This farm school opened it’s doors in 1934 in a room in my grand-parents house. My Granny – Hester Fincham was very involved with the day to day issues of the school. My parents and family also attended the farm school.
Growth was evident and soon my grandfather – Victor Fincham built a school. Till today it is fondly remembered as the ‘Wit skool” due to the fact that since I can remember it was painted white.
Mrs Vic (Granny Hester) as she was known in the community was still seeing over the day to day running of the school. During break the learners would go to the post-office to get the mail. En route to the post-office was Mr Mackay’s shop and here you could buy to huge Wilson toffees for one penny.
Fifty-seven years ago, my brother, Julian headed off to school. This was a huge family celebration as he was the eldest grandchild of Mrs Vic
It looked like great fun and he even got to take sandwiches everyday too! He had a smart suitcase, BOOKS, CRAYONS AND PAPERS! After not too much persuasion, I went off to school with him. I must have been the first 4-year-old in “Grade 0!”
Binney and Smith Inc., Records 0624 Box 41 Folder 6 Crayola Crayon box about 1903
Our teacher – I can’t remember if it was Miss Betsie or not, but she let me practice writing with the left hand and when that was tired, with the right hand. My mum would come and pick me up at break time soon after all the sandwiches had been devoured.
The most memorable thing from that first school year was Julian’s speech about what happened at home just prior to his leaving for school. I have never quite understood why children must always write a speech or composition about their holiday or what happened at home on a particular day.
Getting back to the story – like most farm children of the day, Ouboet (Big brother) was quite capable of driving the Ford. Hennie says it was a Ford 100. We would catch Uncle Koos’s bus to school. With Ouboet behind the wheel, we would drive to the farm gate and then get onto the bus.
His speech went as follows, “Miss, this morning on the way to school, the Ford’s clutch slipped and the gears locked which nearly resulted in us being late for the bus.”
The following year, school really began and it was a serious business. I recall Maggie and Elmarie who had the most delicious peach jam sandwiches. The sandwiches were later replaced by the most delicious chocolate cake. Elaine could go home whenever she felt like it. She was also my cousin and I would accompany her home during many a break time. She could run like a streak of lightening. Then there was Marieta and Mariette who could both sing so beautifully. Years later they would even get to sing the Drummer Boy song in the NG Church’s gallery. The clever girls were Heila, Riana and Amanda.
It was during this time of my life that I came to meet a certain school inspector. As he walked between the desks, he stopped at my desk. I think it was quite unusual at the time that a child could cope quite well writing with both their left and right hand. Perhaps he had not yet heard of the word ambidextrous! Who would have heard of such a thing back in 1963!
With the following words, “Miss, you had better decide which hand you are going to use to write with!” I got such a fright, I decided to go with the hand in which the crayon was held at the time – it was my left hand. Fortunately, all left handed people are seen by myself as somewhat special, many of whom happen to be in our family.
I remember Mr Basson – he had his classes in the old white school building. We sat according to our classes. The standard 3’s in front, then 4’s and then the 5’s. As the standards progressed each year, we would also move further back too. The thing I remember the most about Mr Basson were his essays. He taught me to write about mountains. He would write key words on the black board and we would have to create a story around them. I always wondered if he were missing the mountains of the Cape Boland as he would spend so much time teaching us about these majestic blue giants. I must say that from where I sit right now, living at the foot of the Platberg, I could even wax lyrical about the colors of this beautiful mountain.
Later on, Andrew would arrive at school with his bandy legs. Like Elaine, he would run so fast you would just spot him disappearing into the distance!
And so, the years marched on. Many of our, “clutches,” would slip and our, “gears,” would jam but at the same time we learned of the Majesty of God’s Grace and Mercy.
May God’s blessings always fall on the Kameel Primary School like a soft and gentle rain.
Next time when you travel between Johannesburg and Durban on the N3 and follow the Van Reenens pass – just pause a moment and notice the beauty around you.
