Category Archives: smalltown short stories

What’s in a name?

fullback “So Fiat is going to introduce a new bakkie?”

“Yes, Vetfaan. It’s called the Fullback and will be available next year.” Gertruida doesn’t add that the vehicle will be built in Thailand by a Japanese firm for the Italian company: Vetfaan still believes bakkies are unique to South Africa. “They’ll have a 4X4 version as well.”

Vetfaan doesn’t even bother to respond. If the bakkie wasn’t a 4X4, he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

“It’s time for you to replace the old Land Rover,” Kleinpiet says.”That thing must have a million kilos on the clock.”

69-LandRover_SIIA_88_SWB_DV-07-CA_02“It’s still as good as new. The carburettor is a bit iffy, but that’s all. And the oil leak isn’t so bad – a can a week is much cheaper than buying a new pickup.” Always fiercely loyal to his Landy, Vetfaan defends the ’69 model with pride. “Last week, on my way to Upington, I even got a speeding ticket.”

“If you’re so happy with that old thing, why did you mention the Fiat?”

“The name got to me. Fullback. The chap with the number 15 jersey. The defender, see? Just like my Landy. But – and this is where the Italians lost the plot – a fullback must also be the secret weapon: able to switch from defence to attack in he blink of an eye. Fast, strong and aggressive when needed; calm and relaxed even under the most trying conditions. A fullback never panics – he stands his ground when the odds are stacked against him.”

“Lost the plot? How can  you say that after praising the vehicle so much?”

Vetfaan turns to Servaas with a mischievous grin. “Think about it, Servaas.  They needed a name no other vehicle ever had. This is a world wide problem for all manufacturers. And the name can’t just be any old name; it has to convey a message. The buyer must feel that he’s invested in something he can trust. Now, calling it a Fullback, might seem interesting to rugby players, and that’s fine in a country where rugby is a generally accepted sport. In South Africa, however, the game of rugby has become a very controversial subject. The government insists on politicising the issue, forcing down quotas and playing the race card over and over again. Remember, too, that the buying power in the country is now situated in the income group that supports soccer. The next thing you’ll hear, is that Fiat is insensitive about our colonial past.”

“I hate that.” Servaas knits his brows together. “Why is everything associated with the past so wrong? Colonialism brought a lot of things to Africa, massively improving the way we live today. If the politicians want to do away with the remnants of colonialism, they should stop using electricity.”

“Ja, and what about suits, ties, shaving cream and panties?” Boggel blushes, glances at Gertruida and shrugs. “But facts are facts, guys. You can’t throw out Rhodes while wearing jeans and T-shirts. If the old ways were so good, why adopt the style of the coloniser? And what about English – isn’t that a legacy of old Queen Vic as well?”

“So you’d like a bakkie to represent South Africa, Vetfaan? Something that is above criticism, epitomises the culture of Africa and is undeniably indigenous?  Well, then you must find a word that encompasses defence, attack, the ability to get into trouble and out of tight spots. It must say something about traction on all kinds of surfaces, the ability to purr over rough areas and the power to wade through mud and water while not getting stuck. In fact, the name must say so much that the majority of the country will fall for it, even though it remains, in the end a Fiat. And you know what that stands for…”

“Ja, that was the old joke. First In All Trouble. Used to laugh at that twenty years ago, but I don’t think it’s true any more.” Boggel actually likes the brand.

“Still,” Kleinpiet continues, “I’d like to know what Vetfaan suggests as a name to replace Fullback.”

“That’s easy,” Vetfaan smiles smugly. “Call it a Zooma.”

The Stupidity of Ernest.

Citrus_swallowtail_Christmas_butterfly_(Princeps_papilio_demodocus)_04Ernest Swiegelaar rarely visits Rolbos, mainly because he is such a busy man. Still, whenever he phones to tell them he’s on his way, the men in Boggel’s Place perk up, get to bed early and have their weekly bath. You never know your luck, after all, if you haven’t tried your best.

Gertruida says it’s Mandy’s fault. If she had been more kind, Ernest could have been a professor by now. Still, according to the men in Boggel’s Place, Ernest should be admired for the way he survived, despite the success of his research.

Ernest studied the habitat of a very specific butterfly, with a very specific goal in mind. According to Gertruida, the little creature is called  Papilio demodocus, but the group at the bar prefers the more common (and easier to remember), Citrus Swallowtail.  When asked why a young man like Ernest would want to waste his time chasing some butterflies, Gertruida defended his actions.

“Look, we all know what happened th Ernest. It’s the old-old story on boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-his-heart and girl-dumps-boy. It is, after all, not unique in the history of male-female relationships. But, in Ernest’s case, it turned out to be a life-changing experience. At the time, Ernest was doing a Ph.D in lepidopterology, the study of butterflies, and was doing great work on pheromones.” Of course, Gertruida had to stop right there to explain what it all meant before she could continue. “So, when Mandy preferred a star rugby player and left him, his world came crashing down. He actually abandoned his studies, telling his professors that there was no point in pursuing the matter. What good, after all, could come from analyzing minute amounts of chemicals some insects secrete? He left university and hitch-hiked his way to nowhere. Just travelled and lived like a nomad.”

This much is true. However, Ernest eventually ran out of money (and space) near Union’s End, where the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia meet. He finally had to face reality, so he offered his services as a entomologist to the manager of Grootkolk Camp in the Kgalakgadi Transfrontier Park. It is difficult to find game in this vast, arid region – which often resulted in tourists grumbling about the amount of money it cost to stay there in relationship to the number of animals they saw. Enter Ernest, with his vast knowledge of insects – and butterflies – who could entertain bored tourists for hours with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the world of exoskeletal creatures, moths, beetles, and…butterflies. Somehow a circle in his life was completed – the lepidopterist awoke once more.

It is here that he noticed the Citrus Swallowtail, an old favourite of his, and it is here that he started spending hours and hours studying the pretty butterflies. It is also here that his interest in the Kalahari Citrus Butterfly took a surprising turn.

The Citrus Swallowtail is rather common in Sub-Sahara Africa, but it prefers more moderate climates. In the Kgalakgadi, with the endless red sand dunes, Ernest observed two strange phenomena. First: the subtype occurring  there, didn’t lay their eggs on citrus leaves (there aren’t any). They had adapted to a small cactus-like plant, which Ernest correctly assumed contained citrus-like oils and Vitamin C. But, more importantly, he noticed that the male Citrus Swallowtail was much more successful in its mating habits than the butterflies he had studied before. He didn’t need a long time to figure it out: these Desert Citrus Swallowtails had to produce much more of the female-attraction pheromones than the ones he had studied before.

