ONCE A RHODESIAN ALWAYS A RHODESIAN

Published in Chambers circa 1930s.

Perhaps the witchery lies in Rhodesia‘s sunshine, tempered as it is with cool winds from a myriad of hills. It may be the call of the Wild or the lure of pioneering; perhaps it is largely due to the easiness of life in a most hospitable land. Whatever the causes, few ever come to Southern Rhodesia and leave without regret or intentions of returning.

There are many thousands of Britons either in the homeland or in the Empire’s Possessions who are seeking a kindly land in which to find homes for themselves and their children. To those who have lived in the East, Rhodesia presents unequalled advantages for her climate is superb, native labour is cheap and plentiful, and there is an abundance of social life such as appeals to those accustomed to the Straits, Burma and India.

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But to those who have never been out of Britain before, Rhodesia can also offer whatever they crave for in a life of the open. Mines to discover, big game to hunt, farms, plantations, ranches and industries to develop. The Colony is twice the size of Great Britain yet her white population is hardly that of a small English town. She has millions of acres of rich unsettled soil and only 3000 farmers and ranchers.

These few thousand men possess almost a million cattle, 85 000 sheep, 24 000 pigs and a quarter of a million head of poultry. They are developing half a million acres of agricultural and several million acres of ranching land.

It has been stated that Rhodesia will stand or fall on the success of her tobacco. Such has been said at various times of her mining, cattle and maize industries. Experience has proved that Rhodesia will never be dependant on one support. Her diversity of climate, altitude and soils, her mineral resources and the surrounding markets in which live 50 million potential cash customers, place the colony in a unique position.

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Breaking up the stubborn but remarkably fertile soil of Rhodesia.

Almost every known agricultural product can be grown on a commercial scale. This is amply borne out by the crops produced by 3000 scattered farmers. For 1929 the year of the Rhodesian tobacco slump the Government returns show 1 826 345 bags of 200 lbs of maize; 361 173 lbs of cotton delivered to ginneries, 18 830 bags of potatoes, 4 986 tons of onions, 12 901 bags of wheat, 7 143 tons of edible beans, 567 tons of oats sold by farmers. Many other crops also feature in the list wattle bark, coffee, tea, lucerne hay, fruit and almost 30 000 tons of ensilage amongst them.

The previous year 1928, Virginian tobacco had boomed and no less than 45 711 acres were planted to the crop. In consequence of the slump resulting from overproduction, the acreage was immediately reduced by 29 000 and the yield consequently fell from
24 491 464 lbs to 6 704 986 lbs. Increased plantings of Turkish tobacco were made but owing to a poor season the crop yielded only 337 479 lbs in 1929 as against 451 580 lbs in 1928.

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The last two years have not seen much development in agricultural activity owing to the prevailing depression in Rhodesia’s chief markets. Farmers have been more or less marking time as regards production, endeavouring to improve their farms and to hold their own until the clouds of financial stringency pass.

Rhodesia is fortunately in a remarkably good position. Her 1931 Budget showed only a £25 000 deficit on the previous year’s working. Government and people have co-operated loyally to solve the problems forced on various industries. None of the problems has proved insoluble and the result is that today Rhodesians are facing the future waiting eagerly to launch Rhodesian products on the world’s markets.

50%of the United kingdom’s tobacco requirements can be supplied by Rhodesia. Tea is proving a satisfactory and payable crop, large acreages can grow excellent coffee, wattle bark is an easily grown and very saleable commodity, rice growing offers many opportunities and the possibilities of fruit growing are undoubted, especially in view of the increasing markets opening in the mineralized belts of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo.

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The Settler can choose his home among the wild Inyanga and Umtali mountains and grow apples, cherries, plums and pears in the terraces made by forgotten race who left Rhodesia one of the most wonderful irrigation schemes in the world. Whilst irrigating his orchards from aqueducts thousands of years old the Rhodesian may watch the flocks of merino sheep dotting the hillside, see his dairy cows dripping milk as they walk byrewards, rejoice over the rapid growth of wattle plantations and gloat on the fatness of his beef herds.

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He has Chipinga to pick a farm in and there grow tea or coffee, produce the best of citrus fruits, devote himself to pineapple or banana growing, or combine any one or all with wool and mutton, beef and cream production on as large a scale as his finances allow.

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In other districts, there are great belts of a level country along the railways where maize fields are reckoned by 1000 acre standards – there are wide and fruitful valleys running for a hundred miles and more where maize and cotton yield the heaviest of crops.

Much of Rhodesia is sandsoil and here tobacco can be grown equal to any produced by Virginia and the Carolinas. Immense yields of groundnuts also given by the sand and to those direct from European latitudes but the scenery and climatic conditions always make an irresistible appeal for these are more densely settled areas. there is no malaria and the amenities of civilized life are always at hand.

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Ranching country and its conditions must be known to be appreciated. In rearing beef cattle Rhodesians usually allowed 20 acres per beast, so ranches run from 20 000 to
2 500 000 acres in area. One white rancher with native assistance is supposed to be able to manage 5000 head of cattle so naturally cattlemen lead Robinson Crusoe existences.  To rear beef cheaply, land must be cheap and such is not found close to settled areas. Cattlemen go further afield and their lives are such that only the young and adventurous you are not encumbered with dependants are usually fitted for the loneliness and strain of ranching.

Mining and trading or other activities which one wonders so few newcomers ever attempt to engage in. Rhodesian Government Departments are filled with men who know the country, who absolutely trustworthy advisors and who are always anxious to assist whoever comes to them.

There are wonderful opportunities in the mining industry for level-headed men possessed of small capital and the Government offers not only advice practical and financial assistance. There are literally hundreds of abandoned gold mines scattered about Southern Rhodesia which are worth doing further prospecting work on. Many were abandoned in days when working costs and machinery were far higher than they are today.

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Most whilst not offering any attractions to companies yet afford possibilities for small syndicates or single owners. In many cases, former owners tried to make the mines pay their own development work and gave up immediately serious obstacles presented themselves.

Mine owning is naturally no occupation for those who know nothing about mining but its science and art can be learnt equally as easily as those of farming and ranching. There is no more reason to fear losing money in developing a promising gold reef than there is in farming. True a reef might pinch, values go out, ore become refractory or one of a dozen other mights occur but with farming bad seasons, flooded markets, disease and many other enemies may rob a farmer of all he has worked for. But as the tobacco farmer turns to cotton or maize when his tobacco fails so the disappointed miner goes looking for chrome, asbestos, mica or a new gold reef. A knowledge of prospecting and mining is a most useful asset to anyone settling in a country like Southern Rhodesia.

