There was a time when my father grew dryland cotton on his farm in the De Kaap Valley. He eschewed spraying the cotton in favour of allowing Helmeted Guineafowl to roam freely through the cotton fields to feed on the pests.
I remember anxious times waiting for the rain; checking the flowers on the cotton plants; walking through the rows looking at the swelling cotton bolls; cotton pickers moving through the lands; heaps of cotton piling up in the shed; and large sacks being filled with cotton before being loaded on the back of the truck to be taken to the cotton gin in Barberton. There even used to be an annual Cotton Festival in that town.
This picture shows the start of this process, when the first pickings of cotton were loaded onto an old wagon in the shed prior to being bagged. I am standing in it together with my eldest brother.
Growing cotton had its moments and the boll weevil is a particularly nasty pest to be reckoned with – which is why we couldn’t resist giving my father the 78 rpm record of The Boll Weevil Song by Brook Benton. The introduction seems innocuous:
Let me tell ya a story about a boll weevil
Now, some of you may not know, but a boll weevil is an insect
And he’s found mostly where cotton grows
Now, where he comes from, hmm, nobody really knows
But this is the way the story goes
To the horror of the farmer, the boll weevil sounds delighted to have found a home for his whole darn family. Then comes the desperation: The farmer said to the boll weevil “Say, why do you pick my farm?” This is aggravated by the response of the boll weevil:
And the boll weevil called the farmer, ‘n’ he said
“Ya better sell your old machines
‘Cause when I’m through with your cotton, heh
You can’t even buy gasoline.”
(I’m gonna stake me a home, gotta have a home)
Cotton is no longer grown there. The cotton gin closed down decades ago. There is no longer any reason to hold a Cotton Festival. Life moves on – imports grow …
Sadly, the ubiquitous farm windmills are now are rare sight – especially working ones. These patient workhorses have drawn water in out-of-the-way places for decades, filling reservoirs that provide the thirst-quenching liquid for cattle, sheep, and goats – as well as filling the tanks that see to the needs of those living on farms.
Now the countryside is dotted about with what are called ‘wind farms’ that use the wind to generate electricity. That sounds so good – the trouble is that they appear to make no difference to the price of electricity. Then, the less said about our national electricity provider the better.
Although their first bank account was opened at Barclays Bank in 1879, the Cradock Club only officially opened its doors in 1881.
Typically, its walls are decorated with hunting trophies. I have already shown you the Aardwolf, one of a pair, standing in pride of place in the Ladies Bar, but there are others scattered around, such as this Kudu:
As well as the stretched out Python skin, with a Springbok looking obligingly at you on the left:
Many of the rooms set aside for different activities have lead-lined decorative panes.
Some of which show the wear and tear inevitable over so many years.
While the Fourth Sherwood Foresters were stationed in Cradock during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), their senior officers were invited to make use of the Club’s facilities. At the end of the war they donated their leather-topped Burmese Teak mess table along with a dozen chairs to the club as a gesture of their gratitude.
Also in the Reading Room one can see the Officers’ Snuff Horn which was donated to the Club. This is made from the horn of a Highland sheep and is decorated with silver and amethyst.
Elegant wooden hat and coat hooks in the passages point to a different era of dress code.
Should you have visited Trafalgar Square in London and noted the graceful lines of the St Martins-in-the-Fields church next to South Africa House, you will experience a sense of deja vu when travelling down J A Calata Street (formerly Stockenstroom Street) in Cradock and see the Dutch Reformed Moederkerk rising majestically above the buildings around it. This is because this church has been built to the same design.
This is the 200th anniversary of the Dutch Reformed community. The church has an interesting history, including the fact that President Paul Kruger was christened here by a Welsh pastor in 1826 and that it was occupied by British soldiers who occupied the town during the Anglo-Boer War. They apparently used it as a look-out post and kept watch on the inhabitants from the roof.
The interior is spacious, with seating for approximately 900 worshippers.
The stinkwood pulpit is impressive.
The windmill is an appropriate motif for this area.
The church contains an impressive organ.
And beautiful pews.
We were told of an interesting situation that occurred when a member of the congregation was working on repairing the roof in recent years. Looking down, he noticed two layabouts drinking alcohol on the pavement below. He rather mischievously bellowed down the drainpipe, I see you! The two layabouts got such a fright at hearing this disembodied voice right next to them that they fled in terror!
Sadly, the potential peace and tranquillity of the interior of the church is challenged by loud music blaring from the radios of vendors that crowd the pavement outside, selling anything from butternuts to cheap sandals.