Well, it is said that you can take a born researcher out of the laboratory, but you can’t take his curiosity away. And slowly, month after month, Ernest compiled notes, observations and a number of theories. He surmised, for instance, that the reason why these male butterflies were so successful, was the harsh environment. Nature thus provided them with the super-ability to produce offspring, a simple evolutionary occurrence to ensure the survival of the species.

It was during this time that Ernest first visited Rolbos. The road to Upington had been washed away by a freak storm, leaving Rolbos (and Sammie’s Shop) as the only alternative place to replenish supplies. Like all visitors to Rolbos, it was only natural that he popped in at Boggel’s Place, where he met the group at the bar. Despite his natural reluctance to interact with strangers, Ernest found (much to his surprise) it exceedingly easy to chat with Gertruida – and it was through this conversation (and many afterwards) that Ernest finally agreed to become a scientist once more.

Ernest started contacting his old professors, much to their joy. Yes, of course, they’d love to assist him to complete his studies. Let the past be past, all is forgiven. And so, after another year, Ernest was back in the laboratory with his small colony of Citrus Swallowtails in a sizable, climate controlled environment stocked with Kalahari succulents.


“Ernest phoned to say he’ll be around for a week or two.” Gertruida’s announcement had a note of smugness about it. “He said the butterflies in this region proved to be superior to other areas – his previous visit showed that. Now he wants to make Rolbos his basecamp again.”

“Oh, no!” Vetfaan droped his head in his hands, making sure he didn’t spill his beer. “Last time he did that, it was chaos. Remember Oudoom’s sermons afterwards? It was really difficult to catch a bit of shut-eye when he started shouting like that.”

“Oh shush, Vetfaan. As I remember, the sermons were very necessary. Especially after the way you and Kleinpiet – and don’t forget Servaas – carried on during his last visit.”

An uncommon flush spread up Vetfaan’s neck while he tried to think of an appropriate answer. Kleinpiet came to his rescue.

“Ag, Gertruida, give us a break. Ernest succeeded in a massive scientific breakthrough. He might even be on the brink of establishing world peace….”

“Or a world war…” Servaas interrupted.

“…and he might even get the Nobel Prize.” Kleinpiet soldiers on. “Imagine that some molecule – which you can’t see and smell or taste – can have such a profound effect on men and women…men, especially.”

“It’s not the molecule that fascinates me,” Servaas said dryly.

“No, you closet Cassanova, you.” Gertruida’s scorn dripped from the words. “It’s the bevy of assistants you drool over. All of them – the beauties, the trim bodies, the pretty faces….”

“And the legs, the short skirts, the brilliant smiles…” Boggel added with a laugh.

“Ja,” Vetfaan eventually agreed with a sigh. “Such a pity they only have eyes for Ernest. It’s like being at a buffet but you aren’t able to get anything on your plate.”

“But maybe that’s a good thing, Vetfaan.” Servaas smiled. “Have you seen what he looked like, last time? Just a bag of bones. I gave him six months, but apparently he’s still at it. Quite amazing, really.”

The conversation dwindled out after that. Boggel had to lock up earlier than usual that night. The men wanted to get a bath and a good night’s sleep before Ernest and his entourage arrived the next morning. And maybe, hopefully, Ernest wouldn’t be so stuck-up to lock that precious little bottle away again like he did last time…

Freedom’s just another word…



“Free education? What’s next? With 25% of our workforce without a job and 16% of the population paying taxes, that’ll create an unbearable situation.”  Vetfaan scowls at his empty glass while he remembers how he used to work as a stoker on the railways in order to pay for the time he spent at the agricultural college. “I had to work eighteen, twenty hours a day during the holidays to pay for my studies.”

“Different times, Vetfaan.” Gertruida almost manages to sound sympathetic. “Back then the education system was subsidized – properly, as it should – by the government. Yes, there was an unacceptable racial slant and yes, the policies of the day prevented many promising students from attending universities…”

“Oh, come on, Gertruida! There were the universities of Fort Hare, Western Cape, Cape Town, Wits and Medunsa…!”

“Now, don’t you go shouting at me, Vetfaan!” The angry glint in her eyes makes Vetfaan back off. “I didn’t make the rules back then, nor do I make them now. But…we can’t ignore the fact that many, many lives would have been vastly different if the Nationalists put more emphasis on education. Apartheid remains a fact of history, no matter how much we want to erase it from our memories.”

“I’m not talking about that, Gertruida.” Vetfaan sounds resigned, beaten. “All I’m saying is that we can’t go on with social grants, a huge salary allocation for government officials, free water, electricity, medical care, AIDS, services…and the rampant corruption we read about in the papers every day. What does government do? Every time – every time – they say the private sector must come on board! The EFF wants 51% of shares on the stock exchange transferred to the workers. The ANC wants the farmers to hand over half of their properties to the farm labourers. And you know who is paying for those politicians? You and I, my dear Gerty. You and I. We’re paying them to bankrupt the country. Now that’s irony for you!”

“Two sides to that coin, Vetfaan. As much as we’d like to ignore certain facts, we cannot deny the inequalities in the country…”

“I’m not saying that!” The veins on Vetfaan’s neck stand out as he tries to control his temper. Taking a deep breath, he continues in a calmer voice. “The inequalities need to be addressed, that’s for sure. The feeling I get is that we are continuously being punished for a policy the English forced down on us when they wrote to old constitution for the Union of South Africa in 1908. Now, suddenly, everybody is pointing fingers at us whiteys. Why does nobody question the decisions of Queen Victoria?”

“They do, Vetfaan. That’s why the Rhodes statue was removed.”

“Oh puleeez! Whether Rhodes stands at the foot of Table Mountain or in some heritage park, is of almost no significance. At least he’s being blamed for something – but he’s not being abused as a taxpayer. Our government is increasingly adamant about ‘redistribution’. In my book it means: ‘bankrupting society’. Have you seen what happened to the farms they already allocated to previously disadvantaged individuals? Or have you forgotten the reason why SAA, Escom, Water Affairs, Telkom, the railways and even our army and police have degenerated over the last twenty years? How can you ignore the effect of appointing people with inadequate skills to positions they simply cannot handle?

