Sunday, September 02, 2007

Early Rubber Tapping Days of the Foochows


My cousins had to tap rubber before going to school in the 50's and 60's, and I was in the peripheral scenes as I was a town girl, visiting the village during my holidays. Until today, I can still remember the fresh formic acid smell, the stale smell of the ugly rubber sheets hanging in the sun, and the wonderful smell of the rubber sheets coming out from my grandmother's rubber smoke house.

On "sale " day, we kids would jump up and down in the motor launch, looking forward to a good price, and the rubber sheets then smelled so good. If money smells, then those rubber sheets smelled even better...the aroma haunts me to this day. It made me feel alive..knowing that we would live better, that grandmother would be generous with her purchases and I would get more buns in the evenings for supper....her earnings would mean that she would come home with several sacks of flour, sunkist oranges, apples, sugar, condensed milk ( such a wonderful invention), Beck's key beer for my uncles, dried squid for our babi soups, and even shark's fins...I remember we had three smoking seasons a year and they coincided with our three term holidays. I was always there (sent to grandma because mum was sickly and another brother or sister was on the way) That place is now known as Paradom, opposite Rantau Panjang and what was "home" on my mother's side was sold in the 80's at the height of the exodus from the villages ( caused by communist surrender). Today it is a water filled lowland as the shore had caved in and part of our padi land just the bank of the river now...when I went there two years ago, I really felt that part of my past was gone and it was no longer recognisable. I wish I can turn all these feelings into some poetic expressions.

One scene I would never forget from those days. Logs (batang) would float down the river and we would shout for joy as they were to become firewood for our smoke house (not cigar smoke house) We would always post some one at the jetty to give us warning that a log was sighted...
Then there was this day, when we thought we we saw some black marks in the river. We got into our two prahus (small boats)...what we had were about 20 pigs swimming across the river!! We managed to get two as we were only children then and we were not prepared . We had no guns, no parangs, but we had ropes (for the logs) and some nails....By that time guns had been surrendered to the government (1963), we used the paddles to hit the pigs...I cannot remember how we shared the meat, but it was like a circus coming to town...and the whole smoke house area was full of people again, but this time it was for feasting.

We used to say that my grandmother's kuali was big enough to cook me. It was the usual XXXXL size of 1 metre in diameter...Do you remember that type of Chinese kuali... One day I would like to have a model of the Chinese stove in a gazebo in my yard...

0 memories:


web statistics