veldt

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veldt
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Image by Jared Zimmerman

Ray Bradbury. The Veldt

"George, I wish you’d look at the nursery."
"What’s wrong with it?"
"I don’t know."
"Well, then."
"I just want you to look at it, is all, or call a psychologist in to
look at it."
"What would a psychologist want with a nursery?"
"You know very well what he’d want." His wife paused in the middle of
the kitchen and watched the stove busy humming to itself, making supper for
four.
"It’s just that the nursery is different now than it was."
"All right, let’s have a look."
They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which
had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed
and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.
Their approach sensitized a switch somewhere and the nursery light flicked
on when they came within ten feet of it. Similarly, behind them, in the
halls, lights went on and off as they left them behind, with a soft
automaticity.
"Well," said George Hadley.

They stood on the thatched floor of the nursery. It was forty feet
across by forty feet long and thirty feet high; it had cost half again as
much as the rest of the house. "But nothing’s too good for our children,"
George had said.
The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high
noon. The walls were blank and two dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia
Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede
into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt
appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the
final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with
a hot yellow sun.
George Hadley felt the perspiration start on his brow.
"Let’s get out of this sun," he said. "This is a little too real. But I
don’t see anything wrong."
"Wait a moment, you’ll see," said his wife.
Now the hidden odorophonics were beginning to blow a wind of odor at
the two people in the middle of the baked veldtland. The hot straw smell of
lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty
smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air. And
now the sounds: the thump of distant antelope feet on grassy sod, the papery
rustling of vultures. A shadow passed through the sky. The shadow flickered
on George Hadley’s upturned, sweating face.
"Filthy creatures," he heard his wife say.
"The vultures."
"You see, there are the lions, far over, that way. Now they’re on their
way to the water hole. They’ve just been eating," said Lydia. "I don’t know
what."
"Some animal." George Hadley put his hand up to shield off the burning
light from his squinted eyes. "A zebra or a baby giraffe, maybe."
"Are you sure?" His wife sounded peculiarly tense.
"No, it’s a little late to be sure," be said, amused. "Nothing over
there I can see but cleaned bone, and the vultures dropping for what’s
left."
"Did you bear that scream?" she asked.
‘No."
"About a minute ago?"
"Sorry, no."
The lions were coming. And again George Hadley was filled with
admiration for the mechanical genius who had conceived this room. A miracle
of efficiency selling for an absurdly low price. Every home should have one.
Oh, occasionally they frightened you with their clinical accuracy, they
startled you, gave you a twinge, but most of the time what fun for everyone,
not only your own son and daughter, but for yourself when you felt like a
quick jaunt to a foreign land, a quick change of scenery. Well, here it was!
And here were the lions now, fifteen feet away, so real, so feverishly
and startlingly real that you could feel the prickling fur on your hand, and
your mouth was stuffed with the dusty upholstery smell of their heated
pelts, and the yellow of them was in your eyes like the yellow of an
exquisite French tapestry, the yellows of lions and summer grass, and the
sound of the matted lion lungs exhaling on the silent noontide, and the
smell of meat from the panting, dripping mouths.
The lions stood looking at George and Lydia Hadley with terrible
green-yellow eyes.
"Watch out!" screamed Lydia.
The lions came running at them.
Lydia bolted and ran. Instinctively, George sprang after her. Outside,
in the hall, with the door slammed he was laughing and she was crying, and
they both stood appalled at the other’s reaction.
"George!"
"Lydia! Oh, my dear poor sweet Lydia!"
"They almost got us!"
"Walls, Lydia, remember; crystal walls, that’s all they are. Oh, they
look real, I must admit – Africa in your parlor – but it’s all dimensional,
superreactionary, supersensitive color film and mental tape film behind
glass screens. It’s all odorophonics and sonics, Lydia. Here’s my
handkerchief."