“Yes, Gertruida, I agree that there are still imbalances in our society. And yes, the one key is education. But the main lock to open, is the bolt that’ll free government to rule in a focussed, logical way. The private sector has been taxed to death by a government that can only remain in power by handing out freebies to the masses.” Vetfaan sighs this thanks as Boggel pushes over a fresh beer. “What we need is a contructive approach – not one that’ll destroy the fabric of society and which continuously emphasises race as the major dividing factor. What’s happening now, is a recipe for anarchy, hatred and violence. Look at the crime stats.”

Gertruida remains silent for so long that Vetfaan thinks she’s ignoring him. When she eventually addresses him in her quiet tone, he sees the tears in her eyes.

“You know, Vetfaan, we’ll never live down the injustices of the past. We need to recognise them, learn from them. That’s what Mandela said and it’s true. But he also emphasised the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. He said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”  And he said: ‘…the day the ANC does to us what the Apartheid government did, we should do to the ANC what we did to the Apartheid government.’ Maybe that’s what is happening: the students have lost their fear for the securocrats and are doing exactly what Madiba proposed?”

“But, Gertruida, where is all this leading up to? Another Zimbabwe?”

“Possibly. Even…probably. We have one, single chance – and that is that democracy will prevail. People aren’t stupid. The poor is getting poorer. The previously disadvantaged masses are even more disadvantaged now. We have elections next year… We need a leader…no, many leaders…to stand up and get to work. We won’t build a better South Africa by doing nothing. We need good, honest men and women to tell the nation the honeymoon is over. Forget about demanding this and insisting on that, if you haven’t contributed anything. People must get used to working hard…and then be rewarded for their efforts. A student doing well at university should be allowed to continue his or her studies as far as possible. People with skills should be appointed to the right positions and then reap the rewards of their hard work. And the many unskilled labourers should be paid fairly – because their contribution is absolutely essential in the workforce. Maybe it’ll take a generation – even longer – but there can be no doubt that we have the potential to be a great country. Capitalism may have it’s shortfalls and it’s wise to acknowledge that. But socialism can’t exist in a vacuum; then everybody has an equal share of nothing. The answer is education, work, productivity and …love.”

The last word makes Vetfaan look up sharply. Yes, he wonders…what happened to that?

The man from HI (Inc).

The_Bible_and_moneyWhenever you talk about a dominee in Rolbos, the group in the bar will imagine somebody like Oudoom: kind, honest and blessed with a dry sense of humor. Now – us folks that have travelled beyond the greater towns like Prieska and Pofadder – we know there is no template for the perfect clergyman. The Americans like popular preachers telling them that all sins are forgiven and that prayer will make you amazingly rich. In Africa, it is not unusual for congregations to expect a sermon which marries superstition and gospel. Conservative Afrikaners go for fire and brimstone, while more liberal folk lean over to an everything-goes philosophy. As one would expect, preachers (usually rather intelligent men) pick up on the needs of their local flock and tell them what the want to hear. In this way they not only fill the pews on Sundays, but (more importantly) they also keep the financial side of the business ticking over.

But not so in Rolbos. Oudoom sticks to the truth, which is sometimes most unwelcome and will lead to lengthy debates in the bar. Last Sunday Oudoom reminded his small congregation that Christianity is a way of life, and that simply talking about religion isn’t enough. “Look,” he said, “at the way you carried on when Fourie du Preez scored that try? When last did you feel that way about your Salvation?” After church, the Rolbossers retired to Boggel’s Place in a gloomy silence – something which they shattered when Craig Joubert awarded that penalty to the Wallabies.

And so, when a brand new Mercedes purred down Voortrekker Weg on Tuesday and a tall, willowy man stepped from the air-conditioned interior, they tried to follow Oudoom’s teachings by inviting the stranger in to the bar.

“How kind of you all,” the man boomed, patting his white tie into it’s correct place between the lapels of his jacket, “I can see you folks are real Christians.”

This pleased the group tremendously as Boggel pushed a complimentary beer over the counter.

“I am Pastor Victor, but you can call me Vic. I’m here with an important message. Would you care to hear it?”

A message for Rolbos? Of course they were curious.

“See, the Rapture is near. Over the last few weeks you would have heard the repeated warnings that the world is on it’s last legs.” The group in the bar had never heard of such a thing, but they listened respectfully in any case. “The rapture is near!”  This was said in a whispered shout.

Of course, the rapture is something Oudoom never neglects, so the group nodded as one.

“Money won’t help you any longer. You’ll be called before the throne as you are – stripped of all worldly possessions. Do not for one moment think your bank account will help you Up There, my friends. Fancy cars and fancy clothing makes no impression in Paradise!” Pastor Vic warmed to his subject as he expounded on the vast difference between Heaven and Earth. “But,” he continued, “I have a solution.”

Several questioning eyebrows went up.

“You see, I represent Heavenly Investments Incorporated. We’ll relieve you of your earthly burdens – which will be useless soon – so you can help the poor and the downtrodden. This, my friends,” said in a conspiratorial tone, “will help you enter Paradise.” He went on to explain – in many words and with considerable passion – how the Bible taught them to look after those less fortunate than them. He spoke for a full hour, finishing with: “Get rid of your worldly riches! Now is the time and here is the opportunity! Heavenly Investments is here, ready to accept your earthly burden of soon-to-be useless money. Act now! Salvation is at hand!”

People often think about the inhabitants of places like Rolbos tend to be naive – and sometimes they’re right. But Pastor Vic had never been to Rolbos, so one may excuse him for not understanding their way of having fun.

“Is it true,” Vetfaan asked innocently, “that Paradise is a wonderful place? Pearly gates and streets of gold? Choirs singing all day long? With many mansions for believers?”

“Of course,” Pastor Vic said, “and you can all be there by giving away the anchors that bind you to this world. The more ye shall give, the more ye shall receive. That’s what’s written and that’s what you believe.”

“But…” Gertruida held up a hand. “with all those pearls and golden highways…the property tax must be astronomical?”

“And,” Vetfaan added timidly, “the municipal accounts can’t be free. Who does the garbage collecting and sweeps the sidewalks? I mean: it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it?”

“What about dog licences? We can’t go without Vrede, after all. We don’t want him expelled simply because he transgresses some laws.” Servaas leant over to pat Vrede’s head, knowing how upsetting the conversation must be for his doggy mind. “Without money to pay for his licence, our poor dog is doomed.”

