Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Train Journey to Kempton Park

We visit some of my mother’s relatives.

Arnold Randall & family
            My dad was away in the army and I think that by now he was stationed in Walvis Bay.   During 1942 my mother decided to visit her sister, Ivy, who was known as Aunty Dickie Whittal, as well as her brother, Uncle Arnold Randall, and his family, all of whom lived in Kempton Park.   We would go by train and spend some time with them.
            Bertha tells me that she did not go as she was in boarding school or with Aunty Ivy Vermaak in Kroonstad.   So it was Mommy, Thelma, Daphne, Leslie and I.   What an experience for us children!   Our first train trip!   I can remember seeing all the mine dumps as we passed through Germiston and all the houses in the suburbs.   We got to Kempton Park station to find Uncle Arnold and his sons, Edward and Sonnyboy, waiting for us.   They lived in a Railways cottage very near the station.   Aunty Bess was waiting for us with tea and cake.   Their eldest son, David (called Cookie), was away in the army, and their daughter, Frances, and then there was a little girl, Adelaide, about Leslie’s age.
Walter, Florence & Gracie
            It was soon after our arrival that Auntie Dickie and some of her children came to fetch us as we would be staying with them.   Their house was in walking distance.   She was married to my father’s youngest brother, Uncle Arthur Whittal, who was in the army and stationed at Umbogintwini in Natal.   Her children were Walter, Florence, Gracie and Patty.   It was a very happy time with our aunt and cousins, but I can’t remember much other than that there was a huge patch of tall cosmos plants nearby in full flower where the children of that area played, making tunnels through the plant   
         Thelma, who was by then 18 years old, was a very pretty girl and had photos taken of herself at a photographer in Kempton Park.   She gave one photo to Aunty Dickie who kept it in a small frame, and when a nephew of Aunty Bess, Gordon Bradford from Port Elizabeth, later saw the photo, he asked for Thelma’s address. 
Thelma Whittal
This happened some time after we had gone home and it eventually led to the two of them marrying after the war.   Gordon was in the army at that time and, when he had a weekend off, he would visit his aunt in Kempton Park.           
Gordon Bradford
 Uncle Arnold Randall was a very soft and kind man and was very fond of his two sisters.   I can remember him giving my mother two budgies, one green and one blue, but I can’t remember what became of them.   I am certain that they must have died as I wonder where my mother would have obtained the correct seed to feed them.   The little birds fascinated me and even now I still breed budgies here in Port Elizabeth.   These little parrots are indigenous to Australia and in the wild they are all green in colour.   Now they come in all colours except shades of red!

            Cosmos plants flower during autumn so this little holiday of ours must have taken place during April 1942 when I was eight years old.
Cosmos Flowers

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The tender love of my mother

I have a Whitlow 

            It was whilst my dad was away in the army that I developed a most painful left thumb.   There was a red swelling around the nail which became worse and was soon full of puss.   It throbbed continually and left me moaning and sleepless.   I have looked it up on the internet and this is what it says:

            “The clinical term whitlow is applied to an acute infection, usually followed by suppuration, commonly met with in the fingers.   The point of infection is often trivial—a pin-prick, a puncture caused by a splinter of wood, a scratch, or even an imperceptible lesion of the skin.   Attention is usually first attracted to the condition by a sensation of tightness in the finger and tenderness when the part is squeezed or knocked against anything.    In the course of a few hours the part becomes red and swollen; there is continuous pain, which soon assumes a throbbing character, particularly when the hand is dependent, and may be so severe as to prevent sleep, and the patient may feel generally out of sorts”.

Sorry no picture of a thumb

            My dad was away in the army, Bertha was at boarding school, Les was still a very little boy, Thelma was there to help my mother, and Daf had to go to school.   My mother had been up all night trying to ease my pain, so there was only one thing to do.    Early the next morning Petrus had to inspan the two cart horses, Chummy and Kolbooi, so that Mommy could get me to Doctor Goldberg in Viljoenskroon as soon as possible.   Petrus helped me into the cart with Mommy already waiting with the reins in her hands.  The horses pulled off with no trouble at all; perhaps they could sense that there was a child in terrible pain.

