One always to be remembered day right down in the river bed of a local ‘blaauwkrantz’ (not the Blaauwkrastz on the way to Grahamstown where one of Jim’s uncles was killed on the day the train left the rails and plunged into the river bed) I was sitting in the cab writing up my business books. Hombile and about 20 workers were cutting rushes. It was a deeply forested area next to a reserve. About halfway through the morning Hombile came stumbling up the hill up to the lorry, tears of mirth streaming down his face. In between gales of laughter he told me what had happened. The river bed was very stony with large boulders and running water. The women were grumbling as usual about having to work so hard cutting, bundling, and carrying the heavy bundles on their heads out of the river bed and up to the lorry to be loaded.
Just as the last bundle had been loaded onto the last head a troupe of baboons came crashing out of the bush.
BOGGOM !!!! shouted the baboons.
Hombile told me those women took off like gazelles. They never even took the time to drop their bundles. He said they glided over those boulders as gracefully as ballerinas. They leaped up the hill with the speed and ease of a herd of migrating springbok.
He couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard the screams of terror that echoed against the walls of the krantz. I laughed until I cried. I was so sorry to have missed the spectacle. More so because………cutting the rushes was a mission. Nobody liked having to turn out to cut the rushes.
It was hard back- breaking work. What they all wished and sighed and dreamed for was clean dried, stored, cut rushes to make hangings without having to do the cutting.
Much more pleasant sitting flat on the ground in the shade, threading hanging strings and chatting up a storm than cutting messy, heavy, wet rushes.
Hombile and I never let them forget how easy they had found transporting their bundles of rushes on that memorable day.
Oddly enough after fraternizing with the baboons they either kept their mutterings to themselves where I couldn’t hear them or they realized that there was no way they or I could conjure up loads of prepared rushes.
I can’t ever recall hearing the usual heart- rending moans about creaking backs and aching heads the day after a cutting excursion.