“Well, there is an upside. With all the criminals downstairs, the police force would only have to direct the traffic. And can you believe the savings when you don’t need burglar bars, alarm systems and security guards everywhere?” Kleinpiet’s nephew lived in Johannesburg and had phoned him about the student unrests. “At least everybody will know everything, so no students either. Stiil, without our savings we’d never be able to afford the occasional beer – not with our own brewery being sold to the Belgians. The prices are sure to increase…”

The Rolbossers had been worried about this ever since they heard the news. Kleinpiet’s last sentence made them all pat their wallets: no matter what the price might be, beer was an essential part of living – even in heaven.

Pastor Victor stared at the group in total unbelief. Were they poking fun at him?

“Let me put it this way,” Oudoom finally said, “Heavenly Investments Inc. may be on the right track – albeit for all the wrong reasons. I propose we do the right thing and run the gentleman out of town. I think it’s our heavenly duty to do it with grace and kindness – and if that doesn’t work, we’ll trade an eye for an eye and steal his car.”

It is, indeed, said that it is more blessed to give than to receive.This is especially true when imparting good advice. And Pastor Vic, it must be said, was a good receiver.

Gertruida summed it up as they watched the trail of dust disappearing toward Grootdrink. “And that, Oudoom, is the Christian way of living: to discern the truth from stupidity. You’ve preached so often from Proverbs, telling us about wisdom and foolishness. I think you can begin to relax now – we’re almost there.”

The Rolbossers trudged back to the counter, feeling they had done well that morning. But Oudoom knew it was only a passing phase. Come Saturday, and they’d be shouting at the ref once more – just like all good believers do when they remember to be normal once in a while.

Trusting Liar (#10)

Liar's Meteorite

Liar’s Meteorite

Once the helicopter disappeared over the dunes, the group finally stops laughing.

“Oh, Liar, you are sooo convincing! Damn! I started believing you when you threw out that bit about the radioactive Boron. And then you…you…you added the bit about manhood! Shew! I almost burst out laughing right then.” Gertruida slaps Liar’s back as she starts giggling again.

Liar’s indignant response is immediate. “And what, Gertruida, do you think, do they use to accelerate electrons and bits of atoms in Switzerland? Or do you imagine that I’d be roving around here for my entire life, looking for lost diamonds?”

“Oh, stop it, Klasie! You’re killing us!” Vetfaan wipes the tears from his eyes as he succumbs to another bout of laughter.

Servaas gets serious all of a sudden. “You are looking for diamonds, aren’t you? Walter Kempf and the Wolf’s Tears? All that you told us? It’s true, isn’t it?”

Klasie Louw, known as Liar, scoops up a handful of sand and lefts it sift through his fingers. “There are many stories buried in the sands of the Kalahari, my friend. Legends and myths and tales that are more marvellous than anything you’ve ever heard. Here you’ll find the ghosts of the Dorsland-trekkers who tried to escape to an illusive Utopia. Amongst these dunes the history of the Bushmen, the Koranna and the lost civilisation of the gold-miners of Zimbabwe are whispered in the night breezes. Once this was an inland lake bearing boats filled with riches – then the climate changed and the earth moved…and now only the sand remains. This, Servaas, is a magical place. A place were everything is possible.”

“But that doesn’t answer the question, Klasie. I just want to know whether your story is true? We did pick up that diamond, didn’t we?” Getruida points to Liar’s pocket, remembering how he had snatched it away from her.

It is Liar’s turn to smirk. “Ah yes…the aeroplane wreck! Come, I’ll show you. It’s about an hour from here.”


lancaster_desert_500Sure enough, after tramping trough the loose sand in the valley between the two dunes, they arrive at a little plain – an open space with the dunes forming a natural amphitheatre around it. Off to one side, the wreckage is clearly visible.

“This was Walter’s plane. And this is the direction the flood washed his treasure away.” He points towards the south. “And over there,” pointing again, “is the rocky outcrop. I wouldn’t suggest you go near it.”


“I’m still not sure,” Servaas says. They’re gathered at the counter in Boggel’s Place, relieved to be back in Rolbos. “I mean, can we really believe everything he said?”

“Well, all I can tell you is that Boron is an extremely rare element in the universe. Scientists don’t believe it is natural to our planet, and that most of the Boron found on earth is due to cosmic dust and possibly meteorites. There is, indeed, radioactive Boron and it may very well be used in reactors – although the rarity of the substance makes its common use impossible. If that rocky outcrop of Liar’s is pure Boron, it could very well be the remains of an ancient meteorite and as such be a unique find.” Gertruida shrugs. “Who knows? Anyway, I made a few discreet enquiries: our friend Klasie Louw is a multi-multimillionaire. The story of the Reserve Bank taking notice of his activities may be true…”

“And the men? The helicopter and the search?”

“Oh, read the papers, Servaas! There are so many scandals in our country, it’s hard to pick the most likely one. But….I like my theory about somebody wanting to buy silence. Suppose you bribed South Africa into hosting the World Cup in 2010 and now people are starting to ask questions. You have the FBI, CIA, Fifa and even Morocco breathing down your neck. If the story is proved and evidence confirms the corruption, it won’t just impact on one single person. It’d mean that the government, the local organising committee and especially the governing party will be left with more egg on their faces than they can clean off. People will have to resign, and some will go to jail. It’d be a diplomatic catastrophe of massive proportions. International credibility – already at a low point – will fly out of the window.

“You see, Servaas, for some of the officials – from president down to the ticket-sellers – the outcome of an intensive investigation will mean the end of their careers. The money-barrel will run dry. The authorities involved with drugs, smuggling and money laundering will be forced to face the wrath of not only the local populace, but the international community as well. Can you imagine the fall-out?

“So…it is entirely possible that certain men and women will want to buy their way out of trouble – and that’s going to involve massive payments to the investigating forces. Just like FIFA bought Ireland’s silence and avoided legal action, so it may be possible to influence the reports of investigators. For that, not only would billions be required, but there cannot be any paper trail. No Banks, no transfers, no documentation. The answer: diamonds…”

“Ja,” Vetfaan signals for another beer, “desperate times. Desperate measures…”

Servaas shrugs. “Be that all as it may. I still don’t know whether I can believe Klasie Louw…”

l15 copy_edited-1“We’ll never know,” Getruida says as she puts down  her glass. “But he has a good story. Maybe we should trust Liar for a change…”

Below the counter, Vrede thumps his tail on the wooden floor. He sniffed around the wreck and the strange rock out there in the desert. He knows exactly what the facts are. But, even though he’d like to tell them about the weathered shoebox he found under the one Nara-bush, he’d rather keep the secret. It’s much more fun this way.