This road is often mistakenly called the Old Van Reenen’s Pass, which is incorrect because the original pass mostly followed the course of the present-day N3 route. The road tracks the course of the railway line, which follows a series of contorted loops and tunnels in an effort to keep the gradient to a reasonable level. There does not appear to be an official name for this pass, so it can be confusing to research and to locate. The road, which is mostly gravel, is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather allows; like Van Reenen’s Pass, the route is subject to both snow in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer. Thanks to Mountain Passes South Africa for the information
The landscapes around the Van Reenen Pass are stunning and the railway service roads and tunnels top off the adventure. The route is a superb gravel pass but easy going and we duck off the N3 just just after Van Reenen. We traveled on the downhill mode. The scenery is stunning. This is the service road of the railway line and we traveled pass sidings, tunnels and farms. It include a 200m tunnel built in 1925, with a curve.
There is some connection with Christmas and Plums
“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads”
Even the sugar plum fairy from The Nutcracker didn’t give a clue as to what to expect from plums.
The plums are looking good.
So what is it with plums
Sweet and juicy, a delicious ingredient to cook with and to bring a wonderful, rich flavour to your food.
And they are healthy too.
What will we do with the abundance of plums that are ripening in our garden. We are thinking about a plum and almond ricotta cake.
While writing this page the plum relish is gently boiling on the stove.
I have used 7 cups of plums, halved and the stones removed. But then it seems as if the halves looked a bit big so I quartered it.
2 cups of water
2 cups of vinegar (preferably white to keep the color)
2 cups of treacle sugar (brown sugar will also do)
About 3 tablespoons of preserved ginger, chopped and then add some of the sugary syrup.
3 tablespoons of last year’s plum liqueur.
Bring very thing to a bubbly boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Add plums and boil gently till liquid is reduced by halve.
Bottle as usual.
Regarding the Plum pudding. It is a steamed or boiled pudding served at holiday times. Plum pudding has never contained plums. The name Christmas pudding is first recorded in 1858 in a novel by Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire novel Doctor Thorne.
Our Christmas was a Christmas tree and Christmas cracker affair. We prefer to celebrate the Season of Joy. Joy for the forgiveness and release from our Sin, Joy for the chance of a life without war and generally Joy for being able to live a relatively carefree life.
If the celebration was held at Granny Fincham, the table would be laid with a damask cloth and silver and we would have venison and wild bird. She would use her beautiful crockery and you can see more on this post of the Grindley dinner set There would always be baked potatoes – a la Fincham. Dessert was thick custard – the original home made custard, definitely not box custard. This would be served with bottled peaches which would be given a quick turn on the griddle pan and accompanied by a cognac sauce which as children we were allowed only a little of. In my grandmother’s home a Plum alias Christmas Pudding was also known as a ticky pudding. (Named after the ticky coin that was steamed with the pudding)
So why is a Plum Pudding called Plum Pudding when there are no plums in it?
In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other fruits. Plumb is another spelling of plum. Prune is actually derived from the same word as plum – the Latin word was pruna, which changed in the Germanic languages into pluma. But the terms were quite confused in the 16th and 17th centuries and people talked about growing prunes in their garden.
There were oil lamps in the streets and candles in the churches and it was reported that the ladies complained of the candle grease “falling on their wearing apparel”.
The Council embarked on a scheme for electric lighting, at an estimated cost of 19000 Pounds. The work was carried out by Messrs Morley and Dawbarn of London and Johannesburg. Mrs Caskie, wife of the Mayor of the day, turned on the lights at a banquet in November, 1904. Six beautiful street lamps were donated to the town.
The according to word-of-mouth it was donated by the British Monarchy. These stunning street lamps took poll position in front of the Town Hall.
In the same year the then museum had to be moved. This was a main . . . main job. There was an old ox-wagon that needs to be removed. Under the ox-wagon a lot of broken pieces of a street lamp, was hidden. The then committee entrusted the broken bits and pieces to us. We learn that it was destroyed by a truck. We managed to get a photo of the original street lamp.
In the words of Mother Teresa
If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out.
To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.
Then the restoration process started. Hennie painstakingly started to put the pieces together.
He had to make new pieces where pieces were missing.
