I have just picked the first flower of the new morning ;-) it is white and
with a green fuse wire ;-) it grows along with its sibblings ;-) outside
the house of a gentleman now dead, who when we first came to live here
would be seen tottering around the block (he was very tall) with a small
terrier type dog on the end of a bit of string. The flowers sit under a
low hedge, behind the house, north facing and they will never, ever see
A true story on civility, goodwill and mutual respect from Annalie Killian
"Enjoy this real life drama and simple story of humanity and goodwill from
a vet friend,Tod in South Africa" She writes.
Two days after Christmas a Zulu woman (with no English) and her
recently-matriculated son sat patiently in my small rooms waiting for me
to finish the mob of dogs that had accumulated.
They had caught the daily minibus taxi from the Mqatsheni area, just to
the north of Sani Pass. Her aged mother's only cow had been trying to give
birth for three days but the prolapsed cervix (not her language at all,
she called it ipumile istevu) stopped the process, and all the men in
their neighbourhood had recommended the vet from Ondini.
These forays into remote tribal villages where time and distance mean
different things to us time-conscious Westerners can often result in zero
financial returns, but I was feeling generous of spirit that day.... So,
with the gangly kid in the cab to direct me, my assistant Mbambo and the
woman in the back of my Isuzu bakkie (truck), off we went.
We did about an hour of driving on the rough corrugated potholed district
roads, then branched off onto the roughest of "bush" tracks which became a
footpath which the wheels straddled for quite a bit further. Then we
stopped on the crest of a ridge at an abandoned kraal (paddock) quite
close to the escarpment that towers up into the sky and Lesotho.
"Where's the cow," I asked the lad. "We walk a little bit," he said. So we
gathered most of my gear and like a Tanganyikan hunting safari of the
past, we four walked single file along the winding path. Mostly downhill,
on the valley side. Past other kraals with their rough patches of mealies
and wattle and peach trees, many kraals abandoned, huts falling down (Jeez
but AIDS is slaughtering our nation), across hillside streams, over rocks
and boulders, overlooking the Mqatsheni river, and after about 40 minutes
of this, we came to the remotest kraal.
Three huts, a cleanswept forecourt and there under the ubiquitous peach
trees (every Zulu kraal has them growing at the edge of their yards), was
the poor old brindled cow, having lain in her shit and urine for a few
days, buggered, dehydrated, totally fatigued. Her big dry semi-necrotic
vagina-cervix ballooning out.
It was a hot clear blue sky before the afternoon thunder clouds. And she
was covered with ticks and had two gnarled horns. A pair of Pezu-kom-konos
(Whip-po-wills) called nonstop in the wattles I remember. Believe it or
not, the calf sucked my fingers when I did the internal examination; and
he was an enormous bugger. So I drenched the cow electrolytes and other
things and performed a caesarian and reduced the prolapse.
By the time I was putting in the final sutures a crowd of about 50 people
had accumulated. Men standing fazis sitting on the dry baked ground,
picannins (young boys) in the two peach trees and the bullcalf was trying
to find his wobbly feet. There had been shouting across the valleys - no
doubt telling everyone about the arrival of the Great White Vet and the
entertainment he was providing. They had brought two nice diningroom type
chairs with colouful seat coverings on which I put my black bag and silver
surgical pot. Then the old woman cleared her throat and everyone shut up.
"We must talk about i'biznees (money) now" she sort of crowed or cackled
so everyone could hear. They all shuffled closer around us to follow the
negotiations- a very colourful and drawn out process- pretty much the same
as elsewhere in the world ! Serious stuff !
Well, I said, if I had not come out here and done my work you would have a
dead cow and a dead calf. Yes? (I speak reasonable Zulu). She agreed, as
did 50+ others. And if you look after this calf and it grows into a sturdy
yearling bullock, in April when the air is very cold in the mornings and
evenings and the thunder-storms have stopped coming every afternoon, at
the stocksale in Ondini (Underberg), they will pay you about R1800 for it.
The more senior grey beards agreed and nodded. So she did too. And if this
cow survives now, although she is very old and tired and the ticks are
very plentiful this summer, next autumn you can sell her for about R2400.
OK? A loud murmer of consent. Caiphas Mjwara had sold five oxen for nearly
R4500 each, a bright fellow in an emerald and yellow Sundowns tracksuit
announced. So then, my work has given you R4000 that you won't have had,
Gogo. Just some tough nyama (meat). Not so, angishu ? Yes.
So how about if we go halves - hluganisa - and I take R2000?
Loud murmering, lots of money, and the old girl looked around at her
equally wizened neighbours. Ehe. (Yes)
But, I said,seeing that we've just eaten Kissimus (celebrated Christmas),
and we're about to eat New Year, I find it in my heart not to be too
greedy, Gogo. Much appreciative murmering and nodding of heads, and praise
Jesu words. So, I'll charge you half again of that .. I charge you (ngiya
biza) R750. Louder chattering and nods of approval. Eeeehe. She conferred
with her fellow cronies, her inner circle of consultants, again.
But! piped up Matric, no longer the painfully shy youngster who'd sat in
my bakkie (ute), .. half of 2000 is not 750, its 1000!!
Oh! I exclaimed, you are indeed a learned young man (insizwe
ihlakanphile),I made a mistake! However, I am a man of my word and if I
said 750 then I shall stick to it.
Well, you should have heard the roars of appreciation and thanks. Perhaps
if Klusener hits the winning 6 in the final of the World Cup Cricket in a
few months time, you might hear such a roar. And she produced from her
voluminous bosom somewhere a roll of R200 notes that you could almost fill
a decent backpack with, and she peeled off 4 of them, which she handed to
me with a sort of curtsey and her other hand open, palm upward, alongside
the giving hand. As is proper Zulu custom.
I counted them and said Gogo you have given me too much, ... but before I
could finish explaining that I don't carry change in my battered old black
bag.. she drew herself up to her full 5 foot one inch and said ..."Keep lo
change, it is for your assistant Mbambo! "
Man, this season of goodwill is amazing.
Then we trudged back the 40 minutes mostly uphill, a long team of
volunteers carrying my kit. My gumboots were steaming. We stopped now and
then to eat the ripe bramble jigijol berries that grow in vast profusion
around most old kraals under the shadow of the mountain.
Ja my friends, I may be scratching to find the bucks to educate my older
two girls at uni, let alone fund a trip to circle the Himalayan Annapurnas
including a climb of Chuli West in 2004, but such a morning is worth more
than lolly, don't you think!?
" The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past,
not to worry about the future, or not to anticiupate troubles, but to live
in the present moment wisely and earnestly." Buddha
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