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Ystervarkrivier A Slice of Life

by Andy Capostagno

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First published by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd in 2012 10 Orange Street Sunnyside Auckland Park 2092 South Africa (+27 11) 628 3200 www.jacana.co.za © Text: Andy Capostagno, 2012 © Illustration: Dr Jack, 2012 All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-4314-0721-7 Also available as an e-book d-PDF ISBN 978-1-4314-0722-4 ePUB ISBN 978-1-4314-0723-1 mobi ISBN 978-1-4314-0724-8 Cover de sign by publicide Set in Warnock 10.5/14pt Job no. 001834 See a complete list of Jacana titles at www.jacana.co.za

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Dedicatedtoeveryonewhohaseversuffered througharoundofgolfwithme. YouknowwhoyouareandI’msorry.

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Contents

A Slice of Life 3 Irons, Woods and Winged Victory 10 An Angel in a Khaki Loincloth 18 A Tear in the Koeksister Dough 26 A Brief History of Ystervarkrivier – Part One 34 S’bu’s Blues 51 Lilly of the Valley 59 The Whisky Priest 67 Below Zero 75 In the Land of the Blind Beware the One-Eyed Ostrich 83 What a Tangled Nest we Weave 91 A Brief History of Ystervarkrivier – Part Two 99 When the Deep Purple Falls 112 Wedding-Day Blues 120 A Dance to the Music of Compromise 129

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Call Dr Mamba 137 Scent of a Politician 145 A Brief History of Ystervarkrivier – Part Three 153 Chetty Chetty Bang Bang 164 Get a Grip 172 Epilogue 181 Acknowledgements 189

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One

A Slice of Life

The ceaseless buzz of the fruit flies mingled with the clink of ice inside the tall glass that held Harry Corkaby’s whisky and water. It was Christmas Eve in the village of Ystervarkrivier, but you wouldn’t have known it by studying Harry’s grizzled face. His eyes were screwed up against the glare of the late

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afternoon sun and a small trail of sand ran from his bottom lip to the tip of his white beard. It was midsummer, but the rains had still not come and the borehole was pumping brown water. Harry’s ice cubes had a speckled look and as the oppressive heat melted them all too quickly, his drink, traditionally pale golden, took on an increasingly brown hue. From his elevated position on the deck Harry had a 360-degree view of his property. To his left was the bar, below and to his right, the car park, behind him lay a threadbare garden, and sprawling lazily in front was the golf course. Ystervarkrivier Country Club was a par 29 mashie course, designed, built and maintained by the proprietor, Harry Corkaby. The sign on the main road featured the eponymous porcupine, but the locals called the course “Shongololo” as homage to its unique layout. Starting with a straight par four down the right-hand margin of his property, Harry’s addition to the world of golf course architecture then curled anti-clockwise in a tight spiral, and from the deck it looked like a frightened millipede. Shongololo is a corruption of Ukushonga, which in Zulu and Xhosa means “to roll up”. Harry’s perennial problem was that, despite the name, not enough customers rolled up to play his course. Right now there were precisely seven people populating his creation. On the third tee box, a 125-metre par three, stood Frikkie Venter with his fiancé, Marietje de Bruyn. Frikkie, the son of a local sheep farmer, was trying to introduce Marietje

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to the complexities of the interlocking grip, a task complicated by the fact that he wasn’t allowed to touch his beloved because the third member of the party was Marietje’s mother, Beulah. You never knew when carnal thoughts would infiltrate the untrammelled minds of young people and Beulah wasn’t about to let her daughter loose in a field featuring several dense areas of vegetation. In one of these dense areas, lay Thabiso Tshabalala, who answered to the name of Joseph, an oblique reference to the leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Joseph was Harry’s factotum, responsible for all the hard labour, but not, on pain of dismissal, allowed anywhere near the tractor. It was Joseph’s opinion that he could drive a tractor. It was the opinion of his employer that if Joseph got within 10 metres of The Red Behemoth, bits started to break off it. Sounds of ribaldry carried on the breeze from the three ball playing the seventh. The Pietersen brothers had finished work early in order to give Christmas Eve a full go. Caspar, Mel and Balie met at the bottle store at 1 o’clock and picked up a case of beer, a quart of Old Brown Sherry, three two-litre bottles of Coke and a bottle of Klipdrift brandy. The proprietor of the bottle store, Ambrose Papenfus, wished his best customers a merry Christmas and sent them on their way with gifts from the marketing department of South African Breweries: Santa Claus bobble hats. It was now six in the evening and just one bottle of Coke and

