The Soldier Returns to What?

‘Fifty million Cash Customers’ was the caption of an article in the Textile Weekly at the time, when Manchester and Birmingham were reeling under the onslaught of Japan into the Truck markets of the world. Those fifty million customers are Africans up North and today thousands of South Africans know them and the roads to their homes.

Inside the Ishikawajima / Wolseley Fukugawa factory, things were... rudimentary...

Inside the Ishikawajima / Wolseley Fukugawa factory circa 1923, things were… rudimentary…

When the South African Iron and Steel Works turn from making cannon to making ploughs; when instead of munitions we produce thousands of miles of fencing, baling and other wire; when South African axes, hatchets, hoes, spades, and shovels and every manner of agricultural, mining, railroad and artisan requirements are being produced, then surely there will be employment enough for every South African and very many would gladly fare again North.

Diversifying: The company had previously made meters and transformers, but switched production to fuzes and 18-pounder shells in 1915
The company had previously made meters and transformers but switched production to fuzes and 18-pounder shells in 1915

Field Marshal Jan Smuts has promised a Reconstruction Ministry. Let us pray that it will be granted the powers of the Wartime general staff and it’s personnel be selected without fear or favour from the ranks of hard-headed businessmen.

Keep out the politicians and the theorists. Select it’s members as the general staff is selected – for the purpose of winning the Peace as the general staff was for winning the War.

Let us take stock of what we have and what we require. South Africa is a vast country with no great extremes of climate. A European can and does live healthily anywhere in the Union even if in some areas there is a need for malarial precautions.

In the Union, almost everything required by man or beast can be produced on a large scale. Almost every possible industry has been partially or well developed.

We have the biggest gold mining industry in the world iron, our Iron and Steel Works are already a great, rapidly expanding source of wealth and employment, and there appear hardly any limits to its sources of material or markets.

Almost all valuable base metals exist in commercial quantities and can be worked profitably. We are the source of the world’s greatest production of diamonds and our coal deposits are of excellent quality and quantity and already in full development.

Rough diamonds in Kimberley

Diamond cutting comes to South Africa 1928

Surely the proposed Reconstruction Cabinet has the vast field of employment before it in mining and manufacturing the products of mining. Let the Reconstruction Cabinets call into consultation the Senior Officers of the Mines Brigade and of the South African Engineers. Put some of them into the Reconstruction Cabinet and there can be little doubt that as many Constructive ideas would come from them as the Destructive ones they now use against Rommel and his Italian Allies. Let us remember that in War the Mine’s Brigade and the Engineers are employed just as much on Constructive as Destructive work.

From mining let us turn to the Industrial life. The Union’s population today is fast being drawn off the land not only to mining but to factory employment. Jam making, canning and drying fruit biscuit manufacturer, boot and clothing making, soap and scent production, tinning fish, – what industry isn’t in production in the Union? What isn’t, could be developed, given the trained personnel and the equipment.

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Furniture Industries founded in 1920

Where can the Union find profitable markets and who will search for them, transport to them, distribute in them? The answer is easy.

Up North is the market and commercial travellers, truck drivers, warehousemen, market agents, clerical staff are on hand now in the army. Where can goods in bulk be sent to? Why not to existing base and training camps up North?

There are of course other States to be considered, but if Trade Agreements can be made and our trading convoys and trains return loaded with their produce and we study and follow the commercial attitude of the United States to Canada no difficulty should exist.

Hermanus History Society

There’s certainly room for us all. Even the creation of a Great Central African Union of Rhodesia, Kenya, Uganda and Nyasaland, ought to be of incalculable benefit to the Union of South Africa in the Union of obtaining raw material to supplement her own resources and in supplying the North with manufactured goods and even in helping to industrialize the North.

We turn to Agriculture. To the Stockman and to the farmer; the greater the mining and industrial development the better his position. The farmer wants markets. There is hardly any product the Union farmer can’t produce on a commercial scale provided there are profitable markets for his produce and the markets exist.

 

When scarcely a newspaper issue is free of some report on malnutrition when statistics show a large percentage of South African whites, as well as Coloured and Natives,  are living without sufficient nourishing food something is radically wrong.

The position is made worse by the scandals of millions of pockets of oranges being destroyed, markets flooded with potatoes and fruit, lack of milk and egg producing foodstuffs.

We have the raw materials, the factories, the foodstuffs, the personnel to mine, produce, grow and manufacture. Why on earth should any man, woman or child in the Union not be properly fed, clothed and housed? Could any sane person visualise the South African Army being allowed to go short of food, clothing, equipment and housing? Why then should the civilian population?

There can only be one logical answer and that is that the people of South Africa in Peacetime are ruled and handled by the wrong people.

