The Kloof

The Kloof

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

Hans did not look good. If truth be told, I have more than often seen the condition my foreman finds himself in, after a disagreement with Nostertjie, my Boerboel who occasionally makes his way into the kraal.

Apart from the scrapes on his arms and legs, torn clothes and the inappropriate amount of grass and soil in his hair, Hans had a nasty bullet wound in his left shoulder.

It was late one Thursday afternoon when I saw him strolling towards my farm house and in the sunset I noticed his horse was limping too.

As he made his way up on to the stoep, I asked him whether he had started a third Boer war all by himself. He didn’t think it very funny and asked me to help him remove the bullet and clean up the wound. And so I did. Not without a hassle though. Hans is a strong man. Stronger than I anticipated for I found myself putting in more effort keeping him down on the bed than pulling out the piece of metal using a heated coal iron, pressing down on the wound.

He passed out soon after and slept right through until late morning the following day.
His horse was also in a lot of pain from a bullet wound in one of the hind legs and so, what woke Hans up in the late morning was the sound of my Mauser, killing his horse at the far end of the kraal under a line of Poplar trees.

Now Hans wasn’t one for too much talking but my curiosity over what happened regarding his misfortune started overwhelming me.

Lunch was being prepared. Venison and vegetables in a pot while the two of us enjoyed our coffee and pipe tobacco on the stoep.

At first Hans didn’t seem to have heard me when I mentioned the Martini-Henry bullet responsible for the discomfort in his shoulder.

“’n Klomp Kakies daar in die kloof’” he said enjoying the fresh, dry tobacco only about a week old.
It didn’t matter how much I asked and inquired. Those words and a “Dankie vir die potjie,” were the only words he ever spoke while being in my company at the time.

Hans had a way like that. Many people would consider him rude but we fought side by side in the Anglo Boer war and we both have seen much death and sorrow. We both lost our wives and children to the concentration camps and it doesn’t matter how God fearing you are, it doesn’t matter how hard you fought in the border wars against the Bashoto’s, one cannot help but to feel a bit battered. Some more than others.

Between the Rinderpest and Malaria, the droughts and the battles, a man has to stay strong, but I do not blame a person like Hans for his conversational habits – or lack thereof. With so few words coming from his lips, the Lord alone knows how Hans managed to find himself another wife.

I figured that he didn’t care much for seeing the nurse in town so I took him on the donkey cart back to his farm some 18 miles away. I also thought it appropriate to have some coffee at his place and in this way inquire from Susanna, his wife, what exactly Hans was up to, leading to his bad luck, ending up at my farmstead as opposed to his own.

I was quite surprised when she told me about a rumour going around of a suitcase full of British pounds that had been buried in the kloof by some English soldiers during the war. Our farms and the kloof were not on a main route to anywhere and it has been some time now since the war ended. It would be very unlikely for there to be any truth in a rumour like that.

Then again, as the kloof and the stream separates Hans’ farm from mine, anything whether it be a donkey, a rock or a suitcase that happens to find itself in that kloof, officially belongs to us.

Seeing that Hans had started the search in the kloof, and seeing that there might be a bunch of Rooinekke intruding on our land, I thank God for the wisdom to know that it is my duty to continue what Hans set out to accomplish, deliberately not keeping the possible outcome in mind. Hans and I defended our land before and as sure as there are Baboons in my cabbage garden every morning, we will do it again if need be. This brings me to the more sinister part of the story.

Meerkats, Sangomas and English treasure hunters. Those are the problems any farmer with a bit of self respect would know to stay away from. Meerkats attract jackals, which in turn learn that a bit of lamb coming from your kraal is much tastier than the fast, skinny little creatures.

Sangomas are no good either. My workers all go to a sangoma once a year and when they return for work, they all believe that they do not have to work as hard or that they need more wives than they already have or otherwise just more pap every day. It could take up to a whole month of hard work accompanied by the occasional kick on the seat of their pants for them to realise that the ways of the Highveld will not change even if they do smoke the ridiculous amounts of dagga while attending witch doctors and the like.
Now a bunch of Rooinekke I don’t want on my farm either. Whether they are government officials, soldiers or treasure hunters.

I don’t know what I have done to deserve this either. True, I have been found guilty on several occasions relating to various degrees of mischief, but not enough to warrant this. I have all three of the most unwanted creatures on my farm. Well, at least according to Hans van Wyk’s wife.

Similar to the trouble Hans landed himself in with the treasure hunters up in the kloof, I know that once a problem presents itself, it has to be dealt with promptly. I have been dealing with the meerkat and sangoma problems ever since I have this farm and believe you me, these kinds of problems don’t disappear by themselves.

Hans, insisting that I would not be able to sort this problem out by myself, volunteered to escort me to the kloof, assisting me with convincing these kakies to rather swiftly make their way to Kimberley. Both Hans and myself agreed that it takes just as much effort going down a hole looking for something valuable as running up a kloof to go and get it. The fact that they shot Hans and that there might be an extra few pound sterling landing in our pockets, had nothing to do with our journey to the kloof.

