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Happy Wind #21

Vintage Map - Nautical Miles of Africa Photograph by Camryn Zee ... ‘While the whole Riemvasmaak community was forced to comply with the defense force’s demands to move, Geel escaped back to civilisation. He was an articulate, educated man in his sixties, respected for his entrepreneurial skills and the easy way he had with strangers. Mr Gibson, the manager CJ had appointed many years before, welcomed his friend from the Kalahari with open arms. Together they set about expanding BCS – Bothma Courtier Services – to satisfy the international demand for the secure transfer of documents, packages and even money.’ Gertruida brightens at the thought. ‘The two of them were really a remarkable team.’

***

It took many months for the Riemvasmakers to settle in remote Damaraland; in the area they were supposed to stay there was no real infrastructure. Susan insisted that she and Herman remain with the people she loved and very soon it became abundantly clear that Herman would have his hands full, taking care of everybody. Babies were born, stomach and lung problems were common and malnutrition took its toll.

Soon, however, Herman’s services were in demand on a far greater scale. There were no doctors for many hundreds of miles around the new settlement. Farmers and their families, their workers, policemen, missionaries and travelling salesmen soon queued up in front of the tent they stayed in. Within six months Herman had to build a small building to house a clinic. Medicines were brought in (later via BCS!) from Windhoek. And before he could build a house for them, the first of several rooms were added to the clinic, to house much needed beds for the sick and infirm.

***

‘Yes,’ Gertruida says, ‘they did get married. Right there, in front of their tent, by one of the German missionaries who had come for treatment of his gout. It was a simple service, but the entire community turned out to witness the start of an amazing marriage. Their meal on the day? A barbecued chicken, donated by the ululating crowd around their tent. At least, the missionary paid for his treatment with some sherry. As far as honeymoon nights go, it must rank as one of the most strange, ever. True to their nature, the newly-weds smiled and took it in their stride.

‘Some time later Herman suggested that they hand over the reins of their businesses to Geel and Mr Gibson. Susan had been the only heir to CJ’s estate and it was impossible to manage the growing little empire from the wilderness of Damaraland. Susan immediately agreed and so Geel became the owner/CEO of CJ’s legacy. He did send a portion of their profit to the people in exile every month, and it did a lot to make their lives easier.

‘Susan, in the meantime, studied Herman’s books and became a rather efficient pharmacist and assistant in the busy practice. She also assumed the role of mother to the Riemvasmakers, listening to complaints and helping out where she could.

Solitaire Namibia Special. Custom Namibian Packages. Explore ...‘Griet Loper springs to mind when I tell you about that time in Damaraland. The Riemvasmakers were a determined, hard-headed bunch. No government was going to force them into being second-rate citizens. Griet was a restless soul and eventually made off with a small bundle of clothing. Just took to the road and kept on walking. Eventually, she came to a little cluster of buildings next to the dusty road with the name of Solitaire. The kindly owner, a Scot by the name of Moose McGregor took pity on her and employed her in the kitchen. In those days Moose sold petrol along this long and corrugated road to the coast and he thought it a good idea to make an extra buck by selling refreshments.’

Much to Moose’s surprise, Griet produced a real German apfelstrudel one day, using some left-over apples a broke traveler had exchanged for a cold Coke. Griet used a recipe handed down by her great-grandmother, who had been a cook to a German garrison stationed at Numatoni, in the Etosha region. Of course, that was before the horror of the war against the Herero’s, which almost wiped out that entire nation. Incidentally, that war was the reason why Griet’s family fled South West Africa to settle in Riemvasmaak, in the beginning of the 1900’s .

Namibia, Fort Namutoni (ehem. Deutsch-Südwestafrika), gel. 1939 ...

Numatoni Fort, 1939

‘Well, that apple pie was something else! Moose McGregor became famous for his delicious apfelstrudel, a reputation that is alive and well today, even after his death. Needless to say, Griet’s future turned out to be a happy and content one in the many years she spent at Solitaire.

‘Oh,and there’s Lena, Mama Namibia herself. Came from Riemvasmaak as a young girl, but, wow, did she turn out to be a gem! Today she runs Wilderness Safari’s luxury Damara Camp in the remote Damara desert landscape, a woman of importance! And what about Petros Sand, the man who started farming with vegetables in the fertile Swakop River bed, near Swakopmund?

‘But I digress,’ Gertruida sighs, ‘the most important part is still to come. And it involves all of us…’

To be continued…

 

 

 

Happy Wind #20

Burnt Mountain (Khorixas) - 2020 All You Need to Know Before You ... ‘The move of the Riemvasmakers was a heartless, harsh, horrible affair. The defense force simply moved in and herded the people together. Some were made to watch as the authorities burnt down their dwellings, others were spared that inhuman scene.’ Gertruida tries to avoid thinking about the emotions the people must have experienced on the day. Yes, everybody knew she had been involved in the policies of the Apartheid government. And yes, she had, from a very young age, been painfully aware of the injustices  which had become just as part of that regime as corruption has in the present dispensation. Although her career in the secret service had given her insight into the workings of the Nationalist government, she remained a staunch individualist and an independent thinker – a true realist – which explains her state of mind when telling the sad story of the Riemvasmakers.