Most of the maize belt lies in a gold-bearing country and many a farm has a little two to five stamp battery pounding away on a small mine which is often the property of the farmer. In the granite, there is a good deal of corundum and in some districts, the country is full of chrome. The romance of Rhodesia’s mineral deposits has yet to be written but few imaginations could yield the material which the Umvukwes, Hartley, Gwelo and other districts offer the writer.

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Native trading offers perhaps a greatest of all opportunities to energetic business men. The native responds readily to any real interest shown in his welfare and though thousands of native stores are established throughout Rhodesia few traders really trouble to study the natives growing wants. As a general rule, the trader is simply out to make as much money as he possibly can in the shortest possible time. His stock is limited to what he considers will yield him immediate profits and his trading principles are usually those of pioneer days.

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But African natives today travel throughout the Continent, education is causing them to develop new wants and to appreciate good value for their money; quite a number are beginning to use C.O.D. system and import goods from Britain or the South African Union. So there is little doubt but that well-stocked shops offering attractive goods would soon take away the customers of the old-fashioned trading stores with their uninteresting shelves.

Business opportunities are unlimited in Rhodesia. One is apt to consider the country solely from the viewpoint of a settler who wishes to take up farming, to think of mining and trading as being prerogatives of people born in mining camps or trading stores, to overlook the possibilities of exploiting knowledge gained in one’s past.

Homilies are seldom appreciated but when a man’s life is spent rushing about a country settling men of all trades, professions and occupations into a life they have chosen without any experience of it; it may be permissible to express a candid opinion. A hairdresser well on in years arrived in a district which was rapidly filling. With the savings of many years, he bought a small farm and through a slump lost all he possessed. Had he started a hairdressing establishment when you arrived, the probabilities were that within twelve months he would have doubled his little capital and gained sufficient knowledge of the district to pick up a choice little farming investment.

Another an auctioneer by profession had this same experience and the same opportunities. Others again would have saved the loss of time and money by availing themselves of the many openings awaiting at every turn, yet as men are obsessed in a gold rush so settlers coming to Rhodesia seem obsessed with the idea of farming and farming only.

Any gold or diamond digger will vouch for the fact that there is more money in running a business on the diggings than there is in digging. A few diggers are lucky just as a few farmers are lucky, but generally speaking, it is more profitable to be a lawyer, a dentist, a butcher or hotelkeeper when in a community which is spending cash freely. In Rhodesia, a man can pursue any occupation without loss of social status. As long as he is making good and pulling his weight with his neighbours his business is purely a matter for his own concern.

On the surface, there is much of the Gertrude Page atmosphere about Rhodesian life. Underneath there is always steady progress being made. Year after year more country is being settled, new industries are established and old ones are developed. The great concessions being granted mining countries will certainly lead to increased spending powers amongst the native population, and to more marketing available to farmers and business people.

Rhodesia surrounded by countries which will buy largely from her as they develop.  Bechuanaland, Angola, Portuguese East Africa and the vast Northern territories will look likely to Rhodesia for many products which it is hardly likely they themselves will produce commercially for a long time to come.

The late D.M. Stanley one of the Rhodesia’s pioneers describes most eloquently the Eastern districts to which he and a score of other gallant frontiersmen devoted their lives.

“North and Mid Melsetter are the Highlands of the district and Highlands of a perfect kind. To the east, the towering Chimanimani marks the boundary. These run to the Lucetti River, there cutting into Portuguese East Africa, to reappear as the Sitatunga Mountains. These Highlands are watered by what is almost as a superfluity of perennial streams. Riding over the mountains, one off-saddles for a rest. Listen and you can hear the muted roar of some distant cascade;  as the wind rises or falls the sound reaches you in varying cadence. Then comes the realisation of the meaning of Tennyson‘s words: ‘The beauty born of murmuring sound.’ “

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The ever-changing panorama of the hills, the changing colour of the mountains, the vivid green of hilltops and valleys are bound to hold in a lasting thrall the minds of all who know it. The numerous cascades have not only a beauty for the lover of nature and the artist but also for the agriculturist, who dreams of the wastewater turned into irrigation channels and fertilising hundreds of acres of the richest soil in Rhodesia.

Again it has its beauty for the industrialist. He sees the many thousands of horsepower running to waste and dreams of the time when such, harnessed by modern methods shall be able to work, at a minimum cost, half the manufactures of South Africa.

There is another vision that may strike him who rides down our larger valleys. He sees kloof after kloof, valley after valley, unfolding as the turned leaves of some vast book. One out of three of such hold permanent water, and the imagination runs riot as to the possibilities for the establishment of smallholders – men who would own their little farms and be the forefathers of a race of small yeoman farmers. That would be the most valuable asset Melsetter could give to the Colony of Southern Rhodesia.

 

By
B. M. Leffler
Formerly: Tobacco Adviser Southern Rhodesia (Govt)
Contributor to S.A. Farmer’s Weekly, Farmers Advocate, Argus Newspapers, Feedstuffs U.S.A., Textile Weekly etc.etc.

Rhodesians

“A good country and a cheery crowd” is almost invariably the opinion voiced by visitors to Rhodesia.

The expression is apt. Less than forty years ago it was a savage wilderness rotten with fever, a thousand miles from anywhere, inhabited by two races of natives, one a great ruthless military organisation, the other one of wretched cowardly tribes everlastingly being harried by their neighbours.

Today Rhodesia is a land of modern cattle ranches, citrus estates, tobacco plantations, maize and dairy farms and every branch of mining.

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Modern towns have been built, costly hotels erected and the life of the community is organised on businesslike lines.

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For ten out of forty years of its history, practically the whole of Rhodesia’s manhood has been engaged in the war against Black and White. Rinderpest swept the country clear of cattle, East Coast Fever has ravaged the herds again and again. Blackwater and malaria have taken a heavy toll of life and health. Gold mining, tobacco growing, and cotton planting have caused wonderful booms and disastrous slumps.

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“What I do like about the country,” one Englishman remarked to me on one of my visits to his farm ” is that there’s always a crowd arriving for a new boom so that the people have been ruined in the last month can always sell their farms and start again.”

One hears a great deal about chequebook farmers and young fools easily parted from their money. As a matter of fact, the average Rhodesian is of the type who formed Britain’s officer class in 1914, 15 and 16. Rhodesians take farming in the same spirit as they took the war. When possible the majority jump at any excuse for “a spot of leave” and whilst only they live. On their farms, however, no men could be more enthusiastic over their jobs.

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Unlike the majority of those born and bred to the land Rhodesians handle their labour and work on Army principles. It is an easy matter to be wise after an event and criticism come naturally to us all. The various booms in agriculture received the strongest possible support from not only the Rhodesian Government but all qualified to speak on the subjects.

