The good old days at Kaap­muiden

go! Platteland - - LETTERS -

When I saw Kaap­muiden on the cover of your Win­ter Is­sue ( Plat­te­land #11), my heart leapt. It led to a sleep­less night as the events of more than 60 years ago flashed be­fore my eyes.

That mul­ti­coloured painted silo was one of many play­grounds where we tram­pled the silage as the maize was chopped up and blown into the tower. We liked to see who could jump the high­est from the shut­ters onto the silo floor – I was usu­ally the cham­pion – and it was also the place where I first kissed a girl undis­turbed.

My father, Piet, was the man­ager of the jer­sey dairy on the one side and the pig­gery on the other side of the tower. There, I not only learnt to milk and warmed my feet in the steam­ing fresh dung in win­ter but also wit­nessed my father weep­ing when hun­dreds of healthy pigs had to be shot and in­cin­er­ated in long trenches af­ter swine fever broke out in the Kruger Na­tional Park. The stuff smoul­dered for al­most a year.

I was one of the Grade 1 learn­ers who started school in the new school build­ing in 1951. Tant Lu­cie Baden­horst was my teacher, and later Miss Japie Beetge and Oom Frikkie Botes – the best teach­ers in the world. Our house was on the road be­tween the school and the sta­tion. (The last time I drove past Kaap­muiden, I saw our ron­davel house had been trans­formed into a fruit-and-veg­etable shop.)

Kaap­muiden was a happy com­mu­nity. The main em­ploy­ers were the farms of Oom Jo­han Baden­horst and Laurie Wiid, South African Rail­ways and Har­bours, and the Patoma can­nery. A&A Holl­man and Pi­eter van der Westhuizen were the two shop own­ers; Bill Grant Garage had ev­ery­thing to keep wheels turn­ing; and Oom Zee­man sold the best meat in his butch­ery. The ho­tel was a much-needed wa­ter­ing hole, and the sta­tion café kept all the nec­es­sary re­fresh­ments – and was also the only place where you could buy the Sun­day news­pa­pers.

The post of­fice was one of my favourite hang­outs. One of the ex­change girls used to board with us and would al­low us to come and “help” at night on the man­ual ex­change. “Num­ber, please? Line busy; please hold.” Or “They’re not at home; I’ll call Jan Kruger, be­cause that’s where they’re vis­it­ing.” I also re­mem­ber how we stood at the post of­fice win­dow to watch and lis­ten how the post­mas­ter, Mr Mur­ray, sent and re­ceived tele­grams us­ing Morse code.

We were care­free and free, and the world was our play­ground. I still won­der whether our par­ents knew about ev­ery­thing we got up to: in the moun­tain we played in prospect­ing tun­nels and climbed to the top, where we’d loosen rocks and send them thun­der­ing down the slope; from swim­ming in the river we got bil­harzia; and in the Kruger Na­tional Park we’d shoot at birds with our cat­a­pults, and at hip­pos from a high van­tage rock, as we be­lieved their skins were too thick to feel any­thing. One day we were caught red-handed by Fauna & Flora of­fi­cials pa­trolling the area by bi­cy­cle. They wanted to take us to our fa­thers to com­plain, but af­ter beg­ging them not to, I played a trump card: we’d show them where the poach­ers set their traps.

I’m leav­ing the best for last… At Nel­spruit High School, boys and girls weren’t al­lowed to mix ex­cept for an hour of “re­lax­ation” on Satur­day nights, un­der hawk-like su­per­vi­sion. We had to wait for those week­ends we would head home by train on Fri­day nights – with­out any su­per­vi­sion – and back on the Sun­day evening. The lot on the train un­der­stood one an­other’s needs: there was lit­tle time, the kyse back at school would be for­got­ten for a few hours and true love wasn’t that im­por­tant. I al­ways felt ag­grieved be­cause the bunch that got on the train at Ko­matipoort had three times more time than I had! Our free­dom on that train was vry­tyd in­deed, but it flew by.

Thank you, Kaap­muiden, thank you very much!

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