The End.

Trusting Liar (#7)

lancaster_desert_500Klasie (liar) Louw remembers the fights, the blows, and the screams all too vividly. Herman would return from yet another trip into the Kalahari in the most foul of moods, empty-handed. He blamed Nikolaas. He blamed Mattie. He scolded young Klasie, often adding a hiding for good measure. He liked to shout at them, telling them they ruined his life.


“Then, just after my eleventh birthday, it happened again. Mom stood her ground for a while, but Herman wouldn’t let up. He called her names…horrible names. Then he felled her with a vicious uppercut, straight to the chin, She fell backwards, hitting her head on the sorting table. I knew then that he had killed her.”

Liar is sobbing now, reliving the most horrible moments of his life.

“I was hiding under the bed at the time. Walter’s pistol – the one he had used to kill the snake – was under Mom’s pillow. I don’t remember much of what happened. When I came to my senses, Herman was down, flat on the ground, bleeding from his chest. In his last breath he cursed me, saying I’m a bastard and a low-life scum.”


The boy didn’t know what to do. His mother was dead and he had just killed his stepfather. He was still sitting there when a trader stopped by, like he did once a month. The trader – Harry Isaacs – took one look at the scene and rushed off to Upington to report the incident to the police. 

A constable was dispatched to investigate. His report:

I, Constable Abel Malherbe, arrived at the claim of Herman Louw at 3 pm on the 3rd of August 1954. On my arrival I found a boy – Nikolaas Louw (called Klasie) sitting on a camp bed in the hut on the premises. He wasn’t able to speak and I assume he was born deaf and dumb. I also found the bodies of Mr and Mrs Louw. Mrs Louw appears to have died from a blow to her head, although she had multiple other bruises. Mr Louw had a gunshot wound to his chest. A pistol was on the floor between the two bodies.

My conclusion merely states the obvious. Mr Louw is a known felon with multiple convictions, including assault. It appears that he was attacking Mrs Louw when she fired the pistol in self-defence. There was nothing on the scene to suggest any other explanation. 

The boy is clearly incapable of comprehensible speech and unable to assist any further investigation. He’ll need to be taken to a foster home. My superior officer suggested the facility in Worcester.


A. Malherbe.


School for the deaf, Worcester.

School for the deaf, Worcester.

“And so I was sent to the School for the Deaf in Worcester. For a while it suited me just fine. For the first time in my life, I had a warm bed, clean linen and three proper meals a day. I didn’t have to dig up the banks of the Orange River and I wasn’t afraid that Herman would rock up and beat me. All I had to do, was act deaf and dumb. 

“That’s where my lying really took off. I had them all fooled for three long years – the best years of my life. Then, one day, I overheard the teachers discussing me. They were concerned, they said, that I might have more hearing than I gave out to have. That I might be pretending because I was an orphan. That they’d get a special doctor to come and test me, just to make sure…

louw“That night I ran away. I returned to the only place I know: my stepfather’s claim. I was only fourteen, but big and strong. I managed to convince the local magistrate that I was the legal heir to Herman’s claim and that he had been a known prospector in the Kalahari. He checked the records, found Constable Malherbe’s report, and took pity on me. How he did it, I’m not sure – but in the end he handed me a piece of paper that gave me the right to ‘investigate and prospect mineral possibilities in the region’. He even paid the fee…”

“But didn’t he ask you where you had been all that time?”

“He did, Servaas. I told him I had been taken care of by an aunt in Cape Town, but that she had passed away. Without the licence, I said, I would have no income and no means to support myself. He asked about inheritance, and for once I told the truth: my ‘aunt’ had left me nothing.” A wry smile lightened his features for a second. “The rest were – just like you’ve become accustomed to me – pure lies.”

Servaas scratches his head, overawed by the tale of woe. “So you’ve been looking for the wreck all these years – almost six decades of searching?”

“Oh, I found the wreck, all right. It’s not far from here.” He points up the valley between the two large dunes. “But there was a flood in 1956. One of those rare thunderstorms that turned this valley into a mass of swirling water. It washed over the wreck and almost buried it. It took me some time, but eventually I uncovered enough to examine the wreckage. The boxes were gone. For a while I thought my stepfather had found it, but then I discovered a diamond some distance off. Then another.

“What happened was that the flood washed away the boxes, scattering the stones down the ‘river’ it had formed.” He sighs. “And that’s why I’ve been busy here all my life – searching, searching, searching for the lost treasure of Walter Kempf amongst these dunes…”

“And finding diamonds here and there?”

“Yes. I’ve found two hundred and thirty-six stones so far. It’d fill one small box. There must be much more still…”

“But who are the people in the plane and the chopper?” Vetfaan lets his eyes roam the empty skies. “Why…?”

“It’s some government men. Bad ones. Once they know where to look, they’ll probably kill me.”

“But…how did they know?”

“SARS…the revenue people. They got onto my trail after the last packet I sent to London. When I went to the bank in Upington to check on the payment, they were waiting for me outside the bank. They said they wanted to make me an offer I can’t refuse.”


“I refused.”

(to be continued)

Trusting Liar (#5)

as31-iGertruida is the first to recover. “Klasie…?”

“Ag drop the pretence, Gertruida. You all call me ‘Liar’ behind my back, so why stop now? Might as well be on the same page, yes?” Liar’s face is flushed with anger; the muscles in his thin neck prominently bulging. “That diamond belongs to me. Hand it over.”

“What are you doing? Put away the gun…”

“No! This…,” Liar sweeps his one hand towards the horizon, “…is my place. Mine!  I earned it! And you…you have no right to be here!”

“Listen, Liar, we’re not the enemy. Whoever is looking for you with the aeroplane and the chopper….well, it isn’t us. In fact, we were worried about you and that’s why we followed you. We’re here to help, man!” Vetfaan’s voice is pleading as he takes a step closer to the distraught man. “Now, put down the gun and let’s chat about all this.”

Liar hesitates, taken aback after clearly being convinced that the group  had hostile intentions. “I…I’m not sure I believe you…”

“And we’re never sure whether we can believe you, either.” Servaas’s remark lessens the tension as a few suppressed guffaws escape. Even Liar has to smile.

“Here, here’s the diamond.” Getruida holds it out to Liar. “You take it and put down the gun. We need to talk.”

