From Boatsheds to Battlefields 41 Going Hunting

End of 40th Entry: Mr. Tracey after a month called the lad into his office.

Quite kindly, he held a post-mortem on the past month as regarded Mick’s share – told him he was a likable lad, abounding with energy and with a fair amount of ability at handling stock and implements.

However he had engaged Mick as an assistant manager on a big business proposition – Mick knew absolutely nothing of bookkeeping or clerical work, had no control over native labour, had shown no initiative and was far too young.

He was sorry but he did not want a pupil, had no position as a farm foreman and his only requirement was that of a fully qualified farm manager.

In accordance with their agreement, he would pay Mick three month’s salary and thought if convenient Mick might leave the day after next when he would be going into town and could give him a lift in.

Mick stumbled out his eyes misty and his heart like lead. He had revelled in the life – plenty of riding, chasing cattle and ostriches, the perfect scenery in which it was a neverending delight to work – friendly charming people and the best of meals and comfort.

In his bedroom the lad throwing himself on his bed mournfully reviewed the position – in a couple of weeks there was going to be a big springbok hunt – hours of wild excitement with galloping like blazes over the soft springy turf after a herd of bounding flying buck – shooting from the saddle, pulling up to leap off for an opportunity to pick off some of the herd driven down by a line of racing horsemen.

Then there were a couple of Bushbuck drives coming with plenty of risk from a savage devil of a wounded ram and chances of seeing a bush pig and perhaps even a herd of Kudu.

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Apart from the hunting, he loved the work especially the luncheon hour which he generally spent at the lands miles from the homestead – here along the river fringed with massive trees half buried in monkey ropes, wild mistletoe and ivy one often saw the Springbok gazing in the luscious river grass or spotted a duiker or steenbuck daintily nibbling at some choice titbit.

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Then the wind crags, the sea of bush stretching down to the Fish River – the native kraals perched on the steep hillside – he simply couldn’t leave it all.

Early next morning Mr. Tracey with kindly thoughtfulness told Mick to take a rifle and get into the bush to see if he could find a buck.

Armed with a double-barrelled combination gun – one barrel fired, the other smoothed bored, Mick plentifully supplied with ammunition went forth. At Carnarvon, he had done some shooting but hares and Namaqua partridges had been the only game on the farm whereas now he was venturing into the heavy bush which was known to contain leopards, Cynx, kudu, bushbuck and a score of other species of game – even buffalo had been seen now and again.

Taking off boots and socks Mick stole from tree to tree thinking every Red Indian tale he had ever heard. Sometimes he lay for what seemed hours on the fringe of a tiny glade – other times he crouched long in the shadow of a tree – again and again, an opportunity presented itself – a tiny blue buck, smallest of all the antelopes, a troop of guinea fowl, bush partridges, innumerable pheasants even red steenbok and grey stealthy duiker.

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But Mick scorned the small fry. He was going to get a leopard, kudu or bushbuck or perhaps a buffalo – nothing less would content him and his heart’s desire came to him – all of a sudden he found himself almost in the act of treading on a sleeping bushbuck ram.

It speaks volumes for the lad’s scouting ability that he was ever able to get as close – but to actually catch the shyest of all game and the most sensitive of forest creatures asleep was an almost unparalleled feast.

Mick saw the bushbuck at the same time that the bushbuck saw him – up went the gun and as the cartridge exploded one hundred and sixty pounds of pure undiluted devil armed with two curved pointed horns charged in one desperate leap – Bang! spoke the other barrel and with a heavy bullet and a charge of buckshot at a range of perhaps three yards the beautiful black bodied, white-bellied antelope driven out of his course by the heavy impact crashed head down a few yards from Mick.

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Mad with excitement the foolish lad dropped his gun and drawing a heavy sheath knife flung himself on the animal – fortunately it was stone dead or Mick’s career would have ended there and then.

Filled with joy and pride, full content to once more place himself in Fate’s hands Mick returned to the homestead no longer worrying about anything.