Painfully he managed to restore it
Op Mont Pelaan, die plekkie tussen Harrismith en Memel waar ek my eerste ses skooljare deurgebring het, is daar elke Desember ‘n “Kersboom” in die Boerevereniging se saal langs die vendusiekrale aangebied. Dit was vir ons, die kinders, die hoogtepunt van die jaar. Meester Olivier se handjie vol plaasskoolleerlinge het dan ook weke voor die groot aand reeds hulle stukke begin oefen vir die Kerskonsert wat plaasgevind het ná die geskenke vroegaand deur Kersvader uitgedeel is.
Vir ons het die groot dag uiteindelik begin aanbreek wanneer ‘n boom die middag voor die “Kersboom” op Meester se plaas Sunnyside, in die rigting van Memel, gehaal moes word. Gewoonlik was die wêreld daardie tyd van die jaar, teen vroeg-Desember, grasgroen en die Drakensberge sagte, blou kurwes in die verte, met haelwit wolke wat oor die aarde uitblom. Dan het al die seuns agterop die bakkie saamgery en om die verlate ou opstal help soek na ‘n geskikte dennetak om af te saag. Hierdie tak – volgens Marthinus Versfeld een “op die toppie waarvan die Bethlehemster van blinkpapier mooi sal vertoon, met genoeg takkies om presente vas te maak” – is dan by die saal afgelaai waar die vrouens dit die volgende dag tot ‘n behoorlike Kersboom versier het.
Ja, die Kersboom moes ‘n denneboom wees, soos dit in talle lande van die wêreld, veral in Europa, ook gebruiklik is. Ofskoon die sielkundige Carl G. Jung beweer dat talle mense hierdie tradisie navolg sonder dat hulle die ware betekenis van die Kersboom ken, het die Kersboom klaarblyklik sy oorsprong in sekere gebruike deur die Egiptenare, Chinese en Hebreërs gehad. Dit het die ewige lewe versimboliseer. In later jare het die ou volke van Europa op 25 Desember, wanneer die son op sy flouste is, groot vure aangesteek en hulle huise met immergroen plante versier. Hulle het geglo dat die sterwende son deur die vuur tot nuwe lewe opgewek word en die lewe van die verborge saad deur die ritueel van groen takke verseker is.
Die eietydse Kersboomtradisie kan veral na Duitsland teruggevoer word, waar dit teen die begin van die negentiende eeu reeds ‘n instelling was.
Daar is seker min mense wat nie met nostalgie aan die “Kersbome” uit hulle kinderjare terugdink nie. Maar hoe leef hierdie tradisie vandag voort? Ons samelewing het al hoe meer materialisties geword, en die sakewêreld huiwer nie om ook Kersfees ter wille van finansiële gewin uit te buit nie: dink maar aan die skaamteloos soetsappige klokkies en klingels wat reeds van voor einde Oktober jaarliks aan ons opgedring word. Hierdie uitbuiting word deesdae tog toenemend raakgesien en mense begin hulle hierteen uitspreek.
Meester Olivier het waarskynlik ook nie presies geweet wat die “ware betekenis” van die Kersboom is nie, want hy het ons nooit daarvan vertel nie, ook nie wanneer hy jaarliks die Kersverhaal voorgelees het voordat die geskenke uitgedeel is nie. Deurdat hy ons saamgeneem het om ‘n tak te gaan uitsoek en te help afsaag, het hy ons egter die geleentheid gegee om ‘n egte ervaring mee te maak, wat waarskynlik op ons ‘n veel groter en blywender indruk gemaak het as wat ‘n duisend woorde sou.
Miskien sal ons en ons gesinne Kersfees ook veel intenser beleef indien ons dit met egte dinge uit die omgewing soos ‘n ware Kersboom, kan vier.
It is always an honor to share a writing of Leon Strachan. This was taken from Blinkoog (2002). Thanks Andrew Barlow for translation, Mia Prinsloo – the granddaughter of Jurie who introduced us to the ruin on the hill, Niek Swart who show us around and Biebie de Vos for sharing some of the photo’s
“Look at that, that is crazy Jurie’s harem…no there….. on top of that hillock directly behind Reennenhoop’s homestead. He imported French girls, indeed from the Moulins Rouge.” In the puritanical reformed Free State rural area? A harem? Naughty French girls?