After this War, we must get down to Bread and Butter politics. We must “cut down the cackle and get down to the ‘osses.”  How are we to do it?

Only by every voter demanding a pledge from his or her parliamentary candidate that he will disassociate himself or herself from dreamland and pull his or her full weight in bettering the lot of people.

We want and must have more women in Parliament – women of the masses, women who have the interest of homes and children in their hearts. We must sweep away vested interests which lock up foodstuffs, clothing and housing.

Why should there not be a municipal market in every suburb? Every suburb has its Post Office and most certainly should have its Market Hall where wives and mothers could buy fresh fruit and vegetables sold in small lots by municipal auction direct from the producer.

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Johannesburg

Do away with that market abomination selling by ‘Balance‘. What housewife wants to be crushed and jostled by a crowd of middlemen only to find the auctioneer is letting the greater part of the produce go ‘in balance‘ lots to them.

In Wartime no problem is insurmountable. When war broke out the Union leaders did not sit down holding their heads in their hands wondering how to build an army, how to equip and staff one, how to arm it or how to use it? Government heads got down to real solid brain work and did what had to be done. Why not in Peacetime?

Immediately after the War, our leaders must get down to essentials for the welfare of the people. What the Reconstruction Cabinet is really faced with is the necessity for fully equipped and staffed hospitals to handle every invalid in the Union. The hospital staff and equipment of the military converted to civilian requirements would practically solve this question and provide for a fair percentage of ex-Servicemen and women requiring employment.

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Municipal suburban Market Halls could absorb quite a few working at present in Army Quartermaster’s stores, communal feeding the poor school children would find employment for quite a number.

The Police Force needs strengthening and really wherever one turns it seems that a few more men or women could be employed advantageously.

No matter how one’s brain twists it comes back to the fact that in Peace as in War profits must be controlled and limited and that profits must be earned. Exploitation of the credulity of the masses must be dealt with drastically. The buying and selling of stocks and shares must cease to be more speculation than investment.

Image result for johannesburg stock exchange 1920Johannesburg Stock Exchange 1920

to be continued…

By S/Sergeant B.M.Leffler

Letters in Bernard’s handwriting

Here are the pages from the manuscript From Boatsheds to Battlefields that contain the letters to Mick Osmond’s Dad.  Are the letter’s real or being used as a storytelling technique?

I believe that Bernard did write and send these or similar letters to his father William Frederick Leffler telling him about life as a pioneer in Rhodesia. There is evidence that father and son exchanged letters on a regular basis.

It is lovely to picture William reading his son’s descriptive letters of adventure to his mother, brothers and sisters gathered around the dining table in Cape Town.

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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 38 Grease Monkey to Farmer

End of 37th Entry: What a damned fool he was.

At the O’Donovans’ Mick’s experiences were received with yells of laughter adding to the boy’s distress. Everyone appeared to think it an immense joke his sleeping in the wood, dining with a convict, having a beautiful little room and shivering on its floor – greasing two thousand pots in his best suit and being one of so queerly assorted a shift whilst the grand finale sent everyone rolling with mirth.

The next day Mick sailed forth once again in quest of work but first purchased dungarees and a miner’s shirt. Knowing a little more about mines and a few pounds in his pocket the boy felt different to when making the first attempt and now boldly enquired for work as a greaser or trammer – the latter an underground post superintending and loading of trucks with ore and seeing that the natives pushed them as quickly as possible from the stopes and working faces to the shafts.

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Times were bad however and more men were being laid off than taken on but still Mick kept calling on several old school friends returned home that night in a fairly cheerful mood. He had practically been promised a job by three old boyhood acquaintances and at the O’Donovan’s found a Mine Captain who had once been engaged to Muriel.

This man desiring to stand in well with the girl of his choice immediately told Mick that he would fix him up underground if he called next afternoon.

In the meantime, if Mick cared he could come down with the O’Donovans whom the Mine Captain was taking underground to show the girls what it was like 4000 feet below the Earth’s surface.

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Thrilled and delighted Mick joined the party and an hour later they all entered one of the great three-decker skips and dropped at the rate of 1000 feet per minute to the level they were to be shown.

As the skip stopped and the door opened the party saw what seemed to be a heavy rain falling past the doorway. Stepping out onto a station landing they found themselves in a great tunnel hewn out of the solid rock and taking the roadway into it passed along a narrow track laid with rails.

As they walked procession after procession of little iron trucks each pushed by an all but naked native passed by.

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From the drive, they saw the stopes twisting away from the main tunnel. Each of these stopes represented a vein of gold-bearing ore which had been followed into and extracted from the rock walls – some were great chambers, some long wide tunnels others so narrow that it was a thing to wonder at as to how men had found space to work in them.