"I’m afraid." She came to him and put her body against him and cried
steadily. "Did you see? Did you feel? It’s too real."
"Now, Lydia…"
"You’ve got to tell Wendy and Peter not to read any more on Africa."
"Of course – of course." He patted her.
"Promise?"
"Sure."
"And lock the nursery for a few days until I get my nerves settled."
"You know how difficult Peter is about that. When I punished him a
month ago by locking the nursery for even a few hours – the tantrum be
threw! And Wendy too. They live for the nursery."
"It’s got to be locked, that’s all there is to it."
"All right." Reluctantly he locked the huge door. "You’ve been working
too hard. You need a rest."
"I don’t know – I don’t know," she said, blowing her nose, sitting down
in a chair that immediately began to rock and comfort her. "Maybe I don’t
have enough to do. Maybe I have time to think too much. Why don’t we shut
the whole house off for a few days and take a vacation?"
"You mean you want to fry my eggs for me?"
"Yes." She nodded.
"And dam my socks?"
"Yes." A frantic, watery-eyed nodding.
"And sweep the house?"
"Yes, yes – oh, yes!”
"But I thought that’s why we bought this house, so we wouldn’t have to
do anything?"
"That’s just it. I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and
mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a
bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub
bath can? I cannot. And it isn’t just me. It’s you. You’ve been awfully
nervous lately."
"I suppose I have been smoking too much."
"You look as if you didn’t know what to do with yourself in this house,
either. You smoke a little more every morning and drink a little more every
afternoon and need a little more sedative every night. You’re beginning to
feel unnecessary too."
"Am I?" He paused and tried to feel into himself to see what was really
there.
"Oh, George!" She looked beyond him, at the nursery door. "Those lions
can’t get out of there, can they?"
He looked at the door and saw it tremble as if something had jumped
against it from the other side.
"Of course not," he said.

