February 25, 2012

Putih - the White Pony in 1974 - The Story of two Peace Corps Teachers

In 1974 I was posted to Limbang Secondary School .

I have very good memories this school which was thriving under Mr. Phang and a whole load of bumiputra and non bumiputra teachers and students who were future oriented and hardworking against all odds. But a large part of my life in Limbang was Putih - the white Sabah pony.

I did think of running away with the circus when I was young. So Putih featured really big when I taught in the school for a year. He was the resident horse (even though he was really a Sabah Pony).

Photo courtesy of George Matthias (1970) Putih with Anthony Berauk

Putih and his partner a young filly were bought by Richart Shaltz and Len Edwards who were Peace Corps Volunteers teaching in Lawas Government School in 1968. The two ponies cost $100 each - rather cheap to many but it was one third of their full month PC allowance. They shipped the two ponies from Sabah to Lawas and the students were exposed to horse riding and stable work!! Many teachers and students enjoyed interaction with the two ponies and perhaps a few Lun Bawang students became very attached to them. Every one who could ride rode bare back (without saddle).

Many single teachers and Shaltz and Edward ate in the school dining hall and that was another part of shared lives which both teachers and students appreciated.Food was simple but the school non academic staff and the academic staff were like family. These are some of the best memories of Lawas teachers and students.

The years passed by and when Mr. Goh and a few other teachers in Limbang Secondary heard that Putih was very abused in 1973 Mr. Phang (who was then the Principal of the school) was convinced that Putih should be brought to Limbang . He decided to deputise the late Balang Lasung (who was then a junior teacher in the school)and a Lawas student who was familiar with Putih - to fetch Putih. It was an amazing and gargantuan task for Balang to put Putih on a cargo coastal ship from Lawas..and from Lawas Putih came to Limbang.

Putih was much loved in Limbang. Students all wanted to wash and feed him. He was given a nice stable or whatever you call it and out of no where there was food for him!! Naturally the school management did not have any budget for a pony in the school which was supported by meagre government allocation. Even food for the students was like $1.60 per head (lower than Prisoners according to some quarters). But Putih put on weight and Balang looked after him really well.

Thus Putih became our school pony.

If Putih had helped students grow in stature and character then it was a real bonus.

Students who went together to groom Putih developed a real relationship with each other. As they cared for him they also developed as great love for animals and compassion for living things.

For me I was just so touched by Balang's love for the animal and how he could ride Putih. He brought cowboy and horses to reality in the small town of Limbang.

Most of the boys loved patting the pony and every now and then they would speak to him like a friend. It must have been very therapeutic for some little Form One boys who were homesick for their families and kampongs which were far away from Limbang. Many of these little boys were from places like Long Semado and Long Lellang - two or three days away..and one or two days of walking again from the end of the road!! Probably many would like to own a horse so that they could ride one whole day and one whole night to go home...and then come back to school again. How they wished for Horse Power!! I myself even entertained such thoughts too..of riding a horse all the way to Sibu where I came from. High adventure that is...

If we had lots of memories of a good pony in a special school and lots of tales about him then we have to thank the two Peace Corps volunteers for bring Putih into our lives!! Thanks Richard and Len for buying us Pets!! We also have to thank Mr Phang and the late Balang Lasung for bringing Putih to Limbang Government Secondary school.

Well you see...when people want to do something and you get people around you to do it together...things move!! Even an abused pony could be brought "home" where it was loved and cared...and our lives became richer because of these acts of kindness.

Indeed the caring of a special white pony in our school was a special part of my life. My 1974 year was remarkable and unforgettable.

1974 - touched by Putih - a white pony.

(P/s if you have personal encounters with this pony please write in and let me know..and I am sure Richard Shaltz and Len Edwards would like to know too...Cheers)


Anonymous said...

I was in Limbang Secondary School from 1975-76 doing my O Level. I did remember seeing the white pony but I did not have much memory apart from seeing the pony in the field and some students riding on it...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Many people would like to know the rest of the story..how was Putih after 1975...when did he actually die..and did the students enjoy having him? What was he really like when he was very old?God bless.

Anonymous said...

Putih die if not mistaken in 1985 or early 1986 at Custom Flat Limbang.Putih was taken by one of custom officer after he found out that Putih is not being taken care of during that time.

The place where putih buried at the hillslope next to custom surau.

alexander albert said...

Im form two at that time in 1985,the person who bring putih to custom flat was late mr minggu.,putih died middle of mei 1985.all of us who stayed at flat custom feel sorrow on that day putih died.

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