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After an hour the party returned to the surface Mick very full of satisfaction as to conditions below.

Next morning, however, brought a long letter from Mick’s Dad in which he offered his choice of several farming billets all but one on properties owned by legal friends of his fathers’ and offering the same pupil basis terms which he had had before. Board and lodging and in one instance a pound a month pocket money.

Wrinkling his nose in disgust he came to the postscript. One of the leading Eastern Province farmers wanted an assistant manager to start at £15 per month and all found. Mr. Osmond gave some particulars which described the farmer as a thorough English gentleman known throughout Africa as one of the best practical and progressive men in the Cape Colony.

Mick liked the prospect of seeing the Eastern Province and the job seemed good so he wired applying for the billet but stipulating a three month’s trial. An answer came the same day accepting and asking him to leave for Grahamstown immediately.

Calling on a friend of his father’s, Mick borrowed three pounds to make up the fare and with many an affectionate word bade farewell to the O’Donovans and Muriel.

 

 

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 30 Close brush with death

One morning Mathew was ill and Peter told Mick to ride into Struan and ask the doctor to come out. Nikola had been particularly well-behaved for some time so deciding to use him and feeling that with a fourteen-mile road on which were several hills it didn’t much matter whether Nikola bolted or not, Mike once more slipped a racing bridle over the horse’s head, lifted the saddle onto his back, tightened the girth and with a cheery shout put toe to stirrup and swung for the saddle.

Nikola sprung away but Mick’s leg was over his back and Mick had the reins firmly held against his neck. The horse broke into a gallop but Mick still minus one stirrup grasped a rein with each hand and sawed violently at the brute’s mouth – fighting desperately to get his head down Nikola raced along the farm avenue and swung round a sharp corner where a threshing plant was working.

As the horse came round the bend the engine whistle went and Nikola still at a gallop swerved madly across the road – Mick slipped and went flying out of the saddle, but unluckily his boot caught in the stirrup and off went Nikola like a thing possessed with Mick’s body half dragging the ground, half floating on air behind. Badly scared the horse even at the tremendous pace he was going attempted once or twice to lash out at the dragging object but the Fates had not finished with Michael. His boot gave and the lad a mass of tatters, blood, and bruises tumbled into a senseless heap.

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Mick was tough and soon a mass of rags and mud rose painfully to his feet, limped a few steps and halted to shake a vengeful fist at the distance before him whilst a foul torrent of sea language flowed from a badly bleeding mouth. A few minutes later two Cape boys brought a foam covered horseback along the road to where a white-faced man and half a dozen coloured labourers were gathered round Mick enquiring if he was hurt.

“Is it hurt I am – don’t I look hurt? But by the Holy pipes that played before Moses, there’s a devil that’s going to be hurt worse still.”

Unfastening one end of the reins Mick took a firm grip of it in one hand and with a long quince cutting in the other proceeded to give Nikola the benefit of muscles toughened by years of work on oar and rope. Rearing, screaming the horse tried to charge Mick – a slash over his eyes turned him – Nikola wheeling round attempted to kick – the supple quince stick stung him hard – the horse made a dash but the rein only allowed him to run in a circle – several of the onlookers arming themselves with switches assisted heartily in the process of chastisement but Mick grimly held to the post of honour until so weary that he could no longer lift the stick.

Mick had a cigarette whilst Nikola saddened and humbled stood shivering by – a man held the horse’s head and Mick aching and groaning was lifted into the saddle – the man at the bridle released his hold – Nikola lifted his head, gave a snort, bucked violently and with his bit well between his teeth tore away.

Mick helpless as a babe sat firmly in the saddle – all right you – he muttered “its a good road and a long one – I’ve got my feet in the stirrups and you won’t get me this time.”

As he spoke far in the distance he saw a speck – larger and larger it grew resolving itself into a wagon with its long team of sixteen oxen. The road was narrow, strong wire, ostrich proof fences ran on either side – Mick felt that death was very near and as he rode a string of prayers Catholic, Anglican and Dutch Reformed streamed from his lips the while he fought like a devil to win control over Nikola – in vain – could he pass the wagon – alas the two damned fools of boys in charge were already standing waving their arms thinking to stop Nikola whilst their oxen straggled behind them completely blocking the road – a hundred yard left – a second or two more – Mick with a scream to God to help him flung himself from the saddle, Nikola swerved and with a wonderful glorious bound took the fence and cleared it.

A quarter of an hour later Mick limping and stumbling, crying with pain and rage, a horrible sight of mud, rags and blood led a well-rested well-fed horse from a lucerne field into a road.

“Kill me you Devil!” he shouted to the horse “But you won’t get me funky.”