At dinner they ate alone, for Wendy and Peter were at a special plastic
carnival across town and bad televised home to say they’d be late, to go
ahead eating. So George Hadley, bemused, sat watching the dining-room table
produce warm dishes of food from its mechanical interior.
"We forgot the ketchup," he said.
"Sorry," said a small voice within the table, and ketchup appeared.
As for the nursery, thought George Hadley, it won’t hurt for the
children to be locked out of it awhile. Too much of anything isn’t good for
anyone. And it was clearly indicated that the children had been spending a
little too much time on Africa. That sun. He could feel it on his neck,
still, like a hot paw. And the lions. And the smell of blood. Remarkable how
the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children’s minds and
created life to fill their every desire. The children thought lions, and
there were lions. The children thought zebras, and there were zebras. Sun –
sun. Giraffes – giraffes. Death and death.
That last. He chewed tastelessly on the meat that the table bad cut for
him. Death thoughts. They were awfully young, Wendy and Peter, for death
thoughts. Or, no, you were never too young, really. Long before you knew
what death was you were wishing it on someone else. When you were two years
old you were shooting people with cap pistols.
But this – the long, hot African veldt-the awful death in the jaws of a
lion. And repeated again and again.
"Where are you going?"
He didn’t answer Lydia. Preoccupied, be let the lights glow softly on
ahead of him, extinguish behind him as he padded to the nursery door. He
listened against it. Far away, a lion roared.
He unlocked the door and opened it. Just before he stepped inside, he
heard a faraway scream. And then another roar from the lions, which subsided
quickly.
He stepped into Africa. How many times in the last year had he opened
this door and found Wonderland, Alice, the Mock Turtle, or Aladdin and his
Magical Lamp, or Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, or Dr. Doolittle, or the cow
jumping over a very real-appearing moon-all the delightful contraptions of a
make-believe world. How often had he seen Pegasus flying in the sky ceiling,
or seen fountains of red fireworks, or heard angel voices singing. But now,
is yellow hot Africa, this bake oven with murder in the heat. Perhaps Lydia
was right. Perhaps they needed a little vacation from the fantasy which was
growing a bit too real for ten-year-old children. It was all right to
exercise one’s mind with gymnastic fantasies, but when the lively child mind
settled on one pattern… ? It seemed that, at a distance, for the past
month, he had heard lions roaring, and smelled their strong odor seeping as
far away as his study door. But, being busy, he had paid it no attention.
George Hadley stood on the African grassland alone. The lions looked up
from their feeding, watching him. The only flaw to the illusion was the open
door through which he could see his wife, far down the dark hall, like a
framed picture, eating her dinner abstractedly.
"Go away," he said to the lions.
They did not go.
He knew the principle of the room exactly. You sent out your thoughts.
Whatever you thought would appear. "Let’s have Aladdin and his lamp," he
snapped. The veldtland remained; the lions remained.
"Come on, room! I demand Aladin!" he said.
Nothing happened. The lions mumbled in their baked pelts.
"Aladin!"
He went back to dinner. "The fool room’s out of order," he said. "It
won’t respond."
"Or–"
"Or what?"
"Or it can’t respond," said Lydia, "because the children have thought
about Africa and lions and killing so many days that the room’s in a rut."
"Could be."
"Or Peter’s set it to remain that way."
"Set it?"
"He may have got into the machinery and fixed something."
"Peter doesn’t know machinery."
"He’s a wise one for ten. That I.Q. of his -"
"Nevertheless -"
"Hello, Mom. Hello, Dad."
The Hadleys turned. Wendy and Peter were coming in the front door,
cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles, a smell
of ozone on their jumpers from their trip in the helicopter.
"You’re just in time for supper," said both parents.
"We’re full of strawberry ice cream and hot dogs," said the children,
holding hands. "But we’ll sit and watch."
"Yes, come tell us about the nursery," said George Hadley.
The brother and sister blinked at him and then at each other.
"Nursery?"
"All about Africa and everything," said the father with false
joviality.
"I don’t understand," said Peter.
"Your mother and I were just traveling through Africa with rod and
reel; Tom Swift and his Electric Lion," said George Hadley.
"There’s no Africa in the nursery," said Peter simply.
"Oh, come now, Peter. We know better."
"I don’t remember any Africa," said Peter to Wendy. "Do you?"
"No."
"Run see and come tell."
She obeyed
"Wendy, come back here!" said George Hadley, but she was gone. The
house lights followed her like a flock of fireflies. Too late, he realized
he had forgotten to lock the nursery door after his last inspection.
"Wendy’ll look and come tell us," said Peter.
"She doesn’t have to tell me. I’ve seen it."
"I’m sure you’re mistaken, Father."
"I’m not, Peter. Come along now."
But Wendy was back. "It’s not Africa," she said breathlessly.
"We’ll see about this," said George Hadley, and they all walked down
the hall together and opened the nursery door.
There was a green, lovely forest, a lovely river, a purple mountain,
high voices singing, and Rima, lovely and mysterious, lurking in the trees
with colorful flights of butterflies, like animated bouquets, lingering in
her long hair. The African veldtland was gone. The lions were gone. Only
Rima was here now, singing a song so beautiful that it brought tears to your
eyes.
George Hadley looked in at the changed scene. "Go to bed," he said to
the children.
They opened their mouths.
"You heard me," he said.
They went off to the air closet, where a wind sucked them like brown
leaves up the flue to their slumber rooms.
George Hadley walked through the singing glade and picked up something
that lay in the comer near where the lions had been. He walked slowly back
to his wife.
"What is that?" she asked.
"An old wallet of mine," he said.
He showed it to her. The smell of hot grass was on it and the smell of
a lion. There were drops of saliva on it, it bad been chewed, and there were
blood smears on both sides.
He closed the nursery door and locked it, tight.

