The Lion of Harties
After moving to Canada, we often get somewhat strange questions about life in ‘Africa.’ Recently, we were at a barbeque in our Port Moody neighborhood. The conversation reminded me of how foreigners see Africa and South Africa. That was when I remembered an incident one evening some years ago.
At the time when we were still living in the RSA, I worked for Armscor, and we were often sent abroad for long periods of time.
On our return after such a stint, we decided to buy a weekend house which might also one day serve as our retirement home. We needed a place where it would be warm, where the boys and I could hike and fish, but it had to be within a reasonable driving distance from our home near Jan Smuts Airport. After some research, we considered buying a unit in the new development at Hartbeespoort dam, but Cosmos further up the hill had so much more character. The houses there were older and needed some work, but we thought it would be a nice project for the family.
Eventually, we bought a beautiful old Cape-style place high up on the hill overlooking the dam and Schoemansville. We did a lot of the renovation ourselves. I had someone with the right skill to repair the thatched roof. I also installed a new set of stairs to our bedroom right up under the thatched roof with a breath-taking view over the dam.
Every weekend we would drive out there. The kids loved the place, and we could just relax and enjoy the feeling of living way out in the bushveld. Even in the winter, it was warm and comfortable there.
When a group of overseas visitors came to the RSA, the company asked me to showcase our country and customs. This was quite successful and unfortunately became a bit of a nuisance routine later on.
We would usually drive the guests out there and treated them to a lovely braai while looking out over the tranquil water of Harties on a balmy highveld summer’s evening.
One evening we were busy with such a braai for important but rather boring guests. A troop of baboons was a little noisy on the hill behind the house. This did seem to unsettle them a bit. While everyone enjoyed their Platter’s top drawer KWV, the old male lion in the little zoo across the dam started roaring. The sound traveled crisply over the water, and the guests looked around anxiously.
They were suddenly dead quiet, especially the American agent. I never thought anything would keep him quiet for more than a few seconds!
I got up to fetch my wife’s little .32 pistol. When I came back to the braai, I held it close to the light to see if the safety was off. The Japanese’s eyes were like saucers, the Yank gulping half a glass of wine.
Walking around the house, I waited a few minutes until the lion roared again. I fired two shots into the soft ground under the lemon tree next to my halved 44-gallon drum, where I bred earthworms for fishing.
Casually walking back to the fire, I made a show of checking if the gun was safe and put it on the table next to my glass.
The lion, of course, was immediately silent. In fact, our whole environment seemed to hold its breath, and even the crickets waited anxiously for a while before they started uncomfortably to entertain the night with their singing.
The guests carefully moved their chairs so that they could sit with their backs against the wall.
As I was turning the meat over, I asked my wife if the pap was cooked. We ate in religious silence.
This was when my eldest son leaned forward with a twinkle in his blue eyes and asked, “Dad, can I have the skin this time?”
Read the book! Find “Once upon a time I lived in Africa” on Amazon and in SA via Malherbe Uitgewers.
Kobus de Villiers is a retired aeronautical engineer. He grew up in the Free State. After serving in the Bush War, he lived, worked, and studied in several countries around the world. He still does some consulting and builds contraptions in his workshop. He lives with his French wife in Vancouver, Canada. He shares his stories and photos with Howzit on this blog, aptly called “Slypsteen”
Kobus’ books can be ordered on Amazon.
In South Africa, you can find his books through Malherbe Uitgewers.