A trip to the beach for a fam­ily of Sand­velders is a glo­ri­ous thing – ex­cept if you’re a goat. An­nemaré En­gel­brecht re­mem­bers an event­ful jour­ney from her child­hood.


An­nemaré En­gel­brecht re­mem­bers an ad­ven­tur­ous trip to the sea­side in her fam­ily’s DKW minibus.

I’m an En­gel­brecht from the Sand­veld – a potato-farm­ing re­gion up the West Coast – and this is a story from half a cen­tury ago, when I was a small child. It was only a few years af­ter my Ouma Leen­tjie had passed away. My fam­ily, along with my aunt Anna’s fam­ily, were vis­it­ing Oupa John­nie on the farm Wit­wa­ter, which is about 12 km along a sandy jeep track from the sea. Early one morn­ing, Oupa and Pa got beach fever. Those who know us En­gel­brechts will know: We love go­ing to the beach and when the time comes, noth­ing will stand in our way to get there. (Ap­par­ently we have some ocean blood in our veins – the first En­gel­brecht to set foot on African soil at Lam­bert’s Bay hailed from a coastal vil­lage in north­ern Germany, where an­other En­gel­brecht is the mayor to this day.) Usu­ally Pa would sim­ply tow the old horse cart with the trac­tor, but there were too many of us for the cart. There were six adults (two fa­thers, two moth­ers, one oupa and his do­mes­tic worker, a lady called Mi­etjie de Klerk) and six chil­dren, two of which were still tod­dlers. There were many mouths to feed, which also ne­ces­si­tated us tak­ing an an­i­mal along to slaugh­ter for the braai. Pa drove a brown DKW minibus back then and it was big enough to fit ev­ery­one. But it wouldn’t make it through the thick sand so it was hitched be­hind the trac­tor us­ing a strong ox chain. Con­ve­niently, all the seats ex­cept the two in the front had al­ready been re­moved for a pre­vi­ous trip to Wit­wa­ter, when Pa had de­liv­ered a dairy cow to Oupa from our farm on the Oli­fants River. For that trip, the kids ei­ther sat be­tween the front seats on rusk tins cov­ered with a blan­ket, or on Ma or Pa’s lap, or next to the cow in the back. She was a much-loved lit­tle Dexter called Jana and no threat to her fel­low

pas­sen­gers. Al­though it was wise to avoid her back­side… But back to the beach trip. The trac­tor was a Lanz Bull­dog and it would have been able to pull a tank through the sand. Its driver, Pi­eter Abra­hams, had pretty much grown up be­hind the wheel. The real prob­lem was who would pi­lot the minibus. It would have to be my un­cle, Ber­tie Mel­let, be­cause Pa had to go ahead on horse­back to catch a nice fat goat for us to eat. (The goat would join us in the bus later.) To the eye, Oom Ber­tie seemed like a good choice to sit be­hind the wheel. He was pow­er­fully built and also hailed from a farm, so he was used to rough roads. But his fam­ily farm was near Ladi­smith in the Lit­tle Ka­roo and he was much more adept at han­dling rocky moun­tain tracks. His lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in the sand would only be­come ap­par­ent later…