Unfortunately, the world’s economies are not ruled by the laws of supply and demand but by great vested interests whilst in agriculture, the vagaries of weather and disease are factors impossible to foresee.

Rhodesia has proved itself to be capable of producing almost every product needed by the world. It is divided into so many different types of a country that scarcely a district can say that what suits its neighbour suits it.

Vast areas are magnificent cattle country where prime beef can and is being reared at a negligible cost. Tea and coffee have proved suitable in one or two districts, sheep in another, maize in belts, citrus in some areas, cotton in many. Tobacco equal to the finest grown in America over much of the country.

The mineral resources of Rhodesia are incalculable value – Coal of excellent quality, iron ore of the best type exist in inexhaustible supplies, and their sources as regards the second mineral have not been touched and in the first only in one area has been opened. As an asbestos and chrome producer, the country is rapidly heading the world. Mica, scheelite and other minerals abound.

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Scheelite

Naturally, Rhodesians knowing the potentialities of their country are so optimistic regarding the future that the ups and downs of the present hardly have any effect on their good humour. “Any old job will do to tide us over a bit of a slump” – the bit referred to being one that would break most hearts.

So a formal wealthy Tobacco grower cheerfully goes firing on the railways, tends a bar counter, goes lorry driving or road making. He puts up at an excellent hotel and simply refuses to admit that he’s a ruined man. “Once the tide turns there’ll be plenty of jobs where a man can make a bit of money,” he thinks “What’s the good of whining anyway.”

A race of optimists – men who have handled men – men who have faced too much to worry overmuch about financial depression.

And the government is worthy of the race. The Opposition is only an Opposition because Rhodesians being British of the British reckon that it is a fit and proper thing to have one. Few Rhodesians could give the name of the Opposition party. They know there is one and that they vote against the Government to prove that they are fulfilling their duty, and Rhodesians are content to leave it at that.

During the last election, every Opposition meeting was crammed with enthusiastic supporters – at the Poll, however, Rhodesians voted solidly against all but a few of the Opposition – these they put in just that there should be an Opposition.

Rhodesia is the only mining country in the world where any man can buy all the dynamite and detonators he wants and blow up his whole form without any qualifications regarding his knowledge of explosives.

On many farms sticks of dynamite are thrown about anywhere, are half-eaten by rats and nothing ever happens. Boxes of detonators are kept in the pantry or bathroom and though now and again a child gets killed or mutilated nobody worries.

One can buy strychnine, arsenic or cyanide anywhere with the same ease that one can buy candles.

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Any Rhodesian at any time by taking out a £1 prospecting licence is at liberty to wander over anybody’s farm, dig holes, divert water, chop down timber and go away again – if he finds anything worth finding it is shared between the British South Africa Company and himself, the owner getting nothing unless it is a big paying proposition when he received a very small royalty.

Except for buying railway and bioscope tickets money is seldom used – in ordering a drink one usually is given a card marked I.O.U. and a pencil when the drink is served.

Director Dick Cruickshanks (centre) with the Zulutown Players, from Screening the Past

When having a drink one almost certainly tosses to see who pays, a leather bottle and set of dice being supplied by the bar. If one has no friends or acquaintances to toss with the barman or barmaid is willing to oblige. He or she invariably wins and one pays for two drinks and then is introduced to other inmates of the bar and another gentle flutter follows.

The drink bill of Southern Rhodesia is £24 a head – It’s a sober country, however – with cocktails at 2/6d each, whiskey and soda 2/9 beer 1/- it costs a fortune to get drunk – one whiskey and soda per day is £36 per annum – and what about one’s friends’ drinks.

Last year the Railwaymen went on strike – why they themselves didn’t know. Anticipating trouble the Government called for special constables and paid them £1 per day. The mass of strikers enlisting was one of the noblest sights I’ve seen. 

Rhodesia’s great Southern neighbour latterly attempted to readjust the existing Customs agreement. Rhodesians demand not only the cake but jam on it as well. On their request being refused, they blithesomely arranged to turn their backs on the South and do their business elsewhere. They got their jam.

FREEDOM: JUSTICE: COMMERCE:

The old British South Africa Company’s motto is played up to in Rhodesia.

B.M.L.
Written mid-1920s

DONALD

Living as the only white man on a hundred thousand acre section on a Rhodesian cattle ranch has its drawbacks.

Most people one talks to about the Wilds seem to think the chief disadvantages are lions, snakes, malaria and natives – shows what strange ideas people get from reading books and going to picture houses.

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Lions and snakes are a cattleman’s friends really – they help account for a lot of losses it would grieve him to admit to the manager were due to not preserving grazing from fires, or to feeding off grass near permanent water at the wrong time. It looks for more interesting too in one’s returns putting down ten deaths to snake-bite rather than Quarter Evil.

Loneliness is the disease that counts in the Bush. Malaria doesn’t worry a man any more than headaches seem to do a woman, whilst as for natives – my experiences is that whatever savagery takes place is done by the man who catches brother black doing what he shouldn’t.

Most trials and troubles in this world can be conquered by the exercise of a little willpower or a dose of Epsom Salts but loneliness has one beat every time – there is no cure for loneliness and no preventative – the only thing to do when it grips you is to break out of its clutches and run.

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I’d passed a month without seeing a white man when the disease came along – I wasn’t new to its effects but the trouble was where to go if I wanted to escape. On one side of my section there was a country in which one might travel for years and not see a white, on another I knew there wasn’t anybody bar natives for forty miles, behind was Main Camp and if I called there just because I was lonely the probabilities were that I would get the sack and the Manager have heart failure. There remained one side – the East and I’d heard from my natives that there was a white man living about twenty miles from my house.

I rode over one day and found a strange crowd – answering to the good old name of Smith – father, mother, two sons and a daughter, all from Seven Dials. Father was nominally manager of a large Company owned Lodge but it seemed that Ma was the real boss – “she ‘adn’t ‘arf choked the Managing Director off last toime ‘e was raound abart the plice she ‘adn’t.”

The daughter looked healthy – some poor devil will lead a hell of a life one day I thought – anyway she’s yet young and nice to play with.

I rather liked the two boys – good strapping English lads. The whole family were friendly and more than hospitable while their Cockney wit and humour kept me laughing like a schoolboy.

They wanted me to stay overnight but though I’d have liked to there were too many valuable bulls at my camp to risk slipping away without a sound excuse. Finding I was determined to move on the girl asked me whether I’d like a pup to take back with me.

The one thing I was badly wanting was a dog and I’d noticed a dozen animals of assorted breeds about the house. There were big lion dogs, little smooth hair and wired haired terriers with a couple of pointers to put in the medium element.