In the middle of the night he was still awake and he knew his wife was
awake. "Do you think Wendy changed it?" she said at last, in the dark room.
"Of course."
"Made it from a veldt into a forest and put Rima there instead of
lions?"
"Yes."
"Why?"
"I don’t know. But it’s staying locked until I find out."
"How did your wallet get there?"
"I don’t know anything," he said, "except that I’m beginning to be
sorry we bought that room for the children. If children are neurotic at all,
a room like that -"
"It’s supposed to help them work off their neuroses in a healthful
way."
"I’m starting to wonder." He stared at the ceiling.
"We’ve given the children everything they ever wanted. Is this our
reward-secrecy, disobedience?"
"Who was it said, ‘Children are carpets, they should be stepped on
occasionally’? We’ve never lifted a hand. They’re insufferable – let’s admit
it. They come and go when they like; they treat us as if we were offspring.
They’re spoiled and we’re spoiled."
"They’ve been acting funny ever since you forbade them to take the
rocket to New York a few months ago."
"They’re not old enough to do that alone, I explained."
"Nevertheless, I’ve noticed they’ve been decidedly cool toward us
since."
"I think I’ll have David McClean come tomorrow morning to have a look
at Africa."
"But it’s not Africa now, it’s Green Mansions country and Rima."
"I have a feeling it’ll be Africa again before then."
A moment later they heard the screams.
Two screams. Two people screaming from downstairs. And then a roar of
lions.
"Wendy and Peter aren’t in their rooms," said his wife.
He lay in his bed with his beating heart. "No," he said. "They’ve
broken into the nursery."
"Those screams – they sound familiar."
"Do they?"
"Yes, awfully."
And although their beds tried very bard, the two adults couldn’t be
rocked to sleep for another hour. A smell of cats was in the night air.

"Father?" said Peter.
"Yes."
Peter looked at his shoes. He never looked at his father any more, nor
at his mother. "You aren’t going to lock up the nursery for good, are you?"
"That all depends."
"On what?" snapped Peter.
"On you and your sister. If you intersperse this Africa with a little
variety – oh, Sweden perhaps, or Denmark or China -"
"I thought we were free to play as we wished."
"You are, within reasonable bounds."
"What’s wrong with Africa, Father?"
"Oh, so now you admit you have been conjuring up Africa, do you?"
"I wouldn’t want the nursery locked up," said Peter coldly. "Ever."
"Matter of fact, we’re thinking of turning the whole house off for
about a month. Live sort of a carefree one-for-all existence."
"That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of
letting the shoe tier do it? And brush my own teeth and comb my hair and
give myself a bath?"
"It would be fun for a change, don’t you think?"
"No, it would be horrid. I didn’t like it when you took out the picture
painter last month."
"That’s because I wanted you to learn to paint all by yourself, son."
"I don’t want to do anything but look and listen and smell; what else
is there to do?"
"All right, go play in Africa."
"Will you shut off the house sometime soon?"
"We’re considering it."
"I don’t think you’d better consider it any more, Father."
"I won’t have any threats from my son!"
"Very well." And Peter strolled off to the nursery.