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a litre of Old Brown Sherry remained. Along the way they had lost two of their free gifts and the third was traded with Harry for four glasses to mix the brandy and Coke while out on the course. Harry doubted that he would ever see his glasses again, at least not until he ran over their remains with his slasher in the morning. He had sent the Pietersen brothers out with a, “Bah, humbug!” and stuffed the hat into the pocket of his khaki shorts. But now, as the sun began to slide behind the Drakeniqua mountains, he retrieved it and pulled it on. It had been a long, hot day and the bald patch on top of his head was smarting. In the same pocket lurked an item he had forgotten about until this moment. That morning he had made his monthly visit to the post office to clear his post box. Among the bills and flyers was a small package, post marked Aberdeen. His ex-wife lived in Aberdeen and it was safe to bet that anything emanating from there was bad news. Harry was a displaced Yorkshireman, while Morag Corkaby, née McLeish, was the daughter of a Scottish trawler-man. The only blessing of their 20-year union was that it stopped them making two other people miserable for the rest of their lives. That and one other thing: their daughter, Lilly, now 21 and still living with her mother in Aberdeen. Harry took the package from his pocket and tore off the brown-paper wrapping. Inside was a sleeve of golf balls and a Christmas card from Lilly. He looked at the snow-laden scene and then up at the mountains, remembering the winter of ’96 when they had sported white caps for a fortnight. It was the

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year the irrigation pipes froze and he had to dig up half the golf course to find the leaks. “Bah, humbug,” he said again. Casually he flicked open the sleeve of Titleists and was surprised to find that each ball was wrapped in foil. What would they think of next? He peeled off the foil and discovered that the present from his daughter was not the latest in high-tech ballistics, but white chocolate. Harry was chocolate intolerant, which is not to say that he was allergic to it, merely intolerant of it. Morag was a chocaholic and had passed her sickness eagerly down the line to Lilly. When Harry saw the women in his life munching chocolate, it reminded him of how little money he earned from Ystervarkrivier Country Club. Now he was alone he didn’t even keep chocolate in the clubhouse, something that his few regular customers complained about on a daily basis. Another thing they complained about was the layout of the course. Why did he have to start with a straight par four featuring out of bounds all the way down the right-hand side? It wasn’t fair to slicers, variations of whom made up 75% of his clientèle. “Who said golf was supposed to be fair,” argued Harry. And anyway, a large part of his meagre income was derived from finding the balls sliced into the adjacent field and selling them back to their original owners. The field in question was owned by a man who used it to exercise his two Dobermans. Under duress from Harry, the fellow had raised the fence to an acceptable level. Acceptable to Harry, that was. It was high enough to dissuade the Dobermans

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from jumping it to chase golfers, but low enough to allow easy access for all but the most earthbound of slices. Harry liked to think of these lost balls as “the angels’ share” a phrase more normally used to describe the evaporation of whisky from oak casks. He strenuously resisted suggestions that the green and tee of the first be juxtaposed, for only a handful of players came to play Shongololo armed with a duck-hook. Certainly not Marietje de Bruyn, who was addressing her third to the 120-metre fourth when a satellite carrying television pictures crossed the firmament at the same time that the sun winked out of existence behind the mountains. All at once it seemed to Marietje that a new star had appeared in the sky and she shanked her shot straight right. It was that most beautiful of things, a pure shank, something that the presence of Marietje’s mother at every tryst with the male sex had ensured. The ball sailed high and fast onto the deck where Harry Corkaby was daydreaming of Lilly, and creased his brow in the exact same spot that David had downed Goliath. : Seven pilgrims gathered around the sleeping form and studied its ample contours. To Marietje there was no other explanation. The red hat with white trim, the white beard, the shining thing that had appeared in the sky moments before she swung her seven iron: she had knocked Father Christmas out of his sleigh.

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Now no one in the whole world would get presents tomorrow. To Joseph occurred more prosaic matters: if his employer was dead, he wouldn’t get paid. If, on the other hand, he lived, there was a chance that Joseph might get Christmas Day off to be with his wife, who had just given birth to their first child. Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar Pietersen, on the other hand, had imbibed enough alcohol to see the spiritual side of the event. They went to the bar and brought three gifts: whisky, water and ice. Harry Corkaby sat up, rubbed the swelling on his temple and gazed into the darkening sky. He felt the largeness of the universe, the smallness of his place in it, the comforting chill of a whisky glass and thanked God that he did not live in Aberdeen.