I’d love one” I answered, “but how can I get it over to my place?”

“Put it in your shirt,” she said “it’s only a tiny morsel of a thing, father a pedigree wire haired and mother purebred smooth terrier. They are both beautiful dogs and the pups ought to be grand.”

Accepting with thanks I accompanied Miss Smith round to the Stables to select the gift. I didn’t hesitate over which I wanted – there were four puppies, three typical fox terriers and one, a real wire-haired.

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“You’re mine” I exclaimed picking him up whilst a dainty black and white mother dog whined anxiously at me.

“That’s the pick of the bunch,” said Miss Smith “He is just like what his father was.”

My horse objected rather strenuously to our passenger at first but gradually settled down so my homeward journey was uneventful. Puppy snuggling contentedly against my body.

Few things in this world are so near perfection as the friendship that can exist between a lonely man and his dog. From the first night, Donald, as I named him slept on my bed, shared my meals and within a couple of weeks, began accompanying me on short walks around my camp. Most of my work was range riding and naturally, a pup couldn’t run very far or keep up with a horse.

At first, the poor little beggar used to howl most dismally at having to remain behind. Then one day returning home after a long ride I found Donald gone.

I was afraid something had snapped him up – a little pup is an attractive morsel to a leopard or hyena and there were plenty about still it wasn’t likely anything would come near the house in broad daylight and Don wasn’t in the habit of wondering. An eagle might easily have taken him but my cook swore that none had been about.

What I worried about most was snakebite – a young animal is always inquisitive particularly a baby fox terrier, and if it was to see a snake basking in the sun there was a certain chance that a pup would go sniffing at the thing and find instant death.

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We hunted around but found nothing so saddling up I went off the way I’d ridden that morning. Five miles from camp I heard a dismal howling and there was Donald too weary to move but gamely facing the direction I had gone.

After that Donald came with me – usually on my saddle with a spell of exercise when there was no need for riding beyond a walk, the runs got longer and longer as his powers developed. It was surprising how soon the wee doggie could do his five to twenty miles, though when hurried or on a long round, it was a nuisance to suddenly hear wild wailing behind and find Donald sitting in the veld announcing to the Heaven’s how tired he was.

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Once he had had enough he would not budge a yard. The horse must come to him and his rider dismount to lift him on to the saddle.

The rains came. I had to ride over a swollen river to see a sick cow. Don followed as far as the stream and I shouted to him to go home then drove my mount into the current. Jove it was strong and deep. To my dismay Donald the wee rascal never hesitated – as we entered the river so did the dog. Naturally, he went whirling downstream and slipping from the saddle I followed. If anyone asked for trouble I certainly did and got it in full measure. Fortunately we had only entered the edge of the current but even so, there didn’t seem a hope especially with boots on – however, the little cherub up aloft remembered I came from seafaring folk and swung me into an eddy. I grabbed Donald and we scrambled ashore half-drowned.

In training animals, experience has taught me that the shaper the intelligence you are dealing with the harder is the trainer’s task. The pupil will persist in trying to anticipate what he is being taught with invariably false conclusions. To teach a mixture of two terrier breeds the work of a setter is above all things an ordeal of time and patience.

My food in those days was principally game and bread. Bird shooting always fascinated me so when time allowed Donald and I had many an hour tramping through the veld looking for Redwing or along the river after pheasants, wild duck and guinea fowl.

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During our walks, we usually put up small antelopes and hares besides birds, and to Donald, everything that moved was to be chased. That sort of thing, however, did not keep our larder supplied so Donald had to learn that no matter what ran, his duty was to remain next to his master until the gun went off.

It was a superhuman job teaching the pup and I learnt that there was a lot of truth in the old saying that chastisement often hurt the administrator more than the recipient. I hated smacking the wee rogue but it had to be done though for weeks Donald couldn’t understand why.

He soon learnt that every time he returned from a glorious chase after buck or bird he got whacked but he could not understand the reason. After the first couple of punishments, the little devil on his return would sit just beyond my reach looking at me and wagging his tail – when I moved towards him he shifted carefully a little further away. Lord! I used to get mad as for a quarter of an hour I coaxed and wheedled him to come and be beaten.

Cautiously manoeuvring towards the pack saying “Doggie! Doggie! Come on Donald – Good Donald – come boy!” was only productive of more tail movements and as I got almost within reaching distance, another change of ground.

But he learnt in time – I’ve had pointers and red setters but never a better dog on birds than Don. Few wounded buck got away from him either and it was wonderful watching him tackle a heavy duiker or reedbuck whose wounds scarcely impaired and rather strengthened it’s fighting powers.

Of course, the big game no small dog dared attempt to fasten on to, but a hurt animal couldn’t run far with a wildly excited terrier yapping frantically all around it. In almost every case the buck would stop and desperately try to gore or kick the confounded little pest – which gave me time to get up and put in a bullet.

Four years past. I had a pointer given me also pedigree smooth-haired terrier, a lady named Betty, who almost supplanted Donald is my idol. Donald married Betty and the two presented me with many children amongst whom was Mick a perfect son of his father.

Hector, the pointer, was the odd man out as regards the family and his life was an unhappy one. He came of good stock and instinctively obeyed the traditions of his race. Donald and Betty scorned him, bit him and continually tormented Hector in the home, but when I took the three for a run into the veld, the terriers let Hector hunt around at his will.

Suddenly the Pointer would begin quartering the ground – halt and stiffen to the orthodox “point”. Betty and Donald who had stood watching his work would dash directly into the bush or clump of grass which Hector guarded – away would scamper a hare, or with a whirr up would fly a covey of Redwing – and Hector sitting down would howl with heartbroken sorrow.

741I HUNTING FOX TERRIERS

One day I was out with Donald and rode into a mob of sable antelope – dismounting I stalked them and fired. One big cow, staggered but went off galloping strongly with Donald yapping furiously after.

Running back to my horse I swung into the saddle and dashed in the direction the cow was going. In some thick bush, I heard Donald’s battle cries and jumping off the horse ran into the thick thorn.

Everybody gets careless sometime or other and, though an old hunter I never worried about the danger of going after a wounded sable antelope into a broken bit of ravine thickly defended by ugly looking for thorn trees – my recklessness was paid for – breaking through some scrub I came right on the wounded cow at bay – I stopped simultaneously with her charge and blazed at her – shakey and panting with the run and sudden change of position one shot missed, the second grazed her neck.

Another second would have been my last – a tiny ball of white flung itself at the sable –  with a lightning twist of the long deadly horns the cow  transfixed and hurled the little annoyance in the air – but the instance’s pause was her death – two heavy bullets bit into her chest and with a convulsive spring she went crashing headlong to the ground.

