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

 

 

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…

 

 

 

 

 

The Soldier Returns to What? Part 2

Continued…..

Few men or women today look upon the Party System in Parliament as being anything but a vast waste of National time and money. So little is done in Parliament to make homes attractive and happy, so little is done to fill stomachs and provide clothing, boots and shoes for the children.

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There is so much interest in academics, so little sense of responsibility regarding the pressing problems of Health and Welfare. Surely it is infinitely more important that a young South African should be well clothed, well fed, and well housed than that he be taught in his home language. There are two languages in general use amongst European descended South Africans.

Then let every school in the Union be compelled to teach in both languages and if necessary keep the children an extra couple of years in school; but feed them properly, clothe them properly, house them properly, discipline them properly and teach them proper manners. Teach them truth and honour; the first essentials to the building of a nation.

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There are roads to be built, afforestation to be encouraged by Private Owners and a multitude of social welfare problems to be tackled. There is easily work for a generation in purging our whole social and economic system and making it a clean wholesome scientific one.

Today few trust anybody or anything because there is obviously so much scandalous getting jobs for pals, so much waste of Public Funds, so many getting high positions and pay with obviously so few qualifications. If it wasn’t so, half the Union’s population wouldn’t be living below the Breadline.

Above portrays the Hewitt Family. The two images below are both of slums: the left  is of present day Africa, the right is of early 20th century NYC.

Above portrays the Hewitt Family. The two images below are both of slums:
the left is of present-day Africa, the right is of early 20th century NYC

Why not have a competent commission begin at the top and work down through all paid National, Provincial, Municipal and District Government employees and decide what posts could be abolished and what new ones created to increase efficiency; whether the holder of a post is competent, and whether he is earning his money or whether he would be better off somewhere else or retired.

Why not have a certain day set aside in Parliament to discuss racialistic questions on a non-party basis? Why not give the Speaker of the House power to confine members’ speeches strictly to matters in the National interest and taboo any speech calculated to provoke antagonism between sections of the Nation.

Baleke Mbete Teacher, member of SASO and the ANC, head of the Medu Arts Ensemble (Gaborone), Member of COSAW, Secretary General of the ANCWL, Speaker of the National Parliament, poet

We are all in South Africa to make comfortable happy homes; just as Up North, South Africans; White, Coloured and Black put everything into smashing the Germans and the Italians.

The Governor-General’s Fund is a source of eternal irritation to the soldier. Every soldier detests the idea of exposing his family life to committees of well-meaning but often wholly unsuitable townsmen. A magistrate, clergyman, doctor and a lawyer would be a logical committee to decide who requires assistance and in what form.

In the army today one of the commonest phrases is “What a racket” when discussing politics, the Governor-General’s Fund and a score of other national activities and enterprises.

After the War, the last thing any sane man or woman wants is social upheaval, political exploitation of the soldier, Coloured and Native unrest or the spectre of Revolution. When the War ends however if tens of thousands of young, vigorous ex-Servicemen and women are not competently handled and promises to them are not fulfilled the threat to the state will be a real one.

The strikers were backed by Afrikaner commandos,
like this group manning a roadblock ©Museum Africa

Today the business of winning the War makes men amenable to rule and regulation but after the war, the business of winning the Peace must be run efficiently and without ‘Rackets’ or there is bound to be trouble.

The general tenor of speeches made today by responsible men shows that these contentions are realised, that there will be a necessity to disgorge on the part of the wealthy, that the soldier must not be allowed to fall into the hands of irresponsible leaders, that promises are easily made but often impossible of fulfilment.

(Note in pencil in the margin see Lawrence of Arabia.)

Why then do not the leaders of the people, the leaders appointed by the people put all they know into logical solving of problems instead of talking so much about them. Tackle the obvious and tackle it with enthusiasm and confidence and it is queer how often, how smoothly, and how quickly the problem turns out devoid of concrete difficulty.

The War has shown us how to achieve results, how to handle problems, how eagerly and efficiently South Africans respond to any decent lead. In peacetime, however, we are unfortunately too tolerant, too easy going, too desirous of avoiding trouble. It is terribly difficult to work up and sustain enthusiasm in South Africans in National matters. Each wants to live his own life in his own way.