"Am I on time?" said David McClean.
"Breakfast?" asked George Hadley.
"Thanks, had some. What’s the trouble?"
"David, you’re a psychologist."
"I should hope so."
"Well, then, have a look at our nursery. You saw it a year ago when you
dropped by; did you notice anything peculiar about it then?"
"Can’t say I did; the usual violences, a tendency toward a slight
paranoia here or there, usual in children because they feel persecuted by
parents constantly, but, oh, really nothing."
They walked down the ball. "I locked the nursery up," explained the
father, "and the children broke back into it during the night. I let them
stay so they could form the patterns for you to see."
There was a terrible screaming from the nursery.
"There it is," said George Hadley. "See what you make of it."
They walked in on the children without rapping.
The screams had faded. The lions were feeding.
"Run outside a moment, children," said George Hadley. "No, don’t change
the mental combination. Leave the walls as they are. Get!"
With the children gone, the two men stood studying the lions clustered
at a distance, eating with great relish whatever it was they had caught.
"I wish I knew what it was," said George Hadley. "Sometimes I can
almost see. Do you think if I brought high-powered binoculars here and -"
David McClean laughed dryly. "Hardly." He turned to study all four
walls. "How long has this been going on?"
"A little over a month."
"It certainly doesn’t feel good."
"I want facts, not feelings."
"My dear George, a psychologist never saw a fact in his life. He only
hears about feelings; vague things. This doesn’t feel good, I tell you.
Trust my hunches and my instincts. I have a nose for something bad. This is
very bad. My advice to you is to have the whole damn room torn down and your
children brought to me every day during the next year for treatment."
"Is it that bad?"
"I’m afraid so. One of the original uses of these nurseries was so that
we could study the patterns left on the walls by the child’s mind, study at
our leisure, and help the child. In this case, however, the room has become
a channel toward-destructive thoughts, instead of a release away from them."
"Didn’t you sense this before?"
"I sensed only that you bad spoiled your children more than most. And
now you’re letting them down in some way. What way?"
"I wouldn’t let them go to New York."
"What else?"
"I’ve taken a few machines from the house and threatened them, a month
ago, with closing up the nursery unless they did their homework. I did close
it for a few days to show I meant business."
"Ah, ha!"
"Does that mean anything?"
"Everything. Where before they had a Santa Claus now they have a
Scrooge. Children prefer Santas. You’ve let this room and this house replace
you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother
and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents. And
now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred here.
You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to
change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature
comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong in your
kitchen. You wouldn’t know bow to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything
off. Start new. It’ll take time. But we’ll make good children out of bad in
a year, wait and see."
"But won’t the shock be too much for the children, shutting the room up
abruptly, for good?"
"I don’t want them going any deeper into this, that’s all."
The lions were finished with their red feast.
The lions were standing on the edge of the clearing watching the two
men.
"Now I’m feeling persecuted," said McClean. "Let’s get out of here. I
never have cared for these damned rooms. Make me nervous."
"The lions look real, don’t they?" said George Hadley. I don’t suppose
there’s any way -"
"What?"
"- that they could become real?"
"Not that I know."
"Some flaw in the machinery, a tampering or something?"
"No."
They went to the door.
"I don’t imagine the room will like being turned off," said the father.
"Nothing ever likes to die – even a room."
"I wonder if it hates me for wanting to switch it off?"
"Paranoia is thick around here today," said David McClean. "You can
follow it like a spoor. Hello." He bent and picked up a bloody scarf. "This
yours?"
"No." George Hadley’s face was rigid. "It belongs to Lydia."
They went to the fuse box together and threw the switch that killed the
nursery.

The two children were in hysterics. They screamed and pranced and threw
things. They yelled and sobbed and swore and jumped at the furniture.
"You can’t do that to the nursery, you can’t!”
"Now, children."
The children flung themselves onto a couch, weeping.
"George," said Lydia Hadley, "turn on the nursery, just for a few
moments. You can’t be so abrupt."
"No."
"You can’t be so cruel…"
"Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of
here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it
sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for
too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!"
And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the
stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers
and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine be could put his hand
to.
The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical
cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting
to function at the tap of a button.
"Don’t let them do it!" wailed Peter at the ceiling, as if he was
talking to the house, the nursery. "Don’t let Father kill everything." He
turned to his father. "Oh, I hate you!"
"Insults won’t get you anywhere."
"I wish you were dead!"
"We were, for a long while. Now we’re going to really start living.
Instead of being handled and massaged, we’re going to live."
Wendy was still crying and Peter joined her again. "Just a moment, just
one moment, just another moment of nursery," they wailed.
"Oh, George," said the wife, "it can’t hurt."
"All right – all right, if they’ll just shut up. One minute, mind you,
and then off forever."
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" sang the children, smiling with wet faces.
"And then we’re going on a vacation. David McClean is coming back in
half an hour to help us move out and get to the airport. I’m going to dress.
You turn the nursery on for a minute, Lydia, just a minute, mind you."
And the three of them went babbling off while he let himself be
vacuumed upstairs through the air flue and set about dressing himself. A
minute later Lydia appeared.
"I’ll be glad when we get away," she sighed.
"Did you leave them in the nursery?"
"I wanted to dress too. Oh, that horrid Africa. What can they see in
it?"
"Well, in five minutes we’ll be on our way to Iowa. Lord, how did we
ever get in this house? What prompted us to buy a nightmare?"
"Pride, money, foolishness."
"I think we’d better get downstairs before those kids get engrossed
with those damned beasts again."
Just then they heard the children calling, "Daddy, Mommy, come quick –
quick!"
They went downstairs in the air flue and ran down the hall. The
children were nowhere in sight. "Wendy? Peter!"
They ran into the nursery. The veldtland was empty save for the lions
waiting, looking at them. "Peter, Wendy?"
The door slammed.
"Wendy, Peter!"
George Hadley and his wife whirled and ran back to the door.
"Open the door!" cried George Hadley, trying the knob. "Why, they’ve
locked it from the outside! Peter!" He beat at the door. "Open up!"
He heard Peter’s voice outside, against the door.
"Don’t let them switch off the nursery and the house," he was saying.
Mr. and Mrs. George Hadley beat at the door. "Now, don’t be ridiculous,
children. It’s time to go. Mr. McClean’ll be here in a minute and…"
And then they heard the sounds.
The lions on three sides of them, in the yellow veldt grass, padding
through the dry straw, rumbling and roaring in their throats.
The lions.
Mr. Hadley looked at his wife and they turned and looked back at the
beasts edging slowly forward crouching, tails stiff.
Mr. and Mrs. Hadley screamed.
And suddenly they realized why those other screams bad sounded
familiar.