            It was a dreadful journey as every bump of the cart was most painful and I sat holding my bandaged hand above my head.   Mommy made the usual stop for the horses to rest and pass water; she was aware that they were only animals and treated them with care.

            We reached town after about an hour and took the cart to the usual outspan place where someone took over.   We went to the doctor’s rooms as soon as we could and Doctor Goldberg saw me immediately.   He confirmed that it was a whitlow and lanced it after giving me an injection in the thumb and there was immediate relief.   He was a Jew and our family doctor.   He was most kind to us and warned that I would eventually loose my thumb nail.   After bandaging my thumb he gave mommy what she would need to help my recovery and told her to bring me back in a week’s time.

            From the doctor’s rooms we went to Mrs. Shargel’s shop where mommy bought a few things and after hearing about our plight, Mrs. Shargel gave us each a cup of tea and some biscuits.   She also gave me a packet of sweets which would help for the pain!   We were soon on our way back home and I fell asleep, leaving my poor mother to guide the horses and take us home safely.   The things a mother will do for her children!   She had also had a sleepless night, but still carried on keeping the horses at a steady trot to take us home while worrying about her other children who were at home and at school.   Just thinking about it makes me appreciate my mom more than ever and I wish that I could tell her so.

            Eventually my dead thumb nail grew out to be replaced by a nail with two distinct ridges on it.   I have always had great difficulty telling my right from my left, so I soon learned to feel for the thumb nail with the two ridges and then I knew which side was left and which was right!!!   (If you don’t believe me, just ask Yvonne.)

            Most of the shops and businesses in Viljoenskroon at that time were owned by Jews and Lebanese.   Many years later my brother, Les, married a Lebanese girl, Lydia Kalil, from Bloemfontein whose one sister, Yvette, was married to Danny Gossayn, a Lebanese farmer from Viljoenskroon.

            There was a Jew, Leo Steele, who had a shop in Viljoenskroon, and after he married an Afrikaans girl I heard people saying that she had become a Jewess and I wondered what they meant by that   When I was in their shop one day I looked at her and noticed that she used a lot of make-up, especially very red lipstick, and as the farmers wives in those days did not use make-up, I thought that a Jewess was a woman who used a lot of make-up.   It was only later that I found out that being Jewish was a religion and had nothing at all to do with make-up!!

* * * * * *

Monday, 28 March 2011

My Sister and I Bunk School

Daddy comes home.