‘And before you judge me, let me remind everybody that no history is snowy white and cuddly cute. Scratch deep enough and you find a festering sore of lies, self-interest, deceit, crooked dealings and downright theft, even murder … be it direct or indirect. The leaders of today all have something to hide; some major, some minor – but not a single one of them can trace the journey of their lives back to birth, without hanging their heads in shame.

‘I didn’t move the Riemvasmakers. My previous government did. And that, my friends, is a bitter pill to swallow.’

***

Namibia | History, Map, Flag, Population, Capital, & Facts ...

Back in 1973 and ’74, the forced movement of the people of Riemvasmaak was a brutal affair. The army wanted a buffer zone between South Africa and South West Africa. They also required a training area for troops to prepare them for the arid world of Northern South West Africa. But mostly they required a testing ground for vehicles, systems and ammunition. Canon, rifles, rockets and bombs were to be the future of this once-peaceful area.

Some Riemvasmakers were moved to the Ciskei, on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. These people had never seen the sea, the green hills, or the lush veld of the Transkei. One might be tempted to think of them as more fortunate, for the rest of the Riemvasmakers were sent to Khorixas, in the desert of what is Northern Namibia today. They had no money, their livestock were lost and they were completely isolated. For the next twenty-five years, they lived, just like Andries predicted, in Hell.

***

File:Elia Fester, Kalahari Khomani San Bushman, Boesmansrus camp ...‘Andries refused to go. When the bulldozers came, he said goodbye to Susan. She noticed that he dressed in the traditional San way and carried his bow and arrows. And she knew she’d never see him again. He walked off into the desert and never looked back.

‘Susan posed a problem to the Apartheid-orientated authorities. It was easy to force people of colour to move at gunpoint, but she presented a completely different mix of problems. In the end, she solved the situation by volunteering to accompany the Riemvasmakers to Khorixas.’

Boggel holds up a hand to silence the narrative. ‘But what about the nice doctor, Herman Viljee? What about him and Susan?’

‘That’s where the magic happened, Boggel. For years and years the two of them lived in separate worlds, with Herman being the dedicated doctor in Upington and Susan looking after her father in the isolated village in the Kalahari. It was a case of east is east and west is west. and ne’er the twain shall meet. They saw each other occasionally and one might even be tempted to think they had a secret love affair.

‘But the events of the forced move, forced the issue of their commitment, as well…’

***

The corporal tried to hide his embarrassment. Susan Bothma made no secret of her absolute disgust at what was happening. She had berated the man – half her age – who dared to call her ‘Tannie Bothma’. She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he would never be good enough to be part of her family.

‘You are nothing to me, you prematurely aborted idiot. You don’t even begin to understand what you are doing.’ Susan never used strong language, but when she was finished a good ten minutes later, the corporal understood that his manhood, his intelligence and his morals were extremely doubtful issues.

John Hughes | Toyota Landcruisers Ultimate Guide 2019 | John Hughes Just when her tirade had died down, a brand new Land Cruiser stopped in front of her house. Herman Viljee stepped out, and , for a change,  was not dressed in his customary white safari suit.

‘We have a lot to settle, Susan. But it’s a long way to Khorixas and we will have ample time along the way to discuss things. Now, if you’re quite finished shouting at this imbecile, we can load up your stuff and be off.’

To be continued…

Please follow the links in the first paragraph to find out more about Gertruida’s early life…

Happy Wind #19

Paramount Infrastructure Development Limited ‘Susan and the young doctor had a most…unusual…courtship.’ Boggel senses the tension in Gertruida’s voice. She is obviously struggling to keep her tone level. ‘At first it was the health of old CJ. Then the vision and illness of old Andries. And then, the cruellest cut of them all: the forced removal to Khorixas, far in the north of  South West Africa. This sequence of tragic events was almost too much for the fragile constitution of the frail Susan Bothma.’

***

CJ was the first to require the good doctor’s attentions. It was in the spring of 1965 and the veld was particularly beautiful that year. However, the war-injuries had taken their toll on his body. Over the period of a few years, he had become more and more tired. The loss of Francina just made maters worse. It was as if CJ simply didn’t want to live any longer. Susan drove to Upington to ask help. Herman Viljee immediately agreed to accompany her back into the wilderness of the Kalahari. His examination revealed a major problem.

‘It’s progressive kidney failure, Susan.’ The news was bad, but hearing him say her name, caused a shy smile. ‘I suspect it was the trauma of that landmine. So much muscle damage may overload the kidneys and cause irreparable damage. His arm improved, but that was a nerve injury. In his case, the kidney situation will keep on progressing. There isn’t much we can do.’

Magazines - ***DIE BRANDWAG TYDSKRIF*** VRYDAG 22 MEI 1964** was ... ‘But..but what about this new thing? They transfer…er, transplant a kidney into a sick person. I read that in Die Brandwag. Can’t it be done for him…?’

