Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Report Back #40

1. Patrick Lane

2. Piet Streicher: a Celebration

3. Petrus Hanekom: a new book

Patrick Lane

It’s been my privilege while mapping to have met scores of reserve managers from all over South Africa. Like librarians they fall into two distinct groups. There are two kinds of librarians: those who are mainly concerned with preserving books, and those who are mainly concerned with encouraging reading. Some reserve managers are all about conservation for its own sake; others see themselves and their fellow human beings as a part of the whole that we call nature. The latter do not exclude their fellow humans, they are always inclusive. Patrick was the latter kind: ultimately, the very best kind. Patrick saw that the Cederberg was more than the mountains and the cedars, the fynbos and the leopards. Patrick saw that the Cederberg was also the mountaineers, the hikers, the boulderers, the campers. He saw that it was the farmers and the landowners and the labourers and the grizzled old retired foresters. He understood that it was also the researchers and the scientists, the students and even the cartographers, and he was always inclusive of them all. Above all Patrick understood that if conservation is to succeed, the public must own it: exclude the public, then why should they care about mountains and cedars and fynbos and leopards?
Patrick’s view, Patrick’s essential humanity was summed up for me in a moment, a few years ago. A large leopard had been trapped and darted, near Bushmans Kloof. Quinton Martins had invited a couple who lived nearby to bring their twin eight year old boys to see the animal. It was Patrick who, on his haunches next to the unconscious animal, took the small boys’ hands and said, ‘Here, stroke the leopard – feel its fur.’
To be eight years old and have stroked a live, wild leopard! – Patrick had understood in an instant how much that would mean to them both, for the moment and forever.
He was a lovely man, and his loss to his family and the mountains he loved is profound beyond words.

A memorial service to celebrate the life of Patrick Lane, much loved family man and respected conservationist, will take place on Friday 8 January at 14h00 in the Worcester Christian Community Church, 68 Baring Street, Worcester. 
No flowers at the request of the family, please. (The cremation will be private.)

A Cederberg celebration

Piet Streicher’s video, which I hope to include below, reveals his and his family’s deep love of the Cederberg. In a powerful sense it is in its own way a tribute to Patrick Lane, and how much Patrick would have appreciated the enjoyment of these mountains that the video reflects.
Piet sent us the video before Christmas. Beautifully put together, it’s accompanied by the singing of Piet’s daughter Carla. Click on the picture to open the video.

Petrus Hanekom: New Book

Hard on the heels of Olive Nieuwoudt’s “My Cederberg Story” comes Petrus Hanekom’s second book, “Cederberg-stories uit Grootkloof”. Petrus’s first, “Diepspore”, was published in 2012.

“Cederberg-stories” is a valuable contribution to the lore and history of the Cederberg. It reminds us, appropriately, that the ‘Cederberg story’ is not just the story of the farmers, the landowners, the mountaineers and other visitors, but also the story of, over time, many hundreds of people who in successive generations have lived and worked and loved in these mountains. Petrus takes us from the Basters of the 1700s through his own life, as a barefoot boy who became a forester and ultimately a retiree at Bosdorp. He tells how the people whose reed houses (riethuise) and tiny cultivated plots stretched up and down the valley, from Doringdraai to Sandkraal, were forced to move off the farms onto the State land that became the Cederberg Forest Reserve. 

The young men such as Petrus himself were employed by the Forestry Department, to plant plantations, cut footpaths, carry heavy telephone poles deep into the mountains to link the fire-lookouts to the station at Algeria. Until 1960 the people lived in riethuise, without running water, sanitation, or rain-proof roofs, but in that year the Department investigated the provision of decent housing, and so the construction of Bosdorp began. The first houses were of bricks and mortar, painted white, and from these the town’s local nickname, ‘Witkamp’, arose. Later the classic wooden houses that Forestry became famous for were used to expand the settlement.
Petrus makes no bones about the fact that it was a tough and a hard life. One cannot gloss over the justifiable hint of bitterness that creeps into his tone whenever he mentions apartheid, and its suffocating, cruel effects upon his people. Nevertheless, there is also a strong hint of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’, and I could not help reflecting that the very same hint shines through much of Olive Nieuwoudt’s narrative. What is it in all of us that apparently makes us hanker after the ‘good old days’, when a snakebite would always kill you, food could not be kept fresh for long, if you had a toilet at all it was a longdrop 100 metres from the house, you had to stoke up the donkie-boiler to get hot water, and a journey of a hundred kilometres might take three or four days? Not to mention a life-expectancy several decades shorter than we enjoy today ...
The last third of the book deals with local tales, of animals and people of the area, and Petrus ends in charming style with poems and songs from his childhood and younger days. The Afrikaans is colloquial and, in places, ‘different’, but this Engelsman had no difficulty with it.
I don’t know where the book is available or for how much, but anyone interested can contact me here and I will put you in touch with Sally Argent, the publisher.

Kaartman, Nuwe Jaar 2016