Next day a precious pair of beautiful horns safely packed Mick said goodbye and two days later laughing with happiness climbed the gangway of a Union-Castle Line in Port Elizabeth saying to himself, “Anyway I’ve seen the Eastern Province, shot a big bushbuck ram and have a good sea trip in front – I’ve bags of clothes, a damn fine riding kit, and five quid over.”

“I guess I know a bit about the world now so I’m going to Rhodesia and I don’t care a hang what anyone thinks.”

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 40 A Challenge

Mick was learning fast that his house held in honour and esteem wherever he went, and when once again clean and garbed as befitted a son of his father, the lad responded immediately to the kindness and interest shown him by his hostess, with the mercurial temperament of his Irish blood forgetting the past lean months as he chatted gaily of social life at the Cape.

Next day his new employer called for him and behind a pair of magnificent horses, Mick drove out through what seemed to him the most romantic looking country in the world.

The farmer finding Mick interested and well acquainted with the history of his surroundings began to point out various battlefields of the Kaffir Wars (Xhosa Wars). He himself had taken a leading part in the last great Kaffir War as well as innumerable skirmishes and raids. His grandfather who had come out with the 1820 settlers and his father had been through every Native War from 1820 besides fighting in both Boer wars.

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Encouraged by the boy’s eager attention Mr. Tracey related story after story of the old frontier days making twenty miles drive pass in what seemed no time whatever.

This painting depicts the nine Xhosa Wars between the Xhosa and European settlers(1779-1)

At last a beautiful house nestling under brown lichen-stained crags was reached wherein the cool old-fashioned dining room Mick found a friendly gathering of charming people to meet him.

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A tall good-looking youth of his own age in response to a word from a handsome motherly gentlewoman took Mick to a comfortable well-furnished bedroom telling him that it was his bedroom leaving Mick to have a wash and a change.

In Grahamstown, Mr. Osmond’s friend had insisted on the lad getting an outfit and had taken him to an Outfitter’s to whom he introduced the boy – his wife accompanying them had taken the matter of an outfit into her own hands so Mick was fairly well fitted out even if the clothing was ready-made.

Returning to the living room Mick found a beautiful tea awaiting with two pretty girls to entertain him. One a daughter of the house, the other a niece who was acting as housekeeper. The evening sped by – dinner proved an excellent homely meal so when Mick sought his bed his happy-go-lucky nature revelled in the apparently perfect atmosphere Fate had brought him to.

Next morning he commenced his duties. The farm he found to be run on well-organised business lines. The principal business was ostriches but Mr. Tracey was also a large cattle breeder, possessed many first-class sheep and went in extensively for agriculture.

In many ways, the methods differed from those he had seen and learned in the Struan District – there even the wealthiest farmers had done their utmost to preserve as much as possible the patriarchal system of their forefathers and to adapt as well as they could the old-fashioned life to modern times.

In the Eastern Province Mick found none of this. He was given to understand from the start of his life in the Albany District that he was amongst English people, finding to his utter surprise that the Dutchman was hated and despised and their ways and methods scorned.

For the first time in his life, Mick found himself expected to know his work, to be able to organise, to accept responsibility and to handle native labour efficiently. Accustomed to the friendly Cape Coloured boys all of whom had been born and bred as their fathers before them to work from earliest childhood as farm labourers Mick found great difficulty in doing anything with the Eastern Province farm hands.

Mr. Tracey employed only raw natives except for one old Cape Coloured. These natives were proud fighting Amaxhosa who looked upon most tasks belonging to a woman’s sphere of life – working as a gang on really heavy manual labour they were superb, but as individuals Mick found them lazy, arrogant and soon learned that they were perfectly willing and ready to return blow for blow whether their opponent was white or black.

Then again for the first time in his life, he found himself in contact with tribal pride and prejudice. Some of the employees were Fingoes, members of a race formed by fugitives from the Zulu armies – this race pouring into Kaffir land had been enslaved by the Amaxhosa to be eventually released and granted lands by the British Government.