"Well, here I am," said David McClean in the nursery doorway, "Oh,
hello." He stared at the two children seated in the center of the open glade
eating a little picnic lunch. Beyond them was the water hole and the yellow
veldtland; above was the hot sun. He began to perspire. "Where are your
father and mother?"
The children looked up and smiled. "Oh, they’ll be here directly."
"Good, we must get going." At a distance Mr. McClean saw the lions
fighting and clawing and then quieting down to feed in silence under the
shady trees.
He squinted at the lions with his hand tip to his eyes.
Now the lions were done feeding. They moved to the water hole to drink.
A shadow flickered over Mr. McClean’s hot face. Many shadows flickered.
The vultures were dropping down the blazing sky.
"A cup of tea?" asked Wendy in the silence.

Absinthe bar in the French Quarter New Orleans
african songs
Image by denisbin
Old Absinthe House bar in New Orleans.

Some geography of New Orleans. The location and geography of New Orleans is unique in America. Most of the city is well below sea level, except for the French Quarter which was built on a natural levee of the river in the 1700s. As the city has expanded special levees, pumps and flood gates have been erected around the city. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 the storm itself did damage to New Orleans but the major devastation came from the levees failing and water flooding at least 80% of the city area. It is useful to remember that 50% of New Orleans city is water and not land! Its location on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, near the delta bayous and swamps was the raison d’être for the city. It was to control all navigation and commercial activity on the river and to provide a safe harbour as close as possible to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of its strategic location it has always been the prize for invaders during wars. The city has a tropical climate and the regions north of the city along the banks of the Mississippi were and are major sugar plantation areas, not cotton plantation areas. You have to travel upstate in Louisiana to find the cotton growing areas. This tropical climate along one of the world’s major water courses meant until recently that the area was plagued with Yellow Fever, malaria and other deadly illnesses. To the north and east of the city is Lake Pontchartrain, a huge body of water; in fact the city is bordered by water on three sides. By road the mouth of the Mississippi is over 100 miles away but this is because the river follows a circuitous route to the mouth of its delta. The city metropolitan area has a population of 1.1 million, exactly the same as the population of Adelaide. Although the population fell after Hurricane Katrina the population is now 90% of what is was before the hurricane. There is little evidence of flood damage in the areas that we will see as tourists. The French Quarter was not flooded because the founding French settlers sensibly chose a high site for their city.

Some early history of New Orleans. The city was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, a major trader in furs bought from the Indians up river. They got the local Indians, the Chitimacha to cede land to them. The Company named the city after the Duke of Orleans who was the Regent of France at that time. After the French Wars between the Indians, British, French and Spanish in America from 1756-63 the French ceded New Orleans to the Spanish. The Spanish held New Orleans from 1763 to 1801 when Napoleon defeated the Spanish and New Orleans and its territories to the west were returned to France. As Napoleon needed more funds to continue his Napoleonic Wars with Britain and others he soon (in 1803) sold New Orleans and all territories west of the Mississippi to President Jefferson for the small sum of million. West Florida, New Orleans and the west comprised over 800,000 square miles! The Louisiana Purchase covered – Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nth & Sth Dakota, Oklahoma & parts of Texas and Wyoming.

