Sunday, 23 March 2008

I don't need no Tarzan

Listening to: curlews in the morning
Weather: winter giving it one last go
Happy: Easter

Those of you of a certain age (the same one as mine) will remember the late 60s Tarzan TV series starring Ron Ely* where the Great White Ape had morphed into some sort of crime-busting jungle man. A kind of Bergerac with a loin cloth.

Along with all the lions, elephants, tigers (in Africa!), geographical confusion (he appeared to have left the jungle and settled in East Africa) and sterotype 'natives' (either cowardly villagers or fierce painted blokes with big spears) I seem to recall that it was pretty regular for someone to find themselves stuck in quicksand.

The baddies invariably came to a gooey end, while anyone else was rescued by the timely intervention of Big Ron and his aforementioned loin cloth.

As lively seven-year-olds with time on our hands (we had to make our own fun in those days and, let's face it, unless you lived within a bus ride of Carnaby Street the 60s didn't so much swing as drag) we often tried to recreate this scene. How our mothers laughed when we returned home covered head-to-toe in 'quicksand'.

Forty years later, I have managed the ultimate re-enactment and I am happy to reveal that Tarzan is redundant thanks to Dickies rigger boots - guaranteed to get you out of the deepest, gungiest hole and damn comfy too.

I had decided Eric and Ernie needed weighing. I had no real idea how much they weighed - just that they were healthy, not too fat and getting bigger.

Given that it's hard to get a seven-month-old pig to stand still on bathroom scales long enough for an accurate reading, I looked for an alternative method.

After consulting a couple of other pig keepers, I decided to try using a tape measure. It's not 100 per cent accurate, but it gives you a good enough idea.

I clambered into the swamp, put some food down for the lads and whipped out the tape I had quietly stolen from Mrs TPF's sewing box. Easy-going Eric stood quietly as I measured around his chest and shoulders and then along his back, Ernie flinched and squeaked a little, but even he accepted the 'suits you' treatment with little fuss.

I jotted down the measurements and set about applying the formula (chest multipled by back divided by 12). I'm not the sharpest chisel in the tool box when it comes to maths so this required considerable concentration.

So much concentration that I failed to notice that what I thought was a reasonably dry part of the swamp wasn't and I was sinking up to my ankles, the suction tightening all the time.

I tried to lift my foot and damn nearly popped a cruciate ligament. The other was similarly stuck fast. No problem, I thought, I'll grab a fence post and pull myself out. I had carelessly strayed more than an arms length away from the nearest post and the only thing to grab hold of was the electric fence - not an option.

Mrs TPF was mucking out in the stable with Radio 2 on very loud (!) so my cries for help went unheard.

Fortunately, the very thoughtful people at Dickies have stitched leather tabs to the side of their excellent boots (go out and buy some now, a snip at £50) so I hauled one foot out, then the other, repeating the process several times until I reached dry land, leaving Ron's retirement undisturbed.

And, for the record, Eric is close to 140lb, Ernie 136lb. Pork weight is around 150lb, but I'm letting them go to bacon weight, so we can all relax until some time in June.

* Ron Ely was the 15th actor to play Tarzan. He refused a stunt double for the vine swinging and animal fights, although the Tarzan call was still Johnny Weissmuller's dubbed over. As kids we always wondered how anyone came to be named after the town we lived in.


The Birdwatcher said...

Glad to hear that the lads will be around for a bit longer! Your story reminded me of the time my good friend and drinking companion Malcolm got stuck in a bog on top of black hill. He went in up to his thights. I pulled him out but he was a bit miffed that my first thought had been to rescue the bar of chocolate that he had dropped.

Rol said...

I have vague memories of that show, must have been very young when I watched it but I can remember Ron Ely's face in the opening credits.

andrea said...

I remember all those quicksand scenes (and yes, I am just the same vintage as you)! I especially remember Cheeta the chimp who, incidenetally is still alive at 75+ years old! Oldest chimp alive. (And, wimp that I am, I'll have to avoid your blog when bacon weight happens.)

Richard said...

I too remember Ron Ely. And Jai, his little friend. You couldn't get away with that now. I was alway fascinated by that clip in the opening credits of him standing on the waterfall.

Curiously enough, I used to think much the same thing about his name because we used to holiday around the area as kids.

fiwa said...