Outside the professional politician, there is very little racialism really. It can be safely said that ninety-nine Afrikaans speaking South Africans in the country will help an Englishman or a Jew in distress. During this War, it is remarkable how in the country Ossewa Brandwag supporters have helped lone English women running the farms of their husbands on Service. In every department of the huge South African army, those of Dutch or Huguenot descent and those of British descent merge and if anything it is often difficult to know which is which. 

Fusion of the two European descended races has been going on for generations, is going on and always will go on until we are all South Africans. Why worry about it as it cannot be stopped. What we must worry about is how we’re going to have decent homes, good food, excellent clothing and the very best prospects for our sons and daughters. To secure this men must be chosen as executives for their ability and their trustworthiness. We have the men and they have the material.

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It does seem so ridiculous that there should be difficulty in absorbing South Africa’s present Army and War workers into civilian employment.

When one travels through the vast bushveld, up and down the long West and East coasts, when one sees the magnificent well-equipped harbours and thinks of the millions Up North beginning to become civilised one can’t but feel that’s a poor lot who can’t find lucrative employment for a quarter of a million White, Coloured and Black South Africans.

In the reconstruction cabinet, there should be at least one seaman. Nobody can have escaped being struck with the number of South Africans who are serving in the British Navy.

There are apparently hundreds of them – and South Africa itself is employing a really large number. Thousands of South Africans seem to be working in dockyards. It seems only logical if these should be represented in the Reconstruction Cabinet and full consideration is given to the profitability of building South African ships for coastal work and engaging in South American trade.

It has often been authoritatively stated that there are large markets for South African coal and railway material agricultural implements and the like from our Iron and Steelworks in South America and in the North. From Cape Town to Dakar and from Durban to Mogadisco seem natural South African coastal trade routes as well as from the Cape to South America.

If the Reconstruction Cabinet can only adopt General Staff methods and obtain the same parliamentary support there cannot be bounds to South African employment and prosperity. For the next two generations, we should be welcoming immigrants. Let us put away pretty things, abandon childish ideas and go forward as men to Peacetime Victory.

Mention of the Sea brings to mind several suggestions for interesting employment in establishing oyster beds, the resumption of the tinned Cape lobster and frozen lobster tail exports to France and the extension of the trade to French colonies, the revival of the old trade to Australia of smoked Cape Sole and the following up of former highly promising experimental shipments of fish to Billingsgate. What has often been strongly urged is the commercial development of our vast seaweed wealth.

Make South Africa a real tourist paradise and offer facilities for the exchange of Trade Missions. Related image

Take but one instance the avid reception by Canadians of South African canned pineapple. Our pines can be produced in unlimited quantity and the Union Trades Commissioner to Canada reports that at all we can send Canadians will buy.

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What the Reconstruction Cabinet needs is reliable statistics as to the following:
What types of hospital and sanitoriums does the Union require?
For what number of Europeans, Coloureds and Natives?
Are existing Military establishments convertible to civilian needs?
How many Europeans and Natives can the mining industry absorb?
What number can Iron and Steelworks employ and how soon can the industry produce agricultural implements?
Will shipbuilding of coastal Steamers pay and what number could be absorbed in building and manning?
What has the fishing industry to offer?
Can a seaweed industry be established?

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One imagines that many pages of questions could be written and it seems feasible that most would be answered satisfactorily to those seeking to place men and women in civilian employment.

We must retain an army and will very like build up a small efficient Navy. The Youth Brigade, the Physical Training Brigade can be carried on with and possibly the Kappie Commando be revived on the present Youth and Physical Training Brigades. The HMS Assegai establishment could be taken over and converted more to a merchant marine basis and that of the General Botha training school be extended.

We have the money, we have the material, the factories, the mines, the railways, harbours, trained personnel to achieve anything – Let’s get down to and do things.

Note in pencil: If we cannot satisfactorily solve our post-war problems, our victories over the Germans will have availed us nothing, and the men who died will have died for an illusion, not an ideal.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 75 Living A Life of Utter Dissipation

End of 74th Entry: D Squadron hailed Mick’s return with enthusiasm for he was very popular and every man was needed. That very evening the column was advancing to the attack on Ukamas, a German strong point which was supposed to be heavily garrisoned.

That evening all sorts of rumours began to circulate of a fixed determination of the regiments composing the command not to cross the Border. Darkness fell.

