a concrete plain and started across it.  At that moment the owner of the garden came driving in and ran over him.

The moral of this story is if you happen to be a slater, don’t become a philosopher.

The End.

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Microbes (©theartistschild.com 2017)

On a shelf in an old pickle jar lived a family of microbes.  They enjoyed feeding and doing microbe things in a sticky green residue of old gherkin.  This might sound quite boring but it was the ideal life for microbes and they were perfectly happy.

One day the person who owned the pickle jar decided to make some preserved fruit and she took the jar from the shelf and placed it in a vat of boiling water.  Of course the microbes were not particularly amused by this action so they put on their heat-resistant suits and went into suspended animation to await a time when it would be safe to enter the world again.

After what seems only a short time to us but an eternity to microbes, the jar was opened and its contents of preserved fruit poured into a bowl.  The temperature gauges on the microbe’s suits were activated and they awakened to find themselves floating in a fruit salad.

Now as this is not a television show or movie, no one came to rescue them and they became part of the dessert.  Unfortunately they were not exactly harmless either, and the poor people who ate them died a rather nasty death.  But the microbes lived happily every after.

The End.

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The Five-Headed Creature (©theartistschild.com 2017)

Once upon a time there lived a creature that had five heads so that it was always at odds with itself.  It would sit under a tree and discuss various things, like the theory of relativity and how to make a yo-yo spin.

One day it said to all of its selves that it would be nice to find a five-headed girlfriend.  It had no idea how to achieve this end so it wrote a letter to the local paper’s advice column and signed it five times just to make sure.

For a week the creature scanned the paper for an answer to the letter and finally it was rewarded for its efforts.  The columnist suggested that the writer of the letter needed his head examined and should visit a psychoanalyst as soon as possible.

The creature made an appointment with one found in the yellow pages after considerable argument with itself.  After a long period of treatment it was pronounced sound of minds if nothing else and was given a large bill, resulting in multiple headaches.

This story shows that while two heads may be better than one, five will mean more money spent on therapy, sunglasses and migraine tablets.

The End

It’s a good idea to keep all your early writing attempts, as it is fun to look back on what you have done and see how you have developed.  I’d forgotten how much I liked writing quirky little stories.  Life must have gotten in the way.

I also discovered a draft for a short story that I had left unfinished because I did not have enough confidence in my writing ability and started to doubt myself.  That old destructive self censor.  Reading it again I can see that there were some good things in that story so I think I will finish it.  I don’t like leaving anything uncompleted.

Don’t be afraid to go back to something that you have put aside in the past.  It might be better than you thought at the time.

Kat