Vernie & Daphne when they
were much younger
     I can remember Daddy coming home on leave from time to time; once for a whole month to do the ploughing and planting.   Bertha tells me that she would lead the two big bullocks pulling the planter which Daddy was riding on and controlling.   She says that they were huge and she was scared of them, but she was Daddy’s ‘boy’ and loved helping him.   Thelma, on the other hand, left school after passing standard six and was Mommy’s help in the house.   Bertha was at boarding school in Viljoenskroon.
On another occasion, when he had to go back to his military base, my mom went with him on the train as far as Klerksdorp and would return the next day on another train.   Daf and I stayed home from school the day that he left, but had to go back to school the next morning.   Mommy forgot to write a letter for us to our teachers explaining the reason for our absence, so our big sister, Thelma, wrote one for us.   Daf and I tried to be difficult by saying we would not go with a letter from our sister and she in turn said that she would tell my mom about us when she got home later that day.   So walking to school we decided that we would backtrack to grandpa’s old house once we had passed it and would spend the day there until we saw the bus pass by on the main road that afternoon.
Bert & Lydia Whittal 1941/42
The old house was used as a store and we found it locked with only the verandah room open.   Into this dirty and dusty place we crept and watched the bus pass by on its way to school.   We had nothing to do and soon ate our sandwiches, but we had no water to drink.   We dared not run to the windmill as we could be seen and the alarm would be raised, so there we sat like prisoners of our own doing.
Later my tummy wanted to go so it was decided that I could do my job on a piece of paper which we could then throw over the inside wall (there were no ceilings) and, when I had finished my task, Daf, being the biggest, took the paper and it’s load and threw it up, but… it all came back with some of the mess sticking to the roof and the wall !!!!!!!!   Now we had a bigger problem; no where to go and nothing to do and we had to put up with a bad odour as well.
Daddy & Mommy's
old clock
We started to blame one another for our predicament and decided to go play behind the house where we could not be seen from home.   We saw Petrus return with the cart and horses from the station from where he had fetched my mom.   When he brought the horses to the water trough, he saw us and came and told us that the ‘Missies’ wanted to see us at home and when we got there clever miss Daf went quickly and stopped the clock so that Mommy would think us to be home at the normal time.   Mommy was no fool and we each got the hiding of our lives with the double reins of the horses.   We still talk and laugh to this day about how we bunked school that particular day.   We never knew what my mom wrote in our letters to the school the next day.
That same old clock today stands in my lounge ticking away the hours and years, reminding me of my absence from school one day a long time ago and the hiding I was given.
Bertha had to leave school just before she was due to write her examination for standard eight when it was discovered that she had a curvature of the spine.   She went to Kroonstad for treatment and stayed with Aunty Ivy.   Nothing could cure the curvature; she has suffered because of it all her life, and the deformity has become very noticeable in her old age.   It was a very worrying time for our parents, but Bertha has been a fighter all her life and led a normal life and reared four children.   She is now 83 and lives in an old age home in George.

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Saturday, 26 March 2011

Uncle Jim and his Horses.

The Horseman and his Mule.

            My mother’s Randall brothers, Douglas, Jim and Arthur (who was known as Paaitjie), were all great horsemen and Uncle Doug eventually went on to become a South African Horse Judge at shows.  His special breeds were Hackney Horses and Shetland ponies.
Douglas Randall
Jim Randall
         Uncle Jim, who was living with us in 1941, loved his horses and they would be given special food such as teff grass and crushed mealies.   They were fat and shiny and he would spend hours grooming them with a brush and a curry comb.   It was a splendid sight to see him mounted on one of his horses and to watch the horse’s actions.   He was a very good horseman and was in full control.

Paaitjie Randall

His wild horses
          Whenever he let them run loose on the farm he would have problems catching them again as they did not want to go back to the stable.   He would corner them and expect my sisters and me to stand in a semi circle while he tried to put halters on them.   The horses would bolt, and we would scatter and he would shout at us and send us to fetch the animals time and again.   Because I was a boy, he would insult me and call me a girl, or a sissy.   But what chance is there for an eight year old boy against a big fat horse?   I never got over my fear of horses.
So we thought of a way to pay him back and the next time that he was in the far corner of the stables, Bertha crept up to the zinc door and hit on it with a big stick as hard as she could.   By the time that he had calmed his startled and terrified horses and came out to find who had done this, we were long gone and as innocent as babies.   He dared not blame us!
Mare with a mule foal
At one time he had a well-bred mare which he took to be mated by Mr van der Merwe’s prized stallion.   Everyone waited for the ‘royal’ birth, but the day that it was born it had the long ears of a Jackass!!!  
 He was disappointed and disgusted with his little mule and Mr van der Merwe had to refund all his stud fees.   There were donkeys on some of the neighbour’s farms and the Jacks were always looking over the fences.   Have you ever heard a mule call?   It sounded as though it was mocking him and he sold it as soon as it was weaned.
Donkey Jack looking over the fence
A mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse.   It has been said many times that mules are stubborn, however, that isn't really the case.   Mules are more intelligent than horses and as such will not work themselves to death nor do anything they think is dangerous.

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Burned Biscuits.... author unknown

"Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil - it has no point."
An Email received from a friend in Canada

These are not my words but they are from an Email sent to my by a friend in Canada.
       "When I was a kid, my Mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then.   And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.   On that evening so long ago, my Mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned (biscuits) scones in front of my dad I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed!   Yet all my dad did was reach for his scone, smile at my Mom and ask me how my day was at school.   I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that scone and eat every bite!

