Vetfaan’s Surprise (# 7)

Did you see that woman’s face! Grrr-aarf… I must say I enjoyed it. Now she’ll have to do some real work for a change. Shirley-the-Basset rests her head on her paws, staring intently at Vrede.

It is a rather unusual assignment, don’t you think? She has to take a camera crew into the Kalahari and film the interrelationship between the environment and the animals. That’s quite a tall order for a city girl like her. Vrede scratches at that inaccessible spot behind his left ear. And I still don’t understand exactly what that big mister Feathersomething has in mind…

“I swear I saw Shirley smiling,” Precilla says as she rubs the Basset’s nose. “I don’t think Sally looked after her well.”

Kleinpiet shakes his head. “No. Shirley seems quite happy here.” He downs the last bit of beer and puts down the glass with a wry smile. “Boggel, what do you think of Featherbosom’s plan?”

“I think it is quite brilliant. Here we have Fanny, wandering about in the desert under the most primitive of conditions, gathering information about one of the oldest cultures in the world. This, you’ll remember, she wants to use in her thesis about the Unity of Man. Her idea – as I understand it – is to explore the reasons why people of different backgrounds can’t seem to get along, and try to suggest new ways of building bridges between different groups in mixed societies.

“Now the old man had a huge fright. He thought his daughter was in mortal danger, and it shook him to the core. He thought he had lost her. Suddenly, his world of money and power and fame meant nothing compared to the well-being of his little girl. And he realised she is all grown up and not the helpless child he accepted her to be. Vetfaan did a sterling job in explaining the situation – and his role in her life – and now he wants to make amends for both spoiling her and neglecting her.”

“I get what you’re saying, Boggel. Many parents do that. They think supplying children with material things is what parenthood is all about; but they are neglecting the most important need kids have: plain old-fashioned caring and loving. Still, don’t you think his plan is unrealistic?”

“He’s a man of considerable influence when it comes to advertising and media exposure, Precilla. His plan to make an adocumentary – a combination of advertisement and a factual report – is a daring concept. Not only will it add weight to Fanny’s thesis, it’ll also set her work on the world stage. In short, Sally’s brief is to show the delicate and fragile the relationship between species in an unfriendly environment – and then to extrapolate that to mankind. The world, we all know, is delicate, fragile and unfriendly. This is true for the way we treat nature and each other. Not only is it realistic, but it’s also very necessary. If we don’t start respecting our world – and that includes the environment and each other – we’re on a one-way crash-course with a terrible reality.”

“Gee, Boggel, old Featherbosom is brave to tackle something like this. It’ll call on governments, businesses and individuals to reassess a lot of things. Then again, I think it’s his way to show Fanny he cares, and that’s rather sweet. She’ll be hugely surprised and very pleasantly so, I’d guess.”

Vrede sighs with satisfaction when he finally reaches that itchy spot. Humans really manage to mess things up. It’s good they’re trying to fix some of it.

Grr-aaarf-slurrp. Shirley licks Vrede’s nose. She’s always admired clever he-dogs. Vrede is the best…


“Thank you for the brief introduction to the Kalahari, Vetfaan.” By now Featherbosom manages to address Vetfaan by his name. Vetfaan took the old man out to a few remote spots, showed him a seeping fountain where a springbuck was drinking and traced the sliding track of a snake across the sand. He made him sit alone for a while, listening to the silence; and they shared a warm beer while watching a martial eagle floating on the soft breeze. In the little time at their disposal, Featherbosom realised how special the area is. More importantly, he became rather excited about the adocumentary he had in mind. Surely, if the material was presented in the right way, nobody would be able to ignore the message of his daughter’s thesis.

Vetfaan watches as Mister Featherbosom squeezes through the security scanner at the airport and is surprised to realise he actually likes the man. Whistling softly to himself, he walks back to his trusty old pickup. Yes, it’s nice when a plan comes together…


Platnees surveys the group of people: the cameraman, a cook, a sound technician and Sally. They’ve hired him to be their guide in this wilderness, paying him quite handsomely. They want to see plants, beetles, birds, flowers – anything that lives in this hostile environment. A month, they said; they have to be finished in a month’s time. Well, at the rate they’re paying him, he simply can’t afford to make sure they finish on time. The Kalahari isn’t a place to rush through, no sir! People get lost here. Engines develop inexplicable problems. Tyres get punctures… With luck, he’ll stretch their stay to two or three months.

Smiling solemnly, he welcomes them to his newly-formed Platnees Exploration Safaris and Trails, assuring them of the time of their lives. “You won’t forget the Kalahari, people. You’re in for an adventure you’ll remember for always.”

Then he gets into the cab of the big production truck, points vaguely to the horizon, and tells the driver to get going. If Sally knew him better, she’d have known why he is so happy. Work and money are scarce in Rolbos. You don’t waste the few opportunities by looking a gift horse in the mouth. No sir. Not at all..


Many miles way, Fanny listens to !Ka telling her about the Origin of Man, and how the first Man stepped from the tree.

“In that time, in the beginning, everything was one. Man, plants, animals – we all were one thing. And we all had the same spirit. There was no war, no arguments, no fighting. In those days the Creator was here. He was everywhere. But then he left to live in the sky, leaving everything on earth with the same spirit. You can look: you’ll find the spirit in the grass in the veld, or in the eland, or in a tree. Nothing that lives, lives without a spirit.

“Then Man took his spirit to one side. He no longer wanted to share his spirit with the rest. That’s when everything went wrong…”

Fanny listens in rapt wonder. How could the San people know about such things? !Ka is telling a story remarkably similar to the story of Egypt’s Osiris, or the Greek’s mythology of Adonis amongst others. With a stretch, one may even find the Genesis-story in !ka’s tale.

She glances at the other faces around the fire. There is peace here, she realises, these men and women still share the spirit of nature. I’ve come to the right place…

(To be continued…)

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