Words by Roger Gaisford Pictures by Roger Gaisford, D Russell, K MacDonald.
Now it should be understood that beyond his name, there was little of Scots in MacDoodle. He was born somewhere in the Northern Cape and spent most of his life in Vryburg. Whatever Scots semblance he may have inherited from his great grandfather who had come to fight the Boer and then married one, was delivered in a thick accent. On occasion he liked to cause trouble, parading about town in a kilt on Saturday mornings causing no end of concern and consternation in the community, especially amongst the Oudstryders at the Ouetehuis whose memory of the Black Watch wearing similar dresses at Magersfontein some years before had hardly dimmed. In place of a sporran, a wine skin hung from his waist, filled with whisky, from which passersby were offered a drink. MacDoodle was widely known as the Kalahari Haggis.
The wedding was held in the shade of huge huilboerbooms on the banks of the Limpopo River on the farm Krokodilgat, a place not so named for nothing. For here were not just crocodiles that frequented the gat in the Limpopo, but things the size of the tankers that delivered diesel to the farms in the area. A week-long wedding party on the banks of the Limpopo in the wild bush country of Alldays has to be something. And it was. Guests came from all over: from the south, from the north, from the east, from the west, from Botswana. The dominee was fetched from Belfast for the occasion and Oom Doonie came from Fransenhoff, wherever that was, someone said near Prieska. All came in a variety of Toyotas and such because the people of those parts have scant imagination, but there were some old Jeeps and Malkoos in his Dodge left over from World War 2 to add mechanical interest to the occasion. All negotiated the rocky track through koppies to make camp at the river.
Rooijan unloaded his version of a camping chair, a great big sofa set up for his ease in the shade. He was an aged takhaar, once with a blazing head and beard of red, now grey, who claimed to be Mayor of Tugela, near Zanzibar. A large communal fire blazed in the prime spot with a view of the deep pools and rocky outcrops of the Krokodilgat in the Limpopo River.
And there was game. From the wilderness of the koppies and the bush beyond in Botswana came kudu, warthog, klipspringer and herds of impala, waterbuck, wildebeest and late one night, elephant even, to drink before them. Crocodiles patrolled the deep or spent somnolent days on sandbanks. Jackals cried and hyena whooped and leopards coughed in the dark.
And so it was that Stella was brought in Malkoos’ Dodge to be wed before a gathering of friends beneath the huilboerbooms one Saturday afternoon on the banks of the Limpopo River, and given to Douglas of Dundee by her father, the Kalahari Haggis. The dominee gave the go-ahead for the groom to kiss the bride, and then there was a party as had never been seen before on the banks of the Limpopo River on the farm Krokodilgat. There was dancing beneath the moon on a sail spread on the sand with a real band of guitars, concertina and violin with a howling mouth organ to send echoes among the koppies. There was drinking, lots of it, and eating. Impala and warthog on the spit, all kinds of stews in round iron pots, with pumpkin and rice and potatoes and chicken and beans.
Much later the Haggis was relaxing at the fi re with brandy. With him were the dominee, Douglas of Dundee, now part of the family, Stella, Rooijan, Malkoos, Oom Doonie, Stinkie Lemmers and some others. They were telling stories. Then Stinkie Lemmers pointed to the refl ection of the moon on the surface of the Krokodilgat: “Isn’t it beautiful,” he said. “Ja,” said the dominee, “but one must be careful of the moon, it can put funny ideas in a man’s head”. Some time later came a yelping bark from downstream. They stopped and listened. “Die jakkalas,” they said, and had another sluk. Later a hyena whooped. “Die wolf,” they breathed, and then came a sawing grunting from the koppies behind. “Die tier,” said Douglas of Dundee who knew everything there was to know about leopards. And then some time later came a distant moan from away in the dark across the river. “Die leeu,” said Rooijan, adding wood to the fi re. “Did you hears it?” They nodded that they had.
A lion across the river was something to think about. Rooijan said there “was lots of lions in the Tuli Block in Botswana, plenty, and there was lots of other animals, elephants and bucks and sulke goed”. Lions raided cattle around the villages of Lentswe le Moriti, Motlabaneng and Mathathane and were considered a pest. Douglas of Dundee said he would like to get a lion as a trophy sometime.