The sandstone ruin on Reenenshoop created a phantasy which held its fascination for many generations thereafter. Perhaps it is something still derived from ages ago herd instincts which have not died out fully yet. So that the very idea would still raise mens’ blood pressure.
The satisfaction of a bull with a whole herd of heifers, or something like that.
There was an unusual amount of building shortly before the First World War. “Juri costruisce castle” remarked an Italian stone mason in his broken English-Italian in the bar of the Central Hotel.
“I hear that it is harem?” Si…il harem” replied the Italian. The harem story spread like a wild-fire. When the unusual door and window frames arrived there from England a few weeks later the wild fire became a raging fire
“The harem story is then really true” remarked one of the men on the truck. He pushed his hat to the back of his head and wiped his forehead. He hooked his thumbs into his suspenders and kicked against one of the crates. “Look. this what a harem’s windows should look like!
“How would you know Thys?” The others burst out laughing. Later some of the clerks from the station walked over to the goods shed to see what all the noise was about. Two ox wagons were loaded with the crates in which the unusual door frames were packed – wide and high. Solid frames with sky lights , all of Oregon and made on special order in England. Some of the window frames were higher even than the doors, extraordinary pieces. “Yes Jurie will have massive mirrors against the walls of the reception room and seven French girls have already arrived in Cape Town.”
“That cannot be true”.
“It is so, Chris Cloete had to have them fetched from Cape Town”
“Nonsense, Chris is a man of the church. He would not do it. In any event where are they now?”
“He merely paid them and put them on a ship back to France.”
Oh no! Why the devil would the man have done a thing like that?”. said cross-eyed Thys, “if Jurie does not want them, I will take them.
“Yes you old loud mouth, you cannot even keep Zina satisfied!” The men roared with laughter but had to dodge quickly – cross-eyed Thys throws anything he can get hold of, even empty cream cans.
The story starts much earlier, at the time 1840 – the stretches of land belonged to the Uys family in 1840 including Reenenshoop. Dina Uys married Louwrens Wessels.Three children were born Jurie Johannes in 1883. He passed matric at Harrismith in 1899 – this was unusual. Boer children at the time did not have much schooling – Boer Matric was the norm – catechism, writing, reading and arithmetic. Jurie was the first person in this predominantly English-speaking town to have achieved this distinction in spite of the fact the English speaking people had a completely different attitude about learning.He achieved this in the first class. Jurie, perhaps had little choice other than to farm.
By 1906 the economy had improved slightly and Jurie was able to go to the Cape Colony to buy sheep. The handsome 23 year old red-head had a head for business. Faan Bekker of Rietvlei in the Aliwal North district had sheep for sale. He stayed with the family for a couple of days. At first Jurie was only vaguely aware of her, until he caught her eye – the ‘bywoners’ girl with a ‘kopdoek’ and soulful eyes which haunted him so much that on his return to the Free State, he wrote to her. He wrote in English but halfway through the letter he switched into Afrikaans. It is in this language that she replied, explaining her life as a ‘bywoner’s’ daughter. In his reply, in his neat handwriting, he declared his love for her.
They were married within a year.Without the headdress Suzie was beautiful woman – he had quite an eye for beauty. With increasing self-confidence Suzie made her mark on Reenenshoop. The neat sandstone house became a home with a warm and friendly atmosphere. The spontaneous girl from the Colony made friends easily and liked to entertain.
The fairy tale transformation of the servant girl to a popular hostess married to an anti social man. He did not visit people and didn’t go to church and had not even been confirmed. Suzie only much later persuaded him to be confirmed and even for this she had to get the parson to come to the farm.’
Suzie had entered a world of riches but it was not easy at all. Her intelligent and well read husband was forbiddingly strict he didn’t tolerate any opposition, his “no” was “no”. This she could respect but his unreasonable obstinacy later became a thorn in her flesh.
