LONELINESS

Published in the Cape Argus circa 1930s

Well, I know them, the cattle rangers where it is a long day’s ride to a neighbour – the prospecting camp’s far in the fever-stricken Bush, the native trading store where a mounted trooper perhaps once in three months is the only link with the world of civilisation.

A lonely life – Aye – It might seem so to those who have never lived the life of the Bush. It never seemed so to me or to those I met in the lands beyond the Pale.

I’ve felt the loneliness more in enemy camps herded with forty thousand other captives than in the Bush – I felt it greater than ever today living on the fringe of a city.

It is strange indeed that one should feel desolate and alone in the midst of thousands. It is strange that discontent should reign where one’s wants are supplied by the mere lifting of a telephone receiver.

Out in the Wilds many were the meatless days because the grass was too long for hunting – often one lay wet and chilled to the bone, one has craved and prayed for a little shade, a drink of cold clear water, a pipeful of tobacco, news of the world – But there a man is free – changes of Government, Parliamentary Budgets, The Conventions of Man, the Laws of Nations all were but whispers in the wind.

When hungered a man sought for food when a thirst he looked for means of quenching it. The stars above, the Hills and rivers, the glades of the Bush and the never-ending, always changing pictures of Nature filled his soul with content.

Civilisation, a mess of potage – What can it offer for loss of man’s birthright – Freedom?

Not health of body or of mind – one eternal battle to pay butcher, baker, chemist. Pay, Pay and continue to Pay – friends who seek one to gain some benefit for themselves – Nothing for Nothing and little of value for what one pays.

Caged one from the Wilds lies watching the people go past his bars – sees them eat when hunger is far from their minds – live by the stroke of the clock, eye one another with longing to possess this or that.

Lonely – God in His Heaven alone knows how lonely is the soul who for fancied security for wife and child forsook the Wilds his home and betrayed his faith in Nature the Holy Father desolate and forsaken from behind his bars he watches his fellows – a herd born and bred to slave conditions unwitting of their fetters happy in the prison yard of Civilisation.

“I will arise and go unto my father and will say unto him Father I have sinned.”
Luke 15:18

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 48 Third Letter Home circa 1913

Dearest Dad,

Kotzee has been away nearly a fortnight with the waggon and I am feeling simply desperate. Without the donkeys and boys, I can do nothing except write, bathe and moon around. I walked ten miles over to a ranch but found nobody at home – got back utterly weary but couldn’t sleep. I’m so sick of boiled monkey nuts and beans. We’ve lived on them for weeks and haven’t had tea or sugar for a fortnight – meat I’m forgetting the taste of. Still, I’m not fed up with the life and its hardships only with the lack of anything to do.

I would like to go over more often to our nearest neighbours the two Englishmen but Kotzee hates them. Honestly, I’m beginning to think Kotzee is a bit mad. He keeps bragging about how he was a Boer spy in the Great War and was put in gaol as a rebel. Now if there’s one thing I can’t stand at any price its a beastly disloyal South African. One can understand Irish Catholics or any Irishman living in Ireland and being rebels – after all Ireland is a country inhabited by a Celtic race ruled by a foreign power in armed occupation of the land.

In South Africa, a mixed population of whites rule themselves under the protection of Britain and are themselves the Power in armed occupation of a land that really belongs to the Blacks. Kotzee, however, won’t agree only rave – I asked him what personal grievance he had – he has been born and bred under the Union Jack, has never been under its folds, his people are wealthy distinguished citizens of the Empire, his Uncle is a peer of Britain and the second citizen of Africa. Kruger I could understand being anti-British but he isn’t, though a Burgher of the Transvaal Republic he fought against Britain and was a prisoner of war at St Helena for nearly two years.

But Kotzee can only rant and rave absolute nonsense. He boasts of refusing to ride transport with an Englishman, and about a dozen other cases of cutting off one’s own nose to spite one’s face. It all makes me sick and honestly, he not only talks like a madman when on the subject but looks like one.

I’ve found all the Englishmen I’ve met to be splendid fellows and our two neighbours, in particular, have been awfully good to me. Their place has a rather gruesome history. It was owned by a pioneer one of a kind one reads of – father a judge in the Indian Civil Service, one brother a general in the British Army, another in the navy. He himself lived as a sort of unofficial king amongst the natives. One night two or three chaps including Kotzee were over there and Devereux seemed awfully depressed. He bucked up whilst playing poker and afterwards made tea or coffee for the lot.

The others slept in an outbuilding and during the night heard a shot. Nobody bothered as when dogs keep barking at night lots of fellows go out and fire a round or two to scare any intruders.

Next morning, however, when going into the dining room one of the guests found Devereaux at the head of the table with his head in his arms – thinking him asleep he went up to shake him when to his horror he found Devereux’s head in a pool of blood and a revolver grasped in his right hand. The poor chap was stone dead and had left a letter asking the others to bury him on the top of a high hill opposite the house.

He wanted his spirit to sit there and watch Wedza and the farm he had made. There’s a beautiful orchard around the house – guavas, oranges, loquats, lemons and other fruit – queerly enough looking down from Devereux’s grave the whole orchard is a huge Union Jack.

Nearly everybody about here seems queer – one chap, of good English family, has been all over the world and was blockade running during the Russo-Japanese war – now he lives all alone right away in the hills quarrelling with his only neighbour an old Highland ex-shepherd and ex-regular – Black Watch. The Highlander to is queer – he had sunstroke badly in India and gets all kinds of funny ideas.

Airth the manager of a ranch adjoining us is another Highlander – a jolly fine chap but gets awfully drunk on kaffir Beer – Hunter another Highlander is a very wealthy trader but also drinks heavily – sometimes they all get together and booze for a week.

It’s too dark to write and beastly cold.

Love to all,

Mick

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