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Ystervarkrivier Two

Irons, Woods and Winged Victory

Harry Corkaby, the architect, owner and proprietor of Ystervarkrivier Country Club, was curled into a ball on the sofa, from whence he had fallen asleep watching live golf being beamed into his living room from some obscure part of the planet. The television was silent now, not because Harry had

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turned it off, but because Eskom had. It had rained in the night and that was the only excuse the electricity utility needed to interrupt the power supply. That, and the fact that on Sunday the technicians got time and a half. Ordinarily Harry wouldn’t have noticed the power outage. Sunday was his day of rest and Sunday mornings were spent sleeping off the overindulgence of Saturday nights. But this morning the soothing sound of Monster Truck Racing from Idaho was absent, thanks to Eskom, and in its place was something far worse. High up in the blue gum tree that bordered the fifth green a red-chested cuckoo was passing the time of day with anyone who would listen. “Piet my vrou,” it said. “Piet my vrou, Piet my vrou,” it repeated. “Piet my vrou, Pietmyvrou, PIET MY VROU, PIET MY VROU.” Harry alighted from the sofa, ran to the door, flung it wide and screamed, “It serves you bloody well right for marrying a man!” On the first tee box Ambrose Papenfus and Mel Pietersen turned to see where the banshee wail was coming from. Observing the dishevelled form of the proprietor framed in the doorway, they smiled and resumed preparations for their regular Sunday-morning game. Never the most predictable of people, it seemed to Mel and Ambrose that Harry had become even more obtuse since that golf ball had hit him on the head on Christmas Eve. On Sunday mornings “Shongololo”, as the locals called

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Harry’s mashie course, was open to those who wished to play, although the shop was closed. Harry had installed an “Honesty Box” next to the first tee to collect green fees. On Sunday evenings he was in the habit of emptying the box and he never ceased to be amazed at its contents. Sweet wrappers, washers, Zimbabwean Dollars, ice-lolly sticks and anything else that would fit through the slot. Several years ago Harry had put a couple of two-rand coins into the Honesty Box in an attempt to encourage people to change their ways. Later that day he had opened the box to find the usual flotsam together with his own loose change. His daughter, Lilly, seeing his morose look said, “It’s your own fault, dad. If you’d put more in, you’d have got more out.” Undaunted, Harry made a point the following Sunday of folding a ten-rand note into the slot under the watchful gaze of Balie Pietersen. When he cleared the box that evening there was a piece of paper, signed by Balie, saying, “IOU ten rand”. Balie’s younger brother was a slimmer version of the Pietersen clan, but no taller. He wore combat trousers, a string vest and a floppy hat, but Mel Pietersen was a serious golfer, so on his feet he wore a pair of Footjoy shoes. He had won the prize for “nearest the pin” at a golf day in Humansdorp five years previously. Actually his seven iron had deposited the ball wide of the existing mark, but Balie said it was such a good shot it deserved a reward and appended Mel’s name to the list. Five years on, the uppers were cracked and there were only three

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studs left on the right foot, two on the left, but the memory of that perfect seven iron inspired Mel every time he put them on. This particular Sunday morning he also had a secret weapon. Bending down to put his tee in the ground he anointed it with a brand new ball. His playing partner was taken aback. The morning sun glinted off the virgin projectile and Ambrose Papenfus put on his half-moon spectacles to take a closer look. Ambrose looked like a librarian, but was in fact the owner of Ystervarkrivier’s only bottle store. Business was bad and there were times when he believed that only the unquenchable thirst of the Pietersen family kept him in business. The long economic downturn had forced Ambrose to look for ways to pass the time. He settled upon reading as the best way to ignore the lack of customers and had found, much to his surprise, that he enjoyed it. Consequently, and quite by accident, Ambrose was an opsimath who reasoned that learning acquired late was better than no learning at all. Unfortunately his somewhat theatrical manner, combined with his prodigious erudition, tended to isolate him from the man and woman in the street. “And what have we here?” said Ambrose. “A new ball,” declared Mel, proudly. “A new ball? I hardly think so, Melvin. A new ball would not have an ugly black stripe disfiguring its escutcheon.” “That’s not an ugly black stripe, it’s a Swoosh. This is a brand new Nike.”

