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.