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I bent over Donald, wiping the blood froth from his lips – he wagged his stump of a tail once – God I lay down and wept like a babe.

B.M.Leffler
Written on Valley Farm circa the 1930s
Based on an experience as a 17-year-old
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria

Rhodesian Mining Law and a Wedding

End of Part 1: Perhaps it had broken the wedge and pushed the bottom half deeply into the material.

Nobody in the District but Mr Baird believed that there remained a portion of the reef below the granite but as only Mr Baird owned the mine and was paying for the exploration nobody interfered with his search nor discouraged his theories – It was nobody’s business but Mr Baird’s.

Breaking hundreds of tons of solid rock four hundred feet below and hauling it to the surface of the earth is expensive work. When there is a streak of other rock containing gold amongst the broken stone it is certainly worth the expense, always provided the gold is sufficient in quantity and in a form which is not refractory to ordinary methods of gold extraction.

The Baird reef was free of arsenic, antimony and other bugbears of the miner. So it’s owner had never worried about the cost of following it into the earth breaking it from the rock in which it was embedded and bringing it to the surface nor did Mr Baird grudge the cost of crushing his ore into powder or of washing it over the shaking copper plates.

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The yellow gold which mercury would catch from the agitated mass paid all the cost of mining and left a good deal over to pay the cost of a pretty daughter and all the comforts Mr Baird wanted.

But when there was no milky stone there was no gold and Mr Baird was distinctly worried. True it would take a year or two to break out all the quartz above the granite and there was another year’s work in recovering gold which had escaped the mercury and would only yield to cyanide treatment.

Two courses lay before Mr Baird – one to acknowledge that his reef had come to its natural end and to concentrate on cleaning up – the other to gamble. Mr Baird decided to gamble.

Eric Ferguson stood at the headgear of the Mascot with a boyish figure in oilskins.

“Not scared, Eunice?” he asked as a wet little truck emerged from the shaft. A remarkably pretty girl shook her chestnut hair as she clambered in.

“No fear – I like going down a little property – the Baird’s like Dad a bit too imposing.”

“Anyway hang on – we’ll go right down to the 5th level, the boys should have cleared away the night shift’s blasting. I’m into some pretty stuff. Jove Eunice if only the blessed reef would widen a bit.”

Down into the darkness dropped the truck and the miner slipped a protecting arm about the slim shoulders a small hand felt and found Eric’s hardened calloused one – In the mirk and drizzle of the mine shaft, a girl’s soft lips met her lovers’.

Down ever down sped the truck its steel rope singing to the winding drum above in the tiny patch of yellow that marked the surface.

A landing stage lit by spluttering candles marking a right-angled drive where naked black men white with clay toiled demonically loading a waiting truck – again a lighted stage, quiet, deserted, a black hole yawning at it.

No. 2 Level – No. 3 – No. 4 – With a jolt, the truck halted and a brawny native wet and clay covered grasping Eunice helped her to a wooden platform – a signal and the truck dropped into the darkness below.

“We’re down another 100 feet – just beginning to drive.” said Eric “We’ve worked out the first 4 levels and have just really begun to stope out the reef in this – the fifth.”

“Yes, what is it Boy?” as a perspiring grinning native spoke asking the Boss’s attention.

The native’s words tumbled out “Baas, we’ve driven into a big reef – plenty money.”

“Come on Eric” cried the girl snatching a candle from a ledge of rock “Hamba Boy, hamba pambeli“.

Grinning the native turned and trotted into the darkness the boy and girl behind.

“Eunice, will you keep quiet about it until I tell you to loosen up?” Eric’s voice though quiet held a worried note.

“Sure. But Oh! Eric! I thought you’d be dancing with delight – the reef’s as big as the old Baird and looks perfect – Poor Old Dad – he’s a broken man since the Baird pinched.”

“That’s the Baird,” said Eric grimly.

Eunice gazed dumbfounded at the great mass of white gleaming dully through the dark.

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“The Baird Eric?” she gasped.

“Aye – a wall of granite broke its thread and pushed the reef over into my claims.”

“But Dad’s down 700 feet, Eric, and he’s driven into both walls.”

“Well, sinking and driving he’s missed the reef – maybe by inches.”

“Then it’s yours now,” murmured Eunice drawing close against her lover’s form.

“I’m not too sure,” muttered Ferguson, “There’s a clause in the Rhodesian Mining Law about extra lateral rights – if two distinct reefs are being developed on adjoining properties the owners can follow their own reef underground right into one another’s claims. I’ve never heard of it happening but that’s the law.”

“Oh, Eric” cried the girl “if Dad gets the Baird again I’ll be forced on Colin.”

“Your Dad hasn’t got the Baird yet – it would be a deuce of a thing to prove anyway – and he’d have to prove it from his side of the mine,” said the miner grinning.

“He can’t come down my shaft, walk into my drive and say “Hullo there’s the Baird – I’ll start a  shift on it right away Fergie me boy.””

“I see” Eunice looked thoughtful – “Eric can you raise a couple of thousand?”

The miner shrugged his shoulders – “If I had something to show, yes.”

“Offer Dad £2000 for the Baird – it’s what he reckons she’s worth now.”

“Has he stopped looking for the reef Eunice?”

“Closed down yesterday and is taking the pillars out from tomorrow.”

“Then there’s no time to waste – I’ll take some samples and we’ll get up.”

“Then you’re prepared to give me a months option on the property Mr Baird?” Eric looked with pity on the man whose twelve-months fruitless hunt had made him look the four and seventy years he’d lived.

The old miner looked troubled.

“What do you want her for Eric – think you know how to find the reef?” a sneer crossed the speaker’s features. “I guess no Ferguson will succeed where I’ve failed.”

“I’m reckoning on pickings – the Mascot’s widening and needs a five-stamp. What with pillars and stringers I reckon the Baird’s got four or five thousand in her – thought £2000 was a good price and I take the one battery over on twelve-month credit – together with the big boiler.”

“You wouldn’t lose” grated Baird.

“I’m not a philanthropist – but you’re fed up with it and I doubt whether there are many buyers.”

“Had two fellows out this morning.”

“Aye! They told me they weren’t doing anything.”

Bair snorted “Have you the money?”

“Can raise it – is it a deal?”

“Aye” – lifting a bottle on the table between them Baird poured two measures of whiskey and pushed a siphon to his guest.

“Take a trip down the Mascot, Mr Baird – I’ve a strange problem at No. 5 Level.”

“To Hell with mining,” answered the other – “I’ve no interest in it.” and the old mine-owner’s head dropped on his breast.

“Come on Daddie” called a fresh young voice “I promised Eric I’d go down and he’s awfully eager to show you the reef.”

