It was, said Schalk Lourens (junior-junior), always at this time of the year – when the leaves had not yet all fallen off the trees in the Bosveld and the first frosts had dusted the dry grass but winter had not yet arrived in force – that strange things happened.
Sitting behind the wheel of his double-cab bakkie in Roos Street in Swartruggens, Schalk winced as he sipped the Wimpy coffee from a Styrofoam cup.
Too blerrie hot! In the old days, he said, wiping his lips, my great-grandfather, Oom Schalk Lourens, would have had his moer koffie straight from the tall metal kan at the little kaffee at the Swartruggens Stasie.
Truth be told, Schalk continued, Oupa-Grootjie Schalk preferred tea, but he seldom took it in public, because he did not want to be seen as a volksverrairer by drinking the favourite brew of the Engels. Then again, Schalk chuckled, Oom Schalk Lourens’ regular trips to the stasie kaffee probably had more than a little to do with the fact that the widow Getruida van der Watt was the maker of the koffie.
And Oom Schalk had grown somewhat lonely on the plaas just beyond the Marico after his wife died. Every koerant you pick up these days, said Schalk with faint disgust on his tongue, seems to be full of stories about “e-mails”.
If God had wanted you to communicate with people with little phone things, he wouldn’t have invented post offices. Schalk gazed wistfully along Roos Street, remembering when he was a lad and the family would come to town for nagmaal and how he met Bessie, the daughter of the postmistress…Ah, the road not taken, he sighed.
Nowadays, his kids, Frik and Lettie, both had Damsungs or Samdungs or some such clever device. His wife, Ans, had a fancy computer do the plaasboeke, but she was always shouting about “windows freezing”… whoever heard of a window getting that cold? Not in the Bosveld, even in the worst winter.
Besides, here in the Marico, a boer does not need the internet to tell him when his Bonsmara bull is off colour. Technology is not to be trusted. That was what Oom Schalk told that clever man who came here years ago, who seemed to be hiding from something.
What was his name? Oh yes – Herman Charles Bosman. Too clever. Too Johannesburg. That’s what Oom Schalk always used to say. Herman Charles said the telephone would change everything. And it did.
Long before the days of phone sex, Oom Gerrit used it to make a afspraak with his flossie in Zeerust, telling Tannie Miems he was going to Baksteen Barnard’s place to look at a windpomp.
Tannie Miems was not born yesterday, so she phoned to check and, not having been brought in on the cheat, Baksteen said honestly he had not seen Gerrit, nor was he expecting him.
Great was the surprise of Oom Gerrit, smiled Schalk, when he emerged from his flossie’s little cottage to find himself looking down the barrel of an old Mauser (given to Miems by her father who kept it as a souvenir of his days riding Kommando).
Ja, said Schalk, technology will always bite you in the backside. But I suppose all those clever people in Johannesburg know that by now.
By the way, what the hell is a Gupta?