A Storyby Philippa Rees
The duPreez farm had once been the only pondok on an unpaved road that carved a track through blue gums until, tired of promises, they lost hope and petered out, sighing that this was going nowhere. Free of complaint the track pressed on, over corrugations and boulders through saw grass and dried riverbeds until it bumped to a halt by the homestead. Homestead was just a word to use, instead of comfort or welcome, or a fire in the winters that blew razor winds unblunted by trees or hills.
In the corrugated iron shack with a lean-to stoep, a tractor shed, and barbed wire to keep out animals, generations of duPreez had scratched a living alongside their chickens. In braces and boots they shriveled like their apricots on wire, planting mielies, digging irrigation ditches, and becoming insensible as the sun went down, with the aid of peach brandy on the stoep in summer, on the iron-framed beds in the winter. The rattle of cornstalks was their only music; not many birds found a reason to forage. The women who worked for them walked with basins on their heads from huts five miles distant to milk the cow, to sweep with wattle brooms the linoleum kitchen, and to keep out of range of the missus, who berated them as she breathed, until they could load the basins and weave their path home through the low-lit grass of evening.