Jurie was an enigma; as strict, miserly and relentless as he was, he could spend money lavishly on something which he regarded as worthwhile. He overwhelmed his beautiful wife with valuable jewelry and started to build a dream hose for her. On completion it would probably have been the most imposing house in all of the Free State, Suzie’s complex husband, in his own way cared very much for her.
Jurie’s favorite spot on the farm was the high ridge to the north of the house which dominated the surroundings. From there he could survey the whole farm and see to the farthest horizons. He could sit there and dream and plan – and even see visions. In a moment of inspiration he decided to build a palace for Suzie, her a castle. On the eastern point he measured out the foundation. He planned a large home with a wide passage, four large bedrooms, a big kitchen and a large reception area for his Suzie.
It was the gigantic reception room with its very large windows that set the tongues wagging. This room was 80 feet long by 24 feet wide, with a surface area of 175m2 which in 1912 was bigger than the average house. Imposing, overpowering it was comparable with the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles which it probably inspired.
The fact that French girls were involved furnishes the clue. Jurie was well read and had an excellent general knowledge and had traveled too – certainly, he had visited Versailles. He knew how Marie Antoinette’s room of mirrors had entranced, impressed and even intimidated and he wanted his Suzie to come to her own in this hall. The outside wall of that room had six very large high windows as well as two similar ones at each end. With mirrors at regular intervals in the spaces between the windows and mirrors along the opposite inner wall, the effct of light, reflection, unspoilt nature and phenomenal view it would have been astounding. Like Versaille’s Hall of Mirrors.
Jurie kept his plans to himself. Even his neighbors could get no information from him.”Why are the rooms so large, – heavens you could turn a span of oxen in them.” Jurie had no patience with fools. “Well, I see that you are not gong to talk. But tell me one thing – how are you going to get water to that hillock ?” That was a body blow – it is a dry hillock . There are limits to reasonable man’s patience. “Hey man! A harem does not need water. That long room is for the French girls that I am going to import. Do you understand?”
When the walls were roof high the imported doors and windows arrived at the Harrismith station. They were transported from the station with ox wagons. The last heavy lintels were raised and mortared in position when the Great War broke out in 1914. Jurie rebelled and joined the commando of Wessel Wessels. The building stopped and the ‘bywoners’ had to look after the farm. It was during this time that Jurie heard that some of his cattle were missing. He arrive at Reenenshoop late on a Friday night. Suzie had measles, and he heard that a neighbor had stolen his cattle. To crown everything his fine black piano had also been taken. That was not the end of his troubles; one of his workers had betrayed him. On the Saturday morning the police came to arrest him. He saw them in time and fled to the cliff from where he fired at them. He informed them but he would surrender voluntarily on Monday morning if they would give him enough time to recover his cattle.
On Monday morning with Suzie well wrapped in blankets he and she went to town. She convinced the magistrate that she had written to him at the request of the government. Suzie managed to have him released but he did not recover his stolen cattle. This was the beginning of three important events in his life –
a feud with his neighbor which would last for more than a generation
his conflict with the law
the ‘bywoner’s treachery
This would torment him for the rest of his life.
In spite of all his eccentricities he cared very well for Suzie and the children – Jurie was happiest when his children and later his grandchildren entertained him with music, and need only to have listened. Irene who was born nine months after the marriage had two brothers – Laurence, who they called Laurie nine years later and Hugo who was named after the in-laws as they had also moved to the farm to assist with the farming. Suzie accepted the fact that he was a miser. With farming with laying hens and making butter she had an own income to finance her social activities.
Drama with the law did not remain absent for long at Reenenshoop.
Jurie bought a Spanish donkey stallion in order to improve his donkey stud and he was convinced that it was a mule, he refused to pay and had to go to jail for a few days and the seller had to pay for his board in jail.
During the East Coast Fever epidemic the movement of cattle was prohibited. The border guards caught him and was fined fifty pounds. He went to jail again. Suzie had to face her prominent friends while Jurie could not be bothered about it at all. She paid the fine. Jurie was enraged. “You are wasting money, I was happy in the jail, nobody bothered me.”