‘Ai, Susan, I wish. But you’re right, the medical world is abuzz with the possibility of organ transplantation. I hear Doctor Myburg is leading a team of specialists in Johannesburg and it’s quite possible that they’ll do the first kidney transplant on the continent within the next year.

‘But, Susan, that’d be too late. Your father is too ill, anyway.’

***

‘And so it was.’ Gertruida swallows hard. ‘CJ passed way quietly one morning before Christmas that year.  He was buried, as he had wished, in the burial ground outside the village. Herman had become a regular visitor at that stage and supported Susan right through CJ’s final days.

‘Then, it was Andries’s turn.’

***

Andries woke up one morning and directly went to the house CJ had built in the village. The year was 1972 and year-long conscription had become compulsory for all white South African males over the age of 18. Very often this meant that, before a teenager was allowed to vote, drink or drive a vehicle, he was licensed to shoot to kill another human being. At this stage Andries was a stooped, almost bald and toothless old man, but his mind was as sharp as ever. He didn’t knock; he simply went in and sat down at the kitchen table. Susan was mildly surprised at his sudden appearance, but offered him a mug of coffee, nevertheless.

‘Thank you, Miss Susan.’ As poilite as ever, he waited for an invitation to speak. Susan understood this and asked him how he was.

‘I’m too old to move, Miss, just too old. I’ll never make it.’

‘Too old? Move? What are you talking about, Andries? We’re going nowhere.’

‘I had a dream, Miss. A terrible dream. I saw flames and heard screams. I saw men in uniform pushing us into lorries. I saw men pleading and children crying. I saw women throwing themselves in front of bulldozers. And I saw that it didn’t help. We were loaded in to cattle trucks and a train took us away, far, far away; away from our ground and our goats and cattle and houses. Then I saw our huts burning. Your house, this very room, became a place where soldiers stayed.’

Khorixas

Susan shook her head. ‘Ag, come on, Andries? You think the army will come and throw us out? This is Riemvasmaak, man! This is as far from civilisation you can be. Why would the army want to be here?’

‘Guns, Miss. Guns and canons and bombs. Nothing will be left.’ For the first time since she got to know Andries, Susan saw the old man crying helpless tears.

‘They’re taking us to a place in hell, Miss Susan. There’s nothing there. Nothing.’ He wiped away the tears with an angry hand. ‘I’m too old for this, Miss. I’m too old. My seasons are done. It is time..’

To be continued…

 

Bob Dylan, born as Robert Allen Zimmerman

(Dylan wrote the song when he was 20. This is what he told Sing Out magazine in 1962:

” There ain’t much I can say about this song, except the answer is blowin’ in the wind. It ain’t no book or movie or TV show or discussion group, man. It’s in the wind … I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some … But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know … and then it flies away.”)

Hapy Wind #18

Cactus Jack Bubblegum Tequila Sours (1 x 750 ml) | Tequila ...Whenever Gertruida gets near the end of one of her lo-o-o-ng stories, she’ll order a round of Cactus Jack, like she does now. That usually serves as a sort of warning for the audience to steel themselves – the climax is near. And that could be happy…or sad. Whichever way it goes, it helps to be prepared.

‘You know, the young doctor simply sat down, took her hand very gently, and shared in her grief. The church was full of people – Francina had been a very much-loved member of the community – but the petite Susan suddenly felt alone – with him. It was a comfortable feeling. They shared one of those moments in which words would have spoiled everything. Just being felt so good.

Page 2 of Daisy pictures | Curated Photography on EyeEm‘And then Susan had the strangest dream. Or vision. Or Imaginary moment. Whatever you call it, doesn’t matter. What matters is that she saw, or felt and heard, her mother. Francina was smiling, waving as she walked away from her. She blew a kiss and whispered goodbye. She was dressed in white and held a twig of Namaqua daisies in her hand. Susan saw her mother disappearing as if in a thin mist, and just before she was completely gone, she dropped the flowers.’

***

Susan Bothma listened to the last Amen . So, that was the end of her journey with dear Francina, the mother who loved her so much? How sweet and short and cruel the voyage through the stormy waters of Life! Why so fleeting the passage, why so inevitably final the end? But she remembered the words old Andries spoke when they returned from Upington with her terminally ill mother…

‘Look at the animals of our veld, Miss Susan. They are there season after season. Sometimes you see the same animals as last year, sometimes you see the next generation. And, Miss, they continue to feed on the short grass in our desert and they continue to be content – they never move away to places with more water and more grass. When it rains, they rejoice. When it’s dry, they endure, We must learn from them

Oryx photos, royalty-free images, graphics, vectors & videos ... ‘You mother is dying, Miss Susan. Soon, she’ll know the world is on the other side. But we’ll stay behind for a while. We’ll join her when the time comes. But now, in this time, we must endure. Think about it: do we have a choice? Can the Gemsbok wish for more grass when the drought has withered the veld? No, they know how to endure – and that is what we must do now. Yes, we must grieve, but we must grieve with gratitude. Be happy for the past and look forward to the future. The rain will come again. The season will change. And we’ll be together again when the time is right.’

