Wednesday, 14 February 2007

A Valentine Story…Part II

Twelve years went by…years full of learning and growing. The naïve, dreamy child developed a hard veneer; with cynicism shielding her, she completed her education, finding refuge in study. Her friends from that time quickly scattered far and wide - to careers, to travel, to marriage – and she found herself alone and very far from the only place she’d considered her home. One thing remained the same and that was her need to return to Africa, only now it was tempered with reality, economic reality. When, some months later, circumstances blessed her with a small windfall, she grabbed the opportunity, packed her life in a crate and flew back. Back to her Aunt and Uncle and the farm she had loved.

Many things had changed, not just to the people but to the place as well. The social life and most of the friends she had remembered as a child were gone. The farming community was in crisis because of prolonged drought and a lot of the old families, on these farms for many generations, had sold up and settled elsewhere. Her Aunt and Uncle ‘s relationship had suffered with the strain of failed crops and dwindling resources and their home was no longer the happy place of her memories. The drought had broken the season before, but for many it was too late.

Twelve years is not a long time but life never stands still and the first person to visit when she had returned was the boy who had taught her to ride. Those twelve years had been as pivotal for him as for her and the man who greeted her was more beautiful than she remembered but a virtual stranger…for days they spent time together, catching up on the years between. In discovering their common love of art, music and literature, the days became weeks and the weeks became months.

He had just inherited a property (one farm away) and was developing it with meagre funds, buying only what he needed to produce each crop. It was a lonely life, all available money went back into the farm and he did much of the work himself, making dams, contouring lands, ploughing and planting. Slowly his labours were beginning to show results and his equipment was building up; at the time he had just bought his first tractor, an old Massey Ferguson 65. This was to prove fortuitous; not long before she arrived back, his ancient pick-up had breathed it’s last and that old tractor was to play an important role in their lives.

So they courted on horseback, riding the five miles between the farms almost every day. When the work was done for the week, he would borrow an ox cart from one of his labourers who lived on the farm. This was a very rudimentary arrangement of long planks mounted on an old pick-up chassis with a long pole attached to the front for hitching up the oxen. Piled with duvets (this was in early spring) over an old carpet, it was quite comfortable, except for occasional diesel fumes when the wind shifted direction. He would pick her up and drive the five miles to his farm for dinner – a braai (barbeque) in the boma, next to his little farmhouse. This cottage was the original house on the property and it had never been developed – no electricity, no plumbing but the boma (a reed enclosure with a sand floor) with a big log fire in the middle, was warm and they would spend hours talking long into the night before the trip was repeated and he dropped her back at her Aunt’s house. All spring and into the summer, this became the pattern of their life; to escape the rows between Aunt and Uncle, she would sometimes spend the whole day at the cottage, riding back just before dark.

That January, six months after she had returned, they quietly slipped away and with some old friends as witnesses, they were married in the garden of a cousin. Now, many years afterwards they are still together, still in love and the adventure is far from over...

Yes, it's our story... M and I. Happy Valentines

Part I is here and Part IIIis here


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