Nikola rolled an enquiring eye backward and tensed ready for the third lap. Up galloped Peter Van Der Walt – “Thank God you’re not yet dead then Mick – Let’s change bridles and you can ride home on Star, I’ll take Nikola – Mathew’s better and doesn’t want the doctor.”

Mick answered – “We’ll change bridles but I’ll stick to Nikola – get the curb chain tight as you can whilst I cut a couple of sticks.”

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 27 Breaking in a Mule circa 1906

At the end of Entry 26 Mick was learning how to pluck an ostrich: 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.

Today Mick Osmond learns more about mules than he expected.

The Van Der Walts did a large amount of mule breeding in addition to their other activities. Now a mule is the product of a donkey stallion mated with a horse mare. The offspring resulting from the mating of ass and horse are not capable of reproducing. The mule is therefore born with a grudge against whoever was responsible for bringing it into this world of sorrow. It knows Nature had no hand in it and from the day it is able to work, it seems that Man was the cause.

Soon realising that it can never enjoy the pleasures of parentage, that only WORK spelled with capital letters is its destiny the mule feels aggrieved. Realisation soon comes that a whiplash stings, but all through life the mule feels a grudge and if given but half the opportunity uses its teeth or heels in trying to wipe out a portion of the compound interest on its debt to man.

So breaking in mules, especially the wonderful type bred in the Western Province of the Cape of Good Hope, is not a suitable pastime for any but rough hairy men possessed of iron muscles and powerful frames. Mick’s ambition was to take his full share – he had reveled again and again in Henty’s “Redskin and Cowboy, “In the Heart of the Rockies” and a score of such like books and with his sea and mountain training didn’t see why he shouldn’t fall naturally into the work.

Unfortunately for the youth, Mathew Van Der Walt considered Mr. Osmond a very important person and Mick, as the eldest son of his father, to be of some value to the world. So after Mick had been kicked senseless, trodden on, savaged and been a dozen times only saved from an untimely death by the almost miraculous interposing of Providence Mathew ruled that Mick was too young and too light to be allowed to join in catching, holding, harnessing of mules and young horses.

However, there were many compensations. The method used by the Van Der Walts in breaking in mules and horses were extremely simple. A score of animals was driven into a stone walled yard, where with much cursing and yelling, the mob of plunging kicking brutes were closely packed into a corner. Here with wonderful skill and at imminent risk halters were got on a dozen heads and the rearing frightened animals secured to older more experienced brethren.

Somehow or other the linked animals were hauled out of the crush and harness got on them. With half a dozen laughing, jeering Cape Coloureds hanging on to the rawhide halter thong the mules were dragged to a wagon and in-spanned. Each wagon was drawn by a team of sixteen, usually two horses as leaders and fourteen mules behind them.

With a team of perhaps two old wheelers, two fast well-trained leaders, probably eight half or partially broken in mules, and four wild broncos, a drive was as thrilling as any made by Buffalo Bill’s famous Deadwood coach.

Usually, Peter handled the long-handled bamboo whip whose lash could reach all the length of the team, Mick soon trusted would hold the four reins – the two from the wheelers and the long one from the near leader gathered in his left hand, the one from the off leader in his right.

The last struggling fighting mule in-spanned Peter would send the lash swishing through the air a dozen men hanging like madmen to the heads of half a dozen rearing mules would let go and the heavy wagon would go flying down the road with all the noise and dust of a battery of Royal Horse Artillery going into action.

The pace at first would be tremendous but the grades were steep, the wagon solid and heavy, the mules fat from soft living in the lucerne fields –  soon the novices weary of the frantic gallop especially as their more experienced mates strove to hinder them – the pace would slacken – but an unkind lash stung rapidly and hardly. Away the youngsters tore dragging their load and companions but soft muscles soon tired the whip spared not until four saddened humbled mules began to realise that discretion was less painful than valour.

A load of three tons besides the weight of wagon and harness, a stinging whip-lash and six hours of hauling would bring much chastened, already half trained young mules home too tired to object to being led to a stable and fastened up. A few days and the youngsters were taking their part in helping to train the others.

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The horses were Mick’s greatest joy – Luba and Wanda two purebred three-year-old Hackneys were his chief affection and Mick joined poor old Hans MacKenzie, the black groom in a fit of weeping when Mathew sold the pair for £100 cash. Golddust another mare – half Irish thoroughbred, half Hackney purebred was another favourite and great was Mick’s indignation when the dainty alluring mare was in-spanned into a team before a heavy plough – Golddust had won a dozen races some against well-known track horses and Mathew was damned forever in Mick’s estimation when the indignity was forced on his idol.

Tomorrow:“But of all the horses, Mick hated Nikola.”

If anyone reading this knows where Struan early 1900s is please email me: patleffler7@gmail.com

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.