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The Amaxhosa held the Fingo in utter contempt everlastingly seeking excuses to thrash or otherwise maltreat them. The Fingoes on their part were neither cowards nor weaklings nor had their period of slavery been long enough to render them a servile people. They were of Zulu stock and were mostly ready to stand up to their former masters.

Mick, a short, slightly built lad of nineteen had neither the training nor temperament to win the native’s respect and fear though he soon gained their liking. He was frankly too interested in them to worry about trying to show that he was their master. They on their front found Mick well able to handle ox-whip, implement or stock but very easy-going as regards handling themselves.

Mr. Tracey shook his head but said nothing. He tried Mick in charge of gangs, gave him full responsibility over various works, tested his initiative and after a month called the lad into his office.

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 31 Musings

I’ve been to see the exquisite Australian Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty – grace, beauty, and romance and now I’m in front of the fire, in Adelaide, with a glass of wine and Grandad’s musings circa 1910.

Lying on a pinnacle of granite which marked the boundary of a wine farm in the Constantia Valley Mick gazed lovingly at the prospect before him.

“Jove people can talk about the beauties of other places but I bet there isn’t a blooming place in the whole world can beat this”, he muttered “Struan was a bally hole with nothing worth looking at – little bits of hills and a lot of mimosa scrub with all the real mountains as far away almost as the clouds. One couldn’t think of Vikings and Highland Clans or even Red Indians there – only ostriches and work – I’m glad Mathew and Peter sold out to those Jews – I’ve got another job anyway.”

Six months had passed at the Van Der Walts and now owing to the disposal of the estate Mick was on a small but very choice property belonging to a wealthy friend of his fathers.

Though more a country seat than a farm, the owner a son of one of Africa’s most ancient families hoped to carry on the traditions of two and a half centuries and produce wines which would rival the fame of those grown on the old family seat.

Mick had ample justification for his delight in the surroundings high above him rose the buttresses of Table Mountain, the Saddle and the great brooding Devil’s Peak. The estate standing in a forest where beautiful Silver trees, their shimmering leaves splashes of shining greyish white against the sombre pines looked upon the whole Constantia Valley – a fairyland of a thousand vineyards and orchards – deep glens filled with oak and polar divided farm from farm, or orchard from vineyard. Wonderful old Dutch mansions showed between trees.

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Below and around the valley lay mountain ranges, sea dune country, much of it covered with large government forests of pine – the white beaches of False Bay enclosing an arm of the Indian Ocean and Westwards across the narrow Cape Penninsula a glimmer of the Atlantic. Here and there amongst the dunes lay a blue sea loch and far in the distance was a jagged jumble of wild, grey peaks and purple hills.

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“I wonder why authors write so many books about Red Indians” mused Mick. “There’ve been thousands of wars in Africa between British and Dutch, white amongst Amaxhosa, Basutos, Swazis, and Matabele, and the tribes against one another – the Apache, the Sioux, and the Black Feet. There’s been as much romance on the Diamond fields as in California.

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Look at Muizenberg – one can still find old cannon balls from the English line of battleships – on a decent clear day a row along Berg River shore will show one of the remains of a hundred wrecks of East Indiamen, British and French frigates – all sorts of historical stuff.

Take half these farmhouses one can see from here – they’ve got all kinds of family coats-of-arms and crests Holland, France, Britain and old forgotten duchies and Archbishoprics.

One could write books and books and books like Mary Johnson‘s or Winston Churchills – Virginia and the Cape must have been very like one another I wonder why people aren’t more interested in Africa. One can pick any kind of climate, choose what sort of scenery one wants and live a perfect life.

There is nothing in the world Africa cannot produce – no other country can afford an artist better material, whilst it should be an authors paradise.