I'm glad the boys get a little summer action.

I remember the threat of quicksand - we were ALWAYS looking for it, always secretly hoping to fall into some so we could drag ourselves out by a handy vine. Of course, the fact that the biggest vine in my neck of the wood was honeysuckle didn't bode well.

Glad you escaped peril!

Dave said...

I'm assuming by May when I come to visit I'll be quite safe in sandals.

Daphne said...

"Pork weight" and "bacon weight". It's a whole new world to me. At present I have custody of one cat, three leopard geckos, one corn snake and four baby Giant African Land Snails. The snails could perhaps be edible in time, but they'll have to grow a bit first.

Anonymous said...

Malc, I never knew there was so much adventure in raising pigs. Either that, or you're a phenominally gifted (mis)adventure-magnet! I remember Tarzan vaguely, but can't pinpoint which actor is which. Now, George of the Jungle, I can still sing the opening sequence ;-)

I, still, ♥ the views said...

wot? no piccie of you in a loincloth. . .



Nointelli said...

The truth about quicksand and all the fun ways to enjoy nature's version of the sandbox

Ginni Dee said...

You're bringing back memories of both TV and being stuck in the mud. Our farm in about mud!! It would suck the boots right off your feet! Good idea, the tabs! If I was still farming** I'd have to get a pair of those Dickie boots! I wonder if they come in pink??

**Can you call it farming if your farm is comprised of cats, horses, chickens and geese?

Malc said...


Chocolate is vitally important.


Blimey, you must have been young. As far as I remember they stopped showing it in the early 70s.


Cheeta's performance was Olivier compared to poor old Ron and the insufferable kid who played Jai.


I can't imagine any of it being acceptable today - never thought I'd look back at the 60s/70s as an innocent age.

And a holiday in the Fens? Can't imagine it myself, but familiarity breeds contempt and so on.


It seems only fair for the lads - although summer seems a long way away today.


Absolutely. Sunglasses, shorts, vest. don't forget the sunblock.


I remember seeing really small snails being served in a little bar in Cadiz. The old guys would loosen it with a pin and suck it out of its shell. I kind of regret sticking with the squid.


Johnny Weissmuller was the original and - for my money - only Tarzan worth bothering with.


You may think you want that, but, believe me, you don't.


Hello. I'm not sure what I did with my life before I discovered there was a quicksand forum. Terrific!


No, they don't do pink. Tan only. They are bloody brilliant though. And, yes, that's a farm.

Richard said...

Many holidays on Grandad's boat on the Great Ouse, Malc. Went back 20 years ago and still loved it and would go again tomorrow if I could. I love the Fens, especially at dusk in the summer.

Anonymous said...

OOOOOO, pig poop quick sand! Smell your boot.

Mangonel said...

Yes but - what happened to the boots? Why was the tab crucial? Are they still stuck in the mud?

*groan* - other people love getting back to nature, me? I love getting back to the hotel . . .

ziggi said...

I'm much too young to know what you're talking about obviously, however I did always wonder why he called his chimp, a cheetah.
I preferred Daktari and the cross eyed lion :)

I think by June those pigs will not be up to the required weight and will need muuuuch longer to mature.

Malc said...


When I was a child we went to the Cutter by the river in Ely every Sunday where I would catch tiddlers in my little net and wish that I could go for a holiday on one of the boats moored up by the bank. I'm dead envious.

And I never felt anything quite as exhilirating at the strong winds that blow across the Fens - until I came to Orkney.


It's not a good idea. The boots are banished to the barn.


I was able to lift them (and me) out of the mud with the tabs. You probably had to be there.
A bit of hotel would be grand about now.


Of course you are, but you may have caught some repeats as a very young girl. I was a fan of Daktari too, Clarence in particular. My Dad was brought up in Kenya in the 30s and used to fill me with tales of going on safari, so I was drawn to anything like that.

And sorry, June it is - can't afford to be sentimental (said he, trying hard to sound convincing).

mig bardsley said...

You could do with a strategic vine or two to cross the pig pen perhaps :)
I remember Johnny Weismuller but not the quicksands. Oh well.

elizabethm said...

Once found myself up to my waist in mud at the bottom of a Scottish hill. Still remember trying to quell the rising panic - didn't you suffocate when it reached your chest?
Glad you got out.