            When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my Mom apologize to my dad for burning the scones.   And I'll never forget what he said: "Honey, I love burned scones."

            Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his scones burned.   He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Mommy put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired.   And besides - a little burned scone never hurt anyone!"

            Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people.   I'm not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. But what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults, and choosing to celebrate each others differences, is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

            And that's my prayer for us today.   That we will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of our lives and lay them at the feet of God.   Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt scone isn't a deal-breaker!

            "Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket - keep it in your own."

            So Please pass me a scone, and yes, the burned one will do just fine.
And PLEASE tell someone about this who has enriched your life.

            Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

            "Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil - it has no point.""

            In this E-mail they talk about “Breakfast Biscuits” and I have changed it to read Scones as that is what we have in South Africa.   Or should it have been crumpets?

            My apologies to Yvonne for complaining about burnt food.   Sorry Dear.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Daddy is in the Army.

Mommy solves her problems with the horses.

A photo taken in 1940
Bertha, Daddy, Mommy, Thelma & in front, Daphne, Leslie & Vernie
Jim Randall

        My mother’s brothers had offered to help her with the farming, but as far as I know this seldom happened.   Uncle Jim Randall, who was still unmarried, had moved into our outside room and put his horses in my dad’s stables.   We children resented him eating the biggest bunches of my dad’s Crystal grapes which grew in front of our verandah and he would never think to pick us a bunch.   My dad would always pick fruit for us children first, he was so kind.   Uncle Jim also brought along his unruly dogs.   Weekends he was never there, either with a girl friend at Mirage or with Uncle Fred and Aunty Sally.   He had his own farm next door and had to spend time there as well, but he was always short of farm labourers as he could not get on with them.
            He ordered us around and made my mom very unhappy and she cried a lot.   At one stage most of my mom’s farm labourers left because of him so she had to ask him to leave off helping her.   I will give him his dues and say that he sure knew how to handle horses!   My mom could not drive a motorcar and had to make use of the cart and horses.   These sensitive animals knew that she was a nervous woman and afraid of them so they played up every time she wanted to go to town.   They would refuse to budge or go to the other extreme by rearing up on their hind legs, and Scot; the beautiful chestnut coloured gelding, would kick the splash board until you saw splinters flying.   On occasions he would get his hind leg caught over the shaft (disselboom) and go quite crazy.   Chummy, the other gelding, was much better, but could be influenced by Scot.   Scot was born and reared on the farm and was a foal of my dad’s mare, “Tiny”, and our stallion, “Ligman”.   There was another foal, also a beautiful chestnut, and she was named “Princess”.   As far as I can remember she had not yet been trained when we sold the farm.
            With my Mom upset and crying, Uncle Jim would come along, help her down, get in the cart and, taking a firm hold on the reins, he would whip the horses and drive them around in circles.   With foam dripping from their mouths and sweating profusely, they were ready for the trip to town and would take my mother there and back with no further problems.   Half way to town you would have to stop for the horses to pass water, which they could do whilst inspanned.   Should you have a mare pulling the cart you would have to outspan her as a mare is not able to pass water whilst in a harness.
            When you got to town the horses had to be outspanned and given water and food, but there was always someone there to help.   You always took a bale of food along for the horses, cowpeas, teff grass or lucerne, and there would always be a trough of water for the animals.   There was also always help when inspanning again.
            I recently spoke to a cousin of mine who lives in Bloemfontein, and she told me that her mother, Aunty Stienie Randall, used to get a lift into town with my mom in the cart and horses and that she used to say that she was amazed how well my mom could drive and handle the horses.   (And I always thought that she was a typical nervous woman!)   My mother solved her problem one day in town by swapping Scot for a more placid gelding named “Kolbooi”.   We were all sorry to see Scot go as he was a beautiful horse but he had a bit of the devil in him.
            To write about horses would be a story on its own, so I will tell you a bit more about Uncle Jim’s horses next time.

