Mista Ee had spent the last five years in Malacca, Malaya, working hard at making a living and finding his niche in this life he had chosen. Under the good auspices of coffee shop owner Wong, he had a smooth start. He met people from all walks of life; traders from China, India, Java, Arabia and Europe.
There was plenty of talk of work in the tin mines up north in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. Some how, he felt a connection with Malacca and decided to stay put. He took on early morning chores collecting and delivering laundry to and from dhobi shops. Bicycle business was booming and there was always a need for handy repairmen.
English planters dropped in at the Jonker Street coffee shop when they came to town for supplies. They had managed the rubber estates and tea plantations for many years. Some had even married local women after their English wives returned home as they were unable to cope with life in the tropics minus many of the finer things in British life they felt they deserved.
Henry Bradwall, second generation planter in Malaya, studied in Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. After training as an accountant in England, he returned to Kuala Lumpur to join the family firm. Henry had a keen interest in natural history of the rain forest. His brother, David, led expeditions into the jungles of Pahang and the Main Range, the mountainous spine running down the peninsula studying the wild life and birds. Every second month, the brothers would find themselves in the Jonker Street coffee shop catching up with local businessmen.
The Bradwalls had decided to set up a Natural History Museum. They wanted to document the taxonomy of the flora and fauna in Malaya, as well as the birds and wild life. This visit they were looking for a couple of capable men to train as taxidermists. Mista Ee always served the Bradwalls their coffee just they way they liked it, boiling hot, no sugar. His ears perked up.
"Mista David, I want to learn taksee-dermee. What ees dat?" he asked showing interest in this word he had never heard before. When it was explained to him he nodded violently, "I see hunters in Canton province bring furs for trading. They buy for this - stuffing dead animal skins."
David, impressed by his enthusiasm and basic understanding of the process, jumped at the chance of his first volunteer. "When can you start Ee? Let me talk to your boss ok?"
To keep his important customer happy, Wong released his loyal employee, pleased that the young man could learn a new skill, taxidermy.
That night, too revved up to sleep, Mista Ee came to a realisation. It is so important to be surrounded by the right people, good people, to have a chance to move ahead in life.