“Ja,” said Rooijan. “It is right that a man just married should shoot a lion, then his wife will know he is a brave man and she can use the skin for a mat next to her bed to keep her toes warm when she goes to piepie at night.” “Really,” said Stella, now snuggled up to her man on Rooijan’s sofa. “Will you shoot me a lion lovey, so I can have the skin next to my bed to keep my toetsies warm when I get up in the night?” Douglas of Dundee said “Of course my sweetest, I will,” or something suitable like that, and Rooijan said “I know where’s to fi nd the lions, I have hunted those devils before.” This led to more brandy and discussion of lions and how to hunt them. Rooijan said they should leave a rifl e hidden in the koppies across the river and then cross into Botswana at Baines Drift and retrieve the rifl e and then go and shoot the lion. That would be good for a man newly married to give the skin to his wife. “That is true,” affi rmed the dominee. “That would be a good thing.” They considered this and had more brandy. “So, why not just drive across the river?” asked the Haggis in his Vryburg Scots. “That would sommer be quicker.” “Ja,” said Rooijan, with a slurp of brandy, “but the river is diep and there is many of big crocodiles.” “But the river is diep and there is many of big crocodiles,” echoed the Haggis. “That is so,” said the Dominee and Dofhendrik and Langjan and Malkoos and Stinkie Lemmers and the others.
The Haggis had a long slug of brandy from his tin mug and then said he was going to fl oat his Jeep across the river. He had gained a son, a son he had never had, and here was a great adventure at hand. He would wrap the Jeep up in a sail like a Krismis present and fl oat it across the river to shoot the lion. He had seen pictures of army soldiers doing the same thing in the war. Then Malkoos piped up and said he had been with the engineers in the army at Kroonstad for his national service and they had wrapped a Vasbyt Bedford in a sail and fl oated it across a dam. “Ja,” said Douglas of Dundee, fl oating the Jeep across the Limpopo was better than driving all the way to Baines Drift. In any case he did not have his passport with him, nor did the others.
The rest of that night was spent with Klipdrift wisdom and deep discussion of the mechanics of wrapping the Jeep in a tarpaulin like a Krismis present and getting it across the river. And so it was that the next morning before coffee, the Haggis had his Jeep on a fl at rock on the river bank. The dance fl oor tarpaulin was dragged down and laid out and with Dofhendrik and some of the others throwing stones into the water to keep away the krokodil. Douglas of Dundee and Malkoos who was scared of nothing and Oom Doonie from Fransenhoff, where people knew nothing of crocodiles, only of sheep and jackals, and the others stood thigh-deep in the river holding up the tarpaulin as the Haggis drove his Jeep out onto it. The tarpaulin was then wrapped about the vehicle.
With the front of the vehicle now nearly fl oating, the Jeep was heaved into the water with combined manpower and there it fl oated. Sort of. The sail was a little on the small side and the weight of the engine gave the craft a nose-down tendency. Douglas of Dundee had his camera to record the bagging of the lion, and with a swig of brandy for extra courage, said he would sit on the back of the Jeep to balance the whole affair. He was a slight fellow and would surely not be too much for the barely-fl oating craft to support. Rooijan carrying his Mauser, Malkoos, the Haggis and Oom Doonie crossed the river in a canoe, in reality a cattle drinking trough made of sectioned 44-gallon drums welded together. Shovels were used as paddles and a line tied to the Jeep’s bumper was pulled along to haul the Jeep across. In spite of a large krokodil having surfaced to speculate on the goings-on, they made the far bank safely.
With everything now in place, the barely-fl oating Krismis present, with Douglas of Dundee maintaining balance, was hauled across the Limpopo River. Perched on rocks on the river bank, Stella and the ladies watched developments with interest. As the Jeep approached the far shore, the deepest part of the river thereabouts, Stella called to her new husband to be careful of the lion, lovey. He turned to wave to his lovely new wife which was of course exactly what he should not have done, and lost his balance. With the sound of surf on a beach, the Jeep dipped down and trailing a great welter of bubbles plunged to the depths of the Krokdilgat. A multicoloured slick of oil on the surface was testament to its passing. Of krokodil there was now no sign, but of Douglas of Dundee there was an hysterical plenty. With shouts and a great thrashing he surfaced as the Jeep settled into the mud below.
For the rest of their days on the Limpopo this lot fl oated about with all kinds of drink in the drinking trough trying to snag the Jeep with a hook made of bent fencing. But as Rudyard Kipling told us, the waters of the Limpopo River are grey, green and greasy, and beyond the oily slick that persisted on the surface, the Jeep was not seen, and despite more brandy, no-one wanted to dive down to tie a line. Not with the krokodil in attendance. The Jeep reappeared recently after the Limpopo River fl ooded. The river swept it up and tumbled it along for some kilometres, dumping it as a sorry mangled scrap in a mudbank downstream, where it lies to this day. This is the story the dominee told about a woman and drink and the moon and the sad doings of man. “Dis waar,” nodded Oom Doonie over his mug of brandy. “Dis troe.”