Liar seemed to deflate the moment he realised the group didn’t represent a threat of any kind. He took the diamond, stuck it in his pocket, and sat down next to his rifle. Gertruida carefully detailed their quest  to warn Liar about the  Cessna –  and to help if they could. It takes a long time to convince Liar, but such are Gertruida’s skills that he eventually apologized for his behaviour.

“I…I suppose you deserve an explanation,” Liar sighs – then he tells them a story they’ll never forget.


After Robey Leibrandt was arrested, Walter Kempf gained access to the only aircraft available and took off, heading for Windhoek. He left in a considerable hurry, of course, and had didn’t have the time or opportunity to plan the trip. As soon as he had the plane cruising at about 2,000 feet, he took stock of his situation. In the bulky suitcase rammed into the hold, was a number of gold coins and two shoeboxes filled with diamonds. While he was confident that he would be able to bribe his way into South West Africa to get past the officials in Windhoek, his immediate problem was fuel. The Gloster was (at that time) quite famous as a survey plane but Walter had no idea how far he could fly with the two full tanks.

He switched off the left tank and flew only on the right-side fuel supply, reckoning that would give him an idea of range. Figuring out that he might make Kimberley, he headed west. It was late afternoon when he landed near the city of diamonds, where he used some gold coins to convince a lone attendant to fill up his tanks. Not wanting to stay too long, he took off almost immediately. The police interviewed the attendant the next day, documenting the last official sighting of the Gloster.

The modern runway at Upington

The modern runway at Upington

Walter knew that flying at night would be dangerous, but fortunately the skies were clear and the moon almost full. His plan was to follow the Orange River to Upington, where he hoped to refuel again. However, when he estimated that he was about a hundred miles from Upington, the oil-pressure gauge started dropping. Peering from the open cockpit, he could see smoke from the left engine. He knew then: he was in deep trouble.

He no longer had the luxury of time to follow the bends in the river below him; now he had to plot and guess the shortest way to Upington. He veered off to the north, which was a mistake. Had he gone south, he would have picked up the road to Upington, which would have at least offered him a chance to land. Soon, however, he only had the expanse of desert beneath his wings as he switched off the overheated engine. The aircraft was still maintaining altitude, but flying the cumbersome craft under the power of the single remaining engine was beyond the capabilities of Walter Kempf. He had to find somewhere safe to land…

Walter later described his landing as a miracle. He found a straight, narrow passage between two dunes and managed to make an almost perfect touchdown. Almost. An unseen mound of sand snapped off the left wheel, causing the craft to slew around and wedge itself into a dune. With the wheel off and the propellers bent, the aircraft’s flying days were over.

The exhausted pilot surveyed the damage, correctly decided that he was marooned in the desert, and decided to wait for sunrise. Curling up in the hold behind the pilot’s seats, he slept until he was awakened by the hushed voices of three Bushmen who stood talking around the crashed plane.


“So there he was, surrounded by Bushmen in the middle of the desert, fleeing for his life.” Liar pauses as another thought strikes him. “You know that Robey Leibrandt was sentenced to death, yes?”

Only Gertruida nods – she knows the history. Jan Smuts eventually commuted the sentence to life imprisonment; but when DF Malan became Prime Minister, Leibrandt was released from jail.

“I still don’t see how you tie up with all this, Klasie…I mean Liar?”

Servaas gets a weak smile from the man. “Ag , you can call me anything. Truth be told, my entire life had been a lie, so I don’t object to being called what I am.” He falls silent for a moment before continuing. “You see, those Bushmen helped Walter to get back to civilisation. He only took a few gold coins with him, leaving the rest of the treasure in the hold of the plane – he thought he’d go back sometime. Anyway, after three days of heavy walking, they reached a farm, called Breekyster. The farmer and his wife took good care of Walter and he stayed there for more than a month.

“Also on the farm was an old man – a bywoner – and his daughter: Nikolaas Cronje and Mathilda, or Mattie as everybody called her. They were common, poor labourers on the farm, a struggling father-and-daughter family impoverished by the recent Great Depression and the subsequent droughts. Oom Nikolaas, I was told, used to farm with sheep near Loxton, in the Karoo, before he lost everything. His wife died from pneumonia while they trekked from farm to farm, looking for work. Eventually they found refuge on Breekyster, where they were allowed to stay in the barn. The farmhouse was a modest affair and Walter shared accommodation with the Cronje’s.

“Walter told the old man – he had been a rebel in 1914, objecting against the government’s plans to fight the same Germans who helped the Afrikaners during the Anglo-Boer War – the whole story. Everything. As a Nazi sympathizer, the old man was overjoyed to lend a hand. He helped Walter to get ready to return to the earoplane – and he left one morning early with a backpack, a pistol and a compass.

aa3“Walter was never seen alive again. His body was found ten days later, a day’s walk from the farm. The desert had been too treacherous, too wild for him. A sidewinder snake was found nearby with a bullet hole through it’s neck. Surprisingly, both escaped being ravaged by scavengers.

“Needless to say, nobody reported the issue. Walter Kempf simply disappeared as far as the authorities were concerned.

“Old oom Nikolaas was saddened by the passing of his new friend – but not as much as the grieving Mattie, who realised she was pregnant on the very same day Walter was found. In fact, she almost miscarried… ” Liar sighs, staring at the diamond. “Maybe it would have been better if she did – I would have been spared a lifetime of misery…”

Trusting Liar (#4)

The Gloster AS.31

The Gloster AS.31

“A…a diamond?” Vetfaan squints at the stone, marvelling at the way the son reflected from within.

“Yes…” Gertruida frowns, her puzzled expression lifting her brow towards her hairline. “And not just any old diamond!”


“It’s a polished stone, Vetfaan. A very strange and unique stone. See the imperfection in the middle?”

adThe diamond is the size of a rather large pea, brilliantly polished, but in its center the yellow-brown immediately draws attention. “It looks like an eye…” Vetfaan says.

The helicopter makes another pass, but now too far away to worry the group.

“A flawed diamond?”

Gertruida remains silent for a long time while she turns the stone around between her fingers. The she whispers a single word…

“What? What did you say, Gertruida?” Kleinpiet holds a hand behind his ear, his eyes full of question marks.

Hitler…” She looks up suddenly, remembering the history she studied many years ago. “The Tears of the Wolf…” Then, hesitantly and in a hushed voice, she tells them the most amazing story.


images (13)In 1934 South Africa was proud of their new boxing wonder. Robbie Leibrandt won gold at the Commonwealth Games to become a national hero. In 1936 he was part of the Olympic team to compete against the rest of the world in Berlin.