She glanced at the two men next to her:  CJ, the big brother who worked in faraway Natal, and the young doctor – a man she hardly knew but felt strangely comfortable with. Her father was in the aisle, in his wheelchair, stone-faced and grey. Three men. Three pillars.

When they trooped out of the church, sniffing and silent as is customary under such circumstances, she noticed Andries waiting for her next to the steps of the building.

He was holding some flowers in his hands. It wasn’t much. Just a little green branch with some daisies at the end.

Happy Wind #17

Pretty Young Woman from Finland in Beautiful Dress 1910 1920s ...

Susan Bothma

‘When Susan was twenty-one, she and Francina were sitting on their porch one sunny spring morning. Life was sweet. CJ Jnr wrote home every week, telling them about his happy life as game ranger. Because he had grown up among the mix of cultures in the Kalahari, he found working with Zulus quite easy. The two women were talking about his latest letter when Francina felt a twitch of pain on the left side of her neck. Her hand went up to examine the area. And then she felt the lump.’

Gertruida says – because she knows – that Life is never a straight line. Just when you think you’re winning the game, the winger drops the ball five yards short of the tryline. Or the guy at silly point drops a sitter. Or somebody says something about expropriation of land without compensation. She says these mishaps are important, otherwise we’d never know when to be happy.

‘The nearest doctor was in Upington, a certain young man who’d just started practicing there. Geel used the pickup they normally utilised for the natural remedy herbs, to transport the two women to see the man. What they imagined would be a short consultation, turned into a week-long’s worth of agony.’

***

Francina had an extremely malignant form of breast cancer. Because it had spread, there was no sense in trying to operate on the tumour. Some journals contained articles on a new field of medicine, but chemotherapy was not widely available – maybe at teaching hospitals for selected cases, but definitely not for a terminal patient in the faraway Kalahari. The young doctor, Herman Viljee, sympathised – but he was also honest in the most kindly manner.

‘It is a matter of time, Mrs Bothma, I’m sorry. I can help you with pain and support you and the family in any way I can, but the outcome of this is predictable.’ And then he spent two precious hours, explaining again and again the results of the biopsy he had done, the pathologists report, and the prognosis.

***

‘Men are such predictable animals,’ Gertruida says in her knowing way. ‘No matter what the circumstances are, they are always aware of gender. These days the world is trying to rid itself from sexism, but that is a lost cause. The day a man does not respect the beauty of a woman; or doesn’t step back at a door, or doesn’t compliment elegance – why, that’s the day we all deny who and what we are. The key, of course, is the word ‘respect’.

‘Be that as it may, Doctor Viljee could not but help noticing the innocent beauty of Susan Bothma at his patient’s side. In those days doctors were very much aware of ethics and what was considered to be proper. Viljee took note, that’s all. But deep inside (if he were completely honest with himself) he promised himself that he’d like to see her again in the future, when the time for such advances was appropriate.’

***

Geel took the women back to the village. A paper bag full of morphine drops and aspirin tablets sat on the seat between Francina and Susan. There wasn’t much to say. To discuss such matters was to try to avoid the ultimate outcome. It was time to absorb, reflect, rebel and accept – and that is exactly what the corrugated road to the village afforded them.

However, when they arrived back home, the aged old Andries was waiting on the steps of the stoep of their house.

‘I know, Miss Fransie. I had a dream. And I’m sorry.’ He held both Francina’s hands in his as the tears streaked down his dust-coloured cheeks. ‘But life comes and life goes. Seasons. Once we are young and once we are old – if we are lucky to live through the years. We should never be afraid of the journey, Miss Fransie. Every step is a blessing, even the hard ones.’

And, oh! He said, he’d already spoken to Mister CJ. There was no need to hide anything – they were in this together. The journey wasn’t for just one person. They’d see: the journey would bless them all.

***

‘And so it was,’ Gertruida says. ‘Viljee’s medication helped, but it was Andries’s remedies – especially his root-cure – which relieved the pain and anxiety Francina lived through in the next three months or so. She took solace in what she saw: how everybody took care of CJ and how the villagers showered them with love and affection. The morning before she died, she called everybody together, blessed them and bid them goodbye. Then she called Andries and told him it was time. The old medicine man simply nodded. He knew what to do.

‘It was during a prayer at the funeral service, led by Oudoom in Upington, that Susan felt her hand being taken by somebody sitting down next to her. She peeked. And that’s when she knew: it was going to be alright.’

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Wind #16

White Bushman Paperback ‘To describe the mindset of the Bothma family back then, you only have to consider what the average farmer feels like today.’ Gertruida makes a vague gesture with her free hand (the other holding a cold one, despite Tannie Zuma’s decrees). ‘Abandoned. Forlorn. Angry. Depressed. Like today’s farmers, they were realists. The war was drawing to a close after more than 11,000 South Africans  –  Black, White and Coloureds – died in battle. We simply do not know how many casualties our forces suffered, nor how many struggled with mental illness afterwards. What is known, is that the Afrikaners were fed up with the Smuts government.