The order came to saddle up and the 18th Mounted Rifles fell in. The bulk of the other regiments refusing to saddle or move. Troopers of D Squadron raging began to quietly slip cartridges into their magazines muttering that they were prepared to attack the others if anyone would lead.

The commands came “Prepared to Mount” “Mount” and like one man D Squadron swung into the saddle. Amongst the other squadrons, the response was varied but the bulk stood sullenly at their horses’ heads.

For an hour D Squadron sat ready to ride, every man itching to open fire on the cowardly dastards around them. Then came the order to dismount and off-saddle.

Next day new regiments rode forward to take part in Van Deventer’s wonderful ride which resulted in the Germans finding their rear threatened, and abandoning their position at Aus. Retiring with all speed the Germans were badly smitten at Gibeon by Colonel MacKenzie with the Natal Light Horse, the Imperial Light Horse, the Umuti Mounted Rifles and the Natal Field Artillery after one of the greatest military marches in the history of warfare.

Captured guns at Gibeon, German South-West Africa, 1915Captured guns at Gibeon, German South-West Africa, 1915

Meanwhile, the 18th Mounted Rifles, the Midland Horse and various other Cape Colony Boer units rode back to Upington to be disbanded.

After a long dreary ride, the troops arrived back in Upington, D Squadron in a bitter evil temper. No delay was made in disbanding the regiment each man received his pay and two months leave pending discharge.

Thoroughly disgusted with the Union Army Mick proceeded home to Cape Town to receive a wonderful welcome the joy of which was sadly marred by the feeling of absolute hatred of anything Dutch. A hatred which would never leave him.

Mick’s mother was half Dutch, many of his friends and relatives belonged to the race but to Mick, the Boer was tainted. Mr Osmond vainly argued pointing out the wonderful loyalty and courage displayed by the bulk of the Boer race – Mick sneered.

“They know which side their bread is buttered, most of them, but damned few know the meaning of the words Truth or Honesty.

For a few days, Mick hunted around for means to go overseas. He tried steamers for work as a fireman, coal trimmer or deckhand; interviewed relatives for a loan, approached the Imperial Army Officers still in Cape Town but every shipping company was flooded with applicants like himself.

Image result for ships leaving cape town with troops 1915

Then one night at the theatre he met an old friend of his Marandellas days then a B.S.A police trooper now Captain and Paymaster of the 1st Rhodesian Regiment. He proposed that Mick transfer to the Rhodesians who would shortly be proceeding overseas as a unit.

Mick welcomed the offer and next day after wiring the 18th Mounted Rifles depot at Kimberly was transferred to the Rhodesians with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Six weeks passed – weeks that did Mick no good. He travelled to Kimberly to receive his discharge from the 18th Mounted Rifles who were being demobilized – this broke his service as the transfer was for some reason disallowed thus involving a new enlistment in the Rhodesian Regiment.

On his return Mick found himself being everlastingly dragged into bars by a fellow Staff Sergeants and a thousand and one old acquaintances. There was practically no work as the regiment was in German West Africa and with ample leisure, a high rate of pay and numerous friends Mick lived a life of utter dissipation.

Soon wearing Mick applied for and got a transfer into the 2nd Battalion of the Transvaal Scottish gladly relinquishing his rank and pay as a Staff Sergeant to become a private. 

Three days later he left for Luderitzbucht with two Officers of the battalion. A pleasant sea voyage was followed by a long but interesting railway journey and at last, Mick was landed amongst a battalion composed largely of ex-regulars of the Highland Regiments.

Three days went by – the battalion received orders to move down to take part in the Grand Finale of the Campaign. Hemmed in on all sides the Germans were at last at bay. The same night came news of the surrender of the entire German forces.

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Mick returned with the regiment to Johannesburg via Cape Town.

After a triumphal March through the Golden City the regimental pipes skirling in front they proceeded to a demobilisation camp and a few hours later Mick walked out once more free.

Returning to Cape Town Mick found the 1st Rhodesian Regiment arrived and awaiting orders to proceed overseas – interviewing the Commanding Officer regarding reenlistment Mick was told to hold himself in readiness until definite orders had been received.

Unfortunately, a good deal of dissatisfaction existed in the regiment and a day or two later it was disbanded many of the men returning to Rhodesia which was being threatened by a German invasion – others disgusted with Colonial warfare proceeded to Europe to enlist in Imperial units.