Protesting yet curious Baird walked with his companions silent but observant – now and again his eyes rested kindly on the fair girl chatting merrily with the powerful clean looking man.

“She might ha done worse” muttered Baird “Colin’s no altogether her sort – bit dour and wantin that girl from the hills.”

Down into the bowels of the earth rumbled the skip – past the levels stripped of their ore to the one where fresh stoping was beginning.

“She’s opening up a bit Eric,” remarked Mr Baird gazing curiously about him “Ten years since I’ve been down – good little property she’s been £300 a month for fifteen years isn’t a bad output” agreed the Mascot’s owner – But what do you think of this Mr Baird?”

Turning a corner of the drive the three were next to a great mass of quartz at which a dozen natives were busy.

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“The Baird The Baird” shrieked the old miner stumbling to his reef.

Eric his arm about the girl drew next to the kneeling figure feverishly working at the rock face.

“Mr Baird”

“What’s it you’re wanting Ferguson – it’s my reef I tell you – I’ve got lateral rights Ferguson – that deal about the Baird’s off you scoundrel.”

“Steady on Mr Baird I was only joking or I wouldn’t have brought you down – its Eunice I’m wanting.”

The gaunt white-haired figure covered with clay and mud rose to his feet.

“We’ll go halves in the Baird Fergie – you’re a white man – and I’ll chuck Eunice in to clinch the bargain.”

Baird held out his hand.

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Copy of the original in Bernard’s handwriting

 

 

Extra Lateral Rights

I am watching a video with a Year 10 class called Storm Surfers in it one of the big wave surfers comments on how finding never-before-surfed breaks is like prospecting for gold. 

A glance at a fissure in a cliff or even a wall – following it from the top it will probably run down more or less vertically. It may be almost a straight line – it may be only a surface split – may go halfway down or right through to the bottom. Gold reefs are the fissure veins.

The dip here is heading ever downward.

David Baird owned a gold mine in Southern Rhodesia – he also owned an eighteen-year-old daughter a fact which filled Eric Ferguson on the adjoining mine with all sorts of longings quite unconnected with gold mining.

Eunice Baird liked Eric which was not very surprising for he was tall and broad-shouldered, had blue eyes and was in his early thirties all factors which to lonely young females make an excellent base around which to weave romance.

Eric shaved every evening and bathed with the aid of a bucket – neither of which acts are looked upon as essentials by all men who live far away from civilisation. Eric also never wore a white tie with a dinner jacket though why he or anyone else wanted a dinner jacket at all frankly puzzled Eunice’s father.

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Mr Baird was also tall and broad-shouldered and had blue eyes but he was not in his early thirties. David Baird was in his early seventies and not the sort of man who needed a pension though he usually needed a shave and quite often a bath.

But though Mr Baird did not consider razors or baths to be essential in his life he did believe that life without the Baird Reef and Miss Baird would be a very miserable existence.

Mr Baird did not believe that the Almighty had been good to him with regard to either his mine or his daughter. He took all the credit for himself. As proof that God had nothing to do with giving him the Baird Reef, he pointed to the adjoining claims where Eric Ferguson and his father before him had worked for twenty years on a 9-inch reef.

He David Baird had worked for old Ferguson and studying the formation evolved a theory. In his spare time, Mr Baird had worked on his theory which was that the Mascot reef of Ferguson’s was only a minor fissure near a major one.

This theory resulted from studying the formation in which the Mascot reef lay. Much of the rock walls of the vein contained gold and numerous threads of rich ore ran into it. After long study of the surrounding country, Mr Baird pegged next to Mr Ferguson, dug many long cuttings and found a four-foot reef full of gold just outside his late employer’s boundary. So while old Ferguson and later his son ran a little stamp battery which yielded a living Mr Baird ran a ten-stamp mill which yielded a nett profit of £2000 per month.

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When nearing sixty Mr Baird married the daughter of a bankrupt Irish gentleman who had committed suicide – he thought farming was an easy way of making money and found it wasn’t. Mr Baird bought the farm together with a stock of solid old furniture and a good range of implements. He also erected a handsome granite cross over the resting place of Eunice’s grandparents for her grandmother had died of heartbreak – an example followed soon after Eunice’s birth by Mrs Baird. A Scottish nephew was called in to make the farm pay (and he succeeded). Mr Baird was anxious to keep both farm and mine in his family.

Mr Baird decided to marry Eunice to his nephew Colin but Colin wanted to marry a Bonnie Highland lass in the land of his Father’s. Eunice, though she liked Colin liked Eric more. However, all realised that what David Baird liked was that everybody connected with him would have to like as well.

John van Niekerk, a miner, scratched his head and gazed worriedly at a pile of broken rock next to his feet. Mr Baird on his hands and knees worked frantically with a tiny prospectors pick in the pool of light given by a red candle held by a half-naked black man.

“Don’t stand looking the hyphen fool you are van Niekerk” bellowed Mr Baird looking up to see whether his assistant had found a solution of a puzzle which was causing the aged blood to chill.

“She’s run dead into blue granite,” said the miner with conviction in his tone “That’s why she’s been pinching the last week.”

Blue granite (Credit: MS International)

Blue granite (Credit: MS International)

Mr Baird spat and resting from his labours filled an old black pipe and lit it.

“You cursed fool” he growled – “the Baird’s a true fissure vein it’s only an intrusion of granite that’s pushed the reef over – maybe cut it clean. We’ll find her in place below or maybe the fissure is diverted. We’ll pick her up again John – Don’t you think so Man?”

“Maybe Mr Baird maybe you’re right – there’s always strange things happening in mining.”

The old mine owner glared savagely through the candlelight “You bloody fool” he shouted, “there’s nothing strange about underground earth movement – don’t you know enough ’bout mining to know that when two rock formations are up against one another it’s only reasonable for there to be all kinds of breaks in the contact with the newer rock dovetailing into the rotting older formation.”

“That’s so Mr Baird! That’s so, but even fissures come to an end and when a reef runs into granite…”

His employer rose gripping his pick menacingly “See here van Niekerk the man that says that the Baird’s pinched in the granite will get his neck twisted. Got me?”

“Yes, Mr Baird.”

Alright! Shove on a double shift – sink and keep on sinking, also drive into the walls – the granite mebbe fifty foot thick mebbe ten – she may have pushed in a couple of hundred feet and mebbe only twenty – we’ll pick up the Baird if it costs me every damned farthing I’ve got.”

But as van Niekerk remarked, “Strange things happen in mining.”

Supposing one dark night you or I armed with a lantern walked along the edge of a cliff two thousand feet deep. If we came on a small crack and climbing into it tried to trace it to the very bottom of the cliff our chances of success would be small. A ledge might run across it and yet quite possibly the crack might continue below but then again it mightn’t.