‘Of course CJ and his family didn’t want to return to their previous lives. CJ Snr was incapacitated in the worst possible way, Francina was afraid that the Smuts people would jail her again and little CJ Jnr did not want to leave the village-life they had become accustomed to. When the legendary Peter Stark – the famous White Bushman of South West Africa  – was 15, CJ, too, was learning the intricate culture of the Damaras, the San and the Hereros. He stood with his two feet planted in two cultural kraals – Western and the heady mix of African ways and histories. Lastly, CJ Snr felt embarrassed and guilty about his war wounds – appearing in public would have been just too painful.

‘Still the nightmares continued. One night, after a particularly violent nightmare-storm – this one ending in blood welling up from the ground – Francina soothed her husband like she usually did. What was unusual that night, was CJ’s response. He often complained that the dreams were frightfully terrible, making his feelings of guilt and incapacity even worse. A man should weather these storms, not so? A real man doesn’t sob himself awake in the middle of the night and then expect his wife to comfort him? A real hero has two legs and a string of medals.

‘Francina understood all these things. And then, on  that wonderfully fateful night, she proceeded to prove to her husband that he was still the same man that left for Egypt in uniform.’ Gertruida sighs dramatically. ‘You men are all the same. Primitive, simple-minded creatures. Once your ego get stroked, you plop over in a blissful slumber. And that, gentlemen, is exactly what happened that night. Little Susan Bothma was born in that same hut, nine months later.’

Servaas raised an eyebrow. So this is the Susan that would have a relationship with Herman Viljee…interesting!

***

The years that followed, were as peaceful as one could wish for. The Bothmas adapted to life in the Kalahari and the Riemvasmakers adapted to them. A house was built next to the huts – the first of many to follow. The natural remedy and CJ’s courier business continued to thrive under the care of Geel and Mister Gibson. A healthy trickle of cash flowed into the village’s coffers, where CJ saw to it that there was a fair distribution among the villagers. CJ Jnr grew into a strapping young man and little Susan was the darling of everybody.

While South Africa drifted sideways and backward on the tide of inappropriate legislation, Jan Smuts lost the 1948 election and the Nationalists eyed the prospect of a republic. Unfortunately, that is not all they did. History would judge the leaders of that time harshly, and rightly so.

EX UNITATE VIRES | Union of south africa, Africa, Botanical drawings Malan and Strijdom used the churches, the newspapers and the radios to re-educate an entire nation. Blatant propaganda focused on the danger of communism and the deterioration of independent African states. The progressive destruction of the country’s motto – ‘Ex Unitate Vires’, In unity lies our Strength –  created an unbridgeable divide between the peoples who live in this beautiful country.

***

Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela

Ian Player, Magqubu Ntombela    Photo: Trevor Barrett

‘CJ Jnr wanted to see the world, but he had no formal education. Francina and Geel had taught him to read and write, and he had a natural aptitude for numbers. His father knew the boy could not spend his life in the village. Life in the city was not an option. In the end he wrote – without much hope – a letter to Ian Player, a war veteran like himself, who at that time worked in the Natal Parks Board, one of the early South African efforts to conserve game, nature and the environment.

‘Much to CJ’s surprise and Francina’s joy, Player not only answered the letter, but also invited CJ Jnr to come and see him. The rest, you guys know, is history. CJ Jnr was a fierce fighter for RR – the NPO he started. Rhino Rescue remains testimony to his singleminded goal in life to protect those huge pachyderms from extintion. He died in his eighties, peaceful and content with his contribution to Life on Earth.’

Gertruida wipes away a tear. ‘At least he had that, didn’t he? His father died in the sixties, a rather fortunate situation, for he was spared the hardship and anguish of the forced removal of the Riemvasmakers from their ancestral grounds. He did, however, witness the wonderful relationship between little Susan Bothma and Herman Viljee. I suppose one may think that he died in peace, despite the loss of Francina, the poor man.’

The group at the bar sits up. ‘Francina died? Why?’

To be continued…

Giuseppe Verdi: Va pensiero

Some of the words:

Arpa d’or dei fatidici vati, Golden harp of our prophets,
perché muta dal salice pendi? why do you hang silently on the willow?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi, Rekindle the memories of our hearts,
ci favella del tempo che fu! and speak of the times gone by!

 

Happy Wind #15

MRI of Diabetic foot - appearances and mimics, a pictorial review ‘Andries removed the Eland stomach from the infected stump the next day. I think one may assume a Pseudomonas infection which caused osteitis.’ Gertruida, the one who knows everything, sometimes forgets that not everybody does. ‘In theory, he should have had a revision of the amputation. However, the attempt to treat it with thymus strips – a world first as far as I know – might have provided some sort of immune reaction against the bacteria. More importantly, the acid and enzymes in the Eland’s stomach would have eaten away at the rotten flesh. Be that as it may, Andries was quite pleased with the result.’