Jurie, Suzie and their last child Hugo were on holiday in Durban. Jurie was fined by a traffic policeman and again refused to pay. He was in the cells in Durban and commanded Suzie not to pay the fine. She took a tomato crate put a few cushions on it, Hugo could hardly see over he dashboard but Hugo took the Studebaker and Suzie back to the Free State. Days later Jurie telephoned, he is out and “I am enjoying the holiday and will return by train.”
Suddenly Jurie dressed with care when he had to go to town, this was every second day. Suzie wondered what was going on. He whistled happily when he thought that she could not hear him – she became suspicious. Suzie in a roundabout way found out about the English speaking very grand woman. Suzie wrote a scathing letter in Afrikaans and her daughter Irene translate it. She then re wrote the letter and had it delivered by hand. She had insulted the temptress in her own language. A day or two later Jurie came home, very annoyed. “And then you pretend that you cannot read or write English!”
Jurie paid no attention to social norms. This with his eccentricity, his self centredness and strangeness which was due to his bi-polarity made him known as Crazy Jurie. A severe condition of suspicion gave rise to an anecdote of Crazy Jurie without which Jurie’s history would be incomplete. Jurie wanted his son, Hugo, to become a surveyor because he was convinced that he had been cheated out of land by those who had sold farms to him. He wanted his son to measure his farms accurately. Jurie did go to university but came nowhere near the department of trigonometry but enrolled for medical tuition with the assistance of his mother without the knowledge of his father.
Suzie has by this time accepted her fate and did not doubt that Jurie would refuse to pay for Hugo’s studies if he had enrolled for anything else except to become a surveyor. A white lie was the only recourse to get Hugo started. Hugo did extremely well in his first year and Jurie expected that he would in the December holiday survey the farm properly. This was naturally and Jurie was told the truth. He was angry but still proud of his son and thereafter supported and encouraged him.
The infamous rondavel was not only a refuge from the sheriff, it was also the place where he isolated himself when he became depressed and could last for weeks. Laurie and the ‘bywoners’ had to see to the farming. The rondavel revealed much about him – sandstone, thatched roof and white scrubbed wood floor. At one end there was a copper bedstead and a shelf with many books. Across from this was a Queen stove which in winter was fired with corn cobs and a comfortable sofa draped with a karos. Next to this he had his desk on which were heaps of books, magazines and a radio. Jurie did not miss the morning news and listened to classical music while he did his accounting, opened the post and attended to correspondence in his neat handwriting. This was where he read the newspaper, he had subscribed to “Die Burger” and received a bundle weekly by rail from Cape Town.
The cartoons from Die Burger and Die Landbouweekblad were collected religiously – Kaspaas, Häger and Waldemar were collected and pasted and kept in large books. The pleasure which he obtained from the cartoons indicate a healthy sense of humor which gives rise to the suspicion that he may have laughed at his own escapades.
Suzie was an excellent hostess and smothered her guests with charm and hospitality and entranced them with beautiful jewelry. Besides rings with large diamonds, a heavy slave braclet, a gypsy charm, a gold lucky bean bracelet with rubies and amethysts but the Star of David necklace was her favorite. This necklace was a large white diamond surrounded by blue sapphires and a host of small diamonds.
Dressed in this finery she on a certain Sunday invited several guests. Her back then had become slightly stiff, and on this day the guests included the local member of parliament, the bank manager, doctor, school principal and naturally the parson. However, Jurie was again in isolation.
Her assistant had arrived there earlier that morning with a basket suspended on each end of a pole, each basket filled with fruit from the orchard. Leg of mutton had been cooked to perfection, the turkey was filled and gammon spliced with bacon. Beef, potatoes, sweet potatoes and vegetables were on the stove and the aroma from the kitchen was delicious.
The table had been laid with fine delicate porcelain on a white damask table cloth with a large vase of red roses in the middle. With the start of the meal the guests were in a jovial mood after a few rounds of drinks. While wine was poured in crystal glasses Suzie lifted the lids of the dishes one after the other. She looked up questioningly.
“Johnny where is the turkey?”
“The trukey is gone.”