People get sick of Red Indians and American bad men and South American republics – why don’t authors and artists change over to the Boers and the Kaffirs and British pioneers. Old Chaka killed a million people in a few years and no Red Indian chief ever did that – Dingaan murdered hundreds of whites and old Cetawayo scrapped more British troops than he had warriors.

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Portrait of the King of the Zulu Kingdom Cetshwayo kaMpande by Carl Rudolph Sohn (German 1845-1908).

I bet Buffalo Bill didn’t have as interesting a life as old John Dunn the white chief of the Zulus or the Mac Lean Brothers.

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Well, it’s no good wondering I’d better get down and do some work.”

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 26 Ostrich Farming

End of 25th Entry: One of Mick’s first places of work was the helping to round up some six hundred ostriches which during the winter months had been turned into bush country away from cultivation.

A number of neighbours rode over to the Van Der Walts for the roundup and after an early breakfast, some fifty horsemen and a score of coloured men moved out past the cultivated lands and into the 4000-acre paddock in which the ostriches were running. At the end of the enclosure, the beaters spread out fanwise and began to drive everything before them in the direction of the roadway leading to the Van der Walts.

At first, all went smoothly – the great birds feeding in groups raised their long snake-like necks began to run in single file away from the oncoming humans. Line upon line went flying through the bush taking immense strides, their wings extended making a weird prehistoric type of picture.

Often as their bodies were hidden by scrub it seemed as though a cluster of great snakes were moving amongst the bush. Out they broke, companies of long-legged grey or black monstrous birds, yellow tailed, their wings soft masses of white. As they ran now and again a bird would break from the line and with tremendous velocity speed past his companions swaying and staggering with the impetus of his race.

Soon the flocks began to join and the country before the beaters became a living forest of twisting wriggling serpents rising above a grey-black mass broken by shimmering patches of white.

Now began the fun – the ostriches became frightened started to try and break through the line – traveling with the speed of an express train, swerving half round without slackening a fraction of pace the great birds strove to get out of the fast-closing half circle. To turn them meant horsemanship of the polo field type and soon the country was alive with galloping, twisting horses, and half flying, half running birds.

Mick’s first fall from a horse came whilst racing down a steep hillside to turn a cock ostrich which was charging through. The horse was an old hand at the game, Mick wasn’t. As horse and rider dashed almost on the running bird the latter swerved sharply so did Mick’s mount, Mick carried straight on and amidst a thunder of cheers turned a complete somersault in the air and landed hard on his posterior.

Soon afterward the column of ostriches was shepherded through the gate and driven down a road between two strong fences until they reached a large lucerne paddock into which they were driven.

The first Plucking Day was another great experience for Mick. Some two hundred birds were driven into a corral with strong high walls of packed stone. Here the foreman armed with a long-handled crook and a couple of pillowslips selected his quarry. Quickly running into the flock he would slip the crook around the bird’s neck, the ostrich instantly attempted to pull backhauling hard the foreman drew the head to him and slipping on a pillowcase released the biped simultaneously with the hooking two men had run in behind the bird, one on each side – grasping the junctions of wing and body with their right hands they joined their left hands beneath the tail and as the foreman released the neck shoved the blindfolded ostrich towards a V shape pen. Once inside pressed firmly against the apex a rawhide thong was passed behind the thighs and secured.

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This done the pluckers got to work the yellow tail feathers, two rows of black or grey wing feathers, black in the case of the cock, grey in the hen’s, were plucked, the quills fully ripe coming away easily without the bird feeling even a twinge of pain.

The valuable whites of the wing were clipped with a pair of powerfully sprung shears, the greatest care being taken to prevent cutting into living tissue. As Mathew explained to Mick the long white feathers would ripen exactly as the tails, blacks, and whites had. However, by the time, the quills had ripened into their sockets the floss of the feather would have greatly deteriorated.

To secure the feathers in their most valuable period they were clipped two months before the butts were fully ripe – the clipping is done just above the still drying portion of the quill. Two months later these butts now dry into the sockets would be easily pulled out with two fingers.