When the French settled New Orleans they built a trading port city of wooden buildings on the high ground along the banks of the Mississippi. The streets were named after the royal houses of France and Catholic saints, hence Bourbon Street after the Dukes of Bourbon, not the whisky. Local pine was the timber used for building the houses, often on brick pylons to raise the houses above any possible flood threat. The compact town was destroyed by two major fires during the Spanish ownership of Louisiana in 1788 and again in 1794. The city was rebuilt in brick, with wrought iron balconies in the Spanish style usually with central courtyards. So most of what we see today in the French Quarter or Vieux Carré is actually of Spanish design and from the era of Spanish building in the late 1790s. So the French Quarter is really the Spanish Quarter and the Spanish buildings include the three major public buildings of this era- the Cathedral of St. Louis, and the adjoining Cabildo and Presbytere. The first St. Louis Cathedral was built in 1781; the second in 1725; and the third in 1789. That third structure in Spanish style was almost totally rebuilt in 1850 in the style of the previous cathedral.

The Strategic Importance of New Orleans. Not long after the Americans bought New Orleans a major war broke out between England and her former American colonies. War raged from 1812-14 when the British, amongst other achievements, sailed up the Potomac River in Washington and burnt down the White House and attacked the national capital. As the port that controlled the Mississippi and the river system that went up to the British colonies in Canada the British wanted to retake New Orleans. A young American officer, Andrew Jackson (later President Andrew Jackson) led the American forces in a battle with the British. The battle of New Orleans (remember the hit song about it in 1959?) took place in January 1815. It was the final battle of the War of 1812 and despite bad odds Andrew Jackson and the Americans prevailed and won the battle. Hence the main square in New Orleans is Jackson Square with a fine statue of the later President on horseback is in the centre of the square. And again during the Civil War both the Confederates and Unionists wanted to control New Orleans. During the Antebellum period New Orleans had been a major port for the slave trade and the major slave auction centre of the American South. Louisiana declared their secession from the Union in January 1861 and the Confederates bolstered their occupation of the area. It was the link to the South’s cotton plantations up the Mississippi River Valley and its link across the Mississippi to the wealthy states of Texas, Arkansas and some secessionist counties of Missouri. The first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861. New Orleans was blockaded by the North in May 1861 showing what an important prize the city was to the Union. After two short battles in April 1862 the Union forces occupied New Orleans and split the Confederacy into two parts as it then controlled the Mississippi River too.

The Creole Culture of New Orleans. Creole culture in Louisiana is still strong. Creoles are primarily the people descended from the early French and Spanish settlers mixed with later German immigrants and African slaves. Creoles were originally white Europeans but the term later included mixed race people. When the Haitian Revolution led by slaves erupted in 1804 many French residents fled from Haiti to New Orleans with their African slaves. They reinforced the French culture of New Orleans and established their three tiered society of white Creoles, mixed race Creoles and black slaves. The mixed race Creoles were mainly fee black people and added to the free black population of New Orleans. French speakers dominated in New Orleans until 1830. But as late as 1900, 25% of residents spoke French and 75% could understand it. (250,000 Louisianans still speak French at home today.) Half the schools in New Orleans taught in French until the Civil War. In 1862 the Union occupier of the city General Butler abolished French instruction and enforced English teaching. The War made New Orleans an American city. But the Creoles did not disappear. They continued to dominate society for some time. The Creole planters along the Mississippi lived on their plantations during the hot malaria filled summers but moved to their French Quarter town houses for the cool winters. (It was the reverse in Charleston where the planters lived in Charleston in the hot summers and spent winters on their plantations.) The New Orleans winter was the time for balls and parties and the celebrations around Lent and the Mardi Gras activities, which still persist as a reminder of the French heritage of the city. The white French Creoles also often took black slave women as mistresses but unlike the white Americans they tended to give freedom to the children born from these unions. Thus New Orleans ended up with the largest number of free blacks of any Southern city in the Antebellum days. Mixed race Creoles had their own society balls and functions. Many had property and were quite wealthy in their own rights because of grants from their white Creole fathers. But their access to political and legal rights disappeared during the Jim Crow era as white Americans applied their white-black caste system on all parts of America including Louisiana. Free persons of colour were discriminated against by the Jim Crow regulations and segregation in New Orleans too. Change came with of the Civil Rights era.