“How is it gone?”
‘It was stolen”
“Who stole it?” She was dumbfounded, angry, livid.
Jurie was a teetotaler but he enjoyed eating. He and a young man who worked for him had gone to the river with the turkey. Under a large willow tree they sat and ate the turkey, calmly, without affectation and without any worries.
Hierdie legende is geskryf deur Leon Strachan en gepubliseer in die kontrei koerant Maluti Berg en Dal.
Die erg onstellende storie van die pa wat sy seun in ‘n klipskeur moes doodskiet om hom ‘n verskriklik pynlike lyding en uiteindelike dood te spaar, was een wat ek saam met moedersmelk ingekry het en waarmee ek grootgeword het.
Ons bly naby Rensburgkop en het ten minste elke tweede Sondag daar verbygery op pad om by my Engelse oupa en ouma op Rainfall te gaan eet. Ek het altyd grootoog opgekyk na die hoë dramatiese gekeepte sandsteenkroon en met ‘n hol kol op die maag gewonder in watter skeur die neerdrukkende storie afgespeel het.
Van Rensburg en sy opgeskote seun het glo ‘n bok vir die pot gaan skiet. Hulle het aan die oostekant van Rensburgkop ‘n troppie rooiribbokke gekry. Die eerste skoot was rakelings mis en die bok het blitsvinnig voete gekry. Pa en seun volg die bokke teen die vloethewel aan die suidoostelike hoek van die loop op, maar die diere swenk vlugvoetig nog hoër teen die kop uit. Die tweede is uitasem agterna tot bo. Die bokke is skaam, Van Rensburg kry egter sy skoot in. Hy kwes die bok swaar, maar die seun sit die hinkende bok agterna. Net toe hy na die bok gryp swenk dit op die rand van die kop skielik wes. Die seun se momentum bring hom tot op die rand, waar hy sy balans verloor en vooroor val. Hy tuimel gillend seker ‘n goeie honderd en tagtig voet daar af.
‘n Erg getraumatiseerde Van Rensburg sien hoe sy kind deur die lug trek en met ‘n siek slag in ‘n skeur land. Gelukkig leef die kind, want hy kreun en huil en skree van die pyn. Hy probeer waansinnig vinnig afklim, maar dis regaf, en hy kom nêrens nie. Hy probeer van die kant af daar kom, en toe van onder af, maar dis ‘n onmoontlike plek – en sy seun lë in ‘n eienaardige posisie, sy rug waarskynlik af.
Helpers en osrieme is haastig gehaal. Van Rensburg is vasgewoel en versigtig oor die krans laat sak. Hy probeer naarstigtelik om onder die effense oorhang in te swaai en sodoende op ‘n lysie te beland waarvandaan hy by sy kind sou kon kom, maar dit was pure verniet. Teen laatmiddag word die seun se kreune al flouer en die aasvoëls begin draai. Naderhand is daar nie meer planne nie. Die genadeskoot klap, ‘n ouer se loodsware hart sou nooit weer herstel nie.
Boonop was CM van den Heever se Waar Ruwe Rotse destyds, in my sentimentele tienerjare, ‘n mooi en aangrypende gedig wat realiteit en beelde van die storie opgetower het.
Waar ruwe rotse teen die hemel klim,
waar morerooi se eerste traanglans glim,
waar aasvoëls hoog in sirkelbane sweef,
hul rou gekras in afgronde laat leef;
waar grou-wit kranse na die klowe val,
gekeep-hou tot spelonke bo ‘n dal;
waar oopgeskeurde klippekake wag
met draketande wat daar grynsend lag –
daar knal opeens geweerskoot bo die kruin
en eggo’s antwoord hard met skelbasuin.
Die dassies wip verskrik oor gladde krans,
patryse saai vlerktrillend uit hul skans.
Skuins glip ‘n voet en drillend val ‘n roer…
‘n skerp geskuur – ‘n pad wat afwaarts voer.
Twee hande gryp ‘n bos, die angs oorstelp,
benoud klink uit die diepte: “Here, help!”