Several birds were quilled during the plucking of the flock, birds which had been bought a month or two previously after they had been plucked. Quite a number required branding this being done with a small branding iron made red hot and pressed for three seconds against the thigh. This was the only painful process to which the birds were subjected.

Once plucked, quilled or branded the thong was loosened behind, the bird pulled back out of the pen and the pillowcase hauled off. A dazed look around the ostrich hurried back to his companions and another took his place.

 

 

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 25 New Beginnings

A month of fishing and mountain excursions had passed when once more Mick’s face was turned Struanwards. His friend Zach had moved heaven and earth to find congenial employment for Mick and had succeeded.

So primed with good advice, filled with good intentions Michael Osmond alighted at Struan to be met by Peter Van Der Walt an old school friend and co-partners with his brother Mathew in one of Struan’s finest estates.

Now followed a happy period. The Van Der Walt’s two young brothers and a schoolgirl sister who was fair to look at and pleasant to know owned twelve hundred ostriches which brought in a regular stream of gold. There was a vineyard of eighty thousand vines which yielded large quantities of rough country wine and brandy – pedigree merino sheep, purebred Hackney horses, Friesland cattle, breeding ostriches and great crops of wheat, peas, oats, and barley all contributing to nearly double the income derived from feathers.

Sharing a room with Peter, treated as one of the family, allowed to work more or less where and when he wanted Mick’s sea longings vanished and all his heart and soul went into farming.

Sometimes he drove with Peter or rode with Mathew, other times worked with the field gangs. There were horses and mules to be broken in and saddle and harness, ostriches to be plucked, vineyards and orchards to be pruned and dug, stumping, irrigating and a hundred other works – all interesting.

At daybreak the Reveille bell rang and immediately all hands except irrigation boys fell in at the door of the wine cellar where each man was issued with a cup of claret – then followed milking, cream separating, feeding stock, cutting firewood and all the manifold farmyard jobs.

Meanwhile, those coloured men engaged on irrigation had left long before dawn to open furrows and flood the lands they were working on. Oxen and mules were driven up to ploughs, harrows, leveling machines and wagons, whilst the farmyard tasks were in swing and shortly after sunrise everybody was working smoothly and rapidly.

At Reveille Mick took well made freshly roasted coffee with the two brothers, helped issue the wine ration and then either rode around the lands with Peter or Accompanied Mathew on a tour of Dairy, byres, and stables.

At 8 o’clock the breakfast bell sounded. Work stopped automatically and a second wine ration was issued – those already in the lands drawing theirs from a can which had been sent out to them.

Breakfast at the Van Der Walts was a serious business worthy of the ancient Holland traditions of the family. Maize kernels boiled in milk were followed by omelette of ostrich egg, tender mutton cutlets from a freshly killed sheep or its liver and kidneys, white and brown farm made bread of their own grown and milled wheat, newly laid eggs – delicious butter, honey, jams, and preserves of fruit – everything produced on the farm except the fragrant coffee and sugar.

At 8.30 the farm bell sounded – again an issue of wine was given to the labourers after which work restarted. Where a gang laboured a white foreman set the pace with spade, sickle or scythe – any man who could not keep the pace knew that the end of the day was the end of him as regarded employment with the Van Der Walts.

At eleven a halt was called a fourth wine issue was made and for ten minutes the men lay smoking and drinking. Again came the call to work, once more scythe swung or sickle gleamed until noon, when the old slave bell tolled from the house and work ceased for an hour – once more wine was issued and the men lay under monster pear trees eating and resting.

At the house, lunch consisted of thick bean soup boiled with diced bacon, rissoles or curry, cold mutton and bread and butter. Four o’clock brought wine and a breathing spell after which work continued until sunset when the field labourers drew their last lot of wine and received a supply to help them through the evening. Boys on irrigation received a little Brandy and their ration of wine for the morrow and a little later the farmyard tasks having been completed peace reigned over the estate.

