Handgun in the underground 'den' or hideout: The handgun was designed to shoot small pieces of wire - worked on the principle of a slingshot. See the elastic bands tied to the top of the barrel (front tip of the gun). The 'scout hideout' or 'den' (dugout) created by us as young children (primary/secondary school). See the detailed diagrams and description below, for more details. Credit: The Author.


Allow me to tell you a little about this magical, mysterious children's world ... In the dark, mouldy dungeon flickers a short candle; the wax is dripping monotonous – and continuous – on the damp ground floor. A code, a secret scout- code, is read in the dim candle light.

"I wonder how they created this secret cave?"

"Let's investigate." 


The den was created by digging a large trench in the field, far away from detection - or sometimes in the backyard. The length of the trench as about 3 meters. The width was about 1.5 meters, and the depth was about 1,2 meters. Four small scouts could comfortably fit into the trench space. Once the trench was completed, and the ground secretly scattered around the hole in the ground, the trench was then covered with timber support beams of old salvaged timber. Salvaged rusted corrugated sheeting was then placed over the beams to cover the trench (roof covering). The top of the sheeting was then covered with a thin layer of loose ground. Grass and vegetation, to match the surrounding vegetation, was then planted into the shallow ground which covered the corrugated sheeting. It provided the perfect camouflage to the secret 'den'. A round hole was cut into the 'roof', and a rubbish bin's lid (diameter = 750 mm) was used as a 'door' to provide entry. Inside the trench, against the wall, was small alcoves with candles which lit up the dark, mysterious den. On the ground, inside the 'den', was an elastic powered timber rifle or gun (for 'protection'). In the sketch, next to the handgun, lays the secret code of the Scout members ('bende kode'). 

You could find children's  bicycles laying outside the trench deserted and hidden in the tall grass and field flowers. I wonder what was written in the secret code...? Can you guess? That rifle looks very sophisticated in the sketch; I wonder how it works? Have they used slingshot principles to power the wire bullets? Maybe? The gun could hurl 'wire bullets' with a swoosh trough the air and scare off any intruders.

Intruders beware! 



The author had an interesting and unique childhood. Not travelling abroad - as you would expect - but venturing through the fields, bushes, tools sheds and mysterious underground tunnels around his neighborhood. His happy place was - and still is - tinkering with ideas, science, and new possibilities. Many times while cycling he will get new ideas; he brings the unexpected, the unique, the creative in a flurry on a page or in a sketch. To this day he dreams of vicious wars and sophisticated weaponry in an innocent child's scout cave. He loves diagrams, timelines, cross sections, sketches, and details of sinister and hidden concepts and ideas; always looking for a new mystery to decode and to encode. He investigates and explores extravagant thoughts which he includes in children's books and stories; he loves to include philosophers perspectives, articles,  intriguing stories, and poetry. Academic and research work are also his forte. He always offers a simple but practical explanation within an engaging context. Not your ordinary thinker! A lifelong scholar and teacher.     

sketches of the hideout: 


Sketch of the hideout (sectional view in 3-D). Pen, pencil, watercoulor pencils. Credit: W Van Zyl (Nov 2018).

Inside the hideout. See the 'hand gun' constructed of timber. Powered by an elastic band. Based on a typical slingshot mechanism. W Van Zyl -November 2018. 

Entrance to the hideout. A bin lid (metal) was used as the secret 'door.' W Van Zyl - Nov 2018.  

Self portrait.William Van Zyl.  Ink wash with watercolours(Aug 2021). 


A treasure in a field, a pearl (ring), a tree, and flying birds? Triangular hair? Weird looking ear? Extravagant thoughts? Is this a self-portrait? Yes, it is a self-portrait of the author with so much behind it. Can you decipher it?