The intrusive bar may have caused our crack to narrow almost to nothing but it could possibly have found a way around the obstruction or be behind it. Quite likely, however, the crack ends for good.

Mr Baird was in the position of such searches. He believed the fissure which contained his gold to be under the bar. But there was no proof to encourage Mr Baird’s optimism. For four hundred feet from the surface of the earth, a hole showed how nicely Mr Baird’s gold reef had behaved – on two sides of the hole a dull white streak stained with oxidised metals showed what a very nice reef Mr Baird possessed.

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Along the roof of many tunnels, the same milky band proved that the reef was a four-foot wide wedge which was like a white wedge that went into a solid mass of grey stone.

What Mr Baird disliked was the thought that all the wedge had been taken out of the material. For years he had broken the milky wedge out bit by bit working from its top until now it seemed suspicious there being none of it taken out – that a molten stream had forced through the middle of the wedge and cooled, melting away only a little of the middle. Perhaps it had broken the wedge and pushed the bottom half deeply into the material.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

A MINING PROPOSITION

“Do you know anything about mining, Mick?” asked Devereaux, a fellow section manager on one of the great Rhodesian ranches.

As it happened I did – not much but enough to know gold from iron pyrites anyway.

“Not a great deal but I’ve done a bit.”

“Well I’ve found an old mine,” said my chum “it may be just abandoned working but I’d like somebody who knows something about mining to have a look at the place. Of course, its understood that Mum’s the word regarding it.”

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“I’ll keep my mouth shut,” I replied.

“Then let’s saddle up and ride over – it’s about six miles away,” suggested Devereaux.

We went at once, cantering some four miles along a road to one of Devereaux’s cattle posts, then turned off into some parklike country – a big basin bounded on three sides by hills and dropping away into the rolling granite country.

A couple of miles brought us against a rocky ridge with heavy timber growing on its slopes. Here Devereaux, after quartering about for a while, brought me to a long outcrop of quartz intersected with old cuttings.

Dismounting we tied our horses to a tree and began investigating the cuttings and a couple of old shafts, neither more than twenty feet deep and both badly fallen in.

I like the look of some of the quartz and the outcrop seemed a thumping long one – well over four feet wide – one half of it pitch black quartz – then some white, well mineralized, running again into the black.

We talked the thing over and took some comprehensive samples which I promised to take over to a small mine near my section to be crushed and panned.

I rode home that night and early next morning went up to the mine and showed the owner my samples. He liked the look of them so we wandered down to his battery, crushed the stuff up with a pestle and mortar, gave it a good washing in the pan and worked out the crushed ore. The tail gave a long stream of gold.

“It’s good stuff, Mick,” remarked the miner “I’ll have a look at the place if you like.”

“Thanks, Mac” I answered, “but it isn’t my mine and the chap who’s got it isn’t taking any risks – wanted to know whether there was any gold worth speaking of in the reef that’s all.”

Mac laughed “Well I don’t blame him – it’s always wise keeping a still tongue in one’s head – you can tell him the average of the samples is running at 8dwt in the pan and will go much better in the assay – there’s a lot of galena and pyrites with it and the gold’s fine. Tell him to cut into the reef in four or five places – take three samples from each cutting – one in the centre and one from each side – mark them carefully and send them into town for assay – well let’s go and have a drink.”

Devereaux was pretty excited when I told him the results and we had a council of war. Neither of us had any cash to use in development or prospecting work nor did we want to risk our jobs.

At last, it was decided that I should approach a friend on a neighbouring ranch and try and enlist his sympathy and help. My attempt was successful. Jack came out with another friend, the reef was examined, samples sent away for assay and we pegged a block of ten claims. These amounted to an area three hundred feet wide by One thousand five hundred feet long and took in the best part of the reef.

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The assay gave excellent results – 20dwts in the centre 7 on one side and 8 on the other. A syndicate was formed, Devereaux got £50 as the discoverer, we engaged a chum of mine as the miner, took on some natives and began the work.

The old shafts showed that the reef instead of going down vertically lay at an incline, so to try and strike it at water level we started fourteen feet away from the reef and dug a shaft straight down into the earth’s bowels.

For days I couldn’t put my mind to cattle. Vision after vision floated before me. What a life I would have – a ranch of my own, only first-class cattle and wouldn’t the section managers have a hell of a time. I knew their tricks alright. God help anyone who came the double on me. I might even give my present manager a job just for the pleasure of sacking him.

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At thirty-five feet we cut in towards the reef to see if we were doing right – at seven feet we found her and both pannings and assays gave satisfactory gold.

The next three weeks I couldn’t sleep nor could the others. Heavens but sinking a shaft went slowly – we engaged more boys so that a night shift could be put on.

At seventy-two feet we struck the reef – two inches wide, no gold and disappearing into solid beautiful blue granite, hard as the hobs of Hades.

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“It’s a gamble is mining,” said my pal the small worker.

B.M.L.

B.M.Leffler
Valley Farm
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria
Circa 1930s

Climbing Taba Mhlope

From Romance and a Quest: Now and again glimpses had been caught as the car topped on one of the countless ridges which traversed the country but the realisation of the magnitude of her task came to Morag until Anderson stopping brought his arm round in a circular sweep.

“There’s Taba Bomvu Miss MacDonald – now somewhere on it or round it or about it, there’s an ancient fissure in the earth which has been filled with quartz. Thirty-five years ago old Mac O’ The Hills stumbled on a few white boulders pushed by earth movements out of the fissure. The boulders were rich in gold and he blasted a great hole into the hard rock contents of the fissure. Natives murdered him threw the body down the hole filled it in, removed all outcropping rock and made gardens on the site.

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During the years since then, the country’s gone back wild, big trees have grown up – now find the old mine. Where are you going to look, for what signs will you seek? It’d take you years to quarter the odd forty thousand acres of wild timber and bush and you might camp on top of the old mine and not see a sign of it.

Her chin resting in her cupped hands, elbows on the car’s side Morag stared at the hill, its slopes and the broken savage country about it. Ruarií whining softly crept against his mistress and the three men stole away.

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“Pretty brutal,” muttered Anderson “but it was the only way to convince her. Poor kid bit of a shock after off her dreams and seven thousand miles of travel.”

“She won’t chuck it,” said Mick.

“Well dash it all why should she?” asked Reggie wonderingly “We didn’t expect to come along and walk up to the blessed mine saying Hullo there.”

Anderson looked at Reg and raised his eyebrows, “Can’t you grasp the absolute futility of it Mr Lumsden? An experienced prospector studying the formation might gradually work to the likeliest spot for gold in the area. He’d stand chances of finding a dozen gold-bearing reefs all or any or none of which might prove good but it’s purely prospecting with everything that word in entails.