For a few days, Mick picked up the threads of his old Sea Point life doing some mountaineering and fishing. With several friends, he discussed every phase of the situation. All were emphatic that they would not serve again in units controlled by the Union Government or engage in Colonial warfare.

Their hearts were set on Europe but funds were lacking and scheme after scheme of going to Australia, England or Canada to enlist were threshed out and dismissed as impracticable.

Then came the news that a brigade of infantry was to be raised immediately for service in Europe. The brigade was to be equipped and paid by the Imperial Government and the troops to be enlisted as units of the Imperial Army. 

The next day Cape Town awoke to find itself placarded with recruiting posters, military bands marching through the town, pipes skirling, processions of veterans of former wars exhorting the fit and young to follow in their footsteps and all the beauty of the Cape calling on men to behave as men.

Image result for enlisting posters to join the army 1915 south africa

Still in the uniform of their Union regiments Mick, his brother and a dozen chums joined the long waiting queues outside the City Hall – waited hours, fought their way into the examining doctors presence and after many hours suspense and struggling found themselves soldiers in the King’s Army.

The first year of the war was over. Mick, his brother and chums were lusty with life bronzed and well experienced in army life. All had smelt powder, were trained soldiers and now with open eyes, and sober minds had definitely chosen their future course.

They had taken a man’s share in the greatest of all wars and it was due to no fault of their’s that little of the actual clash of arms had come their way. Not one had hesitated a moment as to where duty lay. They had played a part in the land of their birth and now eagerly they went to help the land of their fathers, to the battlefields of their race.

Mick, his brothers and three school chums enlisted together. Two bore Swedish names, one Irish, two Dutch. Three were to lie beneath the poppies of Flanders, one to rest in Brighton’s Hero Corner. Mick to return a man hardly worn by suffering, hardship and captivity.

From Youth, the five entered manhood and a life which was Life, Love, and Battle and truest Comradeship – life in the service of the Red Gods.

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My Soul Has A Hat

A beautiful poem by Mario de Andrade (San Paolo 1893-1945)

Poet, novelist, essayist and musicologist.

One of the founders of Brazilian modernism.

__________________________

MY SOUL HAS A HAT

I counted my years

& realized that I have

Less time to live by,

Than I have lived so far.

I feel like a child who won a pack of candies: at first he ate them with pleasure

But when he realized that there was little left, he began to taste them intensely.

I have no time for endless meetings

where the statutes, rules, procedures & internal regulations are discussed,

knowing that nothing will be done.

I no longer have the patience

To stand absurd people who,

despite their chronological age,

have not grown up.

My time is too short:

I want the essence,

my spirit is in a hurry.

I do not have much candy

In the package anymore.

I want to live next to humans,

very realistic people who know

How to laugh at their mistakes,

Who are not inflated by their own triumphs

& who take responsibility for their actions.

In this way, human dignity is defended

and we live in truth and honesty.

It is the essentials that make life useful.

I want to surround myself with people

who know how to touch the hearts of those whom hard strokes of life

have learned to grow with sweet touches of the soul.

Yes, I’m in a hurry.

I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.

I do not intend to waste any of the remaining desserts.

I am sure they will be exquisite,

much more than those eaten so far.

My goal is to reach the end satisfied

and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.

We have two lives

& the second begins when you realize you only one

The Feet of the Young Men by Rudyard Kipling

Bernard Leffler refers to the Red Gods fascinated I did the Google search:

The Feet Of The Young Men

Now the Four-way Lodge is opened, now the Hunting Winds are loose —
Now the Smokes of Spring go up to clear the brain;
Now the Young Men’s hearts are troubled for the whisper of the Trues,
Now the Red Gods make their medicine again!
Who hath seen the beaver busied? Who hath watched the black-tail mating?
Who hath lain alone to hear the wild-goose cry’
Who hath worked the chosen water where the ouananiche is waiting,
Or the sea-trout’s jumping-crazy for the fly?

He must go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you where the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

So for one the wet sail arching through the rainbow-round the bow,
And for one the creak of snow-shoes on the crust;
And for one the lakeside lilies where the bull-moose waits the cow,
And for one the mule-train coughing in the dust.
Who hath smelt smelt-smoke at twilight? Who hath heard the birch-log burning?
Who is quick to read the noises of the night?
Let him follow with the others for the Young Men’s feet are turning
Too the camps of proved desire and known delight!