***

The process of recovery was slow and frustrating. Gradually, over the next year, the wound healed up, leaving only a tiny sinus where clear fluid drained for another nine months. CJ Snr remained amazed at Andries’s medical insight. The medicine man not only  Surgical treatment of adult traumatic brachial plexus injuries: an ... predicted that some recovery of his right arm would follow, but he also encouraged his two apprentices to deliver what can only be described as primitive physiotherapy. There was nothing sophisticated about the way the two flapped his arm around and made him pick up pebbles and sticks. No matter what the treatment was called, it did yield results. Years later, when CJ was on his deathbed, the doctor in Upington said it might have been a Brachial Plexus injury, but by then it didn’t matter any more.

What reluctantly improved, were the nightmares. Andries understood a lot about dream-states and admitted to dream a lot himself.

kaross‘It is the spirit, Mister CJ. It leaves the body to explore the past and the future. It always takes a kaross when it roams about. If it’s a jackal skin kaross, the dreams will be of cunning and slyness. Hare skin brings it cleverness and wisdom, helping to solve problems. Impala skin karosses is about fertility and the way of men and women. But it is the skin of the hyena, the coward, that brings the spirit to the Land of Deception. It is where the spirit gets lost.

‘Now, when I go to sleep, I sleep with my head  next to a tortoise shell. It has to be there, touching me. The tortoise, Mister CJ, has more wisdom than all the other animals. He never rushes anywhere – he takes his time. Also, he’s very quiet and rarely says anything. But most of all, the tortoise spends its time thinking. He’ll think about things happening around him, but more importantly, he’ll think about the things that make him happy. Tortoises never cry, see? And then we must remember, a tortoise lives far longer than we do. They use all that time to understand life. And when they do, they see the future.’

CJ Snr listened, but didn’t understand or believe the healer. His nightmares became less, but still continued. When asked about them, he could never be specific. Francina once tried to explain the situation to her son.

‘He dreams colours, Boetman’, she always called him that, ‘ Dark colours and white colours. And his dreams are all very much the same. He dreams about a white cloud above a fertile land and the earth is parched and dry. Everything points to an imminent shower. The farmers are watching the cloud. Women, children, everybody. A few drops fall and everybody rejoices.

‘And then the weather changes. The white cloud becomes dark. It becomes black. It starts throwing out shafts of lightning. The people stand astounded: they’ve never seen anything like that; they didn’t expect such havoc. And then the real nightmare starts. The women and children and houses start burning, burning, burning. Everything turns white hot, turns to grey ashes. Nothing that was, remains. Nothing. And then he wakes up screaming and thrashing and weeping.’

‘But why, Ma? Pa is such a strong man, why does he dream like that?’

‘Andries says it’s the future, Boetman. He says even the tortoise says so…’

To be continued…

For those who do not understand Afrikaans:
I know an age-old song
about life’s joys and woes;
about shipwrecks long gone
to the cellars of the sea.

The words are lost forever
but still, the tune persists —
like a dimly recalled image
from a very old folk tale.

Visions, dreams, and names,
have been scattered by the wind
and where all the words went
only a child could see.

Nomads, with no direction;
Seekers that never find…
In the end, we are all just
children of the wind.

Happy Wind #14

The San & The Eland | Dreamflesh

Eland Hunt

‘When Francina woke up that morning, she felt strangely detached from the scene in front of her. Drugged, is the word that comes to mind. CJ, her husband, was still prone on the Eland skin, but she immediately saw that he was better. The flush and rivulets of sweat of fever were gone. His head was resting on a rolled-up karos, facing her, his expression one of calm, relaxed sleeping.’ Gertruida sips her beer, collecting her thoughts. ‘What she didn’t immediately realise, was that Andries had lanced the abscess in the stump the previous night, and had washed out the wound with salted water.’

Because she knew, and the others didn’t, Gertruida explained that there were some areas in the Kalahari where large pans collected water during the infrequent rains they get there. Some areas go without rain for years and get an excess of 4000 hours of sun per year. These pans may form in a matter of hours, disappearing just as fast again in some cases. The sand is mineral-rich, of course. So, in these little depressions, deposits may form during the evaporation of the water, leaving behind salts of various compositions and colours. And some of these salts are not the type you use at the restaurant table to season  your steak. The salt Andries used, for example, was bitter and purple.

***

Andries addressed – at length – the Eland in a most respectful way, apologising for the hunt and for taking its life. He explained that they had no choice, as only an Eland would save the sick man in the hut. He also promised the antelope that it’d be remembered for the sacrifice and that some people will be eternally thankful  for its kindness. Then, nodding to the older apprentice, he held out his cupped hands to receive a nondescript piece of flesh.

‘It’s the neck gland, white people call it a sweetbread or something,’ Geel whispered.

Even in her semi-lucid state, Francina nodded, recognising the thymus from her nursing days.

Buchu Leaf Andries cut the gland up in long, thin strips. When he turned to view CJ’s wound, Francina saw the stump for the first time that morning. Some of the swelling was gone, but the original incision had parted to reveal the rotting bone that used to be the femur of his upper leg. She also became aware of the scent filling the hut – it reminded her of a buchu-ointment – one of the natural medications Oupa had formulated  for CJ’s company before the war.