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“Nike? As in the Greek Goddess Nike? The Winged Victory of Samothrace?” “No. Nike as in Tiger Woods. Now stand back and keep your eye on the ball.” So saying, Mel essayed an elegant practice swing, sidled up to the ball and sliced it deep into the adjoining field. Before Ambrose could comment, Mel fetched a battered Pinnacle from his pocket and smashed it 250 metres straight down the middle. Ambrose removed his spectacles, watched the ball come to rest and then turned his gaze back upon Mel. “Confucius he say: hit second ball first. The only thing you have in common with Tiger Woods is that you cheat on your wife.” “Not true,” said Mel, “I’m the same colour as him, too.” “Ah, yes, but your antecedents are somewhat dissimilar. Tiger Woods, I am given to understand, describes himself as “Cablinasian”, a neat blend of Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian. You, on the other hand, are an intriguing blend and since you can’t even trace your family tree as far back as your own father, it’s somewhat difficult to plot your racial type. Looking at you I would suggest there’s a touch of Cape Malay in the facial features and your diminutive stature may be due to a Khoi ancestry. You speak Afrikaans as a first language and you can’t play golf. All in all, my boy, you are about as far as it is possible to get from Tiger Woods.” “I’ll bet if you took out his front teeth he’d look like one of us.”

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“Well, if his wife had been a little more accurate with his nine iron maybe we’d have photographic evidence of that. Oh, and by the way, that’s a two-shot penalty for playing out of turn. My hole, I think.” : In his front room Harry Corkaby had given up the unequal struggle and rose from the sofa to greet the day. In addition to the cacophonous call of the cuckoo, his hair had been assaulted by Oedi the cat and his ankles by Horace the dog, both wondering what had become of their breakfast. Harry ran his fingers through what remained of his hair and made his bow-legged way to the kitchen. Cat food, dog food and two golfers who thought that you could play for free on a Sunday. He wondered how he had ever managed to cope with the financial demands of his ex-wife and daughter and made a mental note to confront Ambrose and Mel as soon as he had consumed his own breakfast. He got out the frying pan, lit the gas stove, and in the absence of power for the TV, turned on the radio. It was 8 o’clock: news time. It appeared that Tiger Woods had been keeping a harem. That, thought Harry, was presumably why he took so much time off between tournaments. For Harry the very idea of having so many women demanding one man’s time turned his knees to jelly. His decree nisi had come through nine months previously

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and now he could fart in bed, leave the toilet seat up and wear whatever he liked. He would take misogyny over polygamy any day. Having fed the cat and dog and filled his own ample belly with a full English breakfast, Harry was about to go in search of a newspaper when strange sounds from the golf course brought him up short. He climbed the ladder that led from the kitchen to the deck and gazed out across his creation. Mel Pietersen was running toward the clubhouse pursued by a short, plump woman who was screaming at him in Afrikaans. Mel had to abandon his golf clubs in order to get into his car. He started the engine, ran over one of Harry’s irrigation pipes and crashed into a telegraph pole. The Eskom employee who was at that moment attempting to restore power to the village of Ystervarkrivier, fell from his perch onto the roof of Mel’s battered Toyota, an act that simultaneously cushioned his fall and caused the rear windscreen to burst. Mel stumbled from his car and the pursuit resumed on foot. Harry watched the two figures dwindle into the distance and realised too late that any chance of a green fee from Mel had disappeared. He decided to hold Mel’s clubs hostage until money was forthcoming. As he descended from the deck, Ambrose appeared from the course. “Harry,” said Ambrose. “Ambrose,” said Harry. The pair turned to watch two figures disappearing down the

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dusty road, the one at the rear waving what appeared to be a long stick. Ambrose cupped his hand to his mouth and shouted, “I presume this means you have conceded the game.” Then he said to Harry, “Mel’s wife just found out whose bed he slept in last night.” “What’s that in her hand?” said Harry, picking up Mel’s golf bag. “I’m not absolutely certain,” said Ambrose, checking the contents of the bag, “but I suspect it to be a nine iron.”

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Ystervarkrivier  

This delightful collection of humorous stories is set in the mythical village of Ystervarkrivier (Ace-Turf-Arc-Riff-Ear) – a forgotten outpo...

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