Let him go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you where the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

I

Do you know the blackened timber — do you know that racing stream
With the raw, right-angled log-jam at the end;
And the bar of sun-warmed shingle where a man may bask and dream
To the click of shod canoe-poles round the bend’
I is there that we are going with our rods and reels and traces,
To a silent, smoky Indian that we know —
To a couch of new-pulled hemlock, with the starlight on our faces,
For the Red Gods call us out and we must go!

They must go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you where the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

II

Do you know the shallow Baltic where the seas are steep and short,
Where the bluff, lee-boarded fishing-luggers ride?
Do you know the joy of threshing leagues to leeward of your port
On a coast you’ve lost the chart of overside?
It is there that I am going, with an extra hand to bale her —
Just one able ‘long-shore loafer that I know.
He can take his chance of drowning, while I sail and sail and sail her,
For the Red Gods call me out and I must go!

He must go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you where the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

III

Do you know the pile-built village where the sago-dealers trade —
Do you know the reek of fish and wet bamboo?
Do you know the steaming stillness of the orchid-scented glade
When the blazoned, bird-winged butterflies flap through?
It is there that I am going with my camphor, net, and boxes,
To a gentle, yellow pirate that I know —
To my little wailing lemurs, to my palms and flying-foxes,
For the Red Gods call me out and I must go!

He must go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you where the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

IV

Do you know the world’s white roof-tree — do you know that windy rift
Where the baffling mountain-eddies chop and change?
Do you know the long day’s patience, belly-down on frozen drift,
While the head of heads is feeding out of range?
It is there that I am going, where the boulders and the snow lie,
With a trusty, nimble tracker that I know.
I have sworn an oath, to keep it on the Horns of Ovis Poli,
And the Red Gods call me out and I must go!

He must go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you where the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

How the Four-way Lodge is opened — now the Smokes of Council rise —
Pleasant smokes, ere yet ‘twixt trail and trail they choose —
Now the girths and ropes are tested: now they pack their last supplies:
Now our Young Men go to dance before the Trues!
Who shall meet them at those altars — who shall light them to that shrine?
Velvet-footed, who shall guide them to their goal?
Unto each the voice and vision: unto each his spoor and sign —
Lonely mountain in the Northland, misty sweat-bath ‘neath the Line —
And to each a man that knows his naked soul!

White or yellow, black or copper, he is waiting, as a lover,
Smoke of funnel, dust of hooves, or beat of train —
Where the high grass hides the horseman or the glaring flats discover —
Where the steamer hails the landing, or the surf-boat brings the rover —
Where the rails run out in sand-rift . . . Quick! ah, heave the camp-kit over,
For the Red Gods make their medicine again!

And we go — go — go away from here!
On the other side the world we’re overdue!
‘Send the road is clear before you when the old Spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!

From the Rudyard Kipling Society

Notes on the text 

(by Mary Hamer drawing on various sources, in particular
Ralph Durand, “A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling” 1914.)

 

Fourway Lodge

‘They were constituted by adherence to the basic rules of the cosmic system, with sunken hole as receptacle for the hot stones, seating protocols, spirit directions, tobacco thank offerings, prayer flags and special songs to the spirit helpers of the owner. The sweat progressed through four sessions of sweat, appropriately to the spirits of the four directions in the cosmic structure, each of which ended by opening the flaps of the lodge to allow for the spirits to leave and the devotees to cool.’Earle H. Waugh,Dissonant Worlds, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996 pp 56-7.

 

The Red Gods

‘The Trues in the verses are – well, the Trues – the old original four or five head-deities of the Red Man’s mind –the old Beast Gods I think they were – Buffalo –Beaver – Elk/Coyote – or something of that nature. At any rate they are the Red Gods of the hunting grounds – earth spirits waking man up in the spring.’

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 37 Walking The Belt

End of 36th Entry: No-one had appeared to have bothered about washing face or hands and to Mick, the whole crowd looked the toughest set of hard men he had ever seen, or read of.

Little time, however, was given for him looking about – the waiters seemed possessed by demonical energy and hardly had he given his order when his wants were supplied. As the waiter put the food before Mick he asked what shift the lad was on and what he wanted.