Francina was not worried; the root extract was still working its magic. Her mind was at peace, her spirit tranquil and calm. Her husband was being treated in a dirty hut by a wrinkled old man with no formal education, using bits of a dead Eland. This was all good, the way it should be. Nothing to be upset about….

‘Now they’re cutting out the stomach,’ Geel explained softly. ‘It contains the cure.’

Digestion and Nutrition - ppt video online download Andries removed a bulbous sac from the abdominal cavity. The upper end was tied with a thong. Then in deft, easy movements, Andries placed the strips of thymus in the gaping wound. What followed, did make her sit up straight, despite her sedation.

Andries slit open the bottom part of the stomach, slid the organ over the stump like a glove, and applied several strips of hide over the arrangement to keep it in place. Then he glanced over at Francina and clicked a few sentences in her direction.

‘Andries says you may wake up now, thank you.’ Geel hesitates. ‘He says we’ll see tomorrow. CJ will be better but the road to full health is long. He says patience will cure him. If we hurry, CJ will die.’

Francina did wake up from her hypnotic-like trance at once. She wanted to thank Andries, but burst into tears instead.

A bearded man, apparently about 30 years old

Paul Kruger, in 1852

***

 Gertruida smiles her superior smile. ‘That treatment was not new, of course. When Paul Kruger, later the president of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, was hunting in 1845, he almost blew his left thumb off completely when his four-pounder exploded in his hands. When the wound became gangrenous, he consulted a local medicine man who applied the stomach of a goat in the same manner. It took six months, but he recovered’

Boggel gets on his box to peer over the counter. ‘That’s a wonderful lesson on the history of the old Transvaal Republic, Gertruida. But what happened then? To CJ and his son, the stump, poor Francina. I know something about the sad, later history of Riemvasmaak, so how did they all survive? Or didn’t they?’

Gertruida sighs. ‘Patience, dear Boggel, patience. Patience is a virgin, remember? Just wait and I’ll tell you all.’

To be continued…

Happy Wind #13

Wound healing complications associated with lower limb amputation ‘The journey to the Northern Cape  was long and painful. CJ’s leg stump throbbed and the glands in his groin were swollen and tender. Near Upington he started sweating – when Francina placed a hand on his brow she glanced over at Geel. They both knew…’

Gertruida doesn’t have to tell them about the dangers. Molly (Loser’s wife) died of puerperal sepsis, didn’t she? ‘Blood poisoning’, the old folks called it – rather aptly, when one considers the pathology. ‘Geel reached over to the driver – another member of the Kruiper clan – and told him to step on it.’

***

Pure Cast Iron 3 legged Potjie size #2 Dutch Oven, Cauldron ... By the time they got to Oupa’s village, it was dark. Despite this, Oupa was waiting with a huge fire in the clearing in the middle of the circle of huts. A three-legged pot was steaming over some coals next to it. And next to Oupa, a grizzled old man – more wrinkles than anything else – was sitting on a magnificent Eland skin.

CJ Jnr stood behind Oupa. He had been prepared as well as Oupa could, but still the sight of his critically sick father was almost too much to bear. He fought to keep his emotions under control, straightened up and hugged his parents. Francina wept with joy – and with grief. How big her son had grown in just the few months! How tanned and healthy he seemed! And now, in the light of the fire, how terrible the sight of her husband; the deterioration over the last few hours had been dramatic and frightful.

Once a semblance of order had descended over the reunited family (Geel hadn’t seen Oupa for many months, as well) Oupa cleared his throat.

‘This here is !Garuksab, but we call him Andries. He is from the Original People, the parents of the Kruiper family.’ Geel translated smoothly. Oupa nodded his approval. ‘He had a dream, so he came here. He knew he’d be needed.’

***

‘Nobody knows how the San-people do this. Some call these clairvoyant members of the tribe shamans or witch doctors, but that is not correct.’ Gertruida, who likes to think she knows everything, tries to explain. ‘These people live near nature. In fact, if there is anybody on earth who understands the way of Time, of the seasons and of human nature, it will be found in the San culture. These ‘wise men’ as they are called, are able to imagine (or travel) different times – future or past. They are the keepers of oral history and the prophets of the future.

‘Westerners are skeptical of this, of course. It is because we’ve confused the term ‘modern’. We think smart cellphones and Space-X are modern. But…to really come to an understanding of Life and Nature and Time – now that is really modern. I’m afraid we, the Western civilisation, have lost the desire to explore the most important aspect of the Universe: the reason for time, for humans  – and for our relationship with Nature. Exploration shouldn’t be out there,’ she says, pointing, ‘but in here, where you feel the regular pulse of your heart.’  She places a hand on her chest, smiling sadly.