Shortly before sunset when the work in the byre, stable and dairy commenced Peter and Mick would visit the pantry where Mrs Du Toit the housekeeper would supply them with bread, butter and thick milk although an hour earlier they had made a hearty meal of cake, coffee, and the far farmed Cape Konfyt or preserved fruit.

Dinner, a long stately meal of endless courses was followed by evening prayers when Mathew read a chapter of the Bible and a psalm and prayer ended the day.

One of Mick’s first places of work was the helping to round up some six hundred ostriches which during the winter months had been turned into bush country away from cultivation.

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From Boatshed to Battlefields 21 Employed

End of 20th Entry: “…… here’s Mr Van Zijl’s place.”

Entering an attorney’s office the boys were shown into an inner room where a tall grey haired gentleman rising shook hands with them and told them to take chairs.

A few questions to Mick elicited the facts that he was strong, healthy and could speak a little Dutch, couldn’t ride, knew nothing about farming, and failed twice his matriculation and had just left in the middle of his third attempt. However he was willing to work at anything.

“All right Osmond call round at four this afternoon, and we’ll go out to the farm. I can’t pay you anything until you are useful to me, but you will get your board and lodging, and as I’m starting on a virgin piece of country you’ll have a golden opportunity of learning farming.”

Emerging from the lawyers office Zack suggested calling on one or two English residents. Zacharias De Wet was the youngest brother of three of the wealthiest Ostrich farmers in the district and he and Mick had been schoolmates. Zach, with a Dutchman’s honest pride in his home place, was intent on showing the city youth that Straun small as it was possessed inhabitants of culture besides the native worthies. Leading the way the young Boer first led his chum to the rectory where he introduced him to a kindly Anglican parson who greeted both boys warmly; then to a charming little house to proudly make Mick known to a tall sweet faced English lady and two pretty, merry looking girls.

Leaving Mick with his countryfolk the Boer sauntered off to call on relatives, Mick accepting a kindly invitation to lunch settled down to entertain the ladies. Time passed quickly until three o’clock when with many thanks for a most enjoyable time Mick departed to get his luggage together and bid farewell to Zach’s people. Punctually at four Mr Van Zijl drove up in a Cape cart, loading on his kit Mick climbed in and with waving hat made his adieux to the De Wets.

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For two hours the cart drove amongst hills and glens whilst Van Zijl drew his young pupil out or answered an endless stream of questions.

“I have sold my practice and am giving up the law for farming.” He said. “I knew your father very well – what South African lawyer doesn’t? And am very glad to have a son of his with me – its a hard life farming Mick but it makes men strong and healthy. Mrs Van Zijl will look after you and if you like the life perhaps your Dad might like to buy a portion of the farm for you.”

Mick grinned as he thought of any proposal to Mr Osmond regarding the buying of land. A Civil Servant even though a departmental head was not usually in a position to invest ready cash in farming, and in his case there were three sisters and two brothers in the family. Besides themselves, were relatives who had to be helped – Irish families are usually large and his grandmother’s people were of exceptionally prolific stock – Blood they had in plenty, titled cousins and distinguished ones – but Money – No – that was the only thing in the world they hadn’t got.

But a Celt will never confess himself to be but an ordinary average man – few but have distant kin who have been lost somewhere in Australia, Africa or America – there is always the chance that one having amassed a fortune had thought of Terence who was named after him or Norah who married Patrick or that back in Ireland itself estates or wealth had by the miracle of fate fallen to a younger branch.

So Mick began to question his employer, conveying a strong impression that Mr Osmond was keenly interested in the question of buying Mick a farm, and that there was money a plenty waiting if only Mick well treated and happy took a liking to the life.

Shortly after sunset the farm was reached where the two were welcomed by a large stout lady of fair complexion.