Stopping the work of mastication Mick asked what the other meant and found that mine shifts were 6am to 3pm, 3pm to 11pm, 11pm to 6am. Breakfast was from 6am to 9am. Lunch noon to 3pm, dinner 6pm to 9pm, so that except when on the second night shift one of the three meals would be missed and in its place the mine provided a can of tea, coffee or cocoa and a parcel of sandwiches.

Asking the way to the excavator Mick was directed to a line of immense iron tanks – on either side of these ran a single line of rail on wooden platforms high above the ground. Over one of the tanks stood an engine puffing vigorously and on asking for Roberts he was directed to the engine. Here he found a worried looking man cursing fluently at the engine driver who retorted in kind. Seeing Mick the two looked round.

“What the Hell do you want?” asked the worried man.

“Please, Sir I want Mr. Roberts.”

“I’m Roberts – no bloody Sirs or Masters here there ain’t.”

“I’m Osmond, told to report to you for work,” answered Mick.

The worried man flung his hands to Heaven and blasphemed freely.

“A kid in a choker collar and pretty suit, a man five feet four high and five feet round the guts, thirty years in a Haberdasher’s shop whatever the Hell that is – a Dutchman six foot seven inches high that’s a bloody telegraph pole, two half-starved rats from gaol and one tank ahead of the Battery with only two men beside the trash heap.”

Turning to Mick he told him to come along and dashed off.

The engine driver winked at the lad who grinning scrambled after the worried man to a little office where Mick was implored to throw away his collar and tie, discard his coat and waistcoat, sign his name and the time in a large book, and come along.

At another little room, Mick was issued with a four-gallon tin of grease by Roberts, led back to the tanks and shown a wide belt revolving rapidly under the tanks.

“The Excavator’s got four beams each with a score of big iron discs,” said Roberts “after the cyanide solution has drained away from the tanks the excavator comes along and ploughs the slimes throwing them to the centre of the tank. The stuff drops down a hole on to this endless belt which carries it to the headgear over the dump – the headgear is 120ft high and damned slippery. Your job is to walk the length of the belt to the top of the distributor and keep the grease pots full – there are two thousand of them and God help you if I come along and hear a squeak – I’ll chuck you over the side, I bloody well will. Now you know your job – get on like Hell. Just a moment – this is all new-fangled machinery which nobody understands and the damned excavator is always choking – if you hear the engine whistling run along and give a hand to free the discs, Savvy! Away with you then.”

A fortnight passed. Mick found the work hard but not monotonous for as the shift boss had prophesied the excavator discs were continuously clogging and the scratch gang hastily engaged to work on the new plant were continually being rushed into a tank where with picks and shovels they laboured furiously under the lash of the shift boss’s tongue until the wet sticky masses of slime were picked and dug from between the discs.

Ferguson the Irish engine driver was no man to waste time and at Robert’s shout of “All Clear” would instantly put the engine in action the long beams would slowly move and the numerous discs revolve giving little time for the working gang to scramble on top of the moving beams and from thence climb out of the tank.

It needed no little agility and there were some hairbreadth escapes from a horrible mangled death but Mick could not restrain his delight at the telegraph pole Dutchman and the stout Haberdasher, desperately leaping for the beams and from them despairing attempts to spring to the tank edge to haul themselves to safety. Both Ferguson and Roberts delighted in the agonies of mind and the queer contortions of the ill-matched pair and were never so happy as when one or other missed disaster by the very skin of his teeth.

However, the shift soon became accustomed to the work – the Haberdasher’s corporation diminished daily and the hop-pole seemed to broaden and thicken. Mick’s only complaint was about his sleeping quarters. He had been given a beautiful little room with electric light and a fireplace but otherwise as bare as when the builders quilted it. With a thin raincoat, sweat-soaked garments, no blankets and not even a towel it was pretty miserable after work.

Mick hadn’t a penny – his suitcase contained only spare shirt and socks and nights were bitterly cold. Tired as he would be after a shift of hard manual work – and in his first week he put in 35 hours overtime – it was impossible to sleep on the cold hard boards with nothing under or over him. The nights were inexpressively long and when the hooter went for a change of shifts Mick felt more dead than alive.

He had started at the beginning of the month and somehow the thought of applying for an advance never crossed his mind. He was too proud to confess his misery to his companions or superiors and doggedly tried to fight out the month planning in anticipation what he would do with the money he would draw at the end. Blankets, working clothing, towels, soap – Jove he would have ten pounds with all the overtime.