***

!Garuksab, also known as Andries, had ordered his two apprentices (nameless young men who have been with Andries for a few seasons) to lay CJ down in one of the huts. He lit a precious candle and told the older apprentice to remove the bandage on the stump. As layer after layer of bandage was removed, the cause of CJ’s deterioration became clear. Green pus stained the bandages. The remainder of the leg was grossly swollen and red. The stench made the younger apprentice gag – something which drew a hiss of disapproval from old Andries. He said a few words in a rapid sequence of clicks.

”Andries says there is bad blood under the skin. It needs to come out, he says. And tomorrow they will hunt for an Eland. It is a holy animal, but it is necessary to save a life.’

The Eland in San Rock Art PaintingsBy this time, little CJ Jnr had learnt not to question the older members of the tribe, but Francina had not. ‘How will an Eland save my husband? We need to get to a hospital. Can’t you see he’s dying?’

Andries smiled. He put a withered hand in to the pouch the younger apprentice carried. Took out what looked like a piece of root. He held this out to Francine. Clicked a few words.

‘Andries, he say, you must chew.’

Francina only woke up the next day, when the men were slaughtering the huge bull Eland.

To be continued…

 

 

Happy Wind #12

Travel | Chopstix & the City‘Of course you can guess what had happened.’ Gertruida smiles broadly. ‘First of all: the Bothma couple realised that they were being used as puppets. The government had welcomed them back as if CJ had won El-Alamein all by himself  – which was very obviously devoid any truth. And Francina’s release from prison, the new dress and the hordes of newspapermen were all just window-dressing, a sham, a vulgar piece of propaganda to make the government look good. At the same time, the major thrust behind the reception CJ got, was to make it very difficult for the injured soldier to critisise the government in future. It was to keep him away from the opposition, see? You can’t bask in the government’s sun of glory the one day and then join the resistance movement the next.

‘So, once that was established, the two were trying to figure out what to do when the door to their suite opened quietly…’

***

Geel, the man with the soft eyes and the gentle demeanor, held a finger to his lips. Francina was overjoyed to see him, as she knew how Geel and Oupa’s family had been looking after their son. It was CJ’s reaction to Geel’s appearance in the doorway, that would be a warning of things to come.

CJ pulled up the sheets to cover most of his face. His fear-filled eyes darted this way and that, while his left hand gripped Francina’s arm. A low moan escaped from his lips, sounding ever so much as a long, drwan-out ‘Noooooo!’ 

Francina reached over to hold her man to her chest. ‘It’s OK, CJ, it’s Geel, remember? He’s a friend.’

***

‘The war, his injuries and the long, slow recovery ad taken its toll on the once-strong CJ. Imagine the horror of losing a leg and the function of an arm. And remember the letter from the ship’s captain, mentioning the frightful nightmares? CJ was most probably suffering from a condition which was poorly understood back then – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Today we know it can present in many ways and that it may burden a patient for the rest of his life – but back then doctors simply accepted it as a form of psychological incompetence or madness. Amongst soldiers, it was seen as a weakness. Real men stepped up to the line, got a grip on things and soldiered on – such a stupid approach.

‘Francina’s presence calmed CJ down soon enough and then Geel explained his presence.’

***

It was the staff of CJ’s courier business – the boys on the bicycles and the men driving the vehicles – who had an ear on the ground. The manager CJ had appointed, a certain Mister Gibson, had been very successful in expanding the business in CJ’s absence. They now had daily deliveries in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with weekly visits to Kimberley, Cape Town and Durban. Gibson had regular interviews with the staff, collecting news and gossip. It helped him anticipate the need for the business to adapt to circumstances, but it also supplied him with information most people were unaware of.

Simon Kruiper was the courier who delivered the dress to the prison after it was altered to fit Francina. He chatted to a warder, who told him about her imminent release and CJ’s return. Kruiper reported it to Gibson. Gibson told Geel, who informed Oupa.

An that was the reason for Geel’s late-night visit to the Mount Nelson.

***

‘Come, come quickly. I have a van parked outside. We have a bed for Mister CJ and some food and water. If we leave now, nobody will know.’

Geel helped to get CJ in the wheelchair. The stench emanating from the bandaged stump of the amputated leg was almost overwhelming.

‘They said the doctors will see him tomorrow,’ Francina said. ‘Maybe we must wait. That leg obviously need attention. They even mentioned another operation.’

Geel shook his head. ‘Mister CJ just came from England. They couldn’t fix it, so how can our doctors do anything? No, we’ll take care of it, Miss Francina. There are ways…’

Francina still wasn’t sure. Then she looked down at her husband. She saw the fear in his eyes. His major injury, she grasped, was not the physical damage caused by the landmine. It was much worse. CJ needed rest. He needed a friendly atmosphere. He didn’t need interviews and more of the games the government was p[laying with him.

He needed the Kalahari.

Francina looked up into Geel’s trusting eyes. ‘Lets go,’ she said.

They wheeled CJ out through the almost-deserted reception area. Platvoet Kruiper, taking care of the desk in the small hours of the night, winked at Geel as the little group made for the door.

Once a Kalahari-man, always a Kalahari-man. Platvoet’s borther, Simon, would report the ‘unexplained disappearance of the Bothma couple’ the next day to a delighted Mister Gibson.