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Bad Years That Would Change Our Lives.

 We are branded as “Rooineks”

My Grandpa Passes Away.

            The year of 1941 would make a huge difference to our lives.   There was a world war on the go with Germany over-running many European countries.   It was so far from us but South Africa, as part of the British Commonwealth, had joined up with Britain and her allies.   A local organisation was established against the hated British and they were all for Germany.   The ‘Ossewa Brandwag’ was creating havoc with anti-British propaganda and acts of terrorism.   English speaking South Africans were branded as “Khakis” and “Rooineks” and were all condemned as part of the Afrikaner’s problems.   Our Prime 
J C Smuts
Minister, General Jannie Smuts, was seen as a traitor.   Even in the schools the children were calling us names and blaming us for the Anglo/Boer war where their grandmothers had died in concentration camps during a war which had taken place more than 40 years ago!   I must tell you that my sister, Bertha, would not stand for any of this and many times she would climb into bigger boys and send them on their way with more than bruised egos.
            The Ossewa Brandwag - Robey Leibrand’s oath to be made by recruits: “My aim and struggle is for the freedom and independence of the Afrikaner Nation in South Africa, and the establishment of a National Socialist State with the ideal of Adolf Hitler adjusted to the character of the Afrikaner Nation.   I admit that only a nation that fights for its rights has a right to survive and that action in the form of sacrifices and blood reflects the true will and character of a nation and individual.   In this spirit I declare myself prepared to suffer for my nation and fatherland and if necessary to die for it and signed in my own blood”.
My dad Bert Whittal
  My dad joined the South African Defence Force on the 15th January 1941 and was sent to “Sonderwater” for his training in the Medical Corps.   (Pat Frykberg writes on the Internet - Sonderwater as I recall and I was there for 6 terrible weeks, was near or part of Cullinan Mine, north of Pretoria. during the war WW2 that is, it was a huge military camp, on the bare brown dusty veld, sonderwater and sonderbome as far as I remember. ghastly place.)

      Daddy decided to join the defence force for financial reasons and not for anything political.    But this meant that my mom would be farming on her own.   Poor Mommy acted so bravely for the sake of her children.   Thelma would take over some of the household duties and this she did as she was very capable.   She was a great help to Mommy and I regret that at times the younger children resented her and would say “You are not my mother”.
            My mother tried to drive the motorcar but broke the axle by releasing the clutch too soon so she would just have to use the cart and horses.   I remember hearing her cry during the nights.   I have often wondered why her father, Oupa Dave Randall did not come and live with us while my dad was away.   He was living with his son Paaitjie Randall and his wife Stienie.   Aunty Stienie was very good to Oupa and he was also very fond of her and her children.   Perhaps at his age he did not want to make any changes.   His twin sons did not join up and neither did Uncle Fred.   I know that my mom’s eldest brother, Uncle Arnold Randall, and his son, David, both joined the army, so did Uncle Cecil Whittal and Uncle Willie Foxcroft.   Uncle Arnold was at the battle of Tobruk, and the little bible he received there he gave to his niece Ellen Ambrose who now lives in Bloemfontein.
Grandpa John Henry Whittal
            My dear old Grandpa Henry Whittal was back on his farm and home “Inverbolo” in the Stutterheim District and fighting a battle of his own.   He had fought in the Frontier Wars and had survived, but this was his final straw, it was cancer of the bladder and he was being nursed by his daughter, Aunty May.   Sadly he passed away on the 12th April 1941 in his own bed and was buried in the Bolo Anglican Church cemetery.   When you think about it, it was as though a big tree had been chopped down and would there ever be anyone who could grow as tall and straight as he had been.
            We only heard about his death about two weeks later as the postal service was not very good in those days.   I was too young to mourn his passing away and my happy times with him have been stored away in my memory box until now.

John Henry Whittal - a painting 
by his great-granddaughter Vanessa Bentley
March 2011
        It is said that people live on after death until no one remembers them any longer, so my dear Grandpa I hope you realise that in a way I have brought you back to life again and I want to thank you for your love and the good times that I spent with you.   In your way you taught us so much.