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From Boatsheds to Battlefields 20 Facing his Future

 

End of 19th Entry: A tiny crowd of people drawn by curiosity or the desire to buy fresh fish gathered round and proudly Mick sprang ashore noting with glee the envious looks of half a dozen school companions.

A people of Puritan upbringing to whose ancestors and themselves life had been a simple old world existance was suddenly swamped by rivers of gold. What could they do with it? None had any wants they knew of – their homes filled with solid ancient furniture were comfortable enough, land they possessed in plenty – the lure of the cities were absent.

So the contented Boer went on much as he and his people had always done – more children went to schools and remained longer there – his ponies and horses of cape breeding were sold to less favoured districts and the best bloodstock imported from Ireland and England. Thoroughbreds were mated to Hackneys and Oom Piet and his sons rode behind pairs of horses for which fabulous sums were paid – and when the satin coated mares and geldings had nothing better to do, Oom Piet or Johannes his son in-spanned them as leaders to the spans of mules in plough or waggon.

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Oom Willem thought nothing of paying £200 per acre for ground his father had sold at half a crown – Oom Jannie bought a double floss Ostrich cock for a £1000 and thought it cheap, yet smoked tobacco at a shilling a pound and wore evil smelling corduroys at forty shillings a pair. The golden harvest added nothing to their comfort, little to their lives – land went up to miraculous values, ostriches, horses and merino rams fetched what prices their owners wished to ask – every inch of land that could be bought under irrigation was covered with lucerne – the farms were stocked to their utmost limit with ostriches, horses and sheep and the worthy old Boers looked from their wide stoeps (verandahs) and were content.

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From one of the houses two lads stepped out into the main street and strolled along looking at the people and horses.

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“We’d better go and call on Mr Van Zyl first Mickey” remarked the younger boy a heavily built Dutchman, “He will probably want you to go out to the farm this afternoon.”

Mick sighed – “Righto” he answered, “Man Zack! I’m darn sorry I didn’t clear off to sea though. I simply couldn’t break up my Dad and his Mates, but I’m not keen on blooming farming. Still I’ll give it a try and I’m darn grateful to you for getting Van Zyl to take me on. I couldn’t stick school any longer.”

The Dutchman with a serious air turned to his companion “Man Mick you must work and keep your mouth closed at Van Zyl’s – you English are too – what do you call it? Flighty, ja! You yourself are over sixteen and have been trying a lot of schools but you never work at what you don’t like. In English, in History, in Geography you are always first but Maths and other things don’t appeal and so you simply leave them. Nearly three years in the matric form! Man its a disgrace. Now if you would have worked hard for a few months you could easily pass your matriculation and with your father’s influence would in a few years be a rich lawyer – Man Mick you’re a fool. Nobody ever did well mixing with fishermen and mountain people and reading all kinds of books and going to Roman Catholic Churches. The Good Lord won’t like that Mick! He has given us the Bible to read and Protestant Churches to go to and He doesn’t want us to be friends with low coloured fishermen and flower sellers.”

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Mick laughed – “Lord you people are narrow minded – Jesus Christ didn’t mind going amongst the fishermen.”

Zack cried out in horror – “God, Mick! Don’t talk like that or the Good Lord will strike you dead.”

“No! He won’t – I don’t know if there is a God but if there is He isn’t goint to be taken in by a pompous well fed swine who is getting paid to preach two sermans a week and go about looking holy and better than other people. Anyway God doesn’t strike people dead – when my people moved I found an old money box belonging to a mission and I got about three pounds out of it, and spent it on canvas for my canoe and fishing tackle. I didn’t get struck dead or drowned or fall down the mountain. God had lots of chances to kill me but He didn’t.” His son was a pal of fishermen and I bet He reckoned it was more sensible buying lines and getting a boat in order than spending it on spoiling blacks.” Zack pondered on the subject – I don’t believe in missions to Africans” he said “God would forgive you taking that money because Missions only make thieves and cheeky blacks, but here’s Mr Van Zyl’s place.”