“Naturally” answered Reg “but that’s what we intend doing.”

Anderson laughed, “Come on you fellows no wonder the British won the war.”

Back at the car, they found Morag quite determined to carry on. “

“Isn’t it funny Mr Anderson, when you broke the facts to me I felt as though I’d fallen into the sea. I don’t quite know myself what I expected but now it all seems just what it should be and what has been behind the mists my thoughts have strayed in.”

“Let’s take a walk up the hill then,” suggested the miner and I’ll explain how to begin and whereabouts I’d start. It’s years since I went over the ground and I’ve learnt a lot about mining since.”

Toiling through long yellow grass often five or six feet high they reached a tiny plateau halfway up Taba Mhlope. Seating them Anderson explained his theories.

“Mac probably stumbled on the reef. First, we’ve got to consider the lower slopes of the hill as they were thirty-five years ago. Matabele Villages scattered about with gardens spread all over. Little of this time could have been about for there were too many natives – in fact, thirty odd years ago when I was here first as far as I can remember it was mostly cultivated land.”

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“Now Mac would have wondered about looking for quartz, and it being June or July most of the lands would be full of high maize and Kaffir corn. He’d hunt about ledges and islands of rock between lands most likely and that’s what you’ll do. Wherever you find quartz crush a bit and pan it then look for more – likely enough the Matabele carried away all quartz outcrop from the vicinity of the mine and scattered is about but they’re a lazy crowd. If you find bits of quartz carrying gold you’re likely enough somewhere near and the job is to visualise yourself as Matabele carrying and throwing away stones from and that’s the whole question.”

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“Now let’s go down and hunt a bit along the slopes – of course, the reef may be on the hill – maybe anywhere.”

Morag looked up at the wild cliffs far above. Uncle had been a shepherd and he was Highland. Wouldn’t he perhaps have climbed up there and maybe just accidentally come on the reef.”

Anderson scratched his head and looked with a touch of seriousness at the girl.

“There’s something in that” he admitted, “come to think of it he might have found it when looking for a leopard or lion. You’ll have to be careful about hunting. A place like that swarms with wild beasts. Wouldn’t be so risky after it was burnt out but you’re on a cattle ranch and God help anyone starting fires.

“Didn’t you prospect up there, Mr Anderson?” Morag asked.

“Me – no damn it all it never crossed my mind or anybody else’s I bet, but it isn’t likely anyway.  It’s not likely country for gold.”

Morag passed the next few hours in a dream. Try as she would the country around Taba Mhlope held no interest for her – hadn’t scores searched there and found nothing. Hadn’t even Mr Anderson admitted that probably no one had searched the cliffs. Yet wasn’t her Uncle’s very name prophetic Mac O’ The Hills, “Oh what a pity I promised to go to Mollie’s ranch.” Her thoughts were that the gold and the bones of Donald MacDonald are in the crags.

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Anderson seeing the girl’s absorption in the cliffs contented himself with striving to impress the salient points of prospecting on Reg. Mick listened with keen attention but his face wore a worried look.

“Anderson,” he remarked when the two were alone for a few minutes “For the Lord’s sake make it clear to them that those cliffs are full of leopards and snakes. The leopards or the chance of a lion will probably make them keener but snakes won’t. Tell them a few mamba yarns.”

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The miner did and on the way back Reginald’s expressive features blanched at some of the awful tales of snakes in general and the deadly black mamba in particular.

The Robertsons insisted on the party remaining overnight a proposal acceptable to all after a long day of motoring and tramping.

Mick whose horse had been brought on departed to fetch his cattle and after an interesting round of stables, byres and other ranch buildings the others sought baths and a change of garments, Ruarií finding friends apparently much to his liking amongst three silky haired red setters.

After a well-served dinner, Anderson brought the subject of conversation around to Taba Mhlope and the many attempts to find MacDonald’s mine. Robertson had been many years on the ranch and laughingly confessed that as a young cattleman he himself had wasted much of the Company’s time searching for the old shaft.

“There’s no doubt the claims are there” he stated emphatically “But to my mind, they’ll only be found by accident. A heavy rainy season might wash away ground and reveal the reef. Perhaps the plough might open up the site in one of our lands. The whole question rests as to whether the reef is on the hill itself or in the country surrounding it. On one side the country is schist and serpentine formation in which anything might be found, on three sides it’s granite were nobody would dream of prospecting.”

“There must be plenty of old Matabele about who know where the mine is.” Interrupted Mick who bathed, shaved and attired in civilised garments had joined them.

“Ah, but they won’t tell. I’ve had a few old fellows tell me yarns and actually show me the campsite of the regiment of Matabele who murdered Mac. After the Rebellion a Native Commissioner spent a week or two there making the Matabele dig up their lands and he even destroyed their huts in case one had been built over the mine – nothing has ever been found except one corner beacon plate and that was found close to Mapeta thirty miles from Taba Mhlope.”

“Ever climbed up to the top of the hill, Mr Robertson?” asked Mick casually, “looks pretty wild up there.”

“It’s worse than wild it’s absolutely hellish. The cliffs swarm with baboons, the gullies with wild pig and you can imagine it’s ideal breeding ground for lions and leopards. I’ve often wanted to have big drives up there but no native will climb into the head. Too many mambas and pythons over and beyond Carnioora. The Natives reckon it’s full of ghosts as well, but I reckon mambas are their real worry.”

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“Couldn’t you burn it out?” said Anderson.

“Aye, it’s been burnt out several times but I couldn’t get Natives to go up even then. I’ve climbed it with white men but beyond the game, we saw nothing though it was an eerie atmosphere and I was glad to get down. In fact, we all felt the same and kept in a bunch. Just went straight to the top, had a smoke and came down – marvellous view.

The conversation turned to cattle and the two older women began to discuss Mrs Robertson’s state of health which she believed would very likely necessitate a trip to England.

“Honestly, Mrs O’Connor, I thought at first that you had come for a preliminary survey of the ranch,” remarked Mrs Robertson. “My husband is seriously thinking of resigning as he is getting old for the work and I suppose Mr O’Connor would get the Ranch.”

“Oh but Mrs Robertson you didn’t think I’d ….” The older woman laughed.

“Please don’t worry Mrs O’Connor. I’m glad you’ve come for I’d be quite happy at the thought of you here.” bending Mrs Robertson dropped her voice.

“If Miss MacDonald remains on the ranch you must try and wangle Mr Osmond as stockman or Section Manager. One or two of our men would be all the better for a change and I’m sure Mr Osmond is very fond of the girl. She’s very sweet, isn’t she?”

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