Groot-rooibandsuikerbekkie (7)
african songs
Image by Pixlab.co.za
Alternative Names:
English (Rob 6): Greater Doublecollared Sunbird
English (Rob 7): Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Scientific: "Nectarinia afra"
German: Großer Halsband-Nektarvogel
French: Souimanga à plastron rouge
Indigenous: iNcuncu(Z),iNcwincwi(Z),Ingcungcu(X),Ntsotsotso(Ts),Rithweethwee(Ts),Xidyamhangani(Ts),
Scientific Explained:
afra: Latin, African.
Measurements: Length 14-15 cm; wing (286 male) 59-65,7-72, (101 female) 54,3-59,6-65,5; tail (236 male) 48-55,2-65, (78 female) 42-47,4-55,5; tarsus (213 male) 14-16,6-19,5, (78 female) 14-15,6-17; culmen (227 male) 19,6-29,4-33, (71 female) 23,6-27-29,5; red breastband (200 male) 14-20,9-29,5. Weight (10 male) 11-12,2-13,3 g, (6 female) 8,1-9,8-11,3 g.
Bare Parts: Iris dark brown; bill, legs and feet black.
Identification: Size medium; similar to Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird, but larger, longer-billed and with broader red breastband. Male: Head, throat and back brilliant metallic green; rump blue; breastband bright red, about 20 mm wide (only about 8-10 mm wide in Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird), bordered above by narrow metallic blue band; belly smoky grey. Female: Above brownish grey; below light yellowish grey; separable from female Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird only by much longer bill and larger size. Immature: Similar to adult female.
Voice: Most common callnote by both sexes is high-pitched persistent tseeee, falling in tone; song sustained jumble of tweeting, twittering and chipping notes, louder and richer than song of Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird, usually starting with husky zhyeet or zheet-eet; characteristic harsh sskert callnote; excited ch ch ch cher-rreee by male when chasing female; stuttering hissing ss ss ss alarm notes.
Distribution: From sw Cape to n Transvaal; not Lesotho.
Status: Common resident; vagrant to Transvaal bushveld and lowveld.
Habitat: Coastal and riverine bush, forest edge, montane scrub, Protea savanna, parks, gardens.
Habits: Usually solitary or in pairs; gathers in loose groups of 6-7 birds at good food source, sometimes in company with other bird species, including other sunbirds. Male often sings from exposed perch, but also from inside bush; both sexes often chase conspecifics and other sunbirds. Hovers in front of webs to extract spiders.
Food: Nectar (e.g. Erythrina, Schotia, Protea, Erica, Salvia, Plumbago and many exotic garden flowers), insects, spiders.
Breeding: Season: All months (peak October-November) in e Cape, June to January in KwaZulu-Natal, June, July and October in Transvaal; probably most months throughout S Africa; up to 3 broods/season. Nest: Oval of grass, Usnea lichen, rootlets, bark, wool, cotton, fur, plant down, twigs, rags, dried fruits, leaf mould, etc., bound with spider web; lined with hundreds of feathers; side-top entrance always with porch; external height 13-15 cm; entrance diameter 3-4 cm; built by female only in 10-24 days. Clutch: (20) 1-1,8-2 eggs (usually 2). Eggs: White, greenish white to pale grey, spotted, mottled, clouded and scrawled with brown, olive and grey; measure (24) 18,6 x 12,4 (17-20,4 x 11,8-13,1). Incubation: 15-16 days by female only. Nestling: Unrecorded; fed by both parents.

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