We even went as far as to invite Dirk Gerber, who served as our veld-kornet in the last battles of the war, to join us. After the Vredes Verdrag was signed in Vereeniging, Dirk became a police man in town and one more Mauser in our company couldn’t hurt. He himself spent a few weeks in a concentration camp on St Helena and so Hans and I knew very well that Dirk’s judgement concerning who to side with in any matter was well-founded.

In the end however, there were no gun shots fired. No wrestling, no shouting or arguing. In fact, the conversation with the three Englishmen reminded me much of a church meeting on a Sunday morning after the service. Everybody shook hands, smiled and I didn’t have a clue about what the meeting was all about or what was being said. I don’t think Hans had any idea either, for Dirk did most of the talking. He learned a bit of English while being detained on St Helena and so the conversation went fairly well.

Dirk said that the three gentlemen were indeed searching for a suitcase that actually belonged to a Jewish business man in Pretoria who goes by the name of Sammy Marks. As the Banks and most communication lines were suspended during the time of war, this business man had to make alternative plans for funding and so arranged with the Governor in the Cape for the means.

Dirk did a great deal of interpreting this way and said that the kakies did not find the suitcase and that they will make their way back to Cape Town the following morning. They also mentioned that they shot a baboon about a week ago but that the baboon somehow managed to get away.

When I looked up at Hans I could see he felt rather ashamed to be mistaken for a baboon and kept quiet about the matter. Nevertheless he did mention that he always knew there was something wrong with English people and that he couldn’t understand why they were smiling so much after not finding what they had been searching for. He also became very annoyed with the smooth talking. If he had his way, all of them would have been pumped full of lead. I just thought it a good thing that these kakies didn’t understand much Afrikaans either.

On the way back, Dirk seemed more cheerful than when we went to the kloof. I knew it was not my imagination for Hans raised his eyebrows in such a manner that I knew exactly what he was thinking.
Just short of a week later our fears were confirmed.

The news of the decade was Dirk’s new Boerperde. Sixteen of them. Along with a brand new Spider in which his wife drives around all day.

I do not know much about what happens in the Transvaal these days but one did not need much imagination to realise that Dirk became by far the richest police man in the entire republic.

 

*****

Tussen parabool en mite

Tussen parabool en mite

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

O pretoria, O pretoria!
jou swart heinings en teer strate
weerspieël my mooiste prag en praal,
jou vaal water en duister lug
my suiwer skoonheid en helder sig.
Ek is immers die bitter lied in smart
van ook menigte, ‘n gebroke hart.

O mens, O mens!
jou moordadige korrupsie en vleeslike drang
reflekteer my blomme tuin en kerk gesang,
jou onrein wanbeeld en allemensige ontrou
het die heerlikheid van my as persoon weerhou.
Deur die duisternis aan my gebied
omhels ek absoluut, my lye lied.

O bestaan, O bestaan
jou  hewige paraboliese mites uitgestal
verklaar maar ‘n deeltjie van my diepste tranedal,
jou swaar kry, langdurige swoeg en sweet
voeg waarde tot my ryk verbeelding wreed.
So verdrink ek in my eie vraag-net
en gaan lê ek op die bodem van ‘n stil gebed.

 

*****

THE SARTORIALIST

THE SARTORIALIST

Bloggers want to be him. New Yorkers adore him. And photo journalists has been copying his techniques for goodness-know, how many years now.
The very special, (and may I add,) very creative man behind the camera in the streets of, well most major hubs in the world, is fervently leading the way in the world of fashion photo journalism.
His name is Scott Schuman and he is The Sartorialist.

Becoming one of the world’s renowned photographers, one can imagine a lot of hard work, inspiration and ambition needed but he admits himself when he says, “Each day I feel like I can take the best picture of my life…” and stresses the importance of a good morning routine, so that once, you “hit the door, then you can forget about yourself and do the job, because you feel good…”

Scott started his blog back in 2005, photographing what have been described as ‘real people.’ And have been loving it ever since, with his blog and social media following going through the roof.

Scott also states that part of dreams he wants to fulfill is to get better at what he is doing. In his own words does he want to capitalize on all the different things that he is good at, writing better, shooting better, and communicating better.

Below a truly inspiring documentary, THE SARTORIALIST directed by Tyler Manson.

 

A memory of Hans Naudé

A memory of Hans Naudé

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

To me it is always strange how something ordinary can spark a memory in the twinkling of an eye, as if it didn’t even exist, and suddenly a person would come alive in your mind as if it happened yesterday. Take Hans Naudé for instance.