My Grandpa

Since I was a little child,
In all that I've been through;
You've always been my hero,
   No one stood as tall as you.

You were the one who took the time,
To teach what I needed to learn;
The lessons in life you shared with me,
You shared with love and concern.

I loved you as a little child,
And now that I am grown;
I share those lessons you taught me;
With children of my own.

Generation to generation,
I'll pass on your legacy;
I'll tell of my loving Grandfather,
And all that you mean to me.
* * * * * *

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Lord's Prayer

I thought that I would do something different today so here is "The Lord's Prayer" for my Irish/South African family in IRISH and ENGLISH

Ár nAthair

Ár nAthair, atá ar neamh: go naofar d'ainm.
Go dtaga do ríocht.
Go ndéantar do thoil ar talamh
mar a dhéantar ar neamh.
Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniu,
agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha,
mar a mhaithimid dár bhféichiúnaithe féin.
Agus ná lig sinn i gcathú,
ach saor sinn ó olc.
Óir is leatsa an Ríocht agus an Chumhacht
agus an Ghlóir, trí shaol na saol


Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory.
For ever and ever.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Steam Locomotives in Kroonstad

We Visit the Vermaaks in Kroonstad.

Sarel Cilliers Making a vow to God.
Kroonstad (Afrikaans for Crown city, pronounced [krūn'stät]) is the third-largest town in the Free State province of South Africa,   It was established in 1855.   It is the centre of a rich agricultural district, producing maize, wheat, dairy and meat products and wool.   The main industry is agriculture.   Despite its allusion to royalty (kroon is Afrikaans for ‘crown’) Kroonstad has far more humble beginnings, rumoured to have been named after a horse belonging to one of the Voortrekker leaders - the jury is out as to whether it was Sarel Celliers or Adriaan de la Rey - who may or may not have met with an accident in a stream named Kroonspruit.   Notwithstanding this, Kroonstad is said to be one of the Free State’s loveliest towns and lies on the banks of the Vals River, a tributary of the Vaal.

            I have mentioned before that my dad’s youngest sister, Ivy, married Sarel Petrus Vermaak and that they lived in Kroonstad where Uncle Piet was a guard on the trains.   When we had a car we used to go and spend a weekend with them.   They were a big family with eight children:  Phyllis, Irene, Joyce, Jan (John Henry), Maxie, Little Piet, Mercia and much later they had Bennie. 
The Vermaak Family
 These girl cousins of mine were very pretty blondes.   When Aunty Ivy married Piet Vermaak she could not speak Afrikaans, so she spoke only English to her first two girls, but after that the family switched to Afrikaans.   During 1944 Aunty Ivy had her last child, Bennie, and at the same time her two eldest daughters, who by then were married, each had their first born.   I can remember seeing photos of the three mothers with their babies.
            Kroonstad was a very busy Railway junction and you could smell the smoke from the coal-fired locomotives.  
 You could also see the long trains passing below the Vermaak home on their way to the station, or leaving it.   If you drove into town you would have to pass through the subway and it seemed to be so deep and steep to me as a child, but when I passed that way as an adult it was a bit more than a dip.   The church where my parents were married was in the centre of town, the St John’s Methodist Church, and I loved my mom telling us about that.
            Also on the church square stood a monument of the Voortrekker leader, Sarel Cilliers, who had led the fighting men under Andries Pretorius in prayer when they made the pledge before the battle of Blood River to keep the day as a holy day if God would grant them a victory over the mighty Zulu army.   They did win the battle and until recently the 16th December was indeed a holy day in South Africa.
            It was fascinating to stand on the platforms in the Kroontad station, watching the trains coming and going, but it was not pleasant to get a bit of coal dust in your eye.   The young Vermaaks were all very street wise and were a great help to us when wanting to look at everything.   It was in Kroontad where my sisters had to have their tonsils removed and got to stay at Aunty Ivy’s place for a few days after their operations.
Ivy Vermaak

           Uncle Piet had a big vegetable garden in the grounds of this railway house where he grew enough to feed his big family.   My cousin ‘Little Piet’ wanted to become a motor racing driver so he used to borrow one of his mother’s pot lids and used it as his steering wheel whilst playing racing cars.   He went into quite a trance as he raced around the garden.   I believe that many years later he did indeed become a racing driver when he lived in Rhodesia, before it became Zimbabwe.   Piet and his brother, Bennie, have always been involved in the motor trade and their older brother, Jan, was an engine driver on the S A Railways.   It is still only the four youngest of our Vermaak cousins living today.

