A New Life on the Farm in Molodi
John and Maisie James – the male pup’s new owners on a free-range cattle farm in Molodi – an isolated valley somewhere in Southern Africa.
As he drove down the old dust road past the windmill, John James saw their red-roofed farmhouse and acacia trees beyond the boundary walls first. He drove over the farm’s cattle grid situated south of the farmhouse and parked under the largest acacia nearest the porch and kitchen door. The trees were slowly turning green and their small white flowers would bloom soon. He smiled. Spring was in the air and shortly the rains would return.
While John James was on safari, he began calling the male pup ‘Jack, Old Boy’. He was surprised to see how much the pup tried to do everything he was told – whether to eat something special or to keep very quiet when he was taking a close-up picture of an unusual bird or animal. Yet, returning with the skinny puppy, he wondered how the family would receive him, especially Maisie, his wife.
When Maisie saw the male pup for the first time, she couldn’t hide her surprise and exclaimed in dismay, ‘John, why did you bring another dog to the farm? We already have Spike-BullT. You know that bull-terriers don’t like sharing their space. Spike-BullT will bite him. Besides, this pup is just skin and bones. Most of the village dogs look better. Of what benefit can this sorry creature be to the farm?’
‘I know, dear, but I promised Kgabo that I would take care of this puppy. He could become useful to me, especially since Spike-BullT lost an eye after his run-in with a zebra last year. I’ll train him to drive cattle or look for stray calves at the cattle posts,’ John James replied.
The helpless creature with his sad brown eyes melted the hardest heart in a wink, and Maisie sighed, ‘Very well then, but he’ll have to get special food – goats’ milk porridge mixed with spinach and gravy a few times a week. He’s big-boned and very thin. I’ll speak to Cook Katie and the twins. I’m sure they’d be happy to look after him.’
And so it was that, with Cook Katie’s help and the teenaged twins, Leodie and Neo’s, love and care, the little male pup quickly filled out. Time flew by and he grew stronger every day.
Most Saturday afternoons when the weather was cooler, the James family liked to eat outside under the trees. John James always lit a fire and, when the coals were ready, they would have a braai (barbecue). While the pleasant smell of acacia wood mingled with smoke filled the air, everyone relaxed and enjoyed strong black coffee and homemade rusks, or beskuit[i] as it was called by the locals.
Meanwhile, the little pup seemed to have forgotten Bibi’s warnings about the danger of fires, because he often leaped and jumped near the flames, chasing the sparks. He nearly fried himself once or twice, even though Leodi and Neo shouted warnings at him all the time.
‘Be careful. Watch out. There’s a flame on the grass – a flame!’
After he had scorched his paws a few times, John and Maisie James scolded him with very firm words, saying, ‘Lie down under the camp chair, Old Boy. Just look at your paws. That’s what happens to puppies that have no experience. Be careful! There’s another flame near you.’
Even though the little pup grew older, he still didn’t fully understand Humanlang. So, with all those calls and warnings about fires, he thought his name had to be Flame, even though his new family called him Jack and nicknamed him Old Boy.
So, instead of calling himself Jack, Old Boy, he began his bark to all the bush creatures on the farm with, ‘My name’s Flame. How do you do?’
As time went by, the more Flame saw of fires, the more he disliked them. Thus, on cold winter nights – while he was small – Flame slept far away from the fire burning warmly in the coal stove on the porch. He often said that fires and their hot flames couldn’t be trusted, with his eyes wide open as if surprised that he’d finally remembered his mom’s warnings about the danger of fires.
It was a good thing that my friend didn’t forget Bibi’s words after all, because it has been said that fires can destroy grazing fields and burn everything, I thought.
[i] beskuit = rusk made with full cream milk and re-baked to dry out completely, then dunked into coffee: pronounced as bes^kate