But Mick was young and impulsive and his companions except for Ferguson were wasters. Knowing that any stoppage of the excavating process would hold up the Battery with its nine tube mills and hundreds of stamps, the shift persuaded Mick to head a deputation to ask for an increase of pay – gallantly Mick interviewed the much-harassed Cyanide Manager – received a clout which made his ear ring, and whilst he saw his mates disappearing back to work, he himself was led to the office received what money was due to him and with some seven pounds sorrowfully wended his way from the mine.

Image result for The Battery on a gold mine

As he took his way towards Johannesburg the boy felt as though a landslide with himself as the principal figure in it had taken place. The life had suited him well, Ferguson, the engine driver and Roberts the shift boss had both treated him kindly and he had been taken from greasing to help Ferguson.

There were developments proceeding daily on the Reduction Works and Roberts had assured the lad that any day he might be able to snap up a position worth having – another fortnight and his troubles would have been over for his cheque would have been sufficient to clothe and equip him fairly well.

Bitterly the lad cursed his easy-going nature and lack of caution. He had had no complaints, he was well satisfied. Why oh, why had he let himself be a tool in the hands of a rotten crowd of shirkers?

£11.5 per month almost doubled by overtime and one of the first men to be employed on a modern type of plant certain to be introduced on every mine on the Rand. What a damned fool he was.

 

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 29 A Wedding with a Twist

From Entry 28: Hans, the head groomsman, is in love with a new housemaid who has insisted on getting married. “Hans gave way and approached Mathew regarding a loan, his assistance in procuring a clergyman and borrowing the wine cellar for the ceremony.”

Mathew laughingly agreed and due arrangements were made. On the afternoon of the great day, the wine cellar newly whitewashed and swept, strewn with orange blossoms was filled by the complete staff of the Van Der Walt’s farm.

An old Dutch Reformed Church minister stood arrayed in Geneva gown and bands – an orchestra of a battered violin, two guitars and a concertina gave creditable version of “The Voice That Breathed O’er Eden” and Mr. Mackenzie entered attired in an ancient tophat, a tailcoat green with age, a monstrous white collar and scarlet tie, a pair of black trousers, the lot set off by white gloves, yellow shoes and finished by a great bouquet in his buttonhole.

But the bride drew all eyes and a gasp of amazement passed from the assemblage as Maria the old washerwoman who had been Mr. Mackenzie’s staff of life for two long years entered with conscious pride.

Enormously fat, beaming with happiness, adorned more gloriously than any lily of the field in the frilly chiffon of the crinoline age livened by a blue sash, and scarlet knots, her head covered with a filmy veil her feet bare, Maria took her place beside Mr. Mackenzie.

Annie giggling joyously led four smartly dressed yellow maidens carrying sleaves of lilies and Hans Mackenzie scratching his head gazed piteously at Annie and distastefully at Maria.

The minister began the service – came to the words “Hans McKenzie wilt you thou take this woman to be thy wedded wife?”

As the sonorous Dutch words rolled down the vaulted cellar Hans MacKenzie declared that he would not and in voluble South African dialect entered into a declaration of how Annie should be the bride and Maria only a discarded light o’ love – Annie led him on and now had substituted a fat, long tired of, former mistress of his.

The minister argued – Mathew pointed out that it was MacKenzie’s duty to give the honour of his name to the mother of two of his children and eventually Hans gave a sulky consent to the proceedings being carried on, provided Mathew promise him a bottle of brandy and gave him a drink there and then. The promise and the tot were given and assisted by Mick as best-man the ceremony continued.

Tomorrow Mick rides Nikola

Quote from Ovid and Thank You

“In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”

I was mulling over this exact thought on my way to work this morning, having transcribed 28 of Grandad’s stories.

Grandad. you have left us with a snapshot of growing up in the 1900s, the challenges you faced and the people you met.

I thank you for giving us your story unsanitized. I love you all the more for revealing yourself unencumbered on paper.

It’s almost 100 years since you wrote your story and my, well-traveled, brought up in apartheid South Africa, living in a post-apartheid, feminist world, soul has struggled to type some of your sentences and words but I do and I will because this is a valuable snapshot of another time and you.

I am enjoying getting to know you.

Bernard Leffler writer