We were sitting under an old bluegum tree not far from Clocolan, where the ants draw circles in the soil, and the falling leaves twirl around each other. I was dozing of myself when for the first time Hans told me about her. I’ve known Hans for nearly four years at the time, yet he never said a single word about the lovely lady, Gemma. Perhaps because of the politics of her being English and he himself a Boer. Never the less, as he was going on about the color of her hair, the look in her eyes and his desire for her lips, I couldn’t help but think that the rinderpes must have had the better of him and that he was actually talking about my Johanna who is still waiting for me in Fouriesburg.

Only when he described her fair nose, I realized that it couldn’t be my Johanna for I have never looked at her nose like that. In that sense, I prefer Johanna’s ears much rather then her nose. I also remembered that although Hans spends most of his time in the veld, as a human being, he is less likely to get the rinderpes.
All the while he would go on and on about them sitting under the Acacia tree in her garden, talking about the new roses which her mom planted and the way her sister holds her heels up when trying to ride Noag, their fourteen year old, grey donkey.

That is something else I don’t understand. When I visit Johanna, its most of the time her father, Oom Pieter Steynberg, that does the talking and it never goes much further then the drought and the poor mielies that has fallen down again the previous season.

There was something eccentric in the depiction Hans gave of Gemma. Not about her lovely blue eyes or light shaded curly hair, but rather her nature in conduct. Such as her manner of strolling down the high street of Barberton on a Sunday morning. Or the way she greeted people on her way to the koöperasie. Always polite, always with a smile, neatly dressed as if to show the world that not even Paul Kruger and all his burghers can take her beauty from her. Not that I think Paul Kruger ever had any such intentions.

And although she was only seventeen years of age, based on the respect she obtained from the community in which she found herself, she was quite a sensible young lady, fully fledged. Even I noticed these very same qualities when I met her in Barberton some time ago.

I always thought that Hans must be in a bad way to have lost a love like that but when I told her that Hans and I are farming in the Clocolan district for some time now, I could see a still kind of sadness in her eyes. Surprising as ever, albeit the sorrow, she was at peace with the fact that I mentioned Hans did indeed have some sort of malaria and that he will not be visiting her soon, if ever. In that way I could tell that she was, in the most unusual way, sweetly broken. Showing a degree of tranquility but not without the sadness.

I didn’t tell Hans about my encounter with her. I didn’t get the chance to tell him for very few of us understands the way of the bosveld and it seemed that the way of the Eastern Freestate would continue without Hans.

I only visited Johanna under an old bluegum tree not far from Clocolan, where the ants draw circles in the soil, and the falling leaves twirl around each other, telling her stories while appreciating her lovely ears.

 

*****

A grapeshot at the individuals advocating the words “Let go and let God”

A grapeshot at the individuals advocating the words “Let go and let God”

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

In his book, Jews, God and History, Max I. Dimont makes the statement that an unhistoric people are acted upon by events and a historic people acts upon events. Dimont goes further to say that the Jews have remained a historic people through the centuries because they have always been active agents instead of passive bystanders.

My question then, how is it possible to be an active agent in a certain situation, challenge or circumstance while at the same time proclaiming to “let go and let God?”

The phrase has through recent time and through most charismatic churches, become a saying so familiar that we hardly even think about the words, where it comes from and its implications on our lives.

If the intention behind the words are, for example meant that a person should in his thought patterns let go of the idea that the person acting, has a certain power over the outcome of a situation, then I fully agree, yet the words in the line “let go and let God,” are so few and can be interpreted in a thousand different ways, of which many can lead to unsound and unhealthy beliefs.

The other argument may be the idea to let go of stress and worry in order for God to come through with an outcome favourable for you, those around you and His glory. It sounds good  but proves only one side of the coin as without a certain amount of stress, we would hardly move an inch in effort to becoming greater in stature and character, which is just as much part of God’s will, defined as the wellbeing of man.

One can very easily, when overwhelmed with the feeling that one has done everything in one power to mend a certain situation, decide to throw off all responsibility, start singing “let go and let God,” sit back and wait for something to happen. One may even, in the name of faith, continue to be busy with the daily chores and work, while passively waiting for that miracle to come through. Should, through the notion, no change come about, or circumstances prove worse, one could very easily be convinced that also the misfortune is the will of God or, sooner or later when the true emotions rise to the surface, even blame God for the calamity.

This brings me to the conclusion that if the world acted out the “let go and let God,” mantra during the Second World War, there would have been a lot fewer Jews around today. There are so many stories which show, even in the broader view of events, one can clearly see the hand of God in World War II, but it was most certainly not with a gathering of nations standing by, waiting for the whole absurdity to play out. There was a vast amount of sacrifices, effort and will power behind the outcome and result of so many prayers.

The Bible clearly repeats that we should trust in God. There is no doubt about that. Jesus also teaches us to not be worried about the daily necessities of life, for it is God who cares for us. I have not however read anywhere in the Word of God, the phrase, “Let go and let God.”