When last did you get stoned? I was stoned only last week.
It happened like this. My tourists had been escorted to the Red Table restaurant at Nederburg, and after I had eaten my light packed lunch I decided to go for walk. After once being accosted by an irate security personage on a golf cart while trudging up a steep muddy path on another wine estate I had learned to get permission before wandering off. The man in charge at the Nederburg wine tasting centre assured me that I could walk anywhere.
I strode at a steady pace along a dirt road through the vines away from the buildings, past some rather charming abandoned cottages up to a new, formidable four-metre security fence. On the other side of it was a fairly dense band of bamboo growing along a watercourse.
Suddenly, a gang of youths from a nearby shantytown appeared at the left hand edge of the bamboo. They waved sticks and shouted at me. I kept walking to the right along the path skirting my side of the fence. I heard a loud bang and glanced behind me. I saw a grapefruit-sized rock flying through the air in a beautiful arc over the fence straight at my head.
Did they have a cannon, or some sort of rock-throwing machine? Or a boy with a great hand-grenade bowling technique? (You don’t throw a hand grenade – it’s too heavy and could dislocate your elbow if you try.) The bamboo thicket was too thick for me to see what was happening.
Oh yes; I managed to side-step the missile.
Then another rounded rock came flying over the fence at me as I walked away rapidly. It hit the ground and rolled fast into my right ankle. There was some pain, but I carried on walking. I never run away from a fight – but fast walking is okay.
I don’t know why they wanted to get me; but I must concede that their aim was very good. It reminded me of an incident that happened when I was aged 15, living in Kimberley.
One day while Tommy and I were fishing at Scholtzvlei on a spit of land that extended into the middle of the lake we suddenly saw splashes of water near our rod tips, and then pieces of mud the size and shape of bicycle handlebar grips started hitting us and our possessions. We looked up and saw that the cause of this phenomenon appeared to be a group of boys on the north shore of the vlei about 100 yards away. We ran round to them, but they retreated. We could see from the remaining evidence that they had been scooping up handfuls of clay, compressing them onto the ends of willow wands and flinging these missiles at us, aided by a strong following wind. Tommy spat out one word of explanation, “Kleilatte!”
We went back to our fishing spot, but the barrage started again. Fishing was impossible – we’d have to leave or fight back. As we reeled in our lines and packed up hurriedly I suddenly had a bright idea. Why not try using our fibreglass rods as kleilatte? We scooped up some clay, squeezed it onto the ends of our rods, and using a powerful two-handed swing sent the pieces of clay flying. Our aim was wild at first, but we soon got our range and direction right, and directed a flurry of missiles at our assailants. The superior qualities of fibreglass, and our casting skills, soon began to have an effect. Our enemies were spending more time ducking and jumping than sending missiles our way. Tommy and I began to enjoy ourselves.
Things quickly reached a stage where the enemy signalled to us to cease hostilities, walked round to examine our superior weaponry, and became quite friendly towards us. I don’t think we caught any fish that day, but we cycled home with satisfied smirks on our faces.
If I ever go walking at Nederburg again I’ll try staying right next to that formidable fence. That will enable me to get close to any assailants and assess their weapons, perhaps ask them what their beef is (I am fluent in Afrikaans and can manage a sentence or two in Xhosa), and yet remain in a spot where any missiles will fly over my head.