Twee vader-oë kyk verward…sy seun,
die afgrond lag oor wilde skuurgedreun.
Die kruit en stof vlek oor die lug se blou,
die vader bly sy hand oor sy oë hou.
En dan gewaar hy in die skemering
sy kind, deur rotseskouers vasgedring.
‘n Riem rol na die seun daaronder neer,
“Bind vas, my kind…en Pa die sal probeer.”
Maar dis vergeefs…die kransedraak hou vas,
die riem bly stukkend breek, kry las op las.
En hulp snel by…die rotsetande gryns,
hier moet die mensverstand terug voor deins.
Dan klaag daar uit die diepte, sag en flou:
“Ek smeek dat Pa my skiet…en nou…”
‘n Roer die bewe in die growwe hand,
sag sif in skemerafgrond korrels sand.
Vas lê die kolf teen vaderskouer aan,
en langs die sneller glans ‘n afloop-traan.
“Vergeef my, God!”…’n skoot gedemp en dof…
en bo die bergegraf styg kruit en stof.
Nog skuur iets rog’lend in die diepte daar,
dis stil…die aasvoëls kras…’n vader staar.
Met die skryf van Abe Sparks se storie in Blafboom (1999) soek ek na verwysings vir die Rensburgkop-legende. Daar is geen gerapporteerde weergawe van die verhaal in die destydse Harrismith News (tot 1903) of die Harrismith Chronicle (sedert 1903) nie. Ook geen rekord daarvan in die twee uitstekende geskiedenis bronne van ons omgewing (FA Steytler se Die Geskiedenis van Harrismith of Blanche Hawkins se The Story of Harrismith) nie. Inteendeel, Hawkins verwys daarna, noem dat sy ook geen bewyse daarvan kon kry in haar navorsing nie en spekuleer dat dit kroegstories is.
‘n Soeke na ‘n Van Rensburg wat in die geweste geboer het, was ook vrugeloos. Die landmeter (gewoonlik van Britse, Duitse of Nederlandse herkoms) wat die plaas in die 1850’s afgemeet het, het waarskynklik van Rynsburg (Nederland) of Rendsburg (Duitsland) af gekom en vandaar die naam.
In D J Opperman se Junior Verseboek merk die samesteller op dat dit ‘n volksvertelling is wat in die bergstreke van verskillende dele van Suid-Afrika voortleef. In een van die studiereekse oor daardie Junior Verseboek word gesê dat ‘n ou en bekende legende deur Van den Heever spannend verhaal word.
In ‘n onlangse bespreking van die storie op Facebook het baie mense gereageer. Almal ken die storie, maar verskil dramaties oor waar dit plaasgevind het. Die volgende plekke is genoem: Volksrust, Danielsrus naby Bethlehem, Kogmanskloof (tussen Bonnievale en Montagu), naby Montagu in Ashton (Winterhoekberge) Golden Gate, Rensburgskop en Gordon Rots in Paarl Berg.
Van den Heever het glo sy gedig op ‘n verhaal wat in Smithfielddistrik by Aasvogelkop, naby Gladdedrif (Caledonrivier) oorvertel word, gebaseer. Dit wil voorkom asof die legende die prominentste by Aasvogelkop en Rensburgskop is.
‘n Ander bekende Van Heerden, Ettienne, se Toorberg is klaarblyklik ook deur die legende geiinspireer (‘n vader skiet sy seun wat in ‘n boorgat vassit).
In ons geweste is die legende van Rensburgkop wyd bekend en word dit sonder bevraagtekening geglo, van Johannesburg af met die N3 langs tot in Durban. In so ‘n mate dat die SAUK destyds die drama The Mountain, wat oor die legende handel, hier geskiet het met Sandra Prinsloo in die rol van die seun se ma. Die filmspan het in die plaas Stirling (net oos van die kop) se woonhuis gebly tydens die verfilming.
Alles dui daarop dat dit ‘n sogenaamde ‘urban-legend’, of stoepstorie, is.
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Dankie aan Biebie de Vos vir ‘n fotos wat ons gebruik het en ook fotokrediet aan die Bald Ibis staproete.