* * * * * *

Monday, 21 March 2011

Old Polly is branded as a Sheep Killer!

Dogs that become Sheep Killers

            I cannot remember when the following incident happened, but I know that from time to time farmer’s dogs would return to the wild and go on a sheep-killing spree in the dark hours of the night.   And so it was that two dogs, one large and the other small, started killing the farmer’s sheep in our area.   It was more a case of them chasing the sheep in the dark, mauling and tearing the poor animals, which ran frantically into the barb-wire fences.   I know that my dad was up one dark night with some of his labourers trying to stop such a killing spree on our farm.   You would hear the dogs barking on the far side of the farm with sheep running in all directions, but by the time you got there they would be on another part of the farm.   These dogs would actually kill one sheep and feed on it and the rest would be some canine madness from deep within their brains.
The next morning you would count your losses and would have to kill several severely injured sheep.   After that my dad would “kraal” his animals at night with a guard in place nearby.   Our dogs, Polly and Chips, would be locked up in the store-room.   The killing continued and you would hear how other farmers nearby were suffering losses as well.   No one suspected their own faithful dogs could be involved in this dreadful business.
From the internet:  The image of killer dogs going around in packs is a myth, they usually work on their own or with another dog and they come in all sizes and breeds.   You can't predict which dogs will turn out to be killers.   They can be pets for years or top working dogs, and then all of a sudden something triggers off a desire to be a dog, and they go out and hunt to kill.   One common factor to all sheep killers though is that they are wanderers.   Wandering dogs near stock can very easily become killers.   Most dogs that kill sheep don't have a mark on them.    This is because after their bit of fun, they regularly go and have a swim and cool off.”
            One dark night my mother’s twin brother’s sheep on the farm next door to ours, were attacked and killed with the same results and the clever dogs escaped without a trace once again.   Early the next morning my uncles arrived on horseback at our place with their guns still slung over their shoulders after being out all night.   Uncle Fred Martin followed them in his car.  They demanded to know where our dogs were and Daddy said that they were in the store-room.   They claimed that it was known that Polly was a killer and that they were there to shoot her.   They would not believe my dad when he said that she had been locked up all night.   Uncle Fred, acting as the judge, told my dad to bring the dog.   Daddy said that he would bring his dog out and that they could kill her, but that they would have to cut her open to examine the contents of her stomach.   They agreed, and so did the “Judge”, and poor old Polly was taken a distance away from the house and shot dead and cut open to reveal that all she had eaten that night was chicken mash.
            The whole family went into mourning and all my uncles’ pleas for forgiveness were turned down.   Even their offer to give us another dog was rejected.   A few nights later our neighbours’, the van Rensburg’s, big black dog and little mongrel fox terrier were trapped red-handed and shot.   They could not believe that their placid and faithful pets could turn into savage killers after dark.
            The killing of old Polly would have repercussions a few years later when my dad was discharged from the army and felt that he could no longer live next door to his brothers-in-law who did not trust him or believe him.   My dad was a kindly man and they never knew how he had felt about this incident.   When we moved down to the Eastern Cape they all thought that it was because he wanted to return to where his roots lay.   We did forgive my uncles even for my mother's sake and there were no bad feelings.   My dad never spoke about the incident again.
Not a nice story, but never-the-less, true.   The animal lovers in my close family do not like this story and refuse to read it to the end.   It also makes this old man shed some tears remembering my dear father and a well liked old dog called “Polly”.
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