In a field on the side of the Mooi lies the remains of an old wagon.
The remains are really, very old. They lie there like the skeleton of a great beast; bleached white where the African sun strikes them and soft and mossy where it does not. The iron has taken on a patina that speaks of countless summer rain showers and frosted winters.
I stumbled onto them while taking a short cut between two pools and around a tree fall that made casting impossible. It’s on a part of the river that is not considered highly among fly anglers and I’m quite certain that very few people have seen them. There are no paths leaving the nearby village that run anywhere close to it and the field shows no agricultural scarring.
These remains have been imprinted indelibly into my mind; that grey day where intermittent rain kept me shivering, the walk through the fields hopping fences as I went and that beautiful skeleton of a wagon almost covered by grass.
Reaching the pool that I sought I found that my mind could not focus on the bob of the indicator. From time to time, and happily fairly frequently on that day, a fish more suicidal than most would single-handedly impale itself on my hook and my thoughts would snap back to the present. The interruption of a truly wild thing on my line would pass quickly and my mind would drift back to that lonely wagon.
As I waded methodically through the river I created in my fantasies a picture of the people who owned it. I wondered whether it was used on a farm or by one of the early settlers who crossed the Drakensberg in search of their Babylon. I wondered how it came to be lying in this spot, so forlorn and isolated.
Was it the vehicle of the intrepid people who were moving up from the Cape? Did it carry their entire worldly possessions, the family bible and keepsakes from a distant European life? What did the ancient San people think of it as it passed through their ancient lands? Did they foresee their demise in it?
I imagine that I can hear the groaning of its timbers under the force of the lumbering oxen that pulled it; the crack of the long whip and cloven hooves on solid rock.
Perhaps it was just a more recent agricultural convenience used to travel to markets and to convey implements around a bustling farm. I can see it loaded high with fencing poles and sacks of grain. I picture people in their best outfits traveling on it to church on a Sunday, proud, dignified and unwavering in their faith.
I’m sure that it has value either as a historical artifact or in the hands of a collector. Perhaps it would colour in a small part of our history if it were to be studied. Doubtless someone could trace its ownership or its provenance. It may be linked to a farm whose boundaries have long been forgotten. Perhaps it holds some greater significance in the rich cultural tapestry that is our history.
I’m not going to tell you where it is and it’s unlikely that even if you searched for it that you would find it. It is in a place unremarkable, unhidden and close to what is a fairly busy rural road. Still, I could give you many years to look for it and you could stub your toes on it without knowing that it is even there.
I like it lying just where it is in the lonely field that is it’s final resting place. This is the way of many things that I hold to be rare and beautiful treasures.
I’ll be back in that place when the rains come and the river dances between the roots of trees, around rocks and over ledges. This time I’ll take a better look at it and I will inevitably be overcome by its sense of mystery; of being so out of place.
I’ll take for you a picture of it as it lies there in its glorious ruin, but don’t expect to be able to pinpoint it’s resting place by recognition of the surrounding hills; there will be no backdrop to this picture lest pieces of it become an ornament in someone’s garden.
This being done I’ll move on upstream, richer for having being able to peer back through the window of time and for the flight of imagination that it allowed me to take.