“Apparently he met Adolf Hitler while he was there and was fascinated by the man. He returned to Germany in 1938 to study at the Reich Academy for Gymnastics. When the war broke out, he joined the German army and was trained to fly and use a parachute. Most of his training involved sabotage techniques, however – his German commanders had a very special project in mind.”

Operation Weisshorn involved dropping Leibrandt on the Namaqualand coast (using a confiscated French yacht), after which he set up a rebel movement, aimed at destabilising the government led by Jan Smuts. His plans almost succeeded, but he was betrayed and caught by the police.

“But,” Gertruida continues, “there was a bizarre twist to the story. Leibrandt was assisted by a man with strangely similar features, one Walter Kempf. Even their commanding officer could not always tell them apart. This is presumably why “Leibrandt” was often seen at two places at the same time, adding to the confusion of the authorities trying to catch him.  Anyway, their efforts in South Africa were funded by gold coins and diamonds the Third Reich provided.

“Once Robey was imprisoned, Walter fled with the loot. He managed to bribe his way into the airforce base near Pretoria, where he stole a rather dilapidated Gloster plane used for aerial photography. Apparently his aim was to flee to South West Africa (Namibia), where he hoped to link up with German sympathisers. The aeroplane never made it to Windhoek and the lost gold and diamonds were never found.”


“Thanks for the history lesson, Gertruida.” Servaas pulls up his shoulders to spread his arms wide. “But what the Dickens does that have to do with this diamond?”

“This diamond, Servaas, may very well be the one that the Fuhrer, himself, gave to Leibrandt on the eve of his departure from Germany. It was supposed to be a good luck charm, one of Hitler’s favourites. Hitler often likened himself to a wolf, and these diamonds was named after him. Legend has it that a small collection of these stones came from one of the pyramids and that they were amongst the valuables the Nazi’s ‘collected’ during their campaigns. If I remember correctly, there was quite a lot of excitement lately amongst fortune seekers in the town of Mittenwald in Austria, where some of the treasure might still be hidden.”

“So…are you sure this diamond is part of Leibrandt’s treasure?”

“I’m assuming it, Servaas. Think about it: an unique, expertly polished diamond with the exact characteristics, appearing in the desert where an aeroplane might have crashed almost eighty years ago….it sounds more plausible than anything else I can come up with. Unless you have a better explanation…?”

Servaas shakes his head. He knows better than to argue with Gertruida – who knows everything, anyway.

“But I still don’t get it.” Vetfaan stares at the horizon. The sound of the helicopter has faded away, leaving them in the vast silence of the desert. “How does this tie up with Liar? He can’t possibly be involved with all this history?”

Even Gertruida has to shake her head. She’s fairly sure about the diamond – the unique stone was described in fine detail in a report she had read during her training as an agent for National Intelligence. The history of spying in South Africa provided many lessons for new agents and (back then) the study of erstwhile projects and agents had been mandatory. But…tying up the diamond with Liar just doesn’t make sense. Could it be that they have stumbled across the diamond in one of the strangest coincidences of all time? Or…not?

She’s still thinking about this when they hear the distinct clack! of a rifle bolt ramming the bullet into the chamber behind them.

“Okay folks! Turn around. Slowly. Hands where I can see them. And no funny business, thank you.”

They all freeze as they recognise the voice…

Trusting Liar (#3)

begin 2004 207Everybody knows about Vredethe town-dog that absconded from the police force. Couldn’t take the corruption anymore. After he exposed the commissioner, he had no choice: either he had to  create his own witness protection plan, or they’d dispatch him to doggy heaven.(1)  Vrede isn’t just any old dog or even the town’s mascot – he’s a survivor in the chaos of the New South Africa; a rare example of having enough courage of your conviction to bark loudly at the farce politics have turned out to be.

Gertruida said (only yesterday) that Vrede would have solved the entire FIFA fiasco by sniffing out the bribes everybody is talking about. The group at the bar laughed at that while the radio played ‘Jordan, we are going down…’  Boggel then slipped a piece of biltong to Vrede, who took his time gnawing through a sinewy bit. But that was before Liar arrived to start a brand new adventure that made them forget all about yet another scandal developing in the country.

Now, with the eastern sky tinged in red and orange, Vrede has his nose to the ground while he follows the scent. Yes, Liar had been here, and yes, he stepped here…and there…and there…


modThe Kalahari Desert is like no other. Large parts of the region are covered by sparse bushes and grass. The dunes occurring in such regions are stable and remain static for centuries. However, in some areas the arid ground can sustain no plants; so the dunes have nothing to hold them down when the wind starts howling over the mounds of sand. In some parts of the Namib, dunes move more than 2 metres per year. In the Kalahari, however, dune movement varies far too much to try to put a figure to it. Suffice to say that some dunes move more than others.

Fortunately  for Vrede’s quest to find Liar, the night’s wind has been gentle and the rocks still carried the strong scent of the feet of the fleeing man. Vrede adopts his professional attitude: no howling, yelping or barking: he is a silent tracker on the spoor of his quarry. The same cannot be said for the Rolbossers panting heavily behind Vrede. The speed of the dog is quite astounding, leaving the group grunting and sweating in their efforts to keep up.

Vetfaan puts two fingers to his lips to produce a piercing whistle.

“Stop, Vrede! For goodness’ sakes, dog, do you want to kill us all? Slow down! We can’t run like you do.!”

60nara1[1]Vrede skids to a halt and looks back at the struggling followers. That’s what you get from sitting around, drinking beer every day. He lets his tongue hang out in a doggy smile. If he could laugh, he would have. While he waits for them to catch up, he flops down in the shade of one of the bushes scattered between the dunes.

“That’s strange,” Gertruida says as she sits down next to Vrede. “A Nara bush! I thought they only occurred near Sossus Vlei in Namibia. That means there must be some water below the surface.”

“Huh?” Vetfaan gasps as he stands bent forward, his hands on his knees.

“Water, Vetfaan. And the fruits of the bush are very nutritious. This could at least partly explain how Liar survives in this part of the Kalahari.”

Vrede isn’t keen on resting. He gives the humans a minute or so before resuming his task. He does, however, proceed more slowly.


It is way past midday when Vrede stops again: this time looking up at the sky. A minute later, they hear the thump-thump-thump of rotor blades. A helicopter? Here?