Ve­hi­cle and driver (and a plan for the goat) all sorted, we started load­ing up. Tan­nie Anna, her baby and her kids squashed onto the front seat next to Oom Ber­tie. I sat be­hind them, on a scratchy old bed­spread on the floor, with my mother Anita and my sib­lings. Mi­etjie the do­mes­tic worker sat with us, to main­tain or­der. She was a for­mi­da­ble Boes­man­lan­der with an even more for­mi­da­ble vo­cab­u­lary of curses up her sleeve. Oupa also sat in the back, on a fold­ing riem­pie chair, wear­ing his char­ac­ter­is­tic wide-brim hat. In terms of gear and pro­vi­sions, we had wicker bas­kets filled with boere­wors, a rack of ribs, farm bread and but­ter and a bot­tle of boiled milk wrapped in a damp cloth. There was also a big flask of black cof­fee (su­gar al­ready stirred in), a bot­tle of beet­root salad, a con­tainer of coarse salt to salt the fish we planned to catch, tin plates and mugs, and a small bar­rel of fresh drink­ing wa­ter. Last but not the least: Oupa’s hand­made bam­boo fish­ing rods and a potjie for his spe­cial peri­win­kle starter. We had trou­ble from the start. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Oom Ber­tie in the bus and Pi­eter on the trac­tor was poor. Pi­eter pulled off and the trac­tor yanked the bus for­ward, caus­ing ev­ery­one to fall off their var­i­ous seats. Oupa tum­bled off his chair and had to wres­tle the wa­ter bar­rel to re­gain his bal­ance. The kids screamed and Mi­etjie swore like a sailor. Oupa didn’t say a thing. He read­justed his hat, folded his chair open again and sat down. The sec­ond pull-off was slightly bet­ter. Oupa stayed on his chair and Mi­etjie only swore to her­self. At the first (closed) gate, com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the drivers failed once more. Pi­eter pulled away and ev­ery­one who could fall, fell – and then screamed or swore. Thank­fully we couldn’t hear Pi­eter’s commentary on the trac­tor be­cause his vo­cab­u­lary was even more colour­ful than Mi­etjie’s. This time, Oupa said in a stern voice: “Mel­let!” Ber­tie straight­ened his back. He was feel­ing the pres­sure now. For a while it went well, un­til we had to stop where Pa was wait­ing for us with an enor­mous goat…

De­spite the protests of the women and chil­dren in the back, the goat was loaded in with us. Its feet were bound so at least it was mostly im­mo­bile, but it re­fused to have the sack put over its head. The sack was sup­posed to keep it calm but it bleated as only a goat can bleat. Mi­etjie wasn’t in the mood. Af­ter she was struck by the goat’s sharp hoofs one time too many, she grabbed it by its neck and stuck its head in the potjie. It went quiet… And then made up for the si­lence with stench. Still half deaf from the bleat­ing, we now be­came dizzy hold­ing our breaths to avoid breath­ing in the smell. As we pro­gressed and one in­ci­dent fol­lowed the next, Oupa’s cries of “Mel­let!” be­came more ur­gent as he strug­gled back onto his chair over and over again. Even­tu­ally Pi­eter’s pa­tience ran out and he stopped dead. He or­dered Pa off the horse and into the driver’s seat. Oom Ber­tie had to sit with us. He tried the bar­rel as a seat, but any­one who has ever tried to sit on a bar­rel will know that the edge of the metal hoop at the top cuts into your back­side. And a big man on a lit­tle bar­rel is not very sta­ble. He fell off onto Oupa and was sum­mar­ily shunted to the back, where he found a seat next to the smelly goat.

We fi­nally reached the beach and Pi­eter towed us to a rock over­hang over­look­ing the bay. The goat got out first, with its head still stuck in the potjie. Mi­etjie got out and tried to pull the potjie off, swear­ing all the while, but its head wouldn’t budge. Oupa called Pi­eter to give it a go. Same re­sult, ex­cept Pi­eter used some dif­fer­ent ex­ple­tives. Oupa fi­nally cracked. He was here to catch fish and time was run­ning out. Plus, he needed that potjie for his fa­mous peri­win­kle starter. He took out his knife, slit the goat’s throat and cut off its head. Af­ter that, the head came out fine. Pi­eter butchered the goat and hung the meat in the shade of the over­hang. Oupa went on to catch some beau­ti­ful fish us­ing his bam­boo rods while us chil­dren col­lected peri­win­kles in the rock pools. We headed back home as dusk fell, sun­burnt and cov­ered in sand. The braai was a suc­cess and what was left of the goat was par­celled and wrapped in skin for the re­turn jour­ney in the dark, which went off with­out a hitch with Pa in the driver’s seat and Pi­eter on the trac­tor. We were all bliss­fully happy; our beach itch had been scratched. At least, all the full-blooded En­gel­brechts were happy. The same prob­a­bly couldn’t be said for Oom Ber­tie – and the goat.

Mi­etjie wasn’t in the mood. Af­ter she was struck by the goat’s sharp hoofs one time too many, she grabbed it by its neck and stuck its head in the potjie.

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