Popular opinion had it, and I knew this to be the popular opinion because I had been for a haircut, that the floods of vehicles in the Karoo were heading for the Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn. The previous week, however, when there was no flood but a dribble, they had been heading, as I had, for the Jansenville Goat and Mohair Festival.
A huge, white, eight-peaked tent had sprung up in the rocky Karoo landscape. Space-station Mir had landed, it seemed, in the middle of the veld, surrounded by satellites sprouting toy shops, pizza boats, cake-sellers, a Hyundai dealer from Queenstown and an optimistic awning marked ‘Let’s talk about Sox’. I’d never thought of the people of Jansenville as great sock-wearers, and these weren’t even mohair socks, but these chaps had come all the way from George in the hope of tapping into a new market.
‘Soek Oom blou of pienk spookasem?’ Not a candyfloss fan (any more than I was this child’s uncle) I wasn’t too keen on ghost’s breath of any colour. The all-pervading smell of this, mixed with boerewors and goats, alive and dead, was heavy in the heat, but Jansenville was a community in celebration. The Mayor spoke at arguably unjustifiable length about how fabulous it was that the Ikwezi Municipality had laid all this on and that all the hotel beds in the town were full as a result. There must be all of about 10 hotel beds in Jansenville but the people clapped him politely as if this were a momentous thing.
Big goat-farmers, VIP badges hanging around their necks in case there was any doubt, strutted around under the shady canopy of a high roof and cheered on the Drummies, with their different coloured faces and similar-coloured legs as they pounded the dust in the sun. The enthusiasm was tangible and, judging from the abandon with which the squad-members were waving their flags as if it were the end of a Grand Prix and hurling their maces into the air (and not necessarily catching them), woe betide anybody who upset the trompoppies’. Impalement was a real risk.
Through the crowd, children of all hues and cries ran helter-skelter, armed with firecrackers and toy guns loaded with yellow plastic pellets. I was just waiting for the sting of a bullet so that I could practise my Afrikaans invective, but these farm kids were good shots. The poor toddler who turned out to have been the target almost lost an eye and his mother, in a black De La Rey 1901 T-shirt, went thundering into the masses bawling ‘Wie het my kind geskiet?’ She was big and her daughter was probably armed with a mace so the crowd promptly scattered rather than confess and again the dust flew.
On cue, the Fire Service bakkie hurtled in to hose down for the next act. Everybody was waiting for Karen Kortje, the Idols winner, to perform but it was announced that, as it was so hot, she would not appear till the evening. I downed my third Coke. This being the Karoo, it was cheaper than iced water. You could get a pannekoek for R3 but a Coke was R4.50 and water was R5.
A marshmallow-eating competition followed (for children only), compered with boundless enthusiasm by Mr Magic (with his very clever invisible dog) and Clinton Barrett from Rainbow FM. The Mayor was asked to judge this and to choose the best dancer to ‘Stand up for the Champions’. He did both with a good grace and with no thought to political-correctitude. Marshmallow-eating, it seems, falls outside the sports quotas.
A twister blew in as the stage hosted a shining act by six lads, in jazzy golden waistcoats and black felt hats, performing an energetic cross between Singing in the Rain and The Black and White Minstrel Show. They were followed, with a boxing-and-dance routine to the strains of Mandoza, by the intriguingly-named Manne van Vetkoek Paleis who actually hailed from Klipplaat down the road, as did the five alarmed-looking angora goats that arrived next for the shearing competition (winning time 9 minutes 8 seconds).
They’d thought of everything. There were even face-painters and two jumping castles, one, inexplicably, free and another charging R2 for 10 minutes, to keep the smallest goat-fanciers busy whilst Pa was in the VO Wellington tent and Ma was in the shearing-shed selling Mohair blankets. I so wanted to ask someone what a mo looked like and what its natural hair-colour was but I decided I’d be better off discussing this with Soekie when next I went for a haircut.
I wished I could have stayed longer but I knew that, if I waited till after dark I might well see Karen Kortje and I’d get to go to the Chicken Braai and Sokkie, but I’d also probably hit a goat on the way home and I’d seen enough of those for one day.