“They’ve narrowed the search,” Vetfaan says grimly. “That Cessna must have spotted something and now they’re using a helicopter. We must hurry.” He closes his eyes to get rid of the memories of the search-and-rescue operations during the Border War when a patrol landed itself in trouble.

begin 2004 130“I…I think we should hide,” Kleinpiet doesn’t like it either. “Whatever Liar is up to, I don’t fancy being caught in the middle – or in the open. See those dead trees? Let’s go!”

A minute later a helicopter appears momentarily some distance away on their left, heading north. The group remains where they are, each of them leaning against the withered trunk of a stunted tree. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the helicopter returns, flying south – nearer this time.

“They’ve not found him. Maybe they’ve narrowed the search, but that helicopter is flying a search pattern. A grid. On the next leg, he’ll be to our right.”

“Would anybody mind telling me what we’re doing here?” Servaas wipes the crusted sweat from his brow. What seemed like a good idea yesterday, has turned out to be an exhausting trek through thick sand. He is not impressed.

The rest of the group remains silent, some nodding, others suppressing a smile. When Servaas gets kantankerous, laughter can be extremely dangerous.


Gertruida gasps as she bends down to pick up a pebble. A very shiny pebble, which she holds up for all to see.

“This,” she says, “this is what it’s all about.”


(1) Much more of Vrede’s history is told in Rolbos, the book.

South Africa’s FIFA song…

Trusting Liar (#2)

1The thing about Liar is what Vetfaan calls the “double-reverse chicken gambit”, the only thing in Rolbos that manages to confuse Gertruida. Vetfaan explains that you have to believe the unbelievable before discarding it as nonsense. Or vice versa. The trick is the ‘gambit’ – when to attack or withdraw. For instance: it’s like exonerating the presidency for all blame for Nkandla before finding them all guilty.

“It’s the same with Liar. It’s wrong to say his stories are untrue. He might apply some factual gymnastics to his tales, but they’re not necessarily lies – unless you don’t believe him.” This concept, he explains, makes it easy to understand why more than 60% of the voters chose the governing party during the last election. “But,” he hastens to add, “this is about to change. The second reverse of the double reverse is a slower phenomenon, it’ll only occur once the government starts telling the truth.”

This, of course, doesn’t help to explain why they all jumped on to the Land Rover as the ancient engine spluttered clouds of blue smoke down Voortrekker Weg. Maybe they were just bored, sitting around in Boggel’s Place all day long. Or perhaps they really cared about what happened to Liar. Probably they did the second reverse…?

“When last did he find a diamond?” Kleinpiet has to shout to be heard above the clatter of the straining engine.

“Oh, last year. He showed it to me.” Gertruida puts on her superior look. How she loves knowing things the others don’t! “A blue-white, this big.” She uses her fingers to indicate a large, marble-sized stone. “The purest I’ve ever seen. And several yellows, slightly larger but not as nice.”

“But having an uncut diamond in your possession is a crime! He can’t sell it? They’ll pop him into jail.”

neumap6“Not Liar, Vetfaan. He has a prospecting permit dating back to his father’s time. The old man used to prospect near the Orange River near Grootdrink, but somehow Liar convinced the authorities that he not only inherited the licence, but that it applies to the Kalahari as well. You know him: he probably lied his way to success. Point is: he’s a legit diamond prospector and so he has the right to sell his uncut diamonds to any of the world’s bourses that buy such stones. Apparently he sends over a packet once a year to Antwerp, using the contacts his father had built up after WW ll. The old man served in Egypt, where he met some chaps from the Netherlands. One thing led to another….old comrades, that sort of thing.”

“But then Liar must be a rich man?”

“Depends on whether you can believe him.” Gertruida shrugs and smiles quietly. “If he’s so rich, why is he still tramping the dunes?”

“Greed.” Boggel shouts above the noise, using his handkerchief to wipe the dust from his eyes. “It’s a disease: once diamond-fever gets you, it doesn’t let go. Liar will go on searching for diamonds until the end. He won’t – can’t – stop. There’ll always be the big one just around the corner – just like the gamblers in Oasis Casino.”

Vetfaan drives slowly, picking out Liar’s tracks in the loose sand. The Cessna is flying ahead, sometimes disappearing over the horizon before circling back.

“Liar has done it again,” Vetfaan says grimly as he watches the aeroplane flying to and fro. “He simply disappears…”

A few years ago, after Liar had bragged about a particularly large stone in Boggel’s Place, Sersant Dreyer tried to follow his tracks. They led straight into the desert for several miles – and then disappeared completely. Vetfaan remarked at the time that Liar must be an expert at anti-tracking, which made Dreyer blush under his deep tan, saying nobody can fool him that easily. Still: the fact remains that Liar’s secrets remained intact, allowing the group at the bar many hours of speculating about his whereabouts.

“This is it,” Dreyer points at the dry riverbed. “He leaves the sand, hops from boulder to boulder, and gets away without leaving a spoor.”

The group gets out stiffly, stretching legs as they watch the Cessna disappear towards Upington.

“The end of the road, chaps.” Kleinpiet sighs loudly. “We might as well give up.”

Gertruida goes harrumph!. It’s an ominous sign. She hates unanswered questions.

“Look, it’s late anyway. We’re not equipped to spend the night out here. I suggest we return to Rolbos and gear up for a proper expedition, then we can follow this man to wherever he is. Who’s in?”

“Follow his where, Gertruida? We have no idea where he might be! It’s useless…”

“Ah….you’ve stopped thinking again as usual, Vetfaan. Whether you join me or not, I’ll be back here tomorrow at first light….with Vrede.”

Of course! Vrede! Their very own town-dog with the superb nose!


The eastern sky has the faintest tinge of orange above the black horizon when the group gathers at the rocky riverbed. Vrede loves it out here – he’s done all the wheels on the ‘Rover, four bushes and one rock.

“Now, Vrede!” Boggel sits down next to the excited dog. “You remember Liar? That sweaty, stinky man that walked out this way? Well….you got to find him.” The dag lifts one ear as he listens to Boggel explaining the mission. “Oh…and if you find him, you’ll have a month’s worth of biltong waiting for you.”

Some people scoff at the thought that dogs understand humans. Boggel isn’t one of those. He knows Vrede would have picked up on ‘stinky man’ and ‘biltong’. He’s right, of course. The dog wags his tail, licks Boggel’s cheek and